February 22, 2018

“Civis Pacem, Para Bellum”

According to D. Trump's Strategic Concept “America First”, last year the US administration updated the whole range of basic documents related to national security and defense spheres of the country.

Thus, at the end of 2017, the National Security Strategy was approved, and at the beginning of 2018, the Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review (Nuclear Doctrine) were promulgated.

The above-mentioned documents emphasize the reduction of the level of strategic stability in the world and the strengthening and expansion of the range of threats to the United States.

It clearly mentions the main adversaries of the United States, as well as the fact of restoration of confrontation with them, including in the military sphere. First of all, Russia, China and North Korea are among such adversaries who challenge the influence and interests of the United States, undermine American security and seek to change the balance of power in the world.

US National Security Strategy 2017 US National Defense Strategy 2018 US Nuclear Posture Review 2018
US National Security Strategy 2017 US National Defense Strategy 2018 US Nuclear Posture Review 2018

According to the views of the military-political leadership of the United States, this first of all concerns the build-up of their missile and nuclear capabilities, which poses a critical threat to the national security of the United States of America. The main threats are as follows:

The development and deployment of the new missile-nuclear systems by the Russia, China and North Korea since 2010
The development and deployment of the new missile-nuclear systems
by the Russia, China and North Korea since 2010

at the strategic level — Russia and China are modernizing their missile and nuclear weapons, which changes to their favour the strategic balance of power with the United States.

According to Russia's Military Doctrine, adopted in 2014, Moscow “reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and/or its allies, as well as in the event of aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy”. In order to ensure guaranteed deterrence of the adversaries and their blackmail, since the beginning of 2010 (after the transition to the policy of confrontation with the West), the RF's leadership has intensified measures to strengthen the country's missile and nuclear forces.

Thus, since 2011, the RF has been taking steps to rearm the Strategic Rocket Forces (RVSN) with new mobile and silo-based missile systems “Yars” with multiple warheads. As of the beginning of 2018, one missile division (MD) of each of the three missile armies (MA) of the RF RVSN have already been rearmed with “Yars” missiles — including 54th MD of the 27th MA; 42nd MD of the 31st MA, 39th MD of the 33rd MA (a total of 12 missile regiments). Today, the rearmament of the next — 28th MD of the 27th MA is underway. By the end of 2026, all the units of the RVSN are planned to be rearmed with “Yars” missiles. At this, the total number of missile systems in the RVSN will remain at the level of 400 pieces.

Dislocation of the RF RVSN Russia’s missile and nuclear capabilities
Dislocation of the RF RVSN and Russia’s missile and nuclear capabilities

In addition, since 2012, three Project 955 “Borey” Strategic Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBN) have been commissioned in the Russian Navy. Five other similar Project 955A submarines are at different stages of construction. These submarines are going to be armed with new solid fuel ballistic missiles R-30 “Bulava” (with a multiple warheads and a range of 8–9 thousand km) — 16 missiles on each of the submarines. As a result of the commissioning of 8 SSBNs, Russia will be able to simultaneously keep deployed and ready to use up to 128 new type ballistic missiles.

At the same time, since 2015, Russia has resumed production of Tu-160 “Blackjack” strategic long-range heavy bombers. In November 2017, at the Kazan Aviation Plant, the first of the new Tu-160M bombers, built on the basis of the existing design groundwork, was completed. In the near future, on the basis of existing components, it is planned to build several more such bombers, and then about 50 — “from scrap”. At this, new bombers will be built upon an improved Tu-160M2 project. The modernization of existing Tu-22M3, Tu-95MS and Tu-160M aircrafts is underway.

China is also taking active steps to develop and modernize its strategic missile and nuclear capabilities. According to the 2015 White Paper on the Military Strategy of the People's Republic of China, the nuclear force of the country is identified as the “cornerstone” for safeguarding national sovereignty and security of the country. Therefore, during the military reform of 2016, the status of nuclear force was raised, namely: the 2nd Artillery Corps (which was responsible for nuclear delivery vehicles) was reorganized into the PLA Rocket Force. Thus, it has become one of five branches of the People's Liberation Army along with Ground Force, Air Force, Navy and Strategic Support Force (responsible for cyber attacks and technical intelligence).

The directions of the development of the PLA Rocket Force were also clarified, the main ones being the optimization of the structure of the nuclear force, the improvement of early strategic warning systems, control and management, adoption of new missile systems, enhancement of their ability to overcome missile defense systems and improving the protection against enemy attacks.

