January 18, 2017
A report released by the Defense Department called the “Nuclear Posture Review” recommends the U.S. build new nuclear weapons.
This comes as emerging threats in North Korea and Iran pose serious security risks, as well as China and Russia building up their nuclear arsenals.
“We have to recognize that that threat is growing, and if North Korea does not choose the pathway of engagement, discussion, and negotiation then they themselves will trigger an option,” Secretary of State Tillerson said in Vancouver, Canada on Tuesday.
Though the Nuclear Posture Review is a preliminary report meant to give recommendations, it does signal a shift in policy regarding nuclear weapons.
The U.S. has not conducted a nuclear weapons test since 1992, and has been working to decrease its nuclear arsenal for decades.
The Defense Department recommends the building of two new types of sea-based nuclear weapons, including a nuclear tipped cruise missile, and a low-yield trident missile.
The low-yield nuclear missile is meant to give a measured response – versus using current nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal, which are considered too powerful to use.
Critics say a low-yield option will make a first strike more likely because it is less destructive, while proponents argue it will serve as a deterrent because potential enemies will see it as a more viable threat.
Previously, former President George W. Bush lobbied to expand the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal, but all efforts to do so were killed by former President Barrack Obama.
Now, the report argues that Russia’s deployment of intermediate-range ground-based missiles are a violation of a 1987 treaty signed by former President Ronald Reagan, and developing new nuclear weapons are essential for purposes of deterrence.
The report, which was commissioned by President Trump a year ago, concludes what he had in mind all along.
“But Russia has been expanding. They have a much newer capability than we do. We have not been updating from a new standpoint,” said then candidate Trump during debates in the 2016 presidential election. “I think that once the nuclear alternative happens it’s over. At the same time, we have to be prepared. We can’t take anything off the table,” he added.
It is estimated that if the suggestions by the report are implemented, which also include a new strategic bomber and air launched cruise missile, it could take up 6.4% of the Defense Department’s budget.
This massive increase in cost ensures that the debate over developing these weapons will continue.
The final version of the Nuclear Posture Review will be released in February.