ACTION ALERT: Trump's New Nuclear Policy: More Nukes, Including Smaller,
January 13, 2018
Ashley Feinberg / The Huffington Post & International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons & Win Without War
On the order of President Trump, the US Department of Defense is currently concluding a sweeping review of the United States' nuclear policy -- a "nuclear posture review" -- expected to be released at the end of this month. But already now, the text has leaked and shows that the Trump administration will loosen constraints on the use of nuclear weapons and develop more "usable" nuclear warheads.
Here Is A Draft Of Trump's Nuclear Review.
He Wants A Lot More Nukes.
His first Nuclear Posture Review: More Nukes, More Posturing
Ashley Feinberg / The Huffington Post
(January 11, 2018) -- In his first year in office, President Barack Obama gave a landmark address in Prague in which he famously affirmed "clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." The commitment to total nuclear disarmament was a major departure from the George W. Bush administration -- the first time, in fact, that the United States had declared a nuclear-free world a major policy goal.
Now, eight years later, it's the Trump administration's turn to lay out its nuclear weapons policy. And according to a pre-decisional draft of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) obtained by HuffPost, Trump's Department of Defense has gone a decidedly different route: new nukes, for no good reason.
The final version of the NPR is scheduled to be released in February. You can read the draft in full at the bottom of this article. A Defense Department spokesperson declined to comment on the draft, saying that the agency "will not discuss pre-decisional drafts of the document."
In October, NBC reported that President Trump had told a gathering of high-ranking national security leaders that "he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the US nuclear arsenal." While the report doesn't nearly go that far, it does call for the development of new, so-called low-yield nuclear weapons -- warheads with a lower explosive force.
The logic of those pushing for the development of smaller nukes is that our current nuclear weapons are too big and too deadly to ever use; we are effectively self-deterred, and the world knows it. To make sure other countries believe that we'd actually use nuclear force, the thinking goes, we need more low-yield nukes.
But official language around nuclear weapons is slippery and euphemistic. "Low yield" suggests a softer sort of weaponry, diet nukes, until you realize that the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were technically "low-yield" weapons.
Trump's NPR draft euphemizes the euphemism, referring to low-yield weapons as "supplements" that will "enhance deterrence." The document claims that Russia is threatening to use these smaller nuclear weapons; the US needs to match and deter the Russians in kind.
[Graphic. Note: Graphics my be read on the linked article, available here.]
What goes unmentioned is that we already have over 1,000 nuclear warheads in our arsenal with low-yield options, to say nothing of the fact that the more nuclear weapons you introduce into the world, the more likely it is that they'll one day be used.
"Making the case that we need more low-yield options is making the case that this president needs more nuclear capabilities at his disposal," said Alexandra Bell, a former senior adviser at the State Department and current senior policy director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, "regardless of the fact that we have 4,000 nuclear weapons in our active stockpile, which is more than enough to destroy the world many times over. So I don't think it makes a convincing case that we somehow lack capabilities. And, in fact, I don't think you can make the case that this president needs any more capabilities."
The draft itself doesn't do all that much to convince anyone of the necessity of these low-yield weapons. One tactic it uses right up front is fear. Look no further than Page 6:
This is a slightly darker picture than reality would support, according to Laura Holgate, a special assistant to Obama for weapons of mass destruction terrorism and threat reduction and a former U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.
"The notion that there are uncertainties is actually not new," Holgate told HuffPost. "That's always going to be true about the international environment. And there were references to uncertainties in the 2010 report, as well. But this dark perspective and this uncertain view underpin the decisions to walk back some of the decisions or postures presented in the 2010 report."
And this new low-yield weapon initiative is one of those reversals. The 2010 NPR essentially removed one tactical low-yield weapon from our arsenal. The Trump administration wants to bring more low-yield weapons back in. And when this latest NPR draft does attempt to defend the decision, it immediately contradicts itself.
"If you're saying that having low-yield nuclear weapons does not lower the threshold for use, then you're essentially saying there's no difference between using a low-yield and a high-yield weapon," said Bell.
