See links to articles about Trump’s 2018 “Nuclear Posture Review” document at the end of this information about it:
On February 2, 2018, the Trump Administration released its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which lays out how the Trump Administration and its Pentagon (which wrote the document for Trump) understand the role of nuclear weapons. Previous Nuclear Posture Reviews were issued in 2010, 2002, and 1994.
Trump’s 2018 NPR does significantly change U.S. policy regarding nuclear weapons. A significant break from Obama’s NPR (which stated that the U.S. would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries that had signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is that Trump is willing to use nuclear weapons against anybody, including non-nuclear nations and even non-state entities.
Trump is on record saying he might use nuclear weapons first even in situations that did not involve nuclear attacks against our nation. This means the U.S. under Trump is much more likely to use nuclear weapons.
Also, the U.S. will build more kinds of nuclear weapons, including some that will be more likely to be used. These will be “smaller” (although still big) and more accurate. These might lead our adversaries to feel more at risk, so these might cause our adversaries to launch their nuclear weapons against the U.S. before the U.S. can attack them.
Throughout the Cold War the US and USSR played the game of “nuclear chicken” in which we threaten each other with nuclear weapons, and in which each nation hopes that the other nation will back down rather than commit mutual suicide. Trump’s reckless Nuclear Posture Review pushes us back into such a macho psychology with the threat of destroying the world.
When a single nuclear weapon has the explosive power of millions of tons of TNT, it could destroy a large city or a region. Several of them could destroy an entire nation. Some people think these are so huge and frightening that they are too big to use, so in order to pose a credible nuclear threat we need “smaller” nuclear weapons (Hiroshima-sized) that will be more likely to be used, and therefore more credible as deterrents.
Actually, this is not really new. We have long had “tactical” nuclear weapons and threatened the Soviet Union, Russia, and other countries with those. They were very controversial in the 1980s. We’ve had ways to send them in to their targets. We had a “nuclear cannon” that could shoot a 15-kiloton warhead (with the explosive power of 15,000 pounds of TNT). This is considered a “small” or “low-yield” weapon.
This notion was big when Reagan was president in the 1980s, and this has come around again now. They want both the hardware and the rationale that would make nuclear weapons more “usable.”
This is part of trying to establish a credible deter-rent against other nations to frighten them away from doing what they want to achieve their objectives. We threaten to use our nuclear weapons first. The U.S. creates an exception for our own nation but will not tolerate other nations thinking the same way as we do. The rest of the world sees this hypocrisy.
Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review identifies a number of adversaries against which to consider using nuclear weapons (Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, etc.) and some non-state entities (terrorist groups). The document says Russia is more aggressive now and China is exerting influence over the South China Sea region. The South China Sea is closer to China than it is to the U.S. We should understand that China would want to protect its own immediate neighborhood from intruders such as the U.S. The U.S. and other nations have legitimate interests in having these international waters remain navigable by all nations. To protect that legitimate interest we should be talking with all nations, not threatening any. The U.S. has been using nuclear weapons to threaten other nations since 1945.
The Nuclear Posture Review emphasizes threats of military (nuclear) violence, but fails to support diplomacy and negotiation and open channels of communication. Trump’s NPR is especially dangerous in failing to support diplomacy because his State Department has been hollowed out and has become less capable of functioning. We do not have enough diplomats and other experts who understand these geographical areas and could be looking for areas of mutual interest. Actually, the U.S. has a number of mutual interests with the nations whom we see as adversaries, so we need to be exploring those and solving problems, not simply seeing the conflicting interests and seeing war as the only solution. “If your only tool is a hammer, you’ll see every problem as if it were a nail.” In 1958 the sociologist C. Wright Mills referred to this kind of thinking as “crackpot realism.” Even our smaller nuclear weapons are “weapons of mass destruction.”
Even a modest exchange of 5 or 10 nuclear weapons could create “nuclear autumn,” not a full-fledged “nuclear winter,” but enough debris and dust and ash in the air to seriously shade out the sunlight that crops need (thereby reducing food production) and sharply reducing temperatures.
Don’t assume that a so-called “limited” nuclear war would remain “limited.” Once anything is launched, all bets are off, and it could easily escalate out of control with global destruction. When the first one or the first few are launched it would be hard for the targeted nation to estimate how big these were – and how many more might be coming – so they would not be able to figure out how big – and how many – should be the nuclear weapons they launch in retaliation. Do not expect retaliation to be limited.
The article above is a good summary of what we said during the March 2018 episode of “Glen’s Parallax Perspectives” TV program, which you can watch through this blog (through either the “Nuclear Weapons” or the “TV Programs” sections) at any time from mid-February to many years into the future. One of our TV guests — Mark Fleming — provided much of the information reported above.
Here is more information about Trump’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review document:
–> For many years the anti-nuclear weapons group SANE worked for peace. In the early 1980s the Nuclear Weapons Freeze campaign did too. They merged and became Peace Action (www.peace-action.org). They published this article about Trump’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review: “Who Let Dr. Strangelove Write the Nuclear Posture Review? https://www.peaceaction.org/news-posts/let-dr-strangelove-write-nuclear-posture-review/
–> The Federation of American Scientists published this: https://fas.org/issues/nuclear-weapons/nuclear-posture-review/
–> The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (the people who created the “Doomsday Clock”) will be publishing information. Here is one short early article: https://thebulletin.org/experts-new-nuclear-posture-review11480