The administration of President Donald Trump wants to revamp the U.S. nuclear arsenal and develop new low-yield atomic weapons, mainly in response to Russian actions in recent years, according to a policy statement released February 2.
The Nuclear Posture Review, a report customarily done at the outset of a new administration, drew blistering criticism from arms control groups outlines the Pentagon's nuclear goals under Trump and is the first time since 2010 that the military has spelled out how it foresees nuclear threats in the coming decades.
It says Russia must be persuaded it would face "unacceptably dire costs" if it were to threaten even limited nuclear attack in Europe.
"This is a response to Russian expansion of their capability and the nature of their strategy and doctrine," Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wrote in the 75-page summary of the sweeping review, which also highlights the U.S. concerns about North Korea, Iran, and China.
The document specifically points to a Russian doctrine known as "escalate to de-escalate," in which Moscow would use or threaten to use smaller-yield nuclear weapons in a limited conventional conflict in Europe to compel the United States and NATO to back down.
"Recent Russian statements on this evolving nuclear weapons doctrine appear to lower the threshold for Moscow's first-use of nuclear weapons," the review said. The review recommends a two-step solution.
Modifying "a small number" of existing long-range ballistic missiles carried by Trident strategic submarines to fit them with smaller-yield nuclear warheads would be a first step.
Second, "in the longer term," a nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile would be developed -- bringing back a weapon that existed during the Cold War but was retired in 2011 by the Obama administration.
The review also calls North Korea a "clear and grave threat" to the United States and its allies, and warns that any North Korean nuclear attack against the America or its allies will result in "the end of that regime." "There is no scenario in which the Kim regime could employ nuclear weapons and survive," it says.