Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Growing Threat of Nuclear War With Russia - America's Flexible First-Use of Nuclear Weapons

A recent Senate Armed Services Committee meeting revealed a fascinating aspect of America's evolving use of nuclear weapons.  The meeting which is shown in its entirety here heard from General Tod Wolters, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) and Commander, U.S. European Command, among others.  

Four star General Wolters assumed his duties in Europe on May 2, 2019 as shown here:

Here is the announcement of the meeting from the Senate Armed Services Committee website:

Now let's look at the key exchange which you can find at the 39 minute mark:

Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) - You and I discussed the growing recognition there is, among the NATO partner, on the important role of our nuclear deterrence and keeping the peace.  Obviously, we all understand that our deterrence, the triad is the bedrock of the security of this country.  Can you tell us a bit about what you are hearing from our NATO partners when it comes to the detrerrent in private conversations, if you can share that, but also in public, the support that you see?

General Wolters - Senator, there is a greater degree of awareness of the importance of deterrence.  As we look at the success NATO has had the last seven decades to deliver peace, one of the elements has to be the triad that exists from the United States and its representation to nuclear deterrence on the Euorpeoan continent.  It has been very effect and the nations understand more and more about that with each passing day as a result of embracing deterrence to a greater degree than we have in the past.

Senator Fischer - Would you say that our parters in the embracing of this deterrence are also becoming better messengers within their own countries about the importance of not just a strong NATO, but of having that strong nuclear deterrence, that umbrella that is so vital in their freedom as well?

General Wolters - Absolutely Senator.  It has to do with the represent....the responsibility we feel in NATO to general peace, not just within the boundaries of Europe but on the periphery as we embrace missions for Iraq and Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan, we see how important it is to proliferate deterrence to the maximum extent practical to achieve greater peace.

Senator Fisher - What are your view, sir, on adopting a so-called no first-use policy?  Do you believe that would strengthen deterrence?

General Wolters - Senator.  I am a fan of flexible first-use policy.

Flexible first-use policy.  In other words, General Wolters is a fan of using nuclear weapons before Russia has a chance to use theirs, an option that Washington has long favoured since it believes that a nuclear war is winnable.  

While the vast majority of the world is completely unaware of this key admission by the man in charge of America's forces and nuclear weapons stockpile in Europe, it did not go unnoticed by Russia as shown here in this report from RT:

Here is what else RT had to say:

"Under any circumstance, the public embrace of a “flexible first strike” policy regarding nuclear weapons employment by the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe should generate widespread attention. When seen in the context of the recent deployment by the US of a low-yield nuclear warhead on submarine-launched ballistic missiles carried onboard a Trident submarine, however, Wolters’ statement is downright explosive. Add to the mix the fact the US recently carried out a wargame where the US Secretary of Defense practiced the procedures for launching this very same “low yield” weapon against a Russian target during simulated combat between Russia and NATO in Europe, and the reaction should be off the charts. And yet there has been deafening silence from both the European and US press on this topic." (my bold)

On the same day as General Wolters exposed his first-use policy, the Kremlin also weighed in.  Here's what Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had to say about Washington's evolving guidelines on the use of nuclear weapons at the Conference on Disarmament held in Geneva:

"Regrettably we remember that nearly 75 years ago, by dropping nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the US became the only State to have ever used that most horrible weapon and triggered the nuclear arms race the effects of which still linger. Yet, we need to underline that in the second half of the 20th century we did the utmost by join efforts to ensure strategic stability and prevent such tragedies.

Regrettably during this century dangerous and destructive trends caused by the resurgence of the aggressive foreign-policy egocentrism of one state have been accumulating. The Washington's withdrawal in 2002 from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, that was crucial for strategic stability, was a heavy blow to the entire ACDNP architecture. Recently, the desire to dominate everywhere and to impose its own "rules" on the international community at the expense of other States' interests and international law has become a prevailing element in the US policy. All multilateral agreements or mechanisms that challenge such a dominance are declared "obsolete and ineffective".

Last year the US denounced the INF Treaty. This was immediately followed by flight tests of the US weapon systems that had been earlier prohibited under the Treaty. Intentions to place such systems in various regions of the world are being declared. Russia, while having stated that it would be forced to take symmetrical steps, exercised the highest degree of responsibility and committed it self unilaterally not to deploy ground-based intermediate and shorter-range missiles in the regions where the similar US systems will not appear. We urge the US and its allies to declare the same moratorium. We are aware of attempts to undermine the credibility of our initiative. But let me remind you that we proposed to dispel suspicions through elaboration of a possible verification regime for such a mutual moratorium. Ignoring this honest offer means that true causes of the INF destruction have nothing to do with Russian position and actions.

Another reason for concern is uncertain future of the New START Treaty. Speaking last year from this podium I outlined why we consider it important to preserve it. Extending the Treaty would be a reasonable step to prevent further deterioration of the strategic stability, to avoid a complete collapse of mechanism for control and limitations nuclear and missile domain and to buy some time for deliberations on approaches to methods for control of new weapons and military technologies. Given all these circumstances Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to the US to extend the New START Treaty without any preconditions. We are waiting for a response.

We note with concern that new doctrinal provisions adopted by Washington significantly lower the "threshold" for use of nuclear weapons. Notably it is taking place against the backdrop of the US refusal, I would like to stress an official refusal, to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, on-going placement of its nuclear weapons on the territory of some NATO allies and continued so-called "nuclear sharing missions". It got to the point that the US conducted military exercises to imitate use of nuclear weapons against targets on the Russian territory. Europeans are also engaged in these exercises." (my bolds)

Here is Russia's solution:

"In order to ease these artificial tensions and to leave door open for further strategic dialogue we proposed at least to reaffirm or at best to strengthen the Gorbachev-Reagan formula that “a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought”. We believe that in the current situation such a statement would send a positive message to the entire international community. Yet there is no answer from Washington to this proposal for as long as 18 months now.

We expect that all interested States to engage in constructive work at the NPT  (Non-Proliferation Treaty) Review Conference that will start in New York at the end of April. I will not prejudge anything. I would only emphasize that in the current challenging environment it is important for this forum to succeed in strengthening non-proliferation regime regardless of whether an outcome document is agreed or not. The Treaty is self-sufficient, its provisions have stood the test of time, and their revision or loose interpretation under current difficult circumstances would only be harmful."

Let's close this posting by looking back in time to 1985.  After a joint Soviet Union - United States summit meeting held in November 1985 in Geneva, the leaders released a very significant statement which was to form the basis for future nuclear disarmament talks.  Here is a quote from that joint statement:

"The sides, having discussed key security issues, and conscious of the special responsibility of the USSR and the U.S. for maintaining peace, have agreed that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Recognizing that any conflict between the USSR and the U.S. could have catastrophic consequences, they emphasized the importance of preventing any war between them, whether nuclear or conventional. They will not seek to achieve military superiority."

It would seem that the current Supreme Allied Commander in Europe has completely forgotten history and that fact that there are no winners in a nuclear exchange of any size.

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