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America’s Nuclear Posture Reviews (NPR) – inconsistencies, limitations, and questions unanswered

What is US nuclear policy, exactly? Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Adam Mount, Abigail Stowe-Thurston 19 Apr 18,  The US Nuclear Posture Reviews (NPR) are the nation’s primary statements of nuclear weapons policy, and each has been debated closely. However, the 2018 NPR is unusual in that it has been subject not only to debate about the rectitude of its policies, but also about what those policies actually are. Even as press accountsclaim that the review provides for significant, even alarming changes to US policy, four notable experts, writing in Real Clear Defense, recently assured us that the document is “clearly in the mainstream of U.S. nuclear policy.” These widely divergent accounts are not merely a function of incomplete information or expertise, but also due to the fact that statements by the NPR authors and other senior defense officials reveal inconsistencies on several subjects—including the circumstances in which the US would consider using nuclear weapons, the capability of existing forces, and the necessity and mission of two proposed nuclear options.
………there remain serious questions about the administration’s commitment to basic tenets of US nuclear weapons policy. For example, does the administration accept mutual vulnerability with Russia? Does it understand strategic stability as a product of a strategic relationship—one the United States could threaten with its actions—or simply as the ability to deter adversaries? If the United States seeks superiority over other nuclear powers, as the president has suggested, it could influence the answers to those questions and could potentially represent a revolutionary shift in US nuclear policy.A survey of the statements of senior officials and associated authors of the NPR reveal significant inconsistencies on central elements of US policy—including on the definition of non-nuclear strategic attacks, the capability of existing forces, and the necessity and mission of the newly proposed systems……….

The question of whether the United States would respond to a major cyberattack with nuclear weapons has been the subject of considerable concern and debate. In January, days after the draft NPR was leaked, the New York Times cited three anonymous current and former senior government officials confirming that a large cyberattack against the United States could elicit a nuclear response.

The leaked draft of the review stated, “…the President will have an expanding range of limited and graduated options to credibly deter Russian nuclear and non-nuclear strategic attacks, which could now include attacks against U.S. [Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications], in space and cyber space.” Following significant public concern, this sentence was revised and the clause “in space and cyber space” stricken from the final version of the NPR released in February. Nevertheless, the fact that it was included in the leaked draft indicates that the authors initially intended the category of “non-nuclear strategic attacks” to include a scenario in which the United States would retaliate against a major cyberattack.

Though the published document does not explicitly include cyberattacks as an example of “extreme circumstances,” it does not explicitly exclude the possibility of a nuclear response to a cyberattack………..


April 20, 2018 - Posted by | USA, weapons and war

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