Leaked draft of Pentagon’s nuclear review shows desire for new kinds of weapons

A leaked draft of the Pentagon’s forthcoming nuclear weapons review shows that senior defense officials are keen to not only modernize the aging U.S. arsenal, but add new ways to wage nuclear war as Russia, China and other adversaries bolster their own arsenals.

Among the new weapons proposed are so-called “low-yield nukes” that could be mounted to existing Trident ballistic missiles launched from submarines. Despite the nickname, the warheads would still likely pack a punch larger than the explosions that leveled the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

The draft, first published by the HuffPost, states that the smaller nuclear weapons are necessary due to the “deterioration of the strategic environment,” a nod toward existing tensions with Russia, in particular. The Pentagon’s thesis: If an adversary has an arsenal of nuclear weapons that are not controlled by existing treaties, the United States should have one to match and retaliate if necessary.

“These supplements will enhance deterrence by denying potential adversaries any mistaken confidence that limited nuclear employment can provide a useful advantage over the United States and its allies,” the draft said.

The concept seems especially focused on Russia, which the Pentagon accused of violating the New START Treaty last year by deploying a new nuclear cruise missile that is seen as a threat to Europe. The Pentagon alleges in the draft that Russia thinks launching a limited nuclear strike first may offer an advantage, in part because it has a variety of small nuclear weapons at its disposal.

“Correcting this mistaken Russian perception is a strategic imperative,” the draft said.

The Pentagon also calls for a new nuclear submarine-launched cruise missile, typically called a SLCM (“slick-em”) in the military. The Obama administration sought to phase out a similar cruise missile in a nuclear review it released in 2010, but defense officials now argue that it is necessary.

The new weapons could add additional costs to what already promised to be a very expensive bill to modernize the nuclear arsenal, most of which is decades old. An assessment by the Congressional Budget Office released last fall found that it will cost $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years to build new weapons and maintain them.

President Donald Trump directed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis early last year to launch the review to assess the state, flexibility and resiliency of the existing arsenal to deter modern adversaries. In a statement Friday, the Pentagon did not deny the draft document is legitimate but said it is Defense Department policy not to comment on “pre-decision” documents.

“Our discussion has been robust and several draft have been written,” the statement said. “However, the Nuclear Posture Review has not been completed and will ultimately be reviewed and approved by the President and the Secretary of Defense.”

The Pentagon is expected to release the nuclear review after Trump’s State of the Union on Address on Jan. 30, though it is not clear if the timeline has been altered by the draft’s leakage. A variation of the review was carried out by each of …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – News


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