Donald Trump Doctrine
Perhaps you used to think that America’s nuclear arsenal, with its thousands of thermonuclear warheads, which can destroy the entire population of the Earth, can convince any adversary not to use its weapon against the USA.
You were wrong.
The Pentagon expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that American nuclear weapons are inexpediently powerful. It is old, unreliable and has such destructive potential that perhaps even President Trump would not want to use it if the enemy used smaller nuclear bombs on a hypothetical battlefield.
American military experts and weapons developers decided to start creating something more suitable for conducting military operations, so that the president would have more opportunities in case of anything. According to their plan, this will become an even more convincing deterrent for opponents. But it may turn out that such new bombs may increase the likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict, which will have disastrous consequences.
The fact that Trump would have been both hands on improving the American nuclear arsenal wouldn’t surprise anyone, considering his tendency to brag about the unsurpassed military power of his country. He was delighted when, in April 2017, one of his generals ordered for the first time to drop the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in existence on Afghanistan.
According to the existing nuclear doctrine, according to the Obama administration’s plan, the United States should have resorted to nuclear weapons only “as a last resort” to protect the vital interests of the country or its allies. Then it was forbidden to use it as a political tool in order to rein in the weaker states.
However, to Trump, who has already threatened to bring down “fire and rage that the world has never seen before,” to North Korea, this approach seems too harsh. He and his advisers seem to want nuclear weapons to be used in conflicts of any degree of seriousness of great strength and swing them like a bludgeon of an apocalypse to intimidate those who disobey.
In order for the US arsenal to become more sophisticated, two kinds of changes in nuclear policy are required. Modification of the existing doctrine to eliminate restrictions on the deployment of such weapons in wartime, and permission to develop and manufacture new generations of nuclear weapons, including for tactical attacks.
All this will be spelled out in the new Review of the composition and quantity of nuclear weapons (nuclear posture review, NPR), which will be formed by the end of this year or at the beginning of the next.
Up to this point, its exact content will remain unknown, but even after that, Americans will have access to an extremely curtailed version of the document, most of which is secret. Nevertheless, some general provisions of the Survey are already clear from the statements of the president and the generals.
And one more obvious fact. The review will remove restrictions on the use of weapons of mass destruction of any kind, regardless of its level of destructiveness, which will make the planet’s most powerful nuclear arsenal even more formidable.
Change the look at nuclear weapons
Strategic leadership in the new Review is likely to have far-reaching implications. As the former director of the US National Security Council for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, John Wolfsthal said in a recent issue of Arms Control, this document will affect "the image of America, the president and the nuclear potential in the eyes of allies and opponents." More importantly, the review sets the vector for decisions that define the management, maintenance and modernization of the nuclear arsenal and influence how the Congress views and finances the nuclear forces. ”
With this in mind, consider the recommendations set out in the Obama Government Review. He appeared when the White House sought to restore America’s prestige to the world after an international condemnation of President Bush’s actions in Iraq and only six months after Barack Obama received the Nobel Prize for his intention to ban the use of nuclear weapons. Non-proliferation was a priority.
As a result, the use of nuclear weapons was limited under almost any circumstances on any field of battle that one can imagine. The main objective of the Review was to reduce the "role of US nuclear weapons in the US national security."
As noted in the document, America only once considered the possibility of using nuclear weapons against Soviet tank formations, for example, in a major European conflict. It was assumed that in such a situation the USSR would have an advantage in traditional types of weapons.
In the military-political situation of 2010, of course, little remained of those times, as well as of the Soviet Union. Washington, as noted in the Review, is now the undisputed leader in the traditional understanding of defense. "Accordingly, the United States will continue to strengthen traditional capabilities and reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks."
A nuclear strategy aimed solely at deterring a first strike against the United States or its allies is unlikely to require a huge stockpile of weapons. As a result, such an approach opened up opportunities for further reducing the size of the nuclear arsenal and led 2010 to sign a new treaty with Russia, which ordered a significant reduction in the number of nuclear warheads and delivery systems for both countries.
Each side had to confine itself to 1550 warheads and 700 delivery systems, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine launch ballistic missiles and heavy bombers.
However, this approach has never satisfied representatives of the defense ministry and conservative research institutes. Critics of this kind often pointed to possible changes in the Russian military doctrine that would suggest a greater likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons in a large-scale war with NATO if its position in Russia in the war began to deteriorate.
Such “strategic deterrence” - a phrase that for Russia and the West has a different meaning, can lead to the use of low-powered “tactical” nuclear weapons against enemy strongholds if Russian forces in Europe were on the verge of defeat.
To what extent this version corresponds to the Russian reality, no one really knows. Nevertheless, something similar is often associated in the West by those who believe that Obama’s nuclear strategy is hopelessly outdated and gives Moscow a reason to increase the importance of nuclear weapons in his doctrine.
