Pentagon sees "increased potential" for nuclear conflict


Power Poster III
The possibility that nuclear weapons could be used in regional or global conflicts is growing, said a newly disclosed Pentagon doctrinal publication on nuclear war fighting that was updated last year.

"Despite concerted US efforts to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in international affairs and to negotiate reductions in the number of nuclear weapons, since 2010 no potential adversary has reduced either the role of nuclear weapons in its national security strategy or the number of nuclear weapons it fields. Rather, they have moved decidedly in the opposite direction," the Department of Defense document said.

"As a result, there is an increased potential for regional conflicts involving nuclear-armed adversaries in several parts of the world and the potential for adversary nuclear escalation in crisis or conflict."

The publication presents an overview of U.S. nuclear strategy, force structure, targeting and operations.

The document replaces a 2019 edition titled
Nuclear Operations that was briefly disclosed and then withdrawn from a DoD website.
The current document no longer includes some of the more unfiltered and enthusiastic language about achieving "decisive results" through nuclear strikes and "prevail[ing] in conflict" that appeared in the 2019 version. The statement that "The President authorizes the use of nuclear weapons" was changed to a more restrained declaration that "Only the President can authorize the use of nuclear weapons."

Meanwhile, new material has been added, including an assessment that the threat from potential adversaries has grown even as the US nuclear posture is said to have been moderated:

"While the United States has continued to reduce the number and salience of nuclear weapons, others, including Russia and China, have moved in the opposite direction. They have added new types of nuclear capabilities to their arsenal, increased the salience of nuclear forces in their strategies and plans, and engaged in increasingly aggressive behavior."

"Russia's strategic nuclear modernization has increased, and will continue to increase, its warhead delivery capability, which provides Russia with the ability to rapidly expand its deployed warhead numbers."


"China continues to increase the number, capabilities, and protection of its nuclear forces."


"North Korea's continued pursuit of nuclear weapons capabilities poses the most immediate and dire proliferation threat to international security and stability."


"Iran's development of increasingly long-range ballistic missile capabilities, and its aggressive strategy and activities to destabilize neighboring governments, raises questions about its long-term commitment to forgoing nuclear weapons capability."


Given the mounting threat, DoD said, "Flexible and limited US nuclear response options can play an important role in restoring deterrence following limited adversary nuclear escalation."

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