US nuclear policy as a means to wold leadership


By Vladimir Kozin

Remarks at the 4th Russian-Greek Forum in Athens, Greece
November, 2, 2016


The USA intends to continue to pursue its regional and global military policy on the basis of potential strategic and tactical nuclear weapons employment in the first preventive and pre-emptive nuclear strikes, guided by the nuclear strategy of “unconditional offensive nuclear deterrence”, which has actually remained unchanged since 1945 – from the moment of the use of the American nuclear weapons against two peaceful Japanese cities.



The USA will keep unchanged its nuclear strategy till the end of 21st century


Washington’s reliance on such strategic doctrine will remain, at least until the end of this century. The U.S. military and political leadership is not going to change a special brunch of its nuclear strategy called “extended nuclear deterrence”, which presupposes unfolding the U.S. nuclear umbrella over the territory of all member states of NATO, as well as countries non-members of the Alliance – totally over 33 countries all over the world.

President Barack Obama who in words proposed a denuclearized world has dismantled less nuclear warheads than any of his three  immediate predecessors: while he has reduced the size of the U.S. nuclear stockpile by 10%, George H.W.Bush by 41%, Bill Clinton by 22% and George W. Bush by 50%. In absolute figures Barack Obama has reduced 507 U.S. nuclear weapons, while the Bushs have reduced totally 14.801 nuclear warheads – that is by 29 times as many than he has done.

On the other hand, Barack Obama has spent more money than previous U.S. Administrations on nuclear weapons’ modernization and for authorizing a new generation of nuclear carriers since the fall of the Soviet Union, though while visiting Hankuk University in South Korea in March 2012 he has declared that the USA has more nuclear weapons than it needs. 

Barack Obama has not addressed the issue of downsizing operationally non-deployed nuclear arsenal, though he has promised to do so: in 2016 operationally non-deployed nuclear U.S. SOA arsenal constituted 63% of the overall American nuclear SOA (464 vs 741).

He has refused to reduce combat readiness of the U.S. nuclear arms – he has actually rejected an option of “de-alerting” nuclear missiles ready to fire on short notice.

He has not cancelled the “launch-on-warning”concept which lowers down the threshold of using of nuclear weapons.

For more than 70 years the U.S. military and political leadership cannot step back from the destabilizing strategic paradigm of “mutual assured destruction” or MAD, developed during the first phase of the Cold War. A modified formula, which was suggested by one of the arms control advisors to President Barack Obama as “mutual assured security” or MAS had no central tenet: a guarantee of massive non-use of conventional forces and nuclear weapons in a first strike. The current U.S. Administration also rejected the strategy of “minimum nuclear deterrence” posture and intends to maintain the “counterforce nuclear capabilities” to a level that would not allow Russia and China to deliver a second retaliatory strike on the USA.

Though the current U.S. Administration is discussing the possibility of giving up the concept of a first nuclear strike, it still refuses to take upon itself together with Russia a mutual commitment not to use nuclear weapons in a first strike or not to use it at all. All U.S. Administrations have declined to accept several Soviet and Russian initiatives on that issue. At the official level, the matter between Moscow and Washington is not being discussed so far, though the initial steps in this direction has been made by the USSR 34 years ago – in 1982. An expert answer to the related leakage released by the newspaper “Washington Post” on July 10, 2016, has been given by the newspaper “Red Star” on July 18 this year in an article “Obama’s Hidden Motives.” After that date three key secretaries from his Administration – Secretary of State, of Defense and Energy – have declined to accept such a simple notion. Their views have been backed by the head of the U.S. Strategic Command.

It must also be borne in mind that NATO political and military circles are widely discussing the possibility of starting a limited nuclear war in the framework of the concept of “escalation of de-escalation” in order to “de-escalate” regional armed conflicts that can erupt with the use of conventional weapons. The possibility of the outbreak of hostilities with the use of miniature nuclear warheads or warheads with low yield is also debated, and Washington does not conceal its intentions to use a new air dropped bomb B-61-12 with its minimum nuclear yield 0.3 kiloton (its general mission will be discussed later). It should also be noted that high-ranking civilian government officials in the NATO countries who can influence the decision-making process in the military nuclear domain are frequently invited to take part in the computerized nuclear war-gaming.

