The role of atomic weapons under President Trump will be codified when the Pentagon releases its ‘Nuclear Posture Review’ today.
The release is expected to align closely with an earlier leaked draft from January, which calls for an expansion of the ‘low-yield’ nuclear weapon arsenal—bombs with destructive power ranging from a large crater to those used during World War Two.
Citing threats from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, the review suggests that low-yield weapons act as a more credible deterrence by providing a relatively less destructive rung on the escalation ladder.
The report outlines an expansion of circumstances acceptable for the deployment of nuclear weapons, which notably includes “massive” cyber-attacks that destroy US infrastructure or lives; this is likely aimed at curtailing the increasingly bold cyber warfare programs of Russia, China and North Korea
The review threatens to undermine New START, the US-Russia treaty aimed at reducing their respective nuclear arsenals. Due to expire in 2021, Trump has flip-flopped on his support for the agreement. Combined with today’s review, the likelihood of renewal is shrinking and threatens a short-term nuclear weapons build-up.
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