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The Nuclear Strategy of D.Trump administration and its impact on the system of International Relations

By referring to the sharply complicated international situation and the growth of “aggressiveness” from the side of Russia, the administration of the 45th president D.Trump has headed for a revision of the national nuclear strategy and the modernization of the US strategic nuclear forces (SNF). To a large extent, D. Trump’s nuclear strategy is a continuation of the course of B.Obama, but there are also fundamental differences and innovations.


Deteriorating prospects for the prolongation of the New START

As is well known, both before and after the presidential elections D.Trump repeatedly claimed that New START in Prague is “a bad deal”. On February 23, 2017, he reiterated: “It’s a one-sided deal like all other deals we make. It gave them things that we should have never allowed”[1]. Moreover, according to the “The National Interest”, D. Trump denounced the treaty, after the proposal of Russian President Vladimir Putin to extend that treaty [2].

Some experts (for example, former Director of the 4th Central Research Institute of the Russian Defence Ministry Major General V.Dvorkin) note that under the terms of the Treaty, the parties should reduce their SNF to 700 deployed carriers by 2021. By the end of 2016, the United States had 681, while the Russian Federation had 508 deployed carriers. That is, Americans should spend funds on reducing strategic offensive arms, while Russians can spend nothing or even increase their potential by 200 units. In this situation, it is difficult to expect that D. Trump will agree to extend the Prague Treaty after 2021 for 5 years, as allowed in Article XIV [3].

At the same time, it should be noted that the head of the Strategic Command of the US Air Forces, General John E. Hyten, actually disavowed the position of D. Trump on the Prague Treaty – on March 8, 2017 he said that the US refusal of New START could lead to a new arms race [4]. This statement gives hope that the United States and Russia will find a common language and agree to the prolongation of the Prague Treaty.

Discussions on the INF Treaty: mutual accusations and fears

Since 2014, the United States systematically accuses Russia of failing to comply with the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty) prohibiting the parties from having ground-launched ballistic missiles and cruise missiles with a range from 500 to 5,500 kilometers. In accordance with the INF Treaty, the Russian side destroyed 1,846 “Pioneer”, R-12, R-14 and “Oka” missiles, and the US side – 846 “Pershing” missiles and “Tomahawk” cruise missiles [5].

The United States argue that the Russian Federation has deployed a ground launched cruise missile and consider this to be a breach of the INF Treaty. On March 21, 2017 the Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Counterproliferation on the US NSC C.A.Ford stated that the United States is considering the deployment of cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads as a response to Russia [6].

During the hearings in the US House of Representatives Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) of NATO and the general in the United States Army C. Scaparrotti said that America must respond to Russia’s breach of the INF Treaty, and that “at the moment there is no evidence” that Russia intends to abide by this Treaty [7].

Three days later, US Defense Secretary J. Mattis said that “very, very soon” there might be a decision about what to do about Russian INF violation. According to him, “If Russia is permitted to violate the treaty with impunity, such actions could erode the foundations of all current and future arms control agreements and initiatives” [8].

What kind of response do the USA intend to give for the possible Kremlin violations of the INF Treaty? As the Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, F.A.Rose, said, the United States can develop a new long-range air-launched cruise missile, and transfer “Tomahawk” cruise missiles and AGM-158 JASSM to its allies. Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Capabilities R.M.Scher also proposes to deploy missile artillery and elements of protection against cruise missiles in Eastern Europe [9].

It should be emphasized that some American experts oppose the US’s withdrawal from the INF Treaty. For example, on April 3, 2017 the editorial board of “The New York Times” wrote: “An American decision to withdraw from the treaty, known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, would be disastrous” [10]. At the same time, the authors of the article consider it necessary to give an adequate response to Moscow’s actions in the field of the INF.

Moscow categorically denies Washington’s accusations. On March 28, 2017 Russian Foreign Minister S.Lavrov said that the Kremlin has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to its obligations under the INF Treaty. According to him, the US “does not give any specific information that could be checked in order to clarify the situation” [11].

