Russia’s nuclear weapons buildup challenges Obama’s reduction goal

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President Obama’s decision two years ago to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. military and defense policies is being challenged by Russia’s large-scale buildup of nuclear forces, along with Moscow’s revised nuclear doctrine and recent threats to use the weapons.

The U.S. guidance was outlined in a 2013 White House order called Presidential Policy Directive-24, which calls for reducing the role of U.S. nuclear weapons in national security strategy and maintaining deterrence with smaller nuclear forces.

One flaw in the White House guidance was outlined in the classified PDD-24. PDD-24 says a “key part” of the new guidance is a more benign global security environment, but that has not come to pass under Mr. Obama’s watch.

Nuclear threats posed by North Korea and Iran remain, and China’s nuclear buildup remains a concern.

Fear of the nuclear threat posed by Russia, too, has actually become more serious than when the order was signed by Mr. Obama.

The 2013 order erroneously states that despite differences, “Russia and the United States are no longer adversaries and the prospects of a military confrontation between us have declined dramatically.”

The new Russian threat also has been highlighted by recent statements by senior military and defense leaders.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the nominee to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in July, “If you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.”

Several days later, NATO commander Gen. Philip Breedlove said Russian revanchism has undermined strategic stability. Russia “is a nation that possesses a pretty vast nuclear inventory, and talks about the use of that inventory very openly,” he said on PBS. “And they talk about using, as a matter of course, nuclear weapons. For that reason, these senior leaders, I believe, see that as a major threat.”

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that what has changed under President Vladimir Putin is that Russia has become an “antagonist,” forcing the United States to adjust its military posture to deter Russia and support allies.

Because the White House’s guidance anticipated a different scenario than what is actually occurring, the Pentagon and the U.S. Strategic Command, the war-fighting command in charge of preparing for a nuclear conflict, are said to be preventing full implementation of the plan. The presidential order requires an annual review of the security environment, but defense officials say so far no review has been carried out.

Full article: Russia’s nuclear weapons buildup challenges Obama’s reduction goal (The Washington Times)

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