Nuclear Weapons

The Cold War is over, but the United States and Russia still keep thousands of nuclear weapons on alert and in reserve. Understand the issues with our technical and political analysis.


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Latest Nuclear Weapons Posts

Nuclear Weapons, President Trump, and General Mattis

, co-director and senior scientist

Many people trusted that Secretary of Defense Mattis would be able to rein in the dangerous impulses of his erratic boss who, as commander-in-chief, has the authority to order the use of military forces—including nuclear weapons.

Indeed, General Mattis may have privately assured some members of Congress that he would get into the loop to restrain President Trump if it looked like a nuclear crisis was brewing. So people are naturally worried that Mattis’ resignation will put Trump back in full control of US nuclear weapons.

But regardless of what Mattis may or may not have told members of Congress, the secretary of defense is not in the decision chain for a nuclear launch and has no ability to stop a launch order from going through. Perhaps Mattis could have talked Trump out of ordering an attack in the first place, assuming he knew the president was considering such an attack, but he had neither the legal authority nor the ability to prevent one from being carried out. Read more >

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Will Japan Try to Save the INF Treaty?

, China project manager and senior analyst

US President Ronald Reagan and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone meet at Camp David in 1986.

President Trump said he plans to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. US National Security Advisor John Bolton implied the government of Japan already agreed.

Not long after Bolton’s statement, Foreign Minister Taro Kono told reporters the Abe government needed to discuss the fate of the treaty with US officials before commenting. Six days later US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Tom DiNanno and Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asia Marc Knapper arrived in Tokyo for a three-day dialog on US extended deterrence guarantees for Japan. The fate of the INF treaty was on their agenda. What did Japanese officials tell the Trump administration? Read more >

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China and the INF Treaty

, China project manager and senior analyst

Some US analysts and officials argue the United States should withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty because it prevents the United States from responding to China’s deployed short- and intermediate-range ground-based missiles. They argue the United States should abandon a bilateral arms control agreement intended to prevent Russia from threatening Western Europe to make it easier for the United States to threaten China.

These are dubious arguments. The US nuclear arsenal is more than 10 times larger than China’s and Chinese military strategists already believe the United States possesses conventional military superiority. Read more >

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Opposition to Trump’s New Low-Yield Nuclear Warhead

, Washington representative and senior analyst

And the “consensus” on rebuilding the US nuclear stockpile

The Trump administration’s program to deploy a new, low-yield variant of the W76 warhead carried by U.S. submarine-launched ballistic missiles has faced relatively strong opposition in Congress, with almost all Democrats and several Republicans supporting legislation to eliminate or curb the program. Read more >

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Trump Wants a New Low-Yield Nuclear Weapon. But the US Has Plenty Already.

, analyst

The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), released in February of this year, calls attention to the composition of the US nuclear arsenal and its adequacy as a deterrent. The NPR calls for a new lower-yield submarine-launched nuclear warhead, arguing that it is needed to “counter any mistaken perception of an exploitable ‘gap’ in U.S. regional deterrence capabilities.” We decided to put together the chart in Fig. 1 to illustrate the range of nuclear weapons already available in the US arsenal.

One thing that this visual immediately makes clear is that it would be difficult to perceive any real gap in US capabilities—the existing arsenal certainly does not lack for nuclear options for any occasion. Read more >

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