S.Lavrov stressed: “We repeatedly offered Washington to abandon the methods of “megaphone diplomacy”, to conduct a conversation on the merits of the problems in order to remove the concerns of each side with respect to the INF Treaty, and to clarify possible disputable issues. Moreover, we have very serious questions to the US about certain “liberties” with the implementation of the Treaty by the Americans themselves. It concerns their program of creating “targets”, similar in characteristics to medium-range and shorter-range missiles, using unmanned fighting vehicle that fall under the definition of medium-range ground-launched cruise missiles, as well as launchers in ground-based missile defense complexes that can be used for firing of cruise missiles. But they clearly do not want to talk about these topics that are uncomfortable for them. They prefer to speculate on the theme of mythical Russian “violations” using completely unproven allegations. This is a well-known technique that was used even in the case of fictional WMD in Iraq” [12].

According to the Russian Federation, the US itself violates the INF Treaty. Thus, Moscow draws attention to the deployment of American Mk-41 launchers and Aegis Ashore ground-based missile systems in Eastern Europe [13]. Russia is also alarmed by the presence of American missile ships in the Black and Baltic Seas, especially since it is not known what weapons are currently loaded into the launchers of American ships – antimissiles or cruise missiles.

According to Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff V.Poznihir, there are the same universal launchers as on ships on the missile defense bases in Romania and Poland. Loading “Tomahawk” cruise missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead can be carried out covertly and quickly, and possibility of a potential strike will endanger the entire European part of Russia. Thus, Moscow believes that the possibility of using ship-based launching platform in a ground-mounted mode to deploy “Tomahawk” cruise missiles is a direct violation of the INF Treaty [14]. In general, according to V.Poznihir, the use of US radar in Alaska, Romania and Poland increases the USA ability to intercept Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and thereby provokes a new arms race. [15].


Modernization of the US nuclear capabilities and risks for Russia

As early as in December 2016, US President D. Trump said that the country should significantly expand and strengthen its nuclear potential, as it lost leading positions in this issue. On January 27, 2017 D. Trump, with a special memorandum, ordered the Ministry of Defense to submit a 30-day evaluation of the US nuclear potential in order to determine whether the US nuclear deterrent is “modern, reliable, flexible” and to be sure that they are able to withstand the threats of the 21st century. Within 60 days, the Secretary of Defense must develop a new “National Defense Strategy” and draw up a “Review of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Program” [16].

On March 8, 2017 Members of the US House Committee on Armed Forces held a meeting on the topic “Military assessment of nuclear deterrence requirements”. During the hearings, it was noted that all American means of delivering nuclear warheads to targets, the warheads themselves and the nuclear power management systems served their term and do not meet modern requirements. For 16 years, comprehensive tests of nuclear weapons have not been conducted. Insufficient attention is paid to the development of command and control systems of strategic forces [17].

On April 17, 2017 the Pentagon has begun assessing the country’s nuclear potential against modern threats. The process will be supervised by Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O.Work and United States Air Force General, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Paul J.Selva. The report will be submitted to President D. Trump at the end of 2017 [18].

On March 13, 2017 testing of an uncharged B61-12 thermonuclear bomb using an F-16C fighter at a training ground in Nevada took place as part of the modernization of the US nuclear potential (the USAF command reported the test results only on April 14, 2017).

The main tasks of the tests were the demonstration of the F-16C’s ability to deliver ammunition and check the functioning of the non-nuclear components of the missile. No less important, for the first time the F-16C fighter was used to deliver the B61-12. In the future, the modified bomb should be compatible with such aircraft as B-2A, B-21, F-15E, F-16C / D and F-16 MLU, as well as F-35 and PA-200. Release of the first B61-12 production prototype is scheduled for 2020. Then full-scale production will follow (note that the B61-12 program is a joint project of the National Nuclear Security Administration and the US Air Force) [19].

