US President Donald Trump is dreaming about developing an arsenal of smaller, more precise nuclear weapons that would cause less damage than the traditional thermonuclear weapons, according to the latest leaks coming out of a panel he has put together to review the US military’s nuclear capabilities.
During his first week at the White House, Trump ordered the high-level panel to explore the available options for adding a more modern "low-yield" bomb to the Pentagon’s inventory that could provide commanders with more options, Politico reported Saturday, citing sources affiliated with the review.
The plan was to boost Washington’s deterrence in the wake of new threats supposedly coming from Russia and North Korea, the report added.
The [nuclear review] has to credibly ask the military what they need to deter enemies," said one unknown government official familiar with the yearlong evaluation, dubbed Nuclear Posture Review. "Are [current weapons] going to be useful in all the scenarios we see?"
Although the idea of miniaturizing nuclear weapons is not particularly new and can be traced back to Cold War, the fact that Trump is seeking a modern version of the deadly weapons amid an already costly upgrade program is likely to prompt a fierce debate in Congress, which should ultimately fund it.
Some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have already expressed concern about Trump’s reliability with the country’s so-called nuclear codes.
When an standoff between the US and North Korea over Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests reached its peak last month, Trump alarmed security officials by threatening the North with “fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen.”
The off-script threat was so damaging that Pentagon chief James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had to clarify the statement on several occasions in order to de-escalate.
Steven Andreasen, a State Department official in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, told Politico that a new nuclear weapon “will send exactly the wrong signal” amid international efforts towards nuclear disarmament.
The news comes weeks after the Pentagon’s announcement of two new contracts to upgrade the US Air Force’s decades-old intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) as well as its nuclear-capable cruise missiles.
Besides land-based ICBMs, the US nuclear triad features a relatively large number of ageing nuclear bombers and submarines in need of modernization.
The Pentagon says it needs $350 billion to upgrade the whole triad along with America’s 7,000 nuclear warheads. Experts have put the upgrade’s final cost at around $1 trillion.