Trump team drawing up fresh plans to bolster U.S. nuclear arsenal and widen opportunities for its use

The Guardian reports: The Trump administration is working on a nuclear weapons policy that is intended to mark a decisive end to the era of post-cold war disarmament, by bolstering the US arsenal and loosening the conditions under which it would be used.

A draft of the new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) was presented in September at a White House meeting between Donald Trump and his top national security advisers. Congress and US allies have been briefed on the progress of the new draft.

The document is still being debated with a target for completion by the end of this year or the beginning of next. Among the new elements under consideration are a low yield ballistic missile intended primarily to deter Russia’s use of a small nuclear weapon in a war over the Baltic states; a sea-launched cruise missile; a change in language governing conditions in which the US would use nuclear weapons; and investments aimed at reducing the time it would take the US to prepare a nuclear test.

Trump has frequently voiced his intention to build up the US arsenal. According to one report, he was outraged at a meeting with military leaders in July when he was shown a downward sloping graph of the US weapons stockpile since the cold war, and had to be talked out of ordering a tenfold increase.

The White House denied the report but it has repeatedly made clear it aims to adopt a more aggressive nuclear stance.

“You can … be assured that our administration is committed to strengthen and modernise America’s nuclear deterrent,” Mike Pence, the vice-president, said on Friday on a morale-boosting visit to Minot air force base in North Dakota, home to Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles and B-52 strategic bombers.

“History attests the surest path to peace is through American strength. There’s no greater element of American strength, there’s no greater force for peace in the world than the United States nuclear arsenal.”

Like much else about Trump’s presidency, the new policy is aimed at erasing the legacy of his predecessor. Barack Obama began his administration with a major speech in Prague in April 2009, committing the US to disarmament and the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons globally.

A year after the speech, the US and Russia signed the New Start agreement, restricting both sides to 1,550 deployed strategic warheads and bombs, down by about 30% from previously agreed limits.

However, the “Prague agenda” petered out. Aspirations to cut the strategic stockpile by another third, unilaterally if necessary, were abandoned in the face of congressional resistance, North Korea’s growing nuclear weapons programme and worsening relations with Russia. [Continue reading…]

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