On March 15, 2017 the USAF command submitted a request to Congress for the development and production of at least 100 advanced strategic bombers B-21 Raider, designed to deliver a new strategic nuclear cruise missile. The new bomber should replace the B-52 Stratofortress bomber, which was operationally available since March 1956, as well as the B-2 Spirit bomber, which was adopted by the US Air Force in 1994 [20].

Against this background, on March 23, 2017 the Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, Lt. Gen. in the US Air Force Jack Weinstein said that Russia’s increasingly aggressive behavior justifies the need for a strengthened and modernized nuclear deterrent force in the United States [21]. In particular, in 2028 the deployment of new ICBMs developed under the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program will begin. These missiles will replace the LGM-30G Minuteman III ICBMs, which have been in service for almost 40 years [22].

Recall also that in March 2017 the USA has completed the modernization of the 100-kiloton nuclear warheads W76-1 / Mk4A for the SLBM “Trident II”. This is an installation of advanced fuses MC 4700 AF & F (arming, fusing and firing systems), providing an increase in the probability of destruction of underground facilities (mainly of ICBM) from 30 to 86%. This means that only 1 SLBM with a nuclear warhead equipped with a super-detonator will be needed to ensure the destruction of the target, instead of the three previous-generation missiles [23].

Thus, the MC 4700 AF & F triples the destruction potential of the marine component of the American nuclear triad. At the same time, there is a prospect of refusing to use more powerful W88 nuclear warheads (455-kt, already equipped with new fuses) at the SSBN, which could be more effectively reoriented to other goals, in particular, to semi-buried strategic control centers [24].

Some American experts are alarmed by sharply increased capabilities of the US SNF. Thus, on March 1, 2017 director of the Nuclear Information Project with the Federation of American Scientists H. M. Kristensen, expert in ballistic missile defense technologies T.A.Postol and director of the Nuclear Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council M. McKinzie published an article in the “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists” entitled “How US nuclear force modernization is undermining strategic stability: The burst-height compensating super-fuze” [25]. This article emphasizes that the modernization of the US nuclear warheads has given them increased capabilities in attacking protected facilities, which can be considered as acquiring new opportunities for a preventive nuclear strike against the strategic forces of the Russian Federation or China: “The combination of this lack of Russian situational awareness, dangerously short warning times, high-readiness alert postures, and the increasing US strike capacity has created a deeply destabilizing and dangerous strategic nuclear situation”[26].


The de-facto rejection of the US from the idea of a nuclear-free world

From March 27 to April 3, 2017, the first round of talks on the prohibition and total elimination of nuclear weapons was held at the UN headquarters (the second round will be held on June 15-July 7 this year [27]). At the same time, none of the nine states that officially or unofficially possess nuclear weapons (including the United States and Russia) took part in the negotiations.

The USA justified its refusal to participate in this UN General Assembly session by questioning the very idea of ​​a nuclear-free world. Thus, on March 21, 2017, the Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Counterproliferation on the United States National Security Council (NSC) C.A.Ford declared that realistic assessment of global nuclear disarmament is carried out within the framework of the Nuclear Posture Review: “We are conducting a comprehensive policy review. This necessarily includes, among many other things, assessing whether achieving a world without nuclear weapons is a realistic objective in the short and medium term given current international security trends”. According to C.A.Ford, increasing instability in the world and growing threats to US national security require re-assessing whether “traditional U.S. fidelity to that visionary end state…is still a viable strategy”[28].

On March 27, 2017 U.S. Ambassador to the UN N.Haley spoke in a similar vein: “There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons. But we have to be realistic. Is there anyone that believes that North Korea would agree to a ban on nuclear weapons?”. At the same time N.Haley stressed that the USA will be committed to the agreement on the gradual reduction of nuclear weapons and the non-proliferation of weapons technology for its creation [29].