Some high-ranking NATO officials have publicly complained that before the Alliance held separate military exercises with the use of conventional and nuclear weapons, but has never tested the transformation of the first type of exercises in the second ones. Currently such transformed drills are being conducted, because the recommendation of the transformation of NATO military exercises with the use of conventional weapons into nuclear arms exercises became the focus of attention within the transatlantic Alliance.

Pentagon is working to integrate conventional and nuclear strategies more effectively to prepare for adversaries seeking to exploit low-end conflict below the threshold of nuclear or conventional war. Addressing the U.S. Strategic Command’s 2016 nuclear deterrence symposium on July 27, 2016, Brian McKeon, acting Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy, has admitted that the outgoing Administration is drafting “a new strategy” which will “synchronize nuclear and conventional thinking to maximize deterrence through all phases of conflict”. This, he said quite frankly, includes preparing “for limited use of nuclear weapons”. General Curtis Scaparotti, head of U.S. European Command, further elaborated that the USA and NATO forces “are hoping to strike a balance between deterrence and escalation, and escalation and provocation”.

The new task has been formulated: “Deeper integration between conventional and nuclear planning and operations is essential to ensure that U.S. nuclear weapons can continue to effectively fulfill their fundamental deterrence role in the 21st century.”

On the other hand, Moscow remembers the maxim which has been incorporated in official documents of the past: “Nuclear war cannot be unleashed, because it will produce no winners”.  At the end of October 2016 while addressing the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi Russian President has said that Russia will responsibly behave according to its nuclear status, by believing that rattling by nuclear arms will be the nastiest act. He also underscored that the use of nuclear weapons will be the end of the entire civilization. Vladimir Putin has once again reiterated that Russia is not going to attack anyone.

The election platform of the Republican Party of the United States entitled “America Resurgent”, prepared for the current U.S. presidential campaign provides for further modernization of its nuclear weapons and their means of delivery, without making a distinction between strategic and tactical nuclear arms.

A similar document of the U.S. Democratic Party sets the task to save the U.S. strategy of unconditional offensive nuclear deterrence, and does not contain any hint regarding the potential withdrawal of American nuclear weapons from the European continent and from the Turkish part of Asia. Actually, the formula of “reducing reliance on nuclear forces” is interpreted not per se in its traditional meaning, but as an opportunity for a limited use of the U.S. nuclear forces in armed conflict with the use of conventional weapons only. In other words, there will be no “reduced reliance on nuclear forces” in an all-out nuclear confrontation. One can assume that no matter which party nominee in the United States will settle down in the White House, the Pentagon will maintain a strong reliance on a radically revamped nuclear strategic and tactical arsenal.


Current and prospective U.S. nuclear arsenal: its assessment


Today, the U.S. nuclear forces have a powerful arsenal of strategic nuclear offensive arms (SOA) and tactical nuclear weapons (TNW), numbering 4571 nuclear warheads, including 1,481 warheads accounted for “operationally deployed” strategic nuclear warheads. In accordance with the provisions of the Russian-American START-3 Treaty also known as the New START, signed in April 2010, by the time of its full implementation (2021), the Pentagon may remain considerable nuclear arsenal up to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads and a combination of totally 800 “operationally deployed” and “operationally non-deployed” launchers.

In the next 15 years, the U.S. military and political leadership intends to make a radical modernization of its strategic offensive arms. It means that a new heavy strategic bomber tentatively named as B-21 “Raider” or B-3 will be commissioned in 2025 (the USA will produce up to 100 of them), a new intercontinental ballistic missile preliminary called “GBSD” – from 2029 (the overall production is expected to hammer out 400 such ICBMs), as well as a new nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine “SSBN-X” called “Columbia”- from 2031 (totally 12 submarines will be built, each of them will be equipped by 16 nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles). New SSBNs “Columbia” will stay in service till 2080.

