USA/Russland — Defense Officials Clarify Nuclear Review

WASHINGTON — The Nuclear Pos­ture Review has laid out a roadmap for the Unit­ed States to fol­low in future nuclear deal­ings, and it also has raised a lot of ques­tions in the pub­lic forum.
Bradley H. Roberts, deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for nuclear and mis­sile defense, and Navy Adm. John E. Rober­ti, deputy direc­tor for strat­e­gy and pol­i­cy for the Joint Staff, spoke with jour­nal­ists on a DoDLive Blog­gers’ Round­table yes­ter­day to clar­i­fy the par­tic­u­lars of the review.

“It is intend­ed to take con­crete steps now to reduce our reliance – to reduce the num­ber and role of nuclear weapons — while at the same time ensur­ing that we main­tain a safe, secure and effec­tive deter­rence, so long as nuclear weapons remain rel­e­vant,” Roberts said.

“We are seek­ing to increase our reliance on non-nuclear means of deter­rence, prin­ci­pal­ly mis­sile defense, non-nuclear strike capa­bil­i­ties, and what we’re call­ing coun­ter­ing-WMD, or com­bat­ing-WMD capa­bil­i­ties,” he said, refer­ring to weapons of mass destruc­tion.

The review will pro­vide a mod­ern per­spec­tive on nuclear deter­rence pol­i­cy, not a removal of nuclear weapons from the Unit­ed States arse­nal, as some have inter­pret­ed. Only one weapon, the Tom­a­hawk Land Attack Mis­sile-Nuclear or TLAM‑N, is being retired, Rober­ti said.

The pol­i­cy is by no means a reduc­tion of capa­bil­i­ty, Roberts said, but more of a repack­ag­ing that will allow the Unit­ed States to respond to threats appro­pri­ate­ly and, ide­al­ly, to avoid the dis­as­trous reper­cus­sions of using nuclear weapons.

“A nuclear weapon would be per­fect­ly thor­ough in deal­ing with the mil­i­tary threat,” Roberts said. “We’d like to have oth­er means; we think that would be more cred­i­ble as a threat in the eye of [an ene­my] that we might actu­al­ly employ that oth­er means.

“Our desire is to have the niche capa­bil­i­ty that we think is cred­i­ble in the eyes of the Kim Jong-Ils of the world,” Roberts said, refer­ring to the North Kore­an dic­ta­tor, “but not to go so far down this path­way that we’re pre­vent­ing fur­ther nuclear reduc­tions by Rus­sia or gen­er­at­ing con­cerns in Rus­sia and Chi­na about the desta­bi­liz­ing impact of these capa­bil­i­ties.”

But it also uses what Roberts called “cal­cu­lat­ed ambi­gu­i­ty” to allow the pres­i­dent to call for a nuclear strike if need­ed.

“The pres­i­dent chose a mid­dle ground because he was not per­suad­ed that the con­di­tions exist today to enable us to safe­ly say that the only pur­pose of our nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack,” Roberts said.

Pri­mar­i­ly, the report has pro­vid­ed a “roadmap,” as Defense Sec­re­tary Robert Gates put it, to work mul­ti­lat­er­al­ly to reduce nuclear weapons stock­piles around the world.

“Those who want­ed a con­crete, prag­mat­ic war plan to actu­al­ly reduce nuclear dan­gers and to iden­ti­fy an agen­da of activ­i­ties that can be accom­plished coop­er­a­tive­ly inter­na­tion­al­ly, see a lot in this report,” Rober­ti said.

The glob­al secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion is dras­ti­cal­ly dif­fer­ent than it was 20, 40, or 60 years ago, and requires dif­fer­ent meth­ods of defense, Roberts said.

“In this envi­ron­ment, we have some clear nuclear dan­gers in front of us — dan­gers posed by defi­ant states seek­ing nuclear weapons in defi­ance of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty and in vio­la­tion of their treaty com­mit­ments, and for these states we need strong and effec­tive deter­rence pos­tures,” he said. “So long as nuclear threats remain from these states, the nuclear umbrel­la will remain as part of this over­all region­al deter­rence archi­tec­ture.”

Although the sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent, Roberts said, it’s no less dire. North Korea and Iran have both made efforts to devel­op nuclear weapons pro­grams. The lead­ers of al Qai­da also have stat­ed their intent to obtain and use nuclear weapons.

“These are all alarm­ing indi­ca­tors,” Roberts said. “They are not proof that there is a nuclear weapon being smug­gled today or tomor­row, but there are alarm­ing indi­ca­tors that require our seri­ous atten­tion.”

Accord­ing to the review and cur­rent nuclear pol­i­cy, that atten­tion could mean very bad results for any­one pos­ing a threat to the Unit­ed States. While the plan is to low­er the num­ber of nuclear weapons, it is not to shrink the Unit­ed States’ abil­i­ty to respond to aggres­sion, Rober­ti said.

“Our declara­to­ry pol­i­cy says that if you’re a non-nuclear-weapon state, as defined by the non-pro­lif­er­a­tion treaty, and you are in good stand­ing, you’re hon­or­ing your non-pro­lif­er­a­tion oblig­a­tions, you are at no risk,” he said. “If you are not in good stand­ing with your nuclear non-pro­lif­er­a­tion oblig­a­tions, the Unit­ed States rules out noth­ing.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)