The Pentagon has begun a Nuclear Posture Review that will guide the strategy for the U.S. military’s nuclear weapons programs and modernization of the nuclear triad over the next decade. The new review will also factor in the current geopolitical reality of frayed relationships with Russia and China that were not present during the last review conducted in 2010.
“The Nuclear Posture Review is a legislatively-mandated review that establishes U.S. nuclear policy, strategy, capabilities and force posture for the next five to ten years,” reads the Defense Department’s website for the review.
According to a Pentagon statement issued Monday, the review will “ensure the U.S. nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, effective, reliable and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies.”
The review will be led by Bob Work, the deputy defense secretary, and Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and include other agencies, in particular the Energy Department, which is responsible for American’s nuclear weapons stockpile.
A final report is expected to be presented to Trump by the end of the year.
The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review for the first time prioritized the prevention of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism. It also defined steps for strengthening existing non-proliferation norms, the securing of nuclear materials around the globe and holding accountable states and nonstate actors involved in proliferation.
According to a Defense Department fact sheet the U.S. also affirmed it would “not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations.”
“The United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners,” the fact sheet adds.
That earlier review was also conducted at a time when diplomatic relations with Russia were much better than they are now. Relations soured in early 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea, provided military troops to Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and moved Russian troops into Syria to support the Assad regime.
Last week, Trump characterized the state of U.S. and Russian relations as possibly being “at an all-time low”.
The 2010 review also aligned a reduction in the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile with the New START Treaty with Russia.
Under that treaty, the U.S. and Russia have committed to reduce their deployed nuclear weapons stockpiles to 1,550 by February 2018. That is the number of nuclear warheads that can be deployed on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarines or heavy bombers by the U.S. and Russia.
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