Nuclear Posture Review Policies Increase Risk of Nuclear War

Statement by Lisbeth Gronlund, Senior Scientist, Co-director, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Feb 2, 2018

WASHINGTON (February 2, 2018)—The White House released its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) today, which shows the Trump administration will broaden the circumstances under which it would use nuclear weapons first, and more tightly integrate its nuclear and conventional forces to facilitate nuclear war-fighting. It also plans to add a third type of low-yield weapon to the arsenal by modifying some of the existing warheads on sub-based ballistic missiles. All of these changes can occur within this presidential term. In the longer run, the NPR calls for the deployment of a nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile. The U.S. has not deployed such a weapon for 25 years.

Below is a statement by Lisbeth Gronlund, senior scientist and co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“One of the most disturbing and significant changes to U.S. policy outlined in the NPR is the tighter integration of U.S. nuclear and conventional forces, including training and exercising with these integrated forces, so U.S. forces can operate—as the NPR states—in the face of nuclear threats and employment. This is the text-book definition of nuclear war-fighting. This new policy deliberately blurs the line between nuclear and conventional forces and eliminates a clear firewall.

“The decision to deploy another type of low-yield weapon—this one on submarines—is consistent with the new emphasis on nuclear war-fighting. Existing U.S. B61 bombs and air-launched cruise missiles already have low-yield options.

“The administration’s new policy also shoots a big hole in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is key to U.S. security. It simply rejects the U.S. obligation to take steps toward nuclear disarmament. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has made progress—albeit slow progress—in reducing the number, types and role of its nuclear weapons. The new policy reverses that progress. The NPR is a giant slap in the face of the non-nuclear weapon states, who are already fed up with the slow progress of the United States and Russia.

“President Trump is embarking on a reckless path—one that will reduce U.S. security both now and in the longer term.”  

 For more analysis on the NPR, please see Dr. Gronlund's blog.