Such complaints were often voiced in the “Seven Defense Priorities of the New Administration” - in the report of the Scientific Council of the US Department of Defense (December 2016), which is a Pentagon-funded advisory group that regularly reports to the Secretary of Defense. "We are still not sure that if we reduce the importance of nuclear weapons for our state, other countries will do the same."
According to the report, the Russian strategy involves the use of low-power tactical nuclear strikes to deter a NATO attack. While many Western analysts doubt the correctness of such statements, the Pentagon’s Science Council insists that the United States should develop such weapons and be ready to use them.
According to the report, Washington needs “a more flexible system of nuclear weapons, which could, if necessary, produce a fast and accurate nuclear strike on a restricted area of destruction, if the existing non-nuclear and nuclear versions of weapons prove ineffective”.
Such an approach now inspires the Trump administration to new achievements in this area, which is clearly seen in some of the president’s tweets. “The United States must strengthen and expand its nuclear potential so that the whole world will again recall the volume of our weapons,” wrote Donald Trump on December 22 of 2016.
Although he didn’t write specifically (because it was a short Twitter post), his idea was to accurately reflect the views of the Scientific Council and Trump’s advisors.
Having taken the post of commander-in-chief, Trump signed a presidential memorandum in which he instructed the defense minister to review the nuclear weapons situation and make sure that “the US nuclear deterrent is modern, reliable, ready to use and can meet the challenges of the 21 century and be convincing in the eyes of the allies” .
Details of the Review, which will appear in the era of Trump, are still unknown. Nevertheless, he will undoubtedly nullify all of Obama’s achievements and will put nuclear weapons on a pedestal.
The Trump Review will promote the creation of new nuclear weapons systems that will become the main players with an expanded set of strike options. In particular, it is believed that the administration is in favor of acquiring "low-powered tactical nuclear ammunition" and even more delivery systems, including air-launched and land-based cruise missiles. The rationale for this, of course, will be the thesis that this kind of ammunition is necessary to match the Russian achievements in this field.
According to internal sources, the development of such tactical ammunition, which could, for example, destroy a large port or military base, and not just the whole city, as it was in Hiroshima, is also being considered. As one anonymous government official in Politico said: “Having this opportunity is critically important.”
Another politician added that “in preparing the Survey, it is necessary to interview the military about what they need to deter enemies” and whether current weapons will be “useful in all scenarios that we assume”.
It should be borne in mind that during the Obama administration, plans and initial multimillion-million design work to "modernize" America’s nuclear arsenal for many decades to come were already agreed upon. From this point of view, Trump's nuclear era was already well under way at the time of his inauguration.
And, of course, the United States already has several types of nuclear weapons, including the B61 "gravitational bomb" and the W80 missile warhead, whose power can be adjusted down to several kilotons.
A typical delivery system will be a weapon used outside the air defense zone - a modern long-range cruise missile that can be carried by a B-2 bomber, its older brother B-52 or developed by B-21.
World ready for a nuclear winter
Publication of the new Review will undoubtedly cause controversy about whether a country with a nuclear arsenal, which is enough to destroy several Earth-sized planets, really needs new nuclear weapons, and whether this will lead to another global arms race.
In November, 2017, the Congressional Budget Office published a report showing that the cost of replacing all three branches of the American nuclear triad during 30 years would be at least 1,2 billion dollars, not counting inflation and additional costs that could increase this figure to 1,7 billion dollars and above .
The problem of the justification of all these new types of weapons and their cosmic value is extremely relevant today. One thing is certain: any decision to purchase such weapons would mean a reduction in the budget in other sectors in the long run — health care, education, infrastructure, or combating an opioid epidemic.
Yet, questions of cost and adequacy are the easiest part of a new nuclear puzzle. It is based on the very idea of “applicability”. When Obama insisted that nuclear weapons could not be used on the battlefield in any way, he spoke not only about America, but about all countries. “To put an end to the Cold War mindset,” he said in Prague 2009 in April, “we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and encourage others to do the same.”
If the Trump White House supports the doctrine that will erase the differences between nuclear and traditional weapons, turning them into equivalent tools of coercion and war, this will make escalating to complete thermonuclear destruction of the planet the most likely in the last few decades.
For example, there is no doubt that such a position prompted other countries possessing nuclear weapons, including Russia, China, India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea, to think about their use in future conflicts. It may even push countries that currently lack nuclear weapons to consider the possibility of their production.
Obama’s view of nuclear weapons was fundamentally different from those of the Cold War, when the possibility of a thermonuclear holocaust between the two superpowers of the planet was a daily reality, and millions of people went to anti-nuclear demonstrations.
When the threat of Armageddon disappeared, the fear of nuclear weapons gradually evaporated, and the protests ended. Unfortunately, the nuclear weapons themselves and the companies that created them live and live. Now that the peace period of the post-nuclear era is coming to an end, the zone, the idea of using nuclear weapons, which during the Cold War were hardly admitted even in the mind, may cease to be something special.
Or, at least, it will be so, if once again the citizens of this planet do not take to the streets to protest against the future in which cities lie in smoldering ruins, and millions of people die from hunger and radiation sickness.