It should be noted that Russia also refused to negotiate the ban on nuclear weapons. M.Ulyanov, Director of the Foreign Ministry Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control of the Russian Federation, gave five arguments in favor of this decision:

  • “The prohibition of nuclear weapons would be appropriate at the final stage of the process of complete nuclear disarmament, but not now”;
  • Today, nuclear weapons are one of the pillars of global strategic stability: “If this support is broken overnight, the whole construction on which this stability is based will collapse. The process of nuclear disarmament can only be step-by-step, only such an approach lies in the decisions of the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons” [30];
  • The nuclear weapons ban initiative “will have extremely negative consequences for the integrity and viability of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, which is already going through tough times”;
  • “It is unacceptable for us that the issues most directly affecting the security interests of Russia will be resolved by a majority vote, without taking into account our opinion and even in spite of it” [31];
  • The initiative to ban nuclear weapons leads to a rise in alienation between nuclear and non-nuclear countries and to an ever-increasing polarization in the world arena” [32].


Positive suggestions of American experts

Despite the deterioration of the US-Russian relations and the current mistrust between Washington and Moscow, some US experts are offering new steps in the area of ​​strategic arms reduction. In particular, the specialists of the Brookings Institution presented a survey study, which contains a number of important recommendations:

  • Russia and the United States could conclude a new treaty on the reduction of nuclear weapons to the levels well below the limits of New START;
  • At the same time, the United Kingdom, France and China should be formally or informally involved in the negotiations, with a view to the possible adoption of unilateral political commitments of refusal to increase their nuclear arsenals for the period of implementation of the new agreement on nuclear arms reduction between Russia and the United States;
  • The corresponding obligations must be accompanied with confidence and transparency measures – for example, Britain, France and China could officially report the total number of their warheads. If successful, one can consider the exchange of data on the types of warheads and / or delivery systems;
  • An additional confidence-building measure may include the obligation of States to refrain from deploying non-strategic nuclear warheads in the immediate vicinity of their means of delivery;
  • Russia and the United States could invite Britain, France and China to join some of the inspection activities under New START. Those, in turn, could open some of their nuclear weapon systems for demonstration visits;
  • The five nuclear powers could carry out a more structured and detailed exchange of views on issues related to the strategic stability, the interrelationship between “strategic” ballistic missiles and missile defense, and the impact of advanced conventional strike systems on the “nuclear” relations between the Russian Federation and the United States, Russia and China, USA and China [33].

In general, at the present time, it is not the most favorable atmosphere for taking new steps in the field of nuclear disarmament, but this does not mean that we should accept this situation.

On the contrary, right now, when the world can submerge in a global nuclear war any time, all responsible powers should raise their voice in favor of a gradual advance towards the universal nuclear peace by expanding confidence-building measures and strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

Sovereign Kazakhstan, which voluntarily refused military nuclear potential and made an important contribution to the successful resolution of the Iranian nuclear problem, is ready to continue to make every possible effort to gradually strengthen global nuclear safety for the benefit of present and future generations.


[1] Трамп заявил, что не поддерживает договор СНВ-III с Россией //http://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/4048582.

[2] Pulling the U.S.-Russia Relationship Back from the Nuclear Brink //http://nationalinterest.org/feature/pulling-the-us-russia-relationship-back-the-nuclear-brink-20139.

[3] Дворкин В. В ожидании бизнес-подхода. Что происходит в отношениях России и США в ядерной сфере //http://carnegie.ru/commentary/?fa=68468.

[4] Пентагон заочно поспорил с Трампом о пользе СНВ-III //https://vz.ru/news/2017/3/8/861033.html.

[5] Фельгенгауэр П. «Искандеры» уже отсмеялись. Ядерные ракеты возвращаются в Европу, страны высчитывают подлетное время до Вашингтона и Москвы //https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/03/11/71751-iskandery-uzhe-otsmeyalis.

[6] США могут отказаться от цели достижения безъядерного мира //http://www.golos-ameriki.ru/a/us-nuclear-disarmament-goal/3776724.html.

[7] Главком НАТО в Европе призвал отвечать на «нарушение» Россией договора РСМД //https://ria.ru/world/20170328/1490985680.html.

[8] A Cornerstone of Peace at Risk //https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/03/opinion/a-cornerstone-of-peace-at-risk.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region&_r=0.

