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Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons at an Inflection Point

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[Technical Report, Technical Report]

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The Trump administration inherited a world far different from the one envisioned in President Obamas 2009 Prague address and faces a hierarchy of national security threats far different from those underpinning the subsequent 2010 Nuclear Posture Review NPR. Any new nuclear guidance is more likely to be framed by the emergence over the past decade of a more bellicose Russia than it is by threat of nuclear-capable terrorists. Notwithstanding the possibility that the new administration might enjoy a more amicable relationship with Russia in the short term, deep ideological and geopolitical differences between Russia and the West still pose an enduring structural threat for the foreseeable future. Revising nuclear guidance involves a host of interrelated critical issues for which decisions will need to be made, and for which implementing a path forward is fraught with dangers and uncertainties. Our focus is on the European theater, motivated by concern over the threat posed by the combination of Russias postCold War nonstrategic nuclear weapons developments and escalate-to-deescalate nuclear doctrine, which stand in stark contrast with the United States neglect of its own nonstrategic nuclear weapon capabilities and stagnant NATO nuclear doctrine over that same time period. We begin our paper with a review of the mind-set of the architects of the 2010 NPR, who asserted that Russia and the United States are no longer adversaries and that the most immediate and extreme threat today is nuclear terrorism. We also identify warning signs that might have given its framers pause. The most glaring of such warning signs were, in retrospect, clear Russias oft-strident opposition to NATO enlargement and oft-expressed displeasure with the post-Cold War international order led by the United States.

Subject Categories:

  • Nuclear Warfare
  • Nuclear Weapons
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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[A, Approved For Public Release]