The strategy says relatively little about arms control

Posted February 07, 2018

"Obama's theory was that we will lead the way in reducing our reliance on nuclear weapons and everyone else will do the same", said Franklin C Miller, a nuclear expert who served in the George W Bush administration and was an informal consultant to Pentagon officials who drafted the new policy.

He broadly described the US strategy's approach to arm control as worrying, including its silence on whether the USA wants to exercise an option in the New START treaty to extend its terms for five years.

"Russia considers the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to be the principal threats to its contemporary geopolitical ambitions", the report said.

The new United States posture focuses heavily on what the administration sees as an overdue modernization of the nuclear arsenal.

The New START treaty calls for inspections and for the world's two leading nuclear powers to exchange data on their arsenals to verify compliance.

But those twin objectives appear distant and President Donald Trump has little room for maneuver with Moscow as he grapples with allegations his campaign may have colluded with the Kremlin to get him elected.

Far from deterring nuclear proliferation, the new U.S. review was likely to motivate other nations to follow the example of North Korea in defying global pressure to develop their own atomic deterrents, Freeman advised.

Mattis' evolution offers insight into the decision-making process of a defense secretary known for his intellectual rigor.

The Trump administration concluded that the USA should largely follow its predecessor's blueprint for modernizing the nuclear arsenal, including new bomber aircraft, submarines, and land-based missiles.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned of the dangers for Europe of a "renewed nuclear arms race".

He accused Russia, China and North Korea of boosting their nuclear stockpiles and "raising the prominence of nuclear weapons in their security strategies".

"I found it disappointing that this document includes misguided framing and ideas that have always been on the wish list of conservative nuclear policy analysts and government officials", said Kingston Reif, director of disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association.

But instead of developing new weapons, Germany's top diplomat called for "existing arms control treaties to be upheld unconditionally".

A 74-page report summarizing the review's findings calls North Korea a "clear and grave threat" to the US and its allies.

By expanding its own low-yield nuclear capability, the United States would deter Russian Federation from using nuclear weapons, according to American officials.

One of the most controversial elements of the new strategy is a section that declares that the United States might use nuclear weapons to respond to a devastating, but non-nuclear, attack on critical infrastructure - the power grid or cellphone networks, for example.

"Any use will trigger a nuclear weapons conflict with catastrophic humanitarian consequences for civilians".

"Our tailored strategy for China is created to prevent Beijing from mistakenly concluding that it could secure an advantage through the limited use of its theater nuclear capabilities or that any use of nuclear weapons, however limited, is acceptable", it said. "We can already deter any strike".