Our Nuclear Future With Thanks to the Pentagon

Remember this?

Here are the pertinent lines from the speech given by former President Obama at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin:

We may no longer live in fear of global annihilation, but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe….

Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons — no matter how distant that dream may be.  And so, as President, I’ve strengthened our efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and reduced the number and role of America’s nuclear weapons.  Because of the New START Treaty, we’re on track to cut American and Russian deployed nuclear warheads to their lowest levels since the 1950s.

But we have more work to do.  So today, I’m announcing additional steps forward.  After a comprehensive review, I’ve determined that we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third.  And I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures.  

At the same time, we’ll work with our NATO allies to seek bold reductions in U.S. and Russian tactical weapons in Europe.  And we can forge a new international framework for peaceful nuclear power, and reject the nuclear weaponization that North Korea and Iran may be seeking. 

America will host a summit in 2016 to continue our efforts to secure nuclear materials around the world, and we will work to build support in the United States to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and call on all nations to begin negotiations on a treaty that ends the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.  These are steps we can take to create a world of peace with justice.” (my bold)

A recently released pre-decisional draft copy of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), conducted at the behest of Donald Trump, gives us a sense of the direction of America’s nuclear weapons program under the new administration.  The document opens with the following paragraph:

The Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, goes on to not that “…America’s strategic competitions have not followed our lead.  The world is more dangerous, not less.” and that “…Russia has retained large numbers of non-strategic nuclear weapons and is, in fact, modernizing these weapons as well as its strategic systems.”  The Secretary also states that Russia has adopted a military strategy that relies on nuclear escalation for its success, suggesting the following:

These developments, coupled with Russia’s invasion of Crimea and nuclear threats against our allies, mark Moscow’s unabashed return to Great Power competition.

In case you should happen to think that China is getting off easily, here’s what the Secretary has to say about China:

In other words, the Department of Defense feels threatened that it is unlikely to retain its position as the world’s sole superpower thanks to moves by both Russia and China.  To meet these “threats”, the Secretary suggests that a “…diverse set of nuclear capabilities provides an American President with flexibility to tailor the approach to deterring one or more potential adversaries in different circumstances….Our goal is to convince adversaries that they have nothing to gain and everything to lose from using nuclear weapons.

According to the NPR, the possession of a nuclear weapons inventory satisfies the following objectives:

1.) Deterrence of nuclear and non-nuclear attack.

2.) Assurance of allies and partners.

3.) Achievement of U.S. objectives if deterrence fails.

4.) Capacity to hedge against an uncertain future.

From the NPR, here is an inventory of the Department of Defense’s nuclear Triad which includes submarines, land-based ICBMs and strategic bombers carrying gravity bombs and air-launched cruise missiles:

So, what will this cost U.S. taxpayers?  According to the NPR, sustaining and upgrading America’s nuclear weapons program will cost approximately 6.4 percent of the current Department of Defense budget.  Maintaining and opening the current gaining nuclear forces requires between 2 and 3 percent of the DoD budget and the cost to rebuild the nuclear Triad will cost an additional 4 percent of the total budget for several years.  And, as we all know, the Pentagon never underestimates/overspends.

Let’s look at an excerpt from the document that shows how the Department of Defense expects to increase the deterrent effect of its nuclear arsenal. The NPR states that “…to meet the emerging requirements of a U.S. strategy, the United States will now pursue select supplements to the replacement program to enhance the flexility and responsiveness of U.S. nuclear forces...”  This will be achieved through the use of non-strategic nuclear capabilities as follows:

By using low-yield, non-strategic nuclear weapons, the Department of Defense is hoping to use this relatively low-cost option to “…counter any mistaken perception of an exploitable “gap” in U.S. regional deterrence capabilities.”  As I posted back in December, here are some of the past low-yield nuclear weapons options that were pursued by researchers at the Los Alamos Laboratory back in the early 1990s:

1.) Micronukes – have a yield equivalent to 10 tons of high explosive

2.) Mininukes – have a yield equivalent to 100 tons of high explosive

3.) Tinynukes – have a yield equivalent to 1000 tons of high explosive

These weapons have a yield that is far smaller than the first atomic weapon detonated over the city of Hiroshima in 1945 which had a yield of roughly 15,000 tons of TNT.  Starting in the late 1950s, scientists at Los Alamos developed the W54 series of nuclear weapons as shown here:

Lastly, here are the two pages which show how the Department of Defense plans to modernize America’s nuclear weapons infrastructure:

With Donald Trump tweeting the following comment about America’s nuclear weapons capabilities in December 2016:

…and with Hillary Clinton tweeting the following in October 2016:

…its pretty clear that Washington, whether controlled by the Republicans or the Democrats, is gunning for a fight and, at some point in the future, could well be looking for an opportunity to test drive its new inventory of low-yield nuclear “toys”.  Keeping in mind that 

the draft version of the Nuclear Posture Review is just a preliminary copy of the final product, one way or another, it certainly appears that the Department of Defense is preparing itself to take the necessary steps to keep both China and Russia in their place as non-threatening, non-world powers.

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