President Trump’s plan to modernize the American nuclear force poses a threat to Russia, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
"While just having a flick through the document, one can notice that its confrontational charge and anti-Russian focus stare in the face,” the Foreign Ministry said, per state-run media. "We state with regret that the US justifies its policy for a massive buildup of nuclear forces and an alleged increasing role of nuclear weapons in Russia’s doctrines.”
The Trump administration unveiled the results of Nuclear Posture Review on Friday, revealing plans for a series of nuclear weapons capabilities that would offset systems that the Russians have embraced. The weapons programs are intended to deter Russia from using nuclear weapons in “limited” conflicts, while also increasing the pressure on Russia to comply with a Cold War-era weapons treaty.
“We want to see a world that is free of nuclear weapons, but our nuclear policy needs to be rooted in the reality of the world we live in, where aggressive regimes like North Korea threaten us and our allies with their pursuit of illegal nuclear and ballistic weapons,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said late Friday. “While we have continued to reduce the size of our nuclear arsenal, countries like Russia and China have moved in the opposite direction. The NPR appropriately addresses the nature of these threats and ensures that the safety and security of the American people remain our top priority.”
Russian diplomats maintained that Russia would only use nuclear weapons if they were first attacked by a force that used nuclear weapons, or in a situation where “our state’s very existence would be in danger" from a conventional military threat.
“[The U.S. policy is] an attempt to cast doubt on Russia’s right to self-defense in repelling any aggression in situations critical for the state’s existence,” the Foreign Ministry said.
U.S. officials argue that Russia has embraced the idea of using low-yield nuclear weapons as a way to win a conflict without provoking a full-scale nuclear retaliation from the United States. And so, the administration sees a need to develop similar low-yield weapons which could be used for a proportional response.
“These additional capabilities will make a U.S. nuclear response to Russian limited use more credible, raising the Russian nuclear threshold, not lowering ours,” Greg Weaver, a strategic planner for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon.
The Nuclear Posture Review also calls for the United States to develop a ground-launched, intermediate-range cruise missile. The weapons system is banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty signed in 1987, but U.S. officials say Russia has deployed its own cruise missiles in violation of the treaty.
“Solely doing research on a new missile will keep us within the four corners of the treaty — for now — while also signaling to Russia that we won’t abide by their aggression,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said in November.
Russia vowed to take other steps that would counteract the new U.S. policy. "Certainly, we will be compelled to take into consideration the approaches introduced now by Washington and to take necessary steps in order to ensure own security,” the Foreign Ministry said.