"You're saying that we would use a high-yield weapon if we have to -- or one of the low-yield weapons we already have in our stockpile. If you're saying adamantly in here that this won't change our current posture choices, it basically negates your reason to have this capability in the first place."
What's more, the report never really explains how any of these new capabilities would alter our security environment.
"By their own argument, they're concerned that somehow the other side thinks that our current stockpile is getting in the way of our willingness to use nuclear weapons," explained Anthony Wier, a former deputy assistant secretary in the State Department's Bureau of Legislative Affairs who now works on nuclear weapons policy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker lobbying organization. "Outside of the drafters of this posture review, I can hardly think of any Americans who would have woken up this morning worrying that Donald Trump was not willing enough to use nuclear weapons."
And yet the document argues that somehow our adversaries do think that, and so we need additional options to close this imagined credibility gap. What's missing is any evidence to support the idea that Russia or any other country believes this to be true.
One possible reason for this omission is that no such evidence exists. Back in June, Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, wrote that "anyone can come up with a scenario that requires a new weapon. What's missing from the debate is why the existing and planned capabilities are not sufficient. The United States already has flexible nuclear forces, advanced conventional capabilities, tailored war plans and low-yield warheads in its arsenal."
What the posture review makes clear, however, is that the Trump administration wants to produce a considerable number of new nukes. This would represent a break from precedents established even by Republican administrations. The George W. Bush administration cut our nuclear stockpile by more than half, down to roughly 5,000 warheads.
The George H.W. Bush administration cut our stockpile by nearly 9,500 warheads. "Basically everything about this document screams that we're probably only going up," Wier said. "There's no reduction listed anywhere that I could find.
"That's the bottom line, right? Building a lot more nuclear weapons and spending a lot more money to build it. At times it feels like they want to buy a can opener with a screwdriver attachment, but they also want to pay for a screwdriver with a can opener attachment. There's a lot of redundancies and duplications, and they need all these extra things to keep you safe. At times, it really does feel like a lot of solutions in search of problems."
There are other significant departures from the 2010 NPR. The role of diplomacy in nuclear relations is mostly ignored. The report does pay lip service to NATO, and there are nods here and there toward the importance of diplomatic relations.
But Bell wasn't buying it. "If the circumstances that we now find ourselves [in] are as dire as they paint them," she said, "it doesn't make sense to me that you wouldn't have put all of the relevant officials needed to do good nuclear policy diplomacy into place immediately. We're still waiting for a lot of the leaders who should be doing these roles, particularly [in] the State Department. So the critical nature of our current threat environment they describe doesn't really match their staffing plans."
It's not just the State Department staffing that's been neglected. The National Nuclear Security Administration, the very agency responsible for modernizing our nuclear arsenal, is still missing a number of appointees.
Even more strikingly, the document appears not to contain a single reference to Article VI of the U.N. Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which obliges the United States, as one of the signatories, to move in the direction of nuclear disarmament. Other countries that have committed to the weapons ban treaty might be less likely to cooperate with the United States on nuclear matters, Holgate said.
The document does mention disarmament briefly in the introduction.
"What's interesting about that is that it fudges it a little bit," Holgate said. "Not as badly as it could have, but it uses a lot of vague weasel words like 'committed,' 'efforts,' 'support' and 'ultimate.' And then, it mushes bio and chem in with nuclear. So this is not a clear commitment."
The report is also noticeably vague when it comes to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, a global ban on nuclear explosive testing. While the 2010 report reaffirms nearly a dozen times the United States' dedication to maintaining its stockpile without nuclear testing, this latest NPR draft says the country will not resume nuclear testing "unless necessary."
The document does at least reaffirm U.S. support for NATO.
But what the report states and what the president tweets are two very different things.
"Obviously it's very good to see in here that the NATO alliance is the most important defensive alliance in history," noted Bell. "But saying it in this posture review and waiting until the next time the president says NATO countries aren't paying him enough money -- you're sort of waiting for the shoe to drop. At the end of the day, our elected leader changes his mind often and without a lot of explanation for the change. So that very much does endanger some of the ideas put forth in this document."
The document is at pains to assure its audience that Trump isn't going to start firing off nukes on a whim.
