Citing emerging threats from rogue states, the Trump administration has outlined a plan to reverse the trend toward reduction of the nuclear arsenal. Details were outlined in a Defense Department white paper published this month.
While the nation will remain committed to the goal of ultimately eliminating nuclear weapons altogether, the present climate precludes such a stance for now, the report stated.
Russia, China, North Korea and Iran each are moving forward with creation or expansion of their arsenals, as well as those that deploy other weapons of mass destruction, according to the report. The U.S. will continue to pursue normalization of relations with Russia and China, but only in a climate that emphasizes the protection of the nation and what the authors call “strategic stability.”
The administration views the nuclear arsenal as an essential deterrent to potential aggressors that is in dire need of upgrade.
“Effective U.S. deterrence of nuclear attack and non-nuclear strategic attack requires ensuring that potential adversaries do not miscalculate regarding the consequences of nuclear first use, either regionally against the United states itself,” the authors wrote. “They must understand that there are no possible benefits from non-nuclear aggression or limited nuclear escalation. Correcting any such misperceptions is now critical to maintaining strategic stability in Europe and Asia.”
Despite their importance, the report stated that the U.S. nuclear arsenal “has suffered the effects of age and underfunding.”
Much of the arsenal is more than 40 years old, and some facilities date back to its creation during the Manhattan Project era. The report urged a renewed effort, primarily between the Defense and Energy departments, to upgrade the arsenal and the infrastructure that supports it.
The authors also addressed shortfalls in treaties that presumably would reduce the threat of nuclear conflagration. They hailed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a “cornerstone” of the effort, but said it “faces acute challenges,” particularly from North Korea. They also criticized Russia for rebuffing “U.S. efforts to follow the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START),” which is scheduled to run through 2021 with the possibility of a five-year extension.