Trump’s wizards of Armageddon have uprooted a nuclear taboo, declaring a newfound readiness to use nuclear weapons first and early in a confrontation. In a departure from previous presidents, Trump expands the circumstances in which nuclear weapons could be used to include as a response to “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks,” such as attacks on “civilian population or infrastructure.” The purported reason is to deter adversaries, specifically Russia, by indicating U.S. willingness to use nuclear weapons first and early.
To that end, the Trump administration calls for new, more usable nuclear weapons. These weapons are a boondoggle: the review provides no evidence that the new weapons are needed or that they will actually work to deter Russia. The plan is needless due to the vast conventional strength of the U.S. military, and ill-advised as it will only increase the risk of stumbling into a nuclear war.
For all its misguided calls for increased reliance on nuclear weapons, the document lacks any plan for funding. It reiterates support for expanding the eye-popping $1.25 trillion nuclear upgrade program ($1.7 trillion when accounting for inflation) that the Obama administration set in motion. The call for useless new weapons would add to that sum, but you won’t find any ideas about how pay for it.
The White House is poised to officially release the Nuclear Posture Review soon and it is important they not do so in a vacuum. Not only will Global Zero push back against the notion that new, more usable nuclear weapons are needed, we will offer up solutions to pull us back from the brink and reduce nuclear risks globally. These steps – from declaring that the U.S. will not use nuclear weapons first, to placing checks on presidential launch authority, to prioritizing the safety and security of our nuclear arsenal over unnecessary new weapons programs – are pragmatic actions the U.S. can take that also strengthen national security.
The Trump administration plans to meet an international landscape fraught with tensions between nuclear powers with ill-conceived ideas that lift up nuclear weapons as solutions to our problems. With your support, Global Zero will expose this for what it is and advocate for alternatives that make us safe, secure, and closer to a world without the threat of nuclear weapons.