Last week, President Donald Trump directed Secretary of Defense James Mattis to release the latest Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) report. Trump made it clear that his priority is to protect the United States, allies, and all partners, but in doing so, this would “require the United States to have modern, flexible, and resilient nuclear capabilities,” said the report. MOAR nukes!
The report specifies that the United States has reduced its nuclear stockpile by over 85 percent since the peak of the Cold War and deployed no new atomic capabilities since the late 1980s. Nevertheless, after several decades of denuclearization, the global threat from potential adversaries has emerged and “worsened markedly” since the most recent 2010 NPR.
Here is why the Trump administration is worried:
- Russia is elevating the role of nuclear weapons, expanding and modernizing its nuclear forces, violating arms control treaties, and engaging in aggressive behavior.
- China pursues new nuclear capabilities and challenges U.S. interests in the Western Pacific.
- Regional actors, such as North Korea, threaten U.S., allied, and partner security by engaging in provocative behavior and by pursuing nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.
According to a CNN analysis of the NPR, the Department of Defense emphasizes the multi-billion dollar modernization effort is for the nuclear deterrence against Russia.
“Russia considers the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to be the principal threats to its contemporary geopolitical ambitions,” the NPR states.
“The Defense Intelligence Agency currently estimates Russia has a stockpile of 2,000 “non-strategic” nuclear weapons including short-range ballistic missiles, gravity bombs and depth charges that can go on medium range bomber aircraft,” the NPR warns.
After the NPR’s release on Friday, President Trump released a written statement on the importance of upgrading America’s nuclear capabilities.
“Over the past decade, despite United States efforts to reduce the roles and numbers of nuclear weapons, other nuclear nations grew their stockpiles, increased the prominence of nuclear weapons in their security strategies, and — in some cases — pursued the development of new nuclear capabilities to threaten other nations,” Trump said.
“The strategy develops capabilities aimed at making use of nuclear weapons less likely. It enhances deterrence of strategic attacks against our nation, and our allies and partners, that may not come in the form of nuclear weapons. And, importantly, it reaffirms our commitment to arms control and nuclear non-proliferation, maintains the moratorium on nuclear testing, and commits to improving efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear terrorism,” he added.
Diving further into the NPR, CNN discovers for the first time; the report acknowledges a “new intercontinental, nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered, undersea autonomous torpedo,” dubbed the “Status-6” system it said Russia was “developing.”
The Status-6, also known as Kanyon, is described by U.S. officials as a nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed underwater drone that can travel thousands of miles undetected and unleash thermonuclear cobalt bombs of up to 100 megatonnes against the United States’ naval ports and coastal cities.
The nuclear-armed drone is designed to create a massive tsunami that will radioactively contaminate a wide area of the United States’ coastline with cobalt-60. The United States is powerless against this underwater doomsday drone.
Some analysts have called it a “doomsday weapon,” and US Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, has labeled the concept “destabilizing.”
“The concept is a horror of the Cold War,” according to Adam Mount, a senior fellow and the director of the Defense Posture Project at the Federation of American Scientists. “It is clearly inspired by overblown Russian worries that US missile defenses will make their missile forces obsolete.”
“There is no indication from public information that Russia is actively developing the system, but it is alarming to see it in a Pentagon document,” Mount said, adding that while the program is referenced in the Nuclear Posture Review, it is not mentioned in other government reports.
Meanwhile, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has just successfully completed its Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program and has turned over the submarine-hunting drone ship to the United States Navy just days before the NPR was released.
In DARPA’s announcement, the Sea Hunter could become a “new class of vehicle” under the U.S. Navy to search for underwater drones or submarines. The suspicious timing of DARPA handing over the Sea Hunter technology to the Navy in accordance with NPR’s warning about Russia’s development of nuclear underwater drones– indicates that the threat is severe.
Sea Hunter has transitioned to @USNavyResearch! ONR will develop the prototype as the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle, the 1st of what could become a new class of vessel able to traverse 1000s of kilometers over open seas for months at a time. t.co/8TMBZR49L8 pic.twitter.com/iL2YzamV9H
— DARPA (@DARPA) January 31, 2018