In sum, the redrawing of the traditional U.S. strategic nuclear triad will allow the USA to have by the middle of this century 692 brand new SOA delivery vehicles. This does not include long-range hundreds of sea-based and up to 1.000 air-launched cruise missiles fitted with nuclear warheads.

As a result of all these measures the USA will increase the range and speed of flight of land-based and sea-based ICBMs and SLBMs, as well as improve their guidance system. Some of the submarines with ballistic missiles (SSBNs) will be further converted into the platforms capable to carry sea-based cruise missiles equipped with conventional warheads (SSGN), which will increase their number from the current four converted Ohio-class submarines. On each of them, instead of housing Trident-2 (D-5) ballistic missiles, there are 154 high-precision long-range Tomahawk-class cruise missiles which could be used to deliver a first non-nuclear strike.

In 2020, or even earlier in the United States will complete the modernization of tactical nuclear weapons: they will start mass production of new nuclear bombs of increased accuracy B-61-12, which will replace the four types of bombs of this class developed earlier. The Pentagon no longer plans to carry out new tests for such bomb, as all three of its tests (the final third test was conducted October 20, 2015 in Nevada) have shown that this bomb could be placed on the production line without additional testing. The total number of new bombs can reach up to 480-930 pieces. This amount will enable the Pentagon to fully replace all U.S. nuclear bombs of these types, which have been stored by the USA in Europe from the 1950s, and up to now are still located in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and in the Asian part of Turkey.

Being flight-adjustable via a specifically designed tail-fin and guide by a global navigational positioning system bomb B-61-12 will be able to perform both tactical and strategic missions, as it will be delivered by heavy strategic bombers B-52H and B-2A and in the future by a new heavy strategic bomber B-3. Considering its increased accuracy and the maximum charge of its nuclear warhead (50 kilotons), it can be referred to as the weapon of a first nuclear strike and designed to destroy intercontinental land-based missiles in their silos and hardened underground command and control centers of the Russian Federation.

In collaboration with the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command, NNSA conducted successful surveillance flight tests using joint test assemblies (JTA) of the B-61-7 and B-61-11 earlier October 2016. Analysis and flight recorder data from the tests indicate that both were successful.

JTAs are mock weapons containing sensors and instrumentation that allow scientists and engineers from national laboratories to assess their performance. The primary objective of flight testing is to obtain reliability, accuracy, and performance data under operationally representative conditions. Such testing is part of the qualification process of current alterations and life extension programs for weapon systems. NNSA scientists and engineers use data from these tests in computer simulations developed by Sandia National Laboratories to evaluate the weapon systems’ reliability and to verify that they are functioning as designed.

“The B-61 is a critical element of the U.S. nuclear triad and the extended deterrent,” said Brigade General Michael Lutton, NNSA’s Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Military Application. “The recent surveillance flight tests demonstrate NNSA’s commitment to ensure all weapon systems are safe, secure, and effective.”

These tests mean that the USA would like to stop decommissioning of B-61 bombs family it has already promised.

A new U.S. multipurpose Joint Strike Fighter F-35, two versions of which will be able to deliver nuclear bombs B-61-12 have also been developed. There are the land-based F-35A and the sea-based F-35C (on aircraft carriers) which will stay in service until 2070-2075, with some of them are to be sold to six European countries

The basic feature of the U.S. nuclear forces stationed in Europe, is that they are considered in the Pentagon and the State Department as “forward-based assets” with respect to the territory of the Russian Federation.

Washington and 14 other NATO member countries will continue to carry out a destabilizing Air Force operation labeled as “Baltic Air Policing” conducted in the sky of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Its peculiarity is that four types of DCA or “dual-capable aircraft” by three NATO nuclear weapon member-states –  France, the United Kingdom and the USA – are actively used making lift offs and landings at three military airfields in Lithuania (Zokniai Air Force Base/AFB), Latvia (Lielvarde AFB) and Estonia (Ǻmari AFB). They are located very close to the Russian and Belarusian territory. An important factor is that this operation is carried out day-in-day-out, and 365/366 days per annum.