And based on reported fears about Trump's erraticism, the world's leaders could definitely use some reassuring. Just last August, CNN reported that Trump's "wildly variant public interpretations of violent, anti-Semitic rallies by neo-Nazis and white supremacists" had "caused European leaders to shake their heads in bewilderment." And South Korea is, if not more fearful, then at least equally as terrified of Trump mouthing off as it is of Kim Jong Un sitting overhead. But, of course, none of that has stopped Trump so far.
"This is clearly not Trump's policy," said Jon Wolfsthal, director of the Nuclear Crisis Group and former senior director at the National Security Council for Arms Control and Nonproliferation. It is, Wolfsthal said, a representation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis' policy and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's policy and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford's policy. "And that will reassure people who hope and pray that the axis of adults is somehow going to constrain President Trump's impulses."
Alarming Changes to the US Nuclear Posture
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
(January 11, 2018) -- On the order of President Trump, the US Department of Defense is currently concluding a sweeping review of the United States' nuclear policy -- a "nuclear posture review" -- expected to be released at the end of this month. But already now, the text has leaked and shows that the Trump administration will loosen constraints on the use of nuclear weapons and develop more "usable" nuclear warheads.
The Trump administration's review makes significant changes to US nuclear policy, both by developing new types of nuclear weapons and expand the circumstances in which they could be used. "None of the changes will be of any good either for the United States or for the world", states ICAN's Executive Director, Beatrice Fihn.
"Nuclear weapons are indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction with no place in civilised international relations. The United States should endeavour to strengthen the taboo against the use of nuclear weapons, not seek to undermine it" she said.
President Trump's nuclear posture review widens the circumstances in which the United States might use its weapons of mass destruction. The last nuclear posture review, completed in 2010, ruled out the use of nuclear weapons against "non-nuclear weapon states that are party to the NPT, [the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] and in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations."
The new review opens for the use of nuclear weapons in response to non-nuclear attacks "that caused mass casualties" or were "aimed at critical infrastructure or nuclear command and control sites". The relative ambiguity of terms such as "mass casualties" and "critical infrastructure" implies that the United States could consider using nuclear weapons in almost any armed conflict.
"The Trump administration's loosening of the constraints on the use of nuclear weapons sends a deeply troubling message", says ICAN's Network Coordinator Daniel Högsta:
"The United States considers the use of weapons of mass destruction to indiscriminately kill enormous amounts of civilians a useful and legitimate tool of statecraft.
"Not only will this position make it more difficult for the international community to persuade North Korea and other nuclear-armed states that they should give up their weapons, it could also embolden actors that have not yet acquired nuclear weapons to do so in the future."
The new nuclear posture review also provides for hardware changes. The new nuclear posture review calls for the development of two new types of nuclear weapons, a "low-yield" warhead for its submarine-launched ballistic missiles and reintroduce submarine-launched nuclear cruise missiles.
The introduction of such more "usable" weapons could lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons and thereby increase the likelihood of nuclear war. "Any use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic consequences and the radiation would harm people and the environment for a long time.
By expanding the role of nuclear weapons in the US military doctrine, the Trump administration is out of step with the international community, which on 7 July 2017, 122 countries adopted a UN treaty unconditionally prohibiting the possession and use of nuclear weapons.
This updated Nuclear Posture Review not only goes against the aims and principles of this international agreement, but also undermines the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the US own commitments on reducing the role of nuclear weapons and pursuing nuclear disarmament.
In 2010, at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, the United States and other nuclear-armed nations solemnly agreed to "diminish the role and significance of nuclear weapons in all military and security concepts, doctrines and policies" and to pursue negotiations for further reductions of nuclear arsenals.
Trump's Nuclear Policy Review:
Changes to the US Nuclear Posture
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
Hardware: The US will develop two types of more 'usable' nuclear warheads. The rationale is that the US needs low-yield/tactical nuclear weapons to increase the credibility of the US' nuclear deterrent against Russia.
The explosive power of these new warheads, whether in absolute terms or in relation to other nuclear warheads, is not public knowledge.
Some at the Pentagon have allegedly argued that the US needs (more) low-yield nuclear weapons to give the US the option of responding to a Russian low-yield nuclear strike (e.g. in Eastern Europe) with a low-yield strike of its own.