[9] В США предложили для противодействия России разработать новую крылатую ракету //https://vz.ru/news/2017/3/30/864263.html.

[10] A Cornerstone of Peace at Risk //https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/03/opinion/a-cornerstone-of-peace-at-risk.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region&_r=0.

[11] Из ответов Министра иностранных дел России С.В.Лаврова на вопросы читателей газеты «Аргументы и факты», 29 марта 2017 года //http://www.mid.ru/diverse/-/asset_publisher/zwI2FuDbhJx9/content/iz-otvetov-ministra-inostrannyh-del-rossii-s-v-lavrova-na-voprosy-citatelej-gazety-argumenty-i-fakty-29-marta-2017-go-3.

[12] Там же.

[13] В США предложили для противодействия России разработать новую крылатую ракету //https://vz.ru/news/2017/3/30/864263.html.

[14] Мардасов А. Пентагон целит «Томагавками» в Крым и Питер //https://svpressa.ru/war21/article/169324.

[15] Генштаб заявил о разрушении системы международной безопасности посредством ПРО США //https://www.vz.ru/news/2017/3/28/863831.html.

[16] Trump promises ‘great rebuilding of the Armed Forces’ while signing executive order at the Pentagon //https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/01/27/draft-executive-order-shows-how-trump-wants-to-grow-the-u-s-military-significantly.

[17] Иванов В. За новый ядерный кулак Америке придется выложить триллион долларов. Военные и эксперты рассказали законодателям о развитии стратегических сил //http://nvo.ng.ru/gpolit/2017-03-24/1_941_america.html.

[18] Пентагон начал оценку ядерного потенциала США по приказу Трампа //http://txt.newsru.com/world/18apr2017/usa_2.html.

[19] Inert nuclear gravity bomb passes first F-16 flight test //http://www.robins.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1151365/inert-nuclear-gravity-bomb-passes-first-f-16-flight-test.

[20] Кисляков А. Стратегические силы США пополнятся «Рейдерами». Новые бомбардировщики разрабатываются в качестве носителей крылатых ракет с ядерным боезарядом //http://www.ng.ru/armies/2017-03-29/8_6960_usa.html.

[21] U.S. General Urges Nuclear Upgrade as Russia “More Aggressive” //https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/22/world/americas/us-nuclear-weapons-russia.html.

[22] Иванов В. За новый ядерный кулак Америке придется выложить триллион долларов. Военные и эксперты рассказали законодателям о развитии стратегических сил //http://nvo.ng.ru/gpolit/2017-03-24/1_941_america.html.

[23] Рыбаченков В. Проникающая агрессия Супервзрыватели меняют стратегический баланс в пользу США //http://www.vpk-news.ru/articles/35598.

[24] Там же.

[25] Hans M. Kristensen. Matthew McKinzie. Theodore A. Postol. How US nuclear force modernization is undermining strategic stability: The burst-height compensating super-fuze //http://thebulletin.org/how-us-nuclear-force-modernization-undermining-strategic-stability-burst-height-compensating-super10578.

[26] Там же.

[27] Литовкин В.Н. Легко отказаться от атомной бомбы, когда её нет. Ядерное оружие как гарант безопасности и суверенитета //http://www.ng.ru/armies/2017-04-03/9_6964_atom.html.

[28] США могут отказаться от цели достижения безъядерного мира //http://www.golos-ameriki.ru/a/us-nuclear-disarmament-goal/3776724.html.

[29] Постпред США при ООН заявила о невозможности отказа от ядерного оружия //https://www.gazeta.ru/army/news/9848831.shtml.

[30] Черненко Е. Ядра выеденного не стоит //http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3250028.

[31] Там же.

[32] Там же.

[33] REPORT Third-country nuclear forces and possible measures for multilateral arms control. Steven Pifer and James Tyson. August 2016 //https://www.brookings.edu/research/third-country-nuclear-forces-and-possible-measures-for-multilateral-arms-control.

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