If deterrence relies on risk assessment, then America is facing an increased risk of misconduct and large-scale conflict thanks to the new “Nuclear Posture” published by the U.S. administration. With the intention of constructing “a more aggressive approach” to suppress Moscow and Beijing, the Nuclear Posture Review 2018 defends the outrageous idea of a “limited nuclear attack,” attesting that the impact of a nuclear standoff on humanity and the environment could be reasonably contained — and ethically minimized. The U.S. strategy not only envisages the production of new weaponry in the form of “mini nukes” intended to “give the U.S. more flexibility in pursuing nuclear options,” but it also paves the way for the use of such weaponry in the case of non-nuclear attacks, such as large-scale cyberattacks, for example.
This is none other than an enormous rearmament initiative to endorse the restoration of a nuclear arms race, and which, despite rebuttal from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, looks to undermine nuclear reduction treaties such as New START, negotiated by the Obama administration in 2010. It’s a clear statement of intent and will have a reverse effect on efforts to incite Kim Jong Un to denuclearize North Korea.
It is, however, worth noting that Barack Obama isn’t quite as innocent in the matter as he led us to believe during his presidency. The commitment he demonstrated to a nuclear-free world during his 2009 public address in Prague didn’t stop him from giving his approval to an ambitious program in 2016 aiming to modernize the U.S. arsenal and estimated to cost $1 trillion over the course of 30 years. In that sense, the continuity between Trump’s current approach and that of his Democrat predecessor is difficult to deny.
I should also point out that both Russia and China are engaged in vast military modernization efforts, and that even Trump’s critics note the need to acknowledge this and adjust approaches accordingly. Nonetheless, according to Le Monde, the U.S. military budget exceeds the cumulative total expenditure by the nine other countries with the next highest military outlay. In terms of nuclear capabilities, Washington and Moscow remain roughly equal, whereas China still only possesses a fraction of the missiles owned by the U.S..
It’s only natural that Trump’s contentious posture should aim to pretend that the U.S. is, by all accounts, in a dire state of fragility. The fact that it’s now being used to justify the overproduction of nuclear weaponry makes the lie even more dangerous.