The USA would like to expand vast cooperation in the nuclear field with its allies. 27 NATO nations are participating in the NATO Nuclear Planning Group, except France. Washington who has signed special “nuclear sharing agreements” with the group of 15 non-nuclear NATO member states, intends to increase their list. The recent NATO Summit in Warsaw has recorded the position of the enlarging the number of the participants in the “nuclear sharing agreements” with the United States.

Eight countries (the Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania and the United Kingdom) are involved in “active nuclear missions” comprised of regular air patrols, radar data exchange, aircraft refueling and maintaining of communication between the NATO aircraft capable to carry nuclear weapons. The Pentagon also plans to continue engaging the Allied pilots in TNW drop testing during special Air Force exercises called “Steadfast Noon” and “SNOWCAT”.

Under the pretext of responding to the Ukrainian crisis, initiated by the United States and supported by all other member states of the NATO, the Pentagon increased the number of its nuclear bombs in a number of European countries, as well as the number of flights of its heavy strategic bombers B-52H and B-2A capable to carry strategic and tactical nuclear weapons in the airspace of Western and Eastern Europe, as well as off the coast of northern Russia’s coastline in the Arctic region.

If earlier, the United States claimed that their nuclear weapons deployed in Europe and in the Asian part of Turkey, have been under “the dual subordination”, that is under the control of the USA and countries where they have been deployed, nowadays it admits they are entirely controlled by the Pentagon and the U.S. President as the Supreme Commander of the U.S. Armed Forces. It should be recalled that while offering to Russia an idea to start negotiations on tactical nuclear weapons’ reductions, President Barack Obama has excluded from future negotiations Turkey, and spelled out no desire to pull back the U.S. TNW from Europe to equalize the starting negotiating positions of the two sides.

All these circumstances actually lower down the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons by Washington, including those fielded on the European continent.

A key feature of the current U.S. nuclear forces, as well as nuclear weapons of the United Kingdom and France, is that since May 2012 at its Summit in Chicago NATO has agreed to arrange a new operational and strategic “Chicago triad” – a permanent “mix” of strategic and tactical nuclear arms, missile defense elements of the U.S. and NATO global ballistic missile defense (BMD), as well as their general purpose forces (conventional weapons).

It should be borne in mind that the Pentagon already has in service 33 Aegis-capable warships with the total number about 400 plus of interceptor missiles, and in 2041 it will have 84 such ships or even 96 – that is 1/3 of the entire U.S. Navy by that time. Aegis-capable vessels of the USN and its NATO allies constantly sail in the Barents, Baltic, Black and Mediterranean Seas. The Pentagon has put on combat duty its missile defense system in Deveselu (Romania), and began to build a similar BMD complex in Redzikowo (Poland).

In conventional forces NATO has increased the number of armored forces and expanded its military bases infrastructure in the countries of Eastern and Southern Europe, by adding nine new bases and six HQs.

It should be noted that the overall military activity of NATO member countries in the Eastern Europe region increased over the past two years five times as much, in the Southern zone of Europe – four times, and their airborne reconnaissance activity adjacent the Russian Federation with the use of  aircraft RC-135 and AWACS – almost ten times.

Thus, Europe is once again, as it has witnessed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, after the famous NATO “double-track” decision on deployment of “Pershing” and “Tomahawk” missiles stamped in December 1979, becomes a place of excessive concentration of the combined armed forces of the USA and its NATO allies, classified as the forward-based high-tech war-fighting capabilities.

There is the possibility of a new war the Alliance could unleash in Europe, involving both conventional and nuclear forces which are to be protected by a multi-directional and multi-layered “missile defense shield”.


