The US Department of Defense wants to reexamine its nuclear arsenal and develop a new type of weapons with limited power, which raises fears proliferation and a higher risk of nuclear conflict.
This proposal appears in a preliminary version of the new “Nuclear Posture Review” that the Pentagon is due to publish in February. It breaks with the vision of former President Barack Obama who, in 2009 in Prague, called for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.
Believing that the global situation today is much more complex than in 2010, the date of the publication of such a review, the Pentagon concludes that the United States must align its nuclear posture on “realistic assessment” of threats that the US faces, including from North Korea, Russia or China.
“Threats have escalated dramatically” since 2010, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a prelude to the draft document, which was first published by the Huffington Post. “The United States is facing an environment where the nuclear threat is more diverse and more advanced than ever.”
The Pentagon therefore proposes to develop new types of nuclear weapons with limited power, including tactical weapons, sometimes called “mini-nuclear weapons”, which have a high penetration rate and are able to destroy bunkers or buried facilities .
He argues that fewer, more powerful nuclear weapons would counter the “misplaced confidence” of US enemies in the belief that Washington will never use its conventional, too powerful and destructive nuclear weapons.
The Pentagon and the National Nuclear Security Agency must develop a sea-ground ballistic missile for this purpose, the document says. This weapon will provide “a quick retaliation option able to penetrate the defenses of the enemy,” the text adds.
Questioned on the matter, the Pentagon refrained from commenting on the document, stressing that it was a “pre-decision” text that was not approved by the White House. The final version is expected on February 2nd.
For Barry Blechman, co-founder of the Stimson Center, a Washington research center specializing in the fight against nuclear proliferation, this document represents a step back from the efforts of previous administrations trying to reduce the risk of nuclear conflict.
“The pro-nuclear ideologues say that for a real deterrent, the United States must align itself with the enemy’s arsenal, with the weapon, with the power,” Blechman said. “This opinion has no empirical basis but is widely shared by civilians appointed to government positions by President Donald Trump.