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New US policy increases nuclear risks, warn experts

Updated February 05, 2018

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WASHINGTON: The new US nuclear strategy — released this weekend — calls for developing a ground-launched, intermediate-range cruise missile to counter a similar Russian weapon, US officials said.

The deployment of these weapons violates the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) between Moscow and Washington, which calls for the elimination of their intermediate and shorter-range missiles.

The Trump administration’s first Nuclear Posture Review (NPR 2018) also confirms a Russian claim that it has made the world’s most powerful nuclear weapon called Kanyon.

Documents leaked in Moscow describe Kanyon as a nuclear-armed autonomous torpedo capable of travelling 10,000 kilometres with a 100-megaton thermonuclear weapon as its payload. That’s at least twice as powerful as any nuclear weapon ever tested. US officials say that Washington has been forced to develop its own missiles to counter the threat posed by this new Russian weapon.

US Under Secretary of Defence for Policy John Rood said at a weekend news briefing in Washington that NPR 2018 calls for “studying the appropriate way to move forward for a reintroduction of a submarine-launched cruise missile with the appropriate attributes.”

The proposed cruise missile will enable the US to “have flexible, credible low-yield nuclear options in order to reinforce this idea of tailored deterrence,” he added. Mr Rood also said that later this month, US President Donald Trump will submit his budget proposal to Congr­ess, which will include a request to finance the development of a low-yield nuclear weapon. The announcement alarmed some US lawmakers and a group, known as the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which campaigns to eliminate weapons of mass destruction. The group warned that the new nuclear strategy will broaden the circumstances for the first use of nuclear weapons and will more tightly integrate nuclear and conventional forces to facilitate nuclear war-fighting.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2018