March 29, 2019
A Pentagon official has said that the US will retain the right to carry out a nuclear strike in response to a conventional attack. A ‘no-first-use’ policy would erode US allies’ belief that they are protected, he said.
Washington has no plans to reverse its policy of “no first use” of nukes, which means it can bomb its adversaries with nuclear weapons under “extreme circumstances,” Deputy Undersecretary of Defense David Trachtenberg said in his prepared remarks to the Senate Armed Service Committee hearing on Thursday.
Trachtenberg claimed that if the US changes its take on the issue, which he described as “constructive ambiguity,” it “would undermine US extended deterrence and damage the health of our alliances because it would call into question the assurance that the United States would come to the defense of allies in extreme circumstances.” This uncertainty might prompt these countries to arm themselves with nuclear weapons, he said.
The hawkish Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) commissioned by President Donald Trump in 2018 lists a range of circumstances under which the US might consider striking first, such as significant strategic attacks on the US, allied or partner civilian infrastructure, forces, their command and control, as well as warning and assessment capabilities with conventional weapons.
That clause represents a major shift from the previous US nuclear doctrine, and has drawn strong criticism from Moscow, which accusedWashington of lowering the nuclear threshold and exacerbating the nuclear arms race. In addition to threatening nuclear annihilation, the review sets the stage for upgrading and expanding the already vast US nuclear arsenal. The nuclear build-up envisions developing new types of low-yield warheads that could be placed on submarine-launched ballistic missiles and on sea-launched cruise missiles.