The US has ignited considerable controversy over its decision to develop tactical weapons under a new nuclear strategy announced last month.
The move will give Washington the option of responding decisively against potential nuclear and non-nuclear threats. It also promised to hold those states responsible if nuclear assets ever fell into the hands of terrorists.
China and Russia – identified by Washington as its key adversaries in the US Nuclear Posture Review and accused of developing tactical weapons – have denounced the policy in no uncertain terms, calling it an outcome of its Cold War mentality. Beijing urged the US to reconsider its strategy on account of its status as the owner of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.
The main concern of Washington, however, is that its nuclear arsenal is not as effective a deterrent as before and may have become obsolete in today’s world. The argument that developing nations possessing smaller nuclear weapons could challenge the US may or may not be valid, but the Trump administration is clearly not taking any chances.
China opposes the notion that it intends to challenge the US, citing the purely defensive nature of its policy. Russia responded to the US plan with anger, saying it intended to draw up its own security plan. Perhaps this phasing out of larger weapons would be beneficial to the world if all states possessing nuclear weapons of over 20 kilotons volunteered to destroy them. But from what we know low yield weapons with a strength of under 20 kilotons are no less devastating.
The updated US policy - aimed at countering the ‘growing threat from revisionist powers’—is largely misplaced because Washington must assume its special disarmament responsibilities and not mistake the strategic intentions of states such as China or Iran.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2018.
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