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U. S. Security Policy and Nuclear Proliferation

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Free «U. S. Security Policy and Nuclear Proliferation» Essay Sample


The evolution of the US nuclear policy continues attracting attention of the world society. Widely discussed in policy documents are such issues as the use of nuclear weapons, penetration of munitions designed to destroy underground targets of the authorities, ability to create new types of ammunition, and consequently the possibility of resuming nuclear tests among others. In fact, the practical steps taken in recent years are relatively modest. The political elite and experts are faced with serious resistance on the part of the US Congress and the opposition. It can be stated that the international society responds not to the actual steps, but rather to their own expectations for the future direction of US policy.

Firstly, the evolution of US nuclear policy is not so much caused by the settings of the current administration. It is a reaction to the formation of a new system of international relations and in this respect it is quite stable. The policy can be adjusted, but is unlikely to be deployed in the opposite direction, whether the Republicans stay in power or the Democrats win. Secondly, it is because the heart of the evolution of nuclear policy is represented by a new system of international relations, and similar changes will occur in other countries.

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The strategy of deterrence may guarantee failure of the enemy from the perspective of a direct military aggression. However, it does not provide the necessary mechanisms in order to realize other positive purposes. The Compound States and other members of the nuclear club have different understanding as for the essence of the perceived offensive deterrence. From the US perspective, it is primarily about forcing Russia, China, and the illegal nuclear powers to reduce their nuclear arsenals. In case of Moscow and Beijing, it is more important to encourage the United States to abandon hostile steps towards them.

Modern concepts of deterrence are offensive in nature. Their task is to force the opponent to commit actions that he willingly would not do. This tendency increases the risk of the use of nuclear weapons. Current paper analyzes the offensive deterrence that requires the military-technical systems to be adapted to the pre-emptive strike, high security of nuclear weapons, its use of flexible circuits and the possibility of the joint action of nuclear and conventional weapons in the scope of the international relations.

History on Nuclear Weapons in the US Foreign/Security Policy

Initially interested in the political aspects of the use of nuclear weapons, physics Niels Bohr, Robert Oppenheimer, Albert Einstein, and Enrico Fermi were the first to work on the issue. Back in 1941-1942, they were talking about the dangers of the use of nuclear weapons (Trachtenberg, 1991). Political experts started thinking about the consequences of the use of atomic weapons after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing in August 1945 (Trachtenberg, 1991). American economist Jacob Viner pointed out that nuclear weapons can perform a dual function: ensure the peaceful nature of the relationship between states and be an effective means of intimidating opponents. American political scientist Bernard Brodie and his colleagues at Yale Frederick Dunn, Arnold Wolfers, Percy Corbett and William Fox published a scientific work “Ultimate weapon” in 1946 (Trachtenberg, 1991). Researchers have argued that the emergence of nuclear weapons would deprive war categories of “victory” and “defeat”.

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It was difficult to carry out these tasks on the basis of the nuclear weapons used in the 1940s. Calculations of the late 1940s proved that it has a limited capacity and can only be delivered to the target aircraft carriers (Rhodes, 1986). The experience of the Korean War (1950-1953) proved that aviation might be blocked by anti-aircraft defense systems and fighter aircrafts (Rhodes, 1986). The situation changed after the creation of thermonuclear weapons in 1952-1953 (Rhodes, 1986). With megaton power and melting effect, such weapons can destroy strategic facilities and be delivered to the target using both aeronautical and missile delivery systems. Superpowers are guaranteed the opportunity to destroy the strategic potential opponent.

The first burst of discussions on nuclear deterrence appeared in the 1940s and 1950s (Rhodes, 1986). Its main content was the development of the theory of nuclear weapons targeting. American experts William Beaudry and Albert Wohlstetter developed a concept of “atomic air war” meaning the defeat with the use of nuclear warheads key infrastructure as the enemy. General Maxwell Taylor argued that the atomic bombing should undermine the military-industrial potential of the enemy, and moral will of its population. In 1954, the expert “RAND Corporation,” William Kaufmann argued that the effectiveness of the strategy of deterrence depends on the existence of weapons of the strategic potential opponent and readiness to use force (Rhodes, 1986).

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In the development of the concept of nuclear deterrence, a “game theory” played a significant role. It is a mathematical scheme used for the analysis of the conflict. Its foundations were laid in 1943-1944, after which the US experts John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern published a series of works on nuclear policy back in 1950s (Rhodes, 1986). Prerequisites for the modernization of the concept of nuclear deterrence were laid based on the discussions on the use of nuclear weapons in mid-1950s (Rhodes, 1986). In 1957, the future Secretary of State Henry Kissinger suggested that war with the unlimited use of nuclear weapons would lead to the same result by losing both winners and losers (Rhodes, 1995). According to Henry Kissinger, the output from the strategic impasse could be the limited use of nuclear weapons to destroy selective targets. Such idea was developed by Kissinger together with the US researchers Robert Osgood and Thomas Schelling. In their opinion, the nuclear strike on limited goals could be an effective complement to the diplomatic pressure towards the opponent (Rhodes, 1995).

