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U.S. Nuclear Forces Preparing for War on Russia, Details Esper’s Nuclear War Mini-Exercise

Feb. 25, 2020 (EIRNS)—More details emerged yesterday about the U.S. nuclear war “mini-exercise” held at U.S. Strategic Command headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, on Feb. 21. The Pentagon press office finally published the transcript of a background briefing for reporters who were traveling with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the time. The context was Esper’s tour of nuclear forces at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota and Stratcom headquarters on Feb. 20-21. At Stratcom, Esper had a one-on-one with Stratcom chief Adm. Charles Richard and toured what they call the “battle deck” where

“you have situational awareness of the threats to the United States and the readiness of our nuclear forces, as well as our missile defense capabilities,” explained the first official. At Minot, Esper visited a launch control center for Minuteman III ICBMs and, according to the official, was “disabused” of any notion, if he had any, “that our nuclear weapons or ICBMs are not on hair-trigger alert.”

The mini-exercise, during which Esper participated as the secretary of defense, simulated a nuclear exchange between the U.S. and Russia.

“[T]he scenario included a European contingency where you are conducting a war with Russia, and Russia decides to use a low-yield limited nuclear weapon against a site on NATO territory, and then you go through the conversation that you would have with the secretary of defense and then with the President, ultimately, to decide how to respond,”

the official said. “And so they played out that game, and the secretary got a good understanding for how that went.” The official wouldn’t say at first what the U.S. response was but after questioning, he finally replied that “we simulated responding with a nuclear weapon.”

The officials explained that this was an exercise to understand the mechanics of a nuclear response, how to actually assess the threat, decide how to respond to it and then transmit the orders to those forces that pull the trigger. The scenario, however, was explicitly based on the notion that Russia has an “escalate-to-deescalate” doctrine of first use in a war with NATO. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov denied that Russia has such a doctrine in an exceptionally strong statement issued on Feb. 22. Nonetheless, that is the scenario for which the low-yield W76-2 warhead, now being deployed on Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles, was designed for. The W76-2 “was the least expensive, quickest way that we could put something in the field to show Russia that we have the capability in addition to the resolve to address any threat that they could pose to us, and that was the rationale,” the official said.

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