They have supposedly been concerned that US policy makers will be reluctant to respond to Russian low-yield nuclear strikes with 'retaliatory' nuclear strikes because existing US nuclear weapons are 'too big' and 'too deadly', thus ruling out a nuclear strike altogether.
That said, the US already has low-yield options including air-launched cruise missiles and the B61 gravity bombs (some of which are stationed in Europe and are currently being 'modernized'), and developing even more of them only increases the likelihood of them being used.
* The US will develop a new 'low-yield' warhead for the Trident D5 submarine-launched missiles. The new warhead will be created by modifying the warheads used for existing Trident missiles to only include the fission component.
* The US will start work on reintroducing a sea-launched nuclear cruise missile. The introduction of such a weapon will presumably counter Russia's introduction of a new ground-launched cruise missile in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty of 1987.
Policy: Expanding the circumstances in which nuclear weapons
might be used and walks back from previous commitments.
* The NPR 'expands the circumstances in which the US might use its nuclear arsenal, to include a response to a non-nuclear attack that caused mass casualties, or was aimed at critical infrastructure or nuclear command and control sites.'
According to Obama's NPR, the US 'will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation agreements.'
* The US will not submit the CTBT for ratification. While it will continue to support the CTBTO work, the policy also notes "the US will not resume nuclear explosive testing unless necessary to ensure the saety and effectiveness of the US nuclear arsenals".
* The policy criticizes the Treaty on the Prohibition of nuclear weapons, calling it "fueled by wholly unrealistic expectations", and continues to accuse it of potentially damaging the non-proliferation regime without any explanations of how it would do that.
* The 64-page long policy does not mention Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty once.
ICAN Talking Points
* This new policy increases the role of nuclear weapons in the US security policy and lowers its threshold for using nuclear weapons. It argues that US should be more willing to use nuclear weapons in order to deter enemies better.
* The development of more 'usable' nuclear weapons makes the use of nuclear weapons more likely.
* A 'limited' nuclear use would still cause catastrophic humanitarian consequences, with long-term impact on health and environment. Any use of nuclear weapons would likely escalate into a large-scale nuclear war with grave consequences for the human species and the planet.
* Boasting about the utility of nuclear weapons as 'deterrents' increases the value of nuclear weapons for potential proliferators.
* Responsible leaders must strengthen the taboo against the use of nuclear weapons through supporting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, not seek to undermine it.
* Just like with the Climate Change agreement, this policy shows that the United States is moving in the opposite direction as the rest of the world. Most of the world's nations consider the possession and use of nuclear weapons illegal under international law,
* The new NPR contradicts the commitments made in the 2010 NPT Action Plan and undermines the NPT.
* It is uncertain if this policy in any way will be connected to what President Trump says and does about nuclear weapons and his threats to use them.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
ACTION ALERT: Stop Trump's Small, "Usable" Nukes
Cassandra Euphrat Weston / Win Without War
(January 13, 2018) -- Just leaked: Trump wants more usable nukes. A leaked draft of the Trump administration's nuclear weapons policy calls for more nuclear weapons with a "small" enough blast radius to be used in a targeted attack.
There is no such thing as a "small" nuclear bomb. The type of new nuclear weapon Trump is after could kill 100,000 with a single detonation. Even worse, there's only one person who needs to give the approval to use these shiny new nuclear weapons: Donald "My Nuclear Button is Bigger than Yours" Trump.
Win Without War is pulling out all the stops to pass legislation that would take away Trump's ability to single-handedly launch nuclear weapons. But we need your help.
Trump isn't just collecting more nuclear weapons. He's speeding toward reasons to deploy them. Trump is goading North Korea into a war that could turn nuclear in an instant. And he continues to threaten to tear up the Iran nuclear deal -- and destroy the historic progress toward curbing a major nuclear threat.
More "usable" nukes. More reasons to use them. Gar, we are staring down the barrel of nuclear war.
Every American needs to jump in to get Trump's finger off the nuclear button, stat. The future of our world is at stake. Thank you for working for peace.
Win Without War is a project of the Center for International Policy.
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