The world is probably more nervous about nuclear war breaking out these days than we’ve been since the height of the Cold War. Only it’s not the Russians we’re worried about; it’s the madman running amok up there in North Korea.
Or wait, maybe it IS the Russians we should be worried about.
According to David Trachtenberg, the deputy undersecretary of defense for policy in the Trump administration, the president’s nuclear aims include trying to counter a new Russian strategy that appears to envision the strategic use of nuclear weapons.
“We have been extremely concerned with what we have seen as the evolution of Russian military policy as it relates to potential use of nuclear weapons,” Trachtenberg said in an appearance at the Heritage Foundation on Monday. “Russian nuclear doctrine seems to actively consider the possibility of limited nuclear use. Russian military exercises in some cases have involved levels of activity involving strategic nuclear forces that we haven’t seen since the heyday of the Cold War, and some of those exercises have involved the simulated use of nuclear weapons as part of what has been referred to as an ‘escalate to deescalate strategy.'”
Trachtenberg’s remarks shed new light on last month’s Nuclear Posture Review, which indicated that President Trump was seeking the development of new, lighter nuclear weapons that could be launched from submarines and the sea. Critics pounced, saying that it was proof that the unstable president was itching to get into a brand new nuclear arms race with the world, if not light up one of those missiles himself in a reckless display of overt power.
Trachtenberg says those critics have it all wrong and that the administration is merely staying ahead of the game, giving the U.S. a way to enhance our deterrence capabilities – particularly when it comes to foes like Putin.
“The goal of our recommendations is to deter war, not to fight one,” he said. “If nuclear weapons are employed in conflict, it is because deterrence failed, and the goal of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review is to make sure that deterrence will not fail.
“Our purpose now is to disabuse any thinking on the part of—not just the Russian leadership, but any potential adversary’s leadership—to disabuse them of the notion that there is some level of conflict or some level of escalation that they feel they can engage in where they are not at risk of a commensurate response,” he finished.