Disadvantages of some initiatives put forward by Washington are quite obvious


One can pay attention to Washington’s attempts to impose a legal obligation on the Russian Federation in the form of abstaining from “launch-on-warning” concept, which would deprive its ability to retaliate to a nuclear aggression from overseas. Moscow cannot accept such approach articulated by Washington.

There are also serious doubts about the sincerity of the USA when it is offering to Moscow to reduce by one-third “operationally deployed” SOA arsenals between Russia and the USA, while increasing the Pentagon’s global BMD striking weapons and implementing an extensive program of modernization of the tactical nuclear weapons stored in Europe.

First,the proposal does not provide for the reduction of the U.S. “operationally non-deployed” SOA launchers, which can be put on combat duty in a pretty short period of time. As of March 1, 2016 the USA had 474 “operationally non-deployed” SOA launchers, accounting for 63.9% of the level of the 741 “operationally deployed” launchers by March 1st, 2016 of all three components of the classic strategic nuclear triad.

Second,it also leaves outside the negotiating table the U.S. BMD interceptors and TNW assets: they all are under no control or any limitations.

Third, the United States continues to be guided by the nuclear strategy of a first nuclear strike against the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.

The modern approach to the problem of control of arms requires different views. It is impossible to reduce one type of weapon and to give a “green light” to other destabilizing weapons’ systems. No one can be guided by the principle of inequality and unequal security. No one should see its partner in the negotiations as a simpleton who does not see and does not understand anything what is going on around us.


Practical suggestions


In connection with the problem of uncontrolled deployment of the U.S. missile defense system it is necessary to point out the danger of upsetting the delicate balance between strategic offensive nuclear arms and strategic defensive anti-missile weapons, when the latter may exceed the first category of armaments several times. Guided by the strategy of a first massive nuclear or first massive non-nuclear strike, the USA could deliver an unexpected blow to Russia and its allies and protect itself by its multilayered and geographically widely dispersed missile defense system.

Such risk increases even more if one considers that in the universal launchers Mk-41, designed to fire defensive interceptor missiles, the USA can simultaneously load offensive weapons in the form of land-based cruise missiles, and high-precision hypersonic arms, developed in the USA in the framework of the strategy of “Prompt Global Strike”.

Taking into account these circumstances, it is extremely important to start the process of limiting military activity of NATO member countries with five simple steps that do not require significant financial investments.

For example, to reach an agreement between the states-members of the Western military Alliance and Russia:

(1)      an agreement on the mutual non-use of nuclear weapons in a first strike, and as an intermediate step toward this goal – to formulate a mutually acceptable strategy of “defensive nuclear deterrent that threatens no one”;

(2) an accord on complete withdrawal of the U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from the European continent and the Asian part of Turkey;

(3) the USA and Romania should sign an agreement on freezing of the operational use of the U.S. missile defense complex in Romania and full withdrawal of all BMD interceptors, mounted on it, to the territory of the United States; the USA and Poland have to draft an accord on freezing of construction of a similar BMD complex in Poland for an indefinite period of time; a new multilateral ABM Treaty on limiting the number of BMD interceptors and their geographical deployments should be also elaborated; THAAD battery/batteries fielded in South Korea should be removed as well, because they are linked with the U.S. nuclear, BMDS and conventional arms, the “Start” button will be in the hands of the USA, but not in the hands of Seoul, and this fact will aggravate the situation in the APR;

(4) NATO must return all its conventional forces deployed in Eastern and Southern Europe after April 1st, 2014 to their original positions;

(5) NATO must cancel the “Baltic Air Policing” operation in three Baltic nations near the Russian borders;

 (6) the USA and NATO should cancel the policy to deploy the space-based weapons in outer space;

(7) if all these proposals are not accepted by Washington and NATO as a whole, Russia will not extend for extra 5 years the validity of the current New START known in Russian as START-3 agreement. Moscow will not sign START-4 accord, believing that the time has come to invite to SOA arms control talks the United Kingdom and France as key U.S. military Allies having with Washington mutual commitments in the framework of offensive nuclear deterrence;

 (8) finally, there is a need to hold in Athens, Belgrade or in Geneva a qualitatively new Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe with the participation of all European states, as well as the United States and Canada, which would put an end to unnecessary and dangerous military confrontation on the continent, initiated by the leading countries of the Alliance, led by USA.