On the basis of the concept of escalation of the administration of John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) there has been developed the concept of “flexible response” (Trachtenberg, 1991). It is based on the principle of proportionality US military response nature of the threat. The concept of “flexible response” focuses on the high nuclear threshold, suggesting that the conflict can be carried out on the basis of conventional weapons. The end of the Cold War has made the United States deal with the question of the transformation of the concept of nuclear deterrence. On May 12, 1989, the US President George HW Bush (1989-1993) said that the United States has to resolve more extensive tasks than the continuation of containing the Soviet Union (World Nuclear Association, 2015). In March 1990, the Committee of the Chiefs of Staff acknowledged that the US strategic nuclear forces could be used to combat the threats posed by some countries of the third world (World Nuclear Association, 2015). After the First Gulf War (1991), the US Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney summoned a meeting of the Pentagon to develop a war plan together with regional opponents dealing with weapons of mass destruction (Rhodes, 1995).

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The next step in the transformation of the concept of “containment” was made at the beginning of the XXI century. At the beginning of the XXI century, experts Patrick Morgan, Kenneth Waltz, George Questor, and Graham Allison recorded growth of the danger of nuclear weapons in regional conflicts (World Nuclear Association, 2015). The most realistic scenario related to the nuclear threshold deals with the conflict of the United States and the new nuclear subjects, the collapse of a nuclear state (mainly Pakistan) and the use of nuclear weapons by transnational terrorist networks, as well as the response of “legal” nuclear powers to acts concerning nuclear terrorism.

The four-year “US Nuclear Posture Review” of 2001 included a policy of containment of four elements: the US security guarantees to allies, diplomatic pressure on the enemy for the sake of preventing aggression on their part, deterrence through the threat of inflicting unacceptable damage and achievement of a quick victory in the event of hostilities (World Nuclear Association, 2015). “US Nuclear Posture Review” in 2002 intended to make the transition to the new structure of the strategic triad of offensive strike systems including nuclear and conventional ones, defense systems including ABM defense and civil defense, infrastructure renewal, based on information and telecommunications space of the new system (World Nuclear Association, 2015). The “Doctrine of joint operations with the use of nuclear weapons” (2005) postulated the possibility of the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons in local conflicts (World Nuclear Association, 2015). Technical support of the conceptual shifts was designed for two projects: the deployment of the strategic missile defense system and the creation of ultra-small nuclear weapons to destroy buried goals. In 2009, the US Department of Defense began to implement the concept of “prompt global strike”, whose main aim was to provide the US strategic forces with a possibility of high-precision target destruction (World Nuclear Association, 2015). Dealing with the issue of shock weapons in both nuclear and conventional warheads in the form of air, space and special operations in their electronic and information-psychological security, the government should react according to the plan as soon as possible.

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At present, within the framework of this concept, the measures taken optimize the organizational structure of Command Global Strike and integration in United Strategic Command US Armed Forces located at Offutt AFB, Nebraska (World Nuclear Association, 2015). According to the American military leadership, the application or threat of global shocks will be an important element of the United States’ response to such challenges as terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and limitation of the freedom of action on the part of the United States concerning the most important issues to be solved.

On May 21, 2010 US President Barack Obama made a speech at the Military Academy at West Point and announced a review of the doctrine of national security of the country, thus marking the departure from the previous administration systems, focusing on a sole preventive action on the world stage without waiting for approval of the international organizations (World Nuclear Association, 2015). The developers of the US nuclear strategy believe that recently the international system, including the nuclear security, has changed dramatically. The global confrontation between the superpowers was replaced by overt and covert rivalry involving numerous subjects of international politics, which is a source of conflict and challenges, and the scenario of conflict development is difficult to predict.

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U.S. Mainstream Position

Currently, concerning the scale of its nuclear arsenal, the US and Russia occupy the first and second places in the world. Nuclear weapons are possessed by the United Kingdom, France, and China. Their role should not be underestimated. The most significant nuclear arsenal in the world is known to be owned by the United States. Moreover, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty has not yet been ratified by the US Congress (World Nuclear Association, 2015). After taking office, the President Barack Obama has made adjustments to the country’s nuclear strategy. The main course of action was to restore US leadership in the field of nuclear non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament along with the modernization of the US nuclear arsenal without producing new nuclear weapons. The Pentagon has recently issued a report on the situation in the nuclear weapon related field, in which he declared the primary goal of a nuclear strategy of the country to be curbing the threat of nuclear terrorism and proliferation.

