The proposed "tactical" nuclear weapons would not increase America's arsenal, which is already considerable, but would repurpose existing warheads. Worse still, these new weapons could heighten the risk of conflict by feeding into a unsafe ongoing action-reaction cycle: For some time, new US conventional weapons that are faster, stealthier and/or more precise than before, combined with growing missile defense deployments, have stoked Russian fears that, in a conflict, America could wipe out its forces before they have a chance to inflict any damage.
Donald Trump is taking a more aggressive stance against Russian Federation when it comes to nuclear weapons. Low-yield nuclear weapons could help the United States deter Russian Federation more, officials said.
A leaked pre-decisional draft reaffirms the policy of threatening nuclear use to prevent cyberattacks, but goes even further - expanding the role of US forward-deployed nuclear weapons in NATO's European defenses.
By clarifying potential scenarios when the president might authorize a nuclear attack, officials said, the US was seeking to deter adversaries from conducting large-scale cyber warfare and other non-nuclear but potentially devastating attacks on the USA and its allies, a controversial idea that critics said could make nuclear war more likely.
It was just one weapon highlighted in Friday's report, which focused heavily on current and future capabilities of US weapons, along with the advancements made in countries like Russian, China, North Korea and Iran.
"Over the course of the last several years, Russian Federation and China have been building new types and kinds of nuclear weapons, both delivery systems and actual warheads", Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told journalists earlier this week.
The Nuclear Posture Reviewdescribed a "new intercontinental, nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered, undersea autonomous torpedo", which could be deployed from beneath a submarine.
Mattis told reporters the United States should not put all of its focus into defending attacks because it also needs better offensive options that match other countries' nuclear abilities. Like Obama, Trump would consider using nuclear weapons only in "extreme circumstances", while maintaining a degree of ambiguity about what that means.
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Details of the new "Status 6" weapon were included in Friday's Nuclear Posture Review. For the long term, the Defense and Energy Departments will also study how to develop new submarine-launched cruise missiles that can also be fitted with low-yield warheads.
Low-yield nuclear weapons, while still devastating, have a strength of less than 20 kilotonnes.
Longer-range missiles could come over the next decade, and the USA would plan to develop and field sea-launched cruise missiles also with lower-yield warheads.
The review called for continuing the B-83 bomb, the largest nuclear weapon in the U.S. stockpile, until a replacement is found, reversing plans to retire.
"There is no scenario in which the Kim regime could employ nuclear weapons and survive", the NPR said.
Despite being called low-yield, the weapons are extremely deadly.
The administration's view is that Russian policies and actions are fraught with potential for miscalculation leading to an uncontrolled escalation of conflict in Europe.