Within the framework of the practical implementation of the above-mentioned plans, the main efforts of the People's Republic of China are focused on the deployment of a number of new missile systems, including silo-based DF-5B ballistic missiles with multiple warheads and mobile solid-fuel DF-31 and DF-31A ballistic missiles with a range of 11,200 km. Besides, in recent years, China has deployed the first four nuclear missile submarines (SSBN), and in the near future plans to deploy the fifth one. The SSBNs are armed with missiles “Julang-2” with a range of 7,400 km. Work is being carried out on the creation of new strategic long-range (bomber) aircrafts and air-launched cruise missiles;

China’s missile and nuclear capabilities China’s missile and nuclear capabilities
China’s missile and nuclear capabilities

at the tactical level — the development and deployment of new and medium-range missile systems by Russia and China capable of carrying tactical nuclear warheads that directly threaten US and its allies troops (military targets) in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

Since the beginning of the 2000s, Russia has begun to rearm its Ground Forces with the new “Iskander-M” operational-tactical missile systems, which have considerably greater capabilities than the previous “Tochka-U” missiles, including with a maximum range of 500 km compared to 120 km, the accuracy in hitting targets and the ability to break through missile defense systems. To date, the “Iskander-M” missile systems is in service in almost all missile brigades (part of tank armies and combined arms armies) of the Russian Ground Forces and of the Russian Navy’s Baltic Fleet.

In this regard, the greatest concern of the United States and its NATO allies is the rearming with the “Iskander-M” missile systems of the 152nd Missile Brigade of the Coastal Forces of the Russian Navy’s Baltic Fleet (Kaliningrad Region), as well as the possibility of deploying these missile systems in Belarus (within the framework of exercises) and in the Crimea, which threatens the countries of the CEE and the Baltic states and the northeastern part of Germany.

Besides, according to the United States Department of Defense, Russia’s planning to expand and modernize its tactical nuclear weapons arsenal till 2026. In particular, it is going to increase the number of tactical nuclear warheads from 7 to 8 thousand pieces, including the creation of low yield and compact warheads to equip high-precision cruise missiles and space satellites.

In turn, People's Liberation Army of China is being armed with new high-precision medium-range (3–4 thousand km) missiles DF-21C and DF-26, that are potentially nuclear delivery vehicles. Due to this, China is capable to launch tactical nuclear strikes on US troops (targets) in the APR, as well as those of Japan and South Korea;

 

at the level of individual nuclear threats — North Korea's becoming capable to launch nuclear missile strikes on the continental United States (Alaska and the entire East Coast — from Boston to Miami), as well as US troops (targets) and its allies in the Asia-Pacific and Europe.

At present, the DPRK has already developed and tested missile systems that are potentially nuclear delivery vehicles, including: operational-tactical “Hwasong-5” and “Hwasong-6”; medium and short-range (up to 2,500 km) “Hwasong-7” and “Hwasong-10”; intercontinental “Hwasong-12”, “Hwasong-14” (more than 5,500 km) and “Hwasong-15” (about 13 thousand km). The DPRK has conducted tests of the submarine-launched “Pukkuksong-1” ballistic missile (range 1,200 km).

According to experts, North Korea is already capable of equipping its ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads of yield 15–250 kiloton (since 2006, six nuclear tests have been conducted, including of a hydrogen bomb with 100 kiloton yield). At this, Pyongyang has about 60 nuclear warheads, as well as reserves of uranium and plutonium enough for producing up to six new bombs per year.

In light of the results achieved, in November 2017, leader of the DPRK Kim Jong-un announced the creation of a full-fledged nuclear force of the country. According to him, despite the UN sanctions, North Korea will continue to develop missile and nuclear weapons, which is meant to be the main guarantor of the country's security.

All this is accompanied by Pyongyang's active anti-American rhetoric and open threatening with nuclear missile strikes on the USA and its allies in the APR. According to experts from the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, in case of DPRK's attacks on the capitals of South Korea and Japan, the number of casualties could be 2.1 million fatalities and 7.7 million injuries.

North Korean's missile and nuclear capabilities North Korean's missile and nuclear capabilities
North Korean's missile and nuclear capabilities

At the same time, American experts draw attention to Russia's and the China's work on the development of their missile defense systems. Thus, in the Russian Federation, successive steps are being taken to replace the outdated missile attack warning stations “Dnepr”, “Daryal” and “Volga” with new “Voronezh-DM” early-warning radars. There are also testing a new upgraded missile defense system (the latest test took place on February 12 at the Sary Shagan testing ground in Kazakhstan). In turn, on February 5, 2018, China, within its own territory, conducted a successful test of a ground-based midcourse missile defense system. Thus, China has become the third country in the world after the United States and Russia, which has developed such technologies.

 

Based on the above-mentioned, American experts conclude that there is a possibility for the USA's adversaries to take advantage in the missile and nuclear spheres. In particular, Russia has already gained such an advantage in tactical nuclear weapons. With this in mind, the main directions of development and principles for the use of US nuclear forces are determined, which should increase their ability to deter opponents and to respond adequately.

