Interview with Masashi Murano, researcher at Okazaki Institute specializing in U.S. security policy and nuclear strategy
Top secret command post exercises were conducted when preparing past Nuclear Posture Reviews (NPR) to analyze how many of which types of nuclear weapons would be needed to deal with certain nations. However, this time, Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran were named for the first time in relation to concrete strategies. While China and Russia have accused the U.S. of lowering the threshold for using nuclear weapons, this was probably with the intent of using this as an excuse to reinforce their own nuclear arsenal. Since the U.S. is actually reacting to the two countries’ policy, the two sides are talking at cross purposes.
The new NPR names specific targets of attack in North Korea and indicates that the U.S. will not hesitate to launch preemptive attacks, adopting a much stronger tone than before. It is good that in addition to deterring North Korea, the NPR also sends out a message to assure U.S. allies.
The discussion on the introduction of less powerful small tactical nuclear weapons actually started from the need to possess more means to counter Russia’s moves to change the status quo in Europe backed by its nuclear threat and its possible limited use of nuclear arms. On the other hand, opinions were voiced in the process of drafting the NPR that the situation in China and North Korea also needed to be considered. I believe the tense North Korea situation was an additional reason behind the decision to introduce tactical nuclear arms. Furthermore, unlike existing nuclear weapons carried on aircraft, small nuclear weapons are all submarine-based, making them less vulnerable to attacks on air bases where aircraft are deployed.