A few reactions to a new State Department paper making the case for adding the low-yield SLBM warhead (W76-2) to the U.S. nuclear arsenal. https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/T-Paper-Series-4-W76.pdf
In other words, we expanded the circumstances under which the United States would consider nuclear first use.
Over a year after Trump directed such an approach, there is still no proposal for a trilateral initiative – despite repeated claims that lots of work has been done on crafting a proposal/proposals.
Beijing has low-yield warheads? Since when?
Who’s going to tell him that we still forward-deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Europe? (Yes, yes, he (belatedly) includes a “forward-deployed U.S. ground-based systems” caveat. But still.)
This also applies to potential U.S. nuclear first use, including limited use, correct?
The potential U.S. use of a limited number of higher-yield warheads is a highly credible deterrent to a potential limited Chinese nuclear attack using…higher-yield warheads. Since when has China possessed lower-yield warheads?
Does the use of a single 100-kiloton W76-1 warhead constitute “massive retaliation” in this scenario?
Well said! These concerns, by the way, apply to the administration’s desire to place greater emphasis on limited nuclear response options by doubling the number of such options in the U.S. arsenal.
Again, what constitutes a massive response here? 50 450 kiloton W88 warheads? Sure. What about 1 100 kiloton W76-1?
But the purported enhanced credibility of the W76-2 depends on it being...less devastating to use. The rationale is premised on the concern that adversaries might think we’d be self-deterred from a harder to use higher-yield response.
What is the scenario(s) in which Russia is undeterred by all of the following: a NATO conventional response, a limited W76-1 response, a limited low-yield air-delivered response?
Also, assuming there is a scenario in which Russia resorts to nuclear use and our bombers aren’t generated, why must a nuclear response occur within minutes vice hours? What’s that target?
Ok. But a more flexible yield, fast-flying SLBM adds to the uncertainty. And an ALCM can only carry one warhead.
There might be from Russia's perspective if it thinks 8 W88 warheads are coming to decapitate its leadership and whack critical command/control assets. And if it thinks the first SLBM will quickly be followed by more.
The unmentioned risk, even if low, to SSBN survivability from the launch of a single SLBM, is also a risk.
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