The US released its Nuclear Posture Review which paves way for the modernization and expansion of US nuclear capabilities. Radio Sputnik discussed the issue with Dr. Peter Kuznick, director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at the American University in Washington.
Sputnik: What are your thoughts regarding the Nuclear Posture Review? Is it a cold war and arms race all over again?
Dr. Pete Kuznick: Donald Trump has been pretty swaggering about nuclear weapons. He has said in the past: what’s the point of having nuclear weapons if you can’t use them? Which to most people means: let’s get rid of the nuclear weapons; to Donald Trump that means: let’s make them usable. And the New Nuclear Posture review definitely makes nuclear weapons more useable. Along the lines that Bush was developing in his 2002 Nuclear Posture Review, Trump is trying to erase the line between conventional weapons and nuclear weapons, trying to integrate nuclear weapons much more into America’s overall strategic posture. And he is talking here, again something that Bush did, about lowering of the size of destructive capabilities of nuclear weapons. He says that Russia’s got 2,000 non-strategic nuclear weapons that can be used in immediate combat without all the devastating effect from these massive nuclear weapons. And the US wants to begin to match some of that.
What he is doing, again, is not that dramatically different, but is significantly different from what Obama was doing. Obama called for the modernization of America’s nuclear arsenal. Obama saw a trillion dollar modernization over 30 years. Trump is talking about a potentially much bigger, a 1.2 trillion dollar modernization over that same period, according to latest congressional budget estimates. And the point of the modernization is not only to make nuclear weapons more accurate, more efficient, more precise. It’s also to make them more useable. So I’d think that Obama should start by giving back his Nobel Peace Prize and Trump should start by giving back his presidency.
Sputnik: Do you think that anything will actually be done to pressure on Trump to rethink this?
Dr. Pete Kuznick: I don’t see it, in the United States, I don’t see any basis for optimism. And this is partly because this has been a bipartisan policy. What Trumps is doing, is doubling down on what Obama did, they’ve increased the range of options and situations in which the US can use nuclear weapons. They’ve lowered the threshold.
Sputnik: Do you see something like this stimulating other countries, on the other hand, to start developing nuclear weapons?
Dr. Pete Kuznick: That’s the danger. Trump, doing the campaign, said: I’m fine if Japan and South Korea develop their own nuclear weapons. Well, look at the situation in South Korea. According to a latest poll, 60% of South Koreans said they want South Korea to develop its own nuclear weapons. 70% want the United States to put its nuclear weapons back into South Korea, which it took out 16-17 years ago. So, there is that threat, there is that danger; we are going to go to nuclear anarchy. Mohamed ElBaradei, when he was the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said that at least 40 countries have the technological capability of developing nuclear weapons.
Can you imagine the world in which everybody had nuclear weapons? We do everything we can to prevent a country like Iran from having nuclear weapons. It’s a good thing. Nobody should have nuclear weapons. But the danger is, of course, everybody will have nuclear weapons and then they are going to be used. And people have entangling alliances and then other countries get involved. China has said on occasion that if the US is the aggressor in an attack North Korea, then China will come to North Korea’s defense. If North Korea is the aggressor, then they won’t. Well, Trump clearly has plans that have come out increasingly. We saw that Victor Cha, who is Trumps’ nominee to be ambassador to South Korea, got it trouble with the Trump administration because he was saying that there is no military option against North Korea. While the Trump people are saying there is a military option, and they are seriously considering using it.
So, how would that play out? Ok, so, the US first started non-nuclear options, and tries to hit the North Korean missile sites where they think they got the weapons stored. And North Korea is going to have to respond, so they use conventional artillery against Seoul, and they kill tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands; and the US says look it’s a regime of madmen that can’t be controlled and then the US goes in there and wipes out Pyongyang.
These situations easily can speed out of control. So, you say ok, there’s going to be a bloody nose strike. Then a bloody nose strike leads to a counter strike and to a counter strike and to a counter strike. Kennedy and Khrushchev understood that. I don’t know what Kim Jong-Un thinks, nobody really knows. But we know that Donald Trump doesn’t think and that his response to everything: ‘I’m gonna blow you up. I’ve got the mother of all bombs, I’m gonna use more cruise missiles.’ And it’s a very frightening time.
The views and opinions expressed by Adam Nicholls are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.