Report # 291. The USA & NATO. Seeking first nuclear strike

October 3, 2029

At NATO’s annual Nuclear Policy Symposium kicked off in Lisbon, Portugal, at the end of last September its participants traditionally blamed Russia for its “irresponsible nuclear rhetoric” and China’s “rapid and opaque nuclear expansion that is also cause for concern”. “While we continue to focus on deterring the very real and reckless nuclear threats from Russia, we can’t lose sight of other global nuclear challenges,” said at the meeting Jessica Cox, NATO’s Director of Nuclear Policy. 

Has she proved by any document that Moscow pursues “irresponsible nuclear rhetoric”? No. When and where such rhetoric was noticed by her? Nowhere. Did she mean official statements made by President Vladimir Putin on nuclear weapons’ (NW) use? Yes, she did.

Though if she asked her staffers to find anything like that, she would get no positive answer, because in all Vladimir Putin’s public remarks there were no words on the potential employment of NW by Russia in any part of the globe. Yes, he sometimes used a phrase about a possibility to resort to “other means” of warfare to disrupt unprovoked massive Ukrainian-NATO aggression against Russia, but it has been directly related not to NW, but rather – to hypersonic weapons and recently outlined term like “arms created on new physical principles”.

U.S. nuclear strategy, policy and attitude to NFS: a very high bar

The reality is that the main actor in further nuclearization of the world has been and still is the USA.

In the 2022 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review or NPR openly stated that the United States is committed to the modernization of its nuclear forces, nuclear command, control, and communications system (NC3), and production and support infrastructure, and to sustaining fielded systems through the transition to their replacements.

The 2022 NPR contained decisions to ensure an effective nuclear deterrent that provides for a first nuclear use or a first nuclear strike while seeking the goal of enhancing the role of nuclear weapons in the U.S. national security and national defense strategies.

The current U.S. nuclear deterrent policy has the following key principles: (1) to adopt a strategy and declaratory policy that maintain a very high bar for nuclear employment while assuring allies and partners; (2) to adopt an integrated deterrence approach that works to leverage nuclear and non-nuclear capabilities to tailor deterrence under specific circumstances; (3) to take steps to strengthen extended nuclear deterrence outside the CONUS and to allied assurance; (4) to affirm full-scope strategic nuclear triad replacement and other nuclear modernization programs, including NC3, and (5) to block verifiable and genuine nuclear arms control. 

As part of NPR implementation, the United States will update NW employment guidance in accordance with the policy and strategy established by the president who has a sole, exclusive right to order to use national strategic and tactical nuclear weapons anywhere and anytime. 

The U.S. nuclear deterrent strategy undergirds all national defense priorities, including defending the U.S. homeland, deterring strategic attacks against the United States, its allies and partners, and deterring regional aggression. In other words, by using NW in the whole world

Another important element of the U.S. integrated deterrence is synchronizing nuclear and nonnuclear planning, exercises, and operations. The goal is to strengthen deterrence by lowering the nuclear threshold on a global scale and to resort to nuclear escalation formula. At NATO Chicago Summit held in 2012, the USA has hammered out the ‘Chicago Triad’ – a trilateral combination of nuclear, missile defense and non-nuclear heavy weapons’ forces acting together as a single unified mechanism.

The three legs of the nuclear strategic triad in the “Chicago Triad’ are complementary, with each component offering unique attributes. Maintaining a modern nuclear triad possessing these attributes – effectiveness, responsiveness, survivability, flexibility, and visibility – ensures that the United States can use NW in a first nuclear strike, withstand and respond to any strategic attack, tailor its deterrence strategies as needed, and assure allies in support of the U.S. extended nuclear deterrence commitments.

Washington is not committed to genuine nuclear arms control.

It has unilaterally withdrawn from the INF Treaty. It will deploy INF-related nuclear missiles in Europe and Asia. Their production began.

It was refraining from facilitating New START Treaty Russian inspection activities on the U.S. territory, specifically by revoking existing visas issued to Russian New START Treaty inspectors and aircrew members, denying pending applications for such visas, and by revoking the standing diplomatic clearance numbers issued for Russian New START Treaty inspection airplanes. On telemetry issue the U.S. side announced that the USA will not be providing telemetric information on launches of U.S. ICBMs and SLBMs.

