Pentagon mulls nuclear response to cyber attacks

Trump with majority leaders

Continuing, the officials said, "For example, Russia's belief that limited nuclear first use, potentially including low-yield weapons, can provide such an advantage is based, in part, on Moscow's perception that its greater number and variety of non-strategic nuclear systems provide a coercive advantage in crises and at lower levels of conflict".

The other is a nuclear-tipped cruise missile, a revival of a system that had been dropped from the arsenal in 2010. Former President Barack Obama called for a "world without nuclear weapons", near the end of his administration.

The U.S. typically views the use of nuclear weapons as appropriate in extreme circumstances.

"Global threat conditions have worsened markedly" since the 2010 nuclear policy review, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wrote in the document's introduction, a leaked version of which was published by the Huffington Post.

The Pentagon's program may encounter one major hurdle: cost.

"Expanding flexible USA nuclear options now, to include low-yield options, is important for the preservation of credible deterrence against regional aggression", the draft of the NPR states.

A Defense Department spokesperson declined to comment until the final version of the report is released in February.

"The pro-nuclear ideologues say that for a real deterrent, the United States must align itself with the enemy's arsenal, with the weapon, with the power", Blechman said.

"There is no empirical basis for this view, but it is widely held among civilians being appointed to positions in the" administration of President Donald Trump.

The nuclear review states that the development of new, lower-yield nuclear weapons is not meant to enable "nuclear war-fighting" that would see the U.S. military using the weapons on the battlefield.

The Pentagon's rationale for the production increase is that Russian Federation and China have not followed the United States' lead on de-emphasizing nuclear weapons, so the US must adjust its strategy.

This lowers the nuclear threshold in the U.S., Wolfsthal said, by giving the Pentagon "more options to use nuclear weapons that wouldn't be as devastating, which in some ways makes them more tempting" to use.

The nuclear review states its commitment to the non-proliferation treaty "remains strong".

Many critics disagree with these lines of thinking, but the proposals appear to have broad support within the Pentagon.

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