"While the United States has continued to reduce the number and salience of nuclear weapons, others, including Russian Federation and China, have moved in the opposite direction", an unclassified draft of the Pentagon's Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) states. The document doesn't just lay out budgetary and resource requirements for maintaining the Department of Defense's 6,800-warhead nuclear arsenal and the systems that comprise its beloved nuclear triad; it lays out the guidelines and circumstances under which that arsenal can be brought to bear on the world at large.
The proposed changes to the nuclear weapons program, outlined in a draft version of the Pentagon's Nuclear Posture Review, mark a significant break from the vision for America's nuclear future under Barack Obama, who during a famous speech in Prague in 2009 called for the elimination of nuclear weapons. "Answering that with a conventional weapon is likely not going to have the kind of deterrent value as saying, 'Even if you use a low-yield weapon, we have options to respond, '" he said.
The Pentagon's program may encounter one major hurdle: cost.
For Barry Blechman, co-founder of the Stimson Center, a Washington research center specializing in the fight against nuclear proliferation, this document represents a step back from the efforts of previous administrations trying to reduce the risk of nuclear conflict.More news: High tech cars revealed at global auto show
"There is no empirical basis for this view, but it is widely held among civilians being appointed to positions in the" administration of President Donald Trump.
"If all you have is high-yield weapons to answer a low-yield attack, it's still a nuclear attack".
This lowers the nuclear threshold in the U.S., Wolfsthal said, by giving the Pentagon "more options to use nuclear weapons that wouldn't be as devastating, which in some ways makes them more tempting" to use.
This proposal appears in a preliminary version of the new "Nuclear Posture Review" that the Pentagon is due to publish in February.
"Additionally, a decision to use nuclear weapons would not be made haphazardly", she told AFP.