In an interview with the Japanese news agency Kyodo News, Deputy Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller severely criticized the Russian President Vladimir Putin for a threat to use nuclear weapons during the Ukrainian crisis (Bodner, 2015).

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Gottemoeller majorly referred to Putin’s statement, made in February 2014, in which he said that Moscow will “send their warheads” in the direction of Ukraine, if it decides to join NATO (Bodner, 2015). “It is scary to think that Russia, in response to a similar arrangement that is the possible deployment of such positioning areas will target Ukraine with a missile strike”, – Putin said at the time, as reported by the Western media (Keck, 2015). In a new documentary about the crisis in Ukraine last year, Putin once said that Moscow was ready to lead the nuclear forces on alert (Keck, 2015).

Gottemoeller statements were made immediately after yet another message that the former Russian security agency officials sent to their US counterparts that in the event of conflicts in Ukraine and the Baltic states, Moscow would consider the use of nuclear weapons.

In particular, The Telegraph reported that during a high-level meeting between the former Head of Security of the US and Russia, the Russian side curled that Putin would consider a range of responses to nuclear non-military if NATO continues to build up its forces in the Baltic states (Elbahtimy & Moran, 2015). The Russian side also said that there are three source of tension that could lead to a possible nuclear confrontation between the former enemies of the Cold War: the Crimea, Eastern Ukraine, and the Baltic countries (Elbahtimy & Moran, 2015). According to the report, before the meeting of Heads of the Security Services, there took place a short conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Russia immediately denied it, and Putin’s representative Dmitry Peskov told Russian reporters that it was a classic example of continuing hysteric demonization of Russia. Nevertheless, it is clear that the threat of a confrontation between the US and Russia escalates, while the West and Russia continue to debate on the issues related to Ukraine and the Baltic countries.

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Given that politicians and commentators exclude the possibility of a US-Russian war, the dangerous development of the conflict should be taken into account. It is an unprecedented event in the entire post-Cold War era. It was a result of actions of the Soviet Union and Russia during the Cold War and in the period after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 (Rhodes, 1995). At the same time, in late April, US Defense Secretary, Robert Gates said that the unprecedented restrictions that are imposed on the US nuclear arsenal will not weaken the country’s defense. It was a strong message intended for Iran and North Korea, requiring them to play by the rules.

In accordance with the plan of the President Barack Obama, the United States reduces the list of conditions and circumstances, which presume the use of a nuclear weapon. It aims to reduce the threat posed by countries such as China and Russia while stressing that it will be mandatory to take into account the threats posed by terrorists or the states that promote terrorism. According to the new plan, the US will be obliged never to use nuclear weapons against countries that do not have it. This policy will not apply to countries such as North Korea and Iran because of their refusal to cooperate with other countries in the field of non-proliferation of nuclear technology. Obama’s plan would reduce the role of nuclear weapons in American defense planning.

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In April 2015, Iran and six international mediators reached an agreement on the nuclear program of Iran (Elbahtimy & Moran, 2015). The basis of the agreement’s framework laid down the principles enunciated earlier by the Russian President Vladimir Putin, but the parties took the time to build on the agreement on paper. At the same time, a Russian Deputy and Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Moscow is satisfied with the agreement reached. The US President Barack Obama, in turn, called the historic agreement with Iran, noting that the deal is beneficial and corresponds to the key objectives of the US government.

The agreements on the nuclear program, in particular, imply the absence of any fissile material in Iran. Iran and six international mediators have agreed that two-thirds of Iran’s uranium enrichment will be suspended for 10 years, and most uranium reserves of Iran will be removed or depleted from the country (World Nuclear Association, 2015). In turn, the White House said that Iran has agreed to move the extra centrifuge equipment to enrich uranium in storage under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The new policy, limiting the use of nuclear weapons does not apply to such countries as Iran and North Korea, which continue to develop nuclear weapons violating the rules of the international community. Gates also said the US moves towards the policy of no use of nuclear weapons in the first place, but is not yet ready to fully accept it. Nevertheless, the Pentagon chief said that they are still far from controlling nuclear weapons around the world to give up the right to pre-emptive strikes.


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During an interview with Kyodo Gottemoeller, he said that the US military has reduced the share of nuclear weapons in terms of its strategic development. The following approval received in June 2013 implies the implementation of the plan dealing with a Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons that brought about a real change in the planning to carry out the unified command of strategic planning the US military, which deals with the country’s nuclear weapons (World Nuclear Association, 2015). It has led to a shift in emphasis from nuclear weapons in the US national strategy. Gottemoeller made statements against the backdrop of UN activities preparing the review conference in 2015 to implement the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (World Nuclear Association, 2015).

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