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Nuclear Posture Review Talking Points

Background:

  • The United States will develop two types of "tactical" low-yield nuclear warheads.
    • The document claims that building smaller nuclear weapons (Hiroshima-sized) allows the United States to develop a more "credible deterrent" against Russia because smaller nuclear weapons are "more usable." However, the United States already has low-yield nuclear weapons (air-launched cruise missiles and the B61 gravity bombs stationed in Europe).
    • The new low-yield warheads include: (1) a warhead for the Trident D5 submarine-launched missiles and (2) a sea-launched nuclear cruise missile.
  • The NPR expands the circumstances in which the United States might use its nuclear arsenal.
    •  New circumstances include a response to a non-nuclear attack that caused mass casualties or aimed at critical infrastructure such as nuclear command and control sites.
    • This marks a break in policy from the Obama administration’s NPR, which stated that the United States wouldn't threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). 
  • The NPR sidelines diplomacy and arms control treaties.
    • There is no mention of Article VI of the NPT in the entire document. The NPT legally obligates the United States to pursue nuclear disarmament.
    • The document criticizes the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), calling it "unrealistic" and damaging to international security.
    • The United States will not submit the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) for ratification. 

Key Messages: 

  • The draft NPR dangerously increases reliance on nuclear weapons while sidelining the diplomatic agreements that prevent conflict and keep us safe. 
    • The document signals an increased role of nuclear weapons in military plans and lowers the threshold for using nuclear weapons. The NPR fails to even reference Article VI of the NPT once in the 64-page document.
    • Ignoring the NPT and rejecting the TPNW shows that the United States is moving in the opposite direction of the rest of the world by rejecting the diplomatic treaties that reduce nuclear weapons dangers. The international community (two-thirds of U.N. nations) have already voted in support of the TPNW, declaring nuclear weapons illegal.
  • The notion of building "more usable," small nuclear weapons is abhorrent. Using nuclear weapons flattens cities, destroys populations, and causes long-term devastation to environmental health.
    • Hiroshima demonstrates that using a "small" nuclear weapon has devastating humanitarian consequences. A meaningful medical response would be impossible. An attack on any city would destroy hospitals and clinics, kill many of the city's health professionals, wipe out medical supplies, and paralyze communication and transportation systems. At Hiroshima, 90 percent of physicians and nurses were killed or injured and 42 of the 45 hospitals were destroyed. 
  • A "limited" nuclear war is an oxymoron. Any use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic global health and environmental consequences. Scientific data shows that a regional nuclear war involving less than one percent of the global nuclear arsenal would be ecocidal and cause instant climate change. A nuclear war fought with low-yield nuclear weapons also risks escalating into a large-scale global conflict where higher-yield nuclear weapons are used.
Page Updated January 22, 2018