(9) after the inauguration of a new U.S. President the leaders of the Russian Federation and the USA should arrange a special arms control Summit to map out a scheme to reduce excessive arms and a large-scale military activity, especially near the door step of each other.

The next U.S. Administration has to consider these steps seriously, because the “Doomsday” clock is ticking. Nowadays it shows 23:57. That is three minutes to the midnight. Too alarming not to react.

The current unstable and even fragile military and political situation in the world requires active actions aimed at its radical and effective amelioration.


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 Vladimir P. Kozin


Vladimir P. Kozin is a Chief Adviser to the Director, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS), Member, Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, Professor, Academy of Military Sciences of the Russian Federation.

He is a holder of the Ph.D. degree, Academic rank of a Senior Researcher and a State Counselor of the Russian Federation, 2nd Class, diplomatic rank of a “Counselor 1st Class” and a title “Honorary Staff Member of the Russian Foreign Ministry”. He has also the title “Global Senior Fellow”, National University of Sciences and Technology, Islamabad, Pakistan, and recently joined the Expert Group, Foreign Relations Committee, Russian Senate, as its Member.

He graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (1972), a post-graduate course at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry (1981) and the Royal College of Defense Studies in London (1995).

In 1972-2012 he has been a staff member at the Soviet and Russian Foreign Ministries. In 2008-2010 he worked as a Head of Analytical and Forecasting Desk at the Department on General Asian issues. His last position before his retirement was Deputy Director at the Information and Press Department, and the Head of the Information and Analytical Division at the Russian Foreign Ministry (2010-2012). After retirement in February 2012 he joined RISS.

He was also a member of the Expert Group of the Interagency Working Group on the Ballistic Missile Defense talks with NATO, Russian President Administration – from its creation (2011) till it was dismissed (2013).

Vladimir P. Kozin is an author of several monographs, including “Demilitarization of the Indian Ocean.” Moscow. 1990. 193 PP. (in Russian), “Evolution of the U.S. ballistic missile defense and Russia’s stance” (1945-2013). Moscow. 2013. 384 РP. (in Russian); “Evolution of the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense and Russia’s Stance” (1945-2013). Moscow: Inforos. 2014. 351 PP. (in English); “The U.S. Military Doctrine and its Military Policy Forecasting till 2075: Critical Analysis and Practical Recommendations”. Saarbrȕken, the FRG. 2014. 75 PP. (in Russian); “Military policy and strategy of the USA in geopolitical dynamics of the XXI century”. Moscow. 2014. 368 РP. (as a co-author; (in Russian);  “Militarization of Outer Space and Its Impacts on Global Security Environment”. Islamabad: National University of Science and Technology. 2015. 15 PP. (in English); “The U.S. Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Reductions or Modernization?’ Moscow. 2014.496 PP. (in Russian, and to be published in English); “Evolution of the U.S. Missile Defense Beyond 2040 and Russia’s Stance”. Moscow. 2016. 446 PP. (In English); “The Chicago Triad of the USA and NATO and its Consequences for Russia”. Moscow. 2016. 210 PP. (in Russian), and more than 400 articles and chapters on arms control and disarmament published in the Soviet Union and Russia, as well as abroad.

Vladimir Kozin attended many international academic fora and delivered lectures on arms control and disarmament in many capitals in Europe, Asia and North America.

He has been decorated with a number of State medals and the Order of the Security Council of the Russian Federation (the highest decoration of the Council).

In 2015 he has been conferred the title of a Laureat of General-Colonel Varfolomei Korobushin’s Award (Russian Strategic Missile Forces) for the monograph “The U.S. Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Reductions or Modernization? ”

He speaks and writes in English.