In his first year in office, President Barack Obama gave a landmark address in Prague in which he famously affirmed “clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” The commitment to total nuclear disarmament was a major departure from the George W. Bush administration — the first time, in fact, that the United States had declared a nuclear-free world a major policy goal.
Now, eight years later, it’s the Trump administration’s turn to lay out its nuclear weapons policy. And according to a pre-decisional draft of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) obtained by HuffPost, Trump’s Department of Defense has gone a decidedly different route: new nukes, for no good reason.
The final version of the NPR is scheduled to be released in February. You can read the draft in full at the bottom of this article. A Defense Department spokesperson declined to comment on the draft, saying that the agency “will not discuss pre-decisional drafts of the document.”
In October, NBC reported that President Trump had told a gathering of high-ranking national security leaders that “he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal.” While the report doesn’t nearly go that far, it does call for the development of new, so-called low-yield nuclear weapons — warheads with a lower explosive force.
The logic of those pushing for the development of smaller nukes is that our current nuclear weapons are too big and too deadly to ever use; we are effectively self-deterred, and the world knows it. To make sure other countries believe that we’d actually use nuclear force, the thinking goes, we need more low-yield nukes.
But official language around nuclear weapons is slippery and euphemistic. “Low yield” suggests a softer sort of weaponry, diet nukes, until you realize that the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were technically “low-yield” weapons.
Trump’s NPR draft euphemizes the euphemism, referring to low-yield weapons as “supplements” that will “enhance deterrence.” The document claims that Russia is threatening to use these smaller nuclear weapons; the U.S. needs to match and deter the Russians in kind.
The draft document also raises the questions of in what situation these new "low-yield supplemental weapons" would be used: in a variety of situations, and against non-nuclear nations or against non-nuclear groups. You know, like terrorists or "shithole countries" as Trump likes to call them.
Wow. Important @ashleyfeinberg scoop. The Trump Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) is as about as bad as expected. Calls for new, "more usable" nuclear weapons and expands the number of scenarios that might lead Trump to use nukes. Some addtl observations ... 1/ https://t.co/JhWgqD8Yca— Daryl G Kimball (@DarylGKimball) January 12, 2018
That entire thread from arms control expert Daryl Kimball is astonishing. This draft is a plan for a nuclear "miscalculation" that will lead to catastrophe.
After all, we've used nuclear weapons before...