The Trump administration is set to violate the nuclear non-proliferation treaty with Russia by building up its stockpile of so-called “low-yield” warheads, according to a leaked draft of the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR).
The review, which the Trump administration plans to roll out after President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address later this month, will mark a break in policy with the development of a new class of low-yield, “usable” nuclear warheads.
The D5 missiles, each costing approximately $66 million, will carry warheads more than 30 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb. However, they would only include the primary fission section of the existing thermonuclear warheads with lower explosive yields.
The new tactical weapon would violate the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty reached between Washington and Moscow in 1987. The Pentagon justifies the break by claiming Russia is already in violation because of its new ground-launched cruise missile, and that it would act as a deterrent should the increasingly tense situation created by NATO’s build-up of military forces on Russia’s western border boil over into an armed conflict.
“While the United States has continued to reduce the number and salience of nuclear weapons, others, including Russian and China, have moved in the opposite direction. They have added new types of nuclear capabilities to their arsenals … and engage in increasingly aggressive behavior, including in outer space and cyberspace,” stated the Pentagon in its draft 64-page NPR, obtained and first reported by the Huffington Post.
“North Korea continues its illicit pursuit of nuclear weapons and missile capabilities in direct violation of the United Nations Security Council resolution. Iran has agreed to constraints … nevertheless, it retains the technological capability and much of the capacity necessary to develop a nuclear weapon within one year of a decision to do so.”
There is no evidence Moscow has a policy of launching a tactical nuclear weapon against US forces. The Pentagon’s plan would allow Washington to initiate a so-called “limited” nuclear war in pursuits of its “national interests.”
In October, NBC reported President Trump had gathered high ranking national security leaders and told them “he wanted … a nearly tenfold increase in the US nuclear arsenal.”
Under the Obama administration, $1.3 trillion was spent on a 30-year plan to refurbish all the elements of the US nuclear “triad” – intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and strategic bombers. A stated US policy has been not to build new types of nuclear warhead.
The first NPR in eight years is expected to be published after Trump’s State of the Union speech at the end of January.
Arms control advocates have expressed alarm at the new proposal and the potential for nuclear conflict during the Trump administration. Fears spikes again last week when Trump issued a warning to North Korean president Kim Jong-un over Twitter, saying: “I too have a nuclear button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my button works!”
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
The draft NPR is more hawkish than the postures adopted by the Obama or Bush administrations. Advocates argue it will make a nuclear war more likely.
“Making the case that we need more low-yield options is making the case that this president needs more nuclear capabilities at his disposal,” Alexandra Bell, senior policy director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, and a former senior adviser at the State Department told the Huffington Post. “[W]e have 4,000 nuclear weapons in our active stockpile, which is more than enough to destroy the world many times over.”
The NPR also expands the circumstances in which the US might use its nuclear arsenal, to include a response to a non-nuclear attack that causes mass casualties, or was aimed at critical infrastructure or nuclear command and control sites.