Acknowledging that the United States is facing the re-emergence of great power competition among the US, Russia and China, the US Department of Defence considers the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR’s) analysis and recommendations are grounded in a realistic assessment of today’s strategic environment.
Army Secretary Mark T. Esper said the U.S. military must be prepared for a high-end fight as these evolving challenges reflect the changing character of war. “We are entering an era where our forces will be under constant observation, disrupted communications – if not nonexistent communications,” he said.
The 2018 review takes all the challenges under consideration and maintains the traditional deterrence strategy to shape potential adversaries calculations, with some tweaks to ensure there is no miscalculation of America’s intent.
David J. Trachtenberg, the deputy undersecretary of defense for policy said The world has changed and America’s nuclear strategy has to change as well and Russia is modernizing its nuclear stockpiles and capabilities. Russian officials said that 80 percent of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces have now been modernized. More disturbing is new Russian doctrine that seems to support the idea that they can use nuclear weapons a s practical tools for gaining an advantage on the battlefield, escalation control and during conflict termination.
“Rather than reducing the salience of nuclear weapons, the Russian leadership has made explicit threats, brandishing their nuclear weapons in a way that we arguably have not seen in a generation,” Trachtenberg told the auddience at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies seminar on Capitol Hill.
The U.S. Army has faced inflection points in the past and is facing one today, Army Secretary Mark T. Esper told the Atlantic Council.He likened the situation today to what the service faced coming out of Vietnam in 1973: a long war, political turmoil, budget uncertainties and more.
“We’ve been here before,” Esper said. “The Army, today, is at a strategic inflection once again. We are coming off many Years of hard conflict, but unlike the Army of 1973, we can’t afford to put the low-intensity conflict in the rear-view mirror. We have to carry our hard-won competencies in irregular warfare forward.”
The cost of modernization is steep – by some estimates, up to $1.2 trillion.China is also expanding its nuclear capabilities in quality and quantity as the Chinese military have new missiles, new cruise missiles, new submarines and new mobile ICBM launchers.
Inspite of the fact that the meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald J. Trump points to a “historic window of opportunity,” but Trachtenberg said, “the United States is also facing nuclear challenges from rogue states such as Iran and North Korea.”
“But we must nevertheless, proceed soberly, given North Korea’s history of noncompliance with negotiated agreements,” he added.He further stated, “Iran’s status remains uncertain as it continues missile testing against U.N sanctions and continues to extend malign influence throughout the Middle East.”
In contrast, the United States has not built any new systems for 20 years and has reduced its nuclear arsenal by 85 percent since its Cold War peak.
“The NPR re-establishes deterrence of nuclear attack against us, our allies and partners as the top priority of U.S. nuclear policy,” he told the seminar audience.
The Nuclear Posture Review will continue to contribute to American nonproliferation goals by maintaining support for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and sustaining the extended deterrent for allies, Trachtenberg said, noting that they do not need their own nuclear weapons.
The review clarifies U.S. “declaratory policy,” which is that the United States will consider the use of nuclear weapons only in response “ extreme circumstances that threaten our vital interests.” The review says the attack could be nuclear or non-nuclear, “but there is nothing automatic about a prospective U.S. response,” Trachtenberg said. “We always maintain the option of responding to any aggression at a time and place, and a means of our choosing,” he added.
This move does not expand the circumstances for use of nuclear weapons, nor does it lower the bar to nuclear use, he said.
The US aim is to Army must be ready to deploy, fight and win against any adversary in a joint, multidomain, high-intensity conflict while maintaining its ability to conduct irregular warfare.