It is violating Article I of the NPT prohibiting to deploy NW on territories of non-NW states. U.S. NW is still stored on the territory of five NATO members.

It does not sign the TPNW or Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

It has signed, but has not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty known as CTBT, and is not committed to achieve its entry into force. The United States maintains a nuclear explosive test readiness program.

It has not reduced the role of NW in the U.S. national security strategy and the salience of NW globally.

It does not work with a sense of urgency to reduce the danger of using NW in Ukraine and in global nuclear war, which would have catastrophic consequences for Europe and the entire world.

NATO nuclear policy. Is it different from that of the U.S.?

No, it is not.

The U.S. strategic nuclear forces and forward-deployed nuclear weapons provide an essential political and military link between Europe and North America.

Combined with the independent nuclear forces of France and the United Kingdom and NATO’s nuclear burden-sharing arrangements, U.S. nuclear forces remain essential to the alliance’s deterrence and defense posture that is very aggressive and de facto offensive.

NATO has taken steps to ensure a modern, ready, and credible NATO nuclear deterrent. This includes modernizing U.S. nuclear weapons forward-deployed in Europe and, with participating NATO allies, transitioning to a new generation of fighter aircraft, including the U.S. F-35A Joint Strike Fighter certified to carry NW. The United States will work with Allies concerned to ensure that the transition to modern dual capable fighter aircraft or DCA and the B61-12 bomb is executed efficiently and with its high readiness. 

The alliance has admitted that to enable that strategy, NATO nuclear and conventional forces must be capable of providing a robust range of response options to restore nuclear deterrence; continuing to operate effectively to achieve U.S. and allied objectives by NW. Modernization of NATO’s DCA capabilities is considered necessary and ongoing. Though NATO’s theater nuclear forces are too big, in order to meet these requirements its military leadership proclaimed the need to use a wide-range of continuously forward deployed, survivable theater nuclear capabilities that can reliably penetrate any potential theater air and missile defenses.

A combined Ukrainian-NATO aggression against Russia is a vivid example of such policy. For this purpose, the USA intends to deliver to a failed Ukraine a cluster of F-16 fighter-bomber also certified to delivery NW. It has to be reminded that NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Operation that started since 2004 in the sky of four NATO nations is expanding.

NATO firmly announced that it should supplement its dual capable fighter capability with at least one more theater nuclear capability that meets the requirements noted above. Several candidate systems could meet this requirement, but a nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM-N) deployed on U.S. attack submarines provides all the necessary attributes.

At the latest NATO Summit held in Vilnius in July 2023 NATO pledged that it will take all necessary steps to ensure the credibility, effectiveness, safety and security of the nuclear deterrent mission. This included continuing to modernize NATO’s nuclear capability and updating planning to increase flexibility and adaptability of the alliance’s nuclear forces, while exercising strong political control at all times. The pact reaffirmed the imperative to ensure the broadest possible participation by allies concerned in NATO’s nuclear burden-sharing arrangements to demonstrate alliance unity and resolve.

The Western military pact committed to ensuring greater integration and coherence of capabilities and activities across all domains and the spectrum of conflict, while reaffirming the unique and distinct role of nuclear deterrence. NATO will continue to maintain credible deterrence, strengthen its strategic communications, enhance the effectiveness of its exercises.

To sum up. Whence is the nuclear threat to peace? From the USA and NATO. Russia is still committed to NFS policy and never threatened to use nuclear arms.


Note: Dr. Vladimir Kozin is the author of 21 various monographs on nuclear and other arms control issues. His recently released book is entitled “U.S. Basic Military Strategies: Their Analysis and Practical Employment”. Moscow: Sabashnikov’s Publishing House. 2023. 516 PP. It is written in English and Russian under separate covers. The book examines 12 major U.S. military strategies enacted by presidents D. Trump and J. Biden (6 plus 6).

Written by Vladimir P. Kozin


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