Thus, according to the new US Nuclear Posture Review, the material and technical basis of the updated nuclear triad of the US Strategic Nuclear Forces should be:

  • 400 single-warhead land-based ICBMs “Minuteman IV”, the first of which should be developed by 2029. For their deployment, 450 ICBM launch facilities will be used, which will allow to disperse this component of the US Strategic Nuclear Forces and create 50 false targets for the enemy;
  • up to 240 “Trident II” (D-5) ballistic missiles deployed on 12 “Columbia” class SSBNs, with a higher displacement than of the “Ohio” class SSBNs (21,000 tons versus 19,000 tons). At this, in 2019–2024, the modernization of the W76 and W88 thermonuclear warheads of “Trident II” ballistic missiles will be completed. Since 2031, the adoption of new ICBMs is envisaged;
  • 60 heavy bombers В-21 “Raider” with nuclear-capable cruise missiles and guided nuclear bombs В61-12. Such bombers should be developed by 2025 and equipped with new Long-Range Stand-Off (LRSO) cruise missiles.

Besides, the upgraded strategic nuclear triad will be strengthened by F-35A medium-range bombers, capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear weapons.

The entire infrastructure of the US Strategic Nuclear Forces, including the control and communications systems, will be improved.

At the same time, it is planned to modernize tactical nuclear weapons, including: bringing all gravity bombs to the standard of B61-12 (by 2026) and ensuring their use with the F-35A aircraft, as well as creation of low yield nuclear warheads for equipping ballistic and cruise missiles on submarines and surface ships. In the future, it is planned to adopt new nuclear-capable cruise missiles. Due to this, the problem of the USA's not having tactical nuclear missiles in Europe and in the Asia-Pacific region will be resolved.

Reduction of the US Strategic Nuclear Forces past years Concept for the updated US Nuclear Triad
Reduction of the US Strategic
Nuclear Forces past years
Concept for the updated US Nuclear Triad

Given the changes in the military-political situation in the world and the nature of the threats to the national security of the United States, the principles of the military use for the US nuclear forces have been revised. Thus, there is a need to move from a deterrence strategy that is effective only to one opponent, to an flexible and tailored approach to deterring a wide range of adversaries and to adequately respond to different threats and situations.

As part of this approach, it is envisaged to continuously adjust US measures to ensure the country's security, based on changes in the nature and levels of external threats, as well as the likely effects of the opponents' actions. Based on this, the nature of the USA's response, including the levels and extent of the use of nuclear weapons, will also be chosen.

In order to implement the above-mentioned plans, the annual expenditures for the support and development of nuclear forces will be increased from 3 % to 4 %. At this, the total costs for the modernization of the US nuclear forces over the next thirty years are estimated at 1.2 trillion US dollars.

In general, the content and basics of the new Nuclear Doctrine of the United States is fundamentally different from the similar document that was promulgated by the Pentagon in 2010 and was envisaged the possibility of reducing the nuclear arsenal, minimizing of the role of nuclear weapons in the national security strategy, refraining from creating new nuclear systems, and terminating nuclear tests.

Estimated cost for US Nuclear Triad modernization
Estimated cost for US Nuclear Triad modernization

As expected, the Nuclear Doctrine of the United States has caused a negative reaction from Russia, China and North Korea. At this, they all made almost identical assessments of the consequences of the US implementation of the provisions of the document, which would lead to the intensification of the arms race and lower threshold for the use of nuclear weapons.

At the same time, emphasis is placed on the alleged return of the United States to the concepts of “limited nuclear war” and “victory in nuclear war”. Proceeding from this, it is also argued about the possibility of US preventive use of nuclear weapons for the purpose of blackmail, as well as the destruction of the strike systems of its opponents.

On the basis of such maxims, Russia, China and North Korea have accused the United States of pursuing an aggressive and irresponsible nuclear policy, which greatly increases the level of threats to strategic stability in the world. In contrast, Moscow and Beijing are trying to justify their own missile and nuclear activities as being of a purely defensive nature.

In general, the situation around the new Nuclear Doctrine of the United States really shows an increase in the level of threats to strategic stability in the world, and also leads to further escalation of the United States’ relations with Russia and the DPRK, and complication of US-China relations. But the reasons for this are deeper and have to do with the formation of a new multi-polar system of the world order, which objectively causes deepening of contradictions between different centers of power at the global and regional levels.

World nuclear forces
World nuclear forces

Under such circumstances, the new Nuclear Doctrine of the United States, in fact, is a response to Russia, China and North Korea, which are implementing their own nuclear programs in parallel with the United States of America, and in some areas ahead of it. In light of this, the new US conceptual document in the nuclear sphere is quite adequate and only reflects the new geopolitical situation, rather than fundamentally changes it.

In reality, the new Nuclear Posture Review of the United States, as well as the National Security Strategy and Defense Strategy, have a completely different meaning. The documents clearly and unambiguously declare the firmness of the USA's determination to maintain its role as the leading center of power in the world, as well as Washington's intentions to firmly defend US interests by all possible means.

As part of this approach, the USA will continue the course of strategic containment of Russia, including through the support of Ukraine. Moreover, the USA's demonstrative refusal to compromise with Russia on the most important strategic issue — nuclear weapons of the parties — virtually eliminates the possibility of compromise on other issues, including on Ukraine.