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U.S. Use of Low-Yield Nuclear Warhead against Russia Would Result in Nuclear War

April 30, 2020 (EIRNS)—The State Department published a document April 20, entitled “Strengthening Deterrence and Reducing Nuclear Risks: The Supplemental Low-Yield U.S. Submarine-Launched Warhead,” which argues that deployment of the W76-2 low-yield nuclear warhead prevents reliance on a massive retaliatory nuclear strike in response to a relatively lower-yield nuclear attack by Russia against a NATO target. The document also claims that the warhead, which was first deployed on the USS Tennessee ballistic missile submarine last December, also eliminates the need to arms-race back toward Cold War-levels of forward-deployed tactical weapons in Europe.

The State Department said the W76-2’s ability to strike any target at any time precluded development of a new delivery system for the new low-yield warhead, and forces Russia to contend with the idea that a low-yield nuclear strike against NATO in Europe might lead to nuclear retaliation on the battlefield or against the nation itself. This is based on the notion, stated in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review but repeatedly denied by Moscow, that Russia has an “escalate to de-escalate” doctrine of using tactical nuclear weapons to blunt a NATO offensive against Russia.

The Russian response to the State Department report, delivered by Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, suggests that the U.S. use of the W76-2 might have a different effect than that claimed for it by its proponents.

“Any attack involving a U.S. submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), regardless of its weapon specifications, would be perceived as a nuclear aggression,” Zakharova said during a press briefing yesterday. “Those who like to theorize about the flexibility of American nuclear potential must understand that, in line with the Russian military doctrine, such actions are seen as warranting retaliatory use of nuclear weapons by Russia.”

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