Trump strat­egy seeks new weapons to counter Rus­sia

San Francisco Chronicle - - WORLD - By Robert Burns Robert Burns is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

WASHINGTON — With Rus­sia in mind, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is aim­ing to de­velop new nu­clear fire­power that it says will make it eas­ier to de­ter threats to Euro­pean al­lies.

The plan, not yet ap­proved by Pres­i­dent Trump, is in­tended to make nu­clear con­flict less likely. Crit­ics ar­gue it would do the op­po­site.

The pro­posal is spelled out in a pol­icy doc­u­ment, known of­fi­cially as a “nu­clear pos­ture re­view,” that puts the U.S. in a gen­er­ally more ag­gres­sive nu­clear stance. It is the first re­view of its kind since 2010 and is among sev­eral stud­ies of se­cu­rity strat­egy un­der­taken since Trump took of­fice.

In many ways it reaf­firms the nu­clear pol­icy of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, in­clud­ing his com­mit­ment to re­place all key el­e­ments of the nu­clear ar­se­nal with new, more modern weapons over the com­ing two decades.

It says the U.S. will ad­here to ex­ist­ing arms con­trol agree­ments, while ex­press­ing doubt about prospects for any new such pacts. The Trump nu­clear doc­trine is ex­pected to be pub­lished in early Fe­bru­ary.

Where the Trump strat­egy splits from Obama’s ap­proach is in end­ing his push to re­duce the role of nu­clear weapons in U.S. de­fense pol­icy. Like Obama, Trump would con­sider us­ing nu­clear weapons only in “ex­treme cir­cum­stances,” while main­tain­ing a de­gree of am­bi­gu­ity about what that means. But Trump sees a fuller de­ter­rent role for these weapons, as re­flected in the plan to de­velop new ca­pa­bil­i­ties to counter Rus­sia in Europe.

The Huff­in­g­ton Post pub­lished on­line a draft of the nu­clear pol­icy report Thurs­day, and the As­so­ci­ated Press ob­tained a copy Fri­day. Asked for com­ment, the Pen­tagon called it a “pre-de­ci­sional,” un­fin­ished doc­u­ment yet to be re­viewed and ap­proved by Trump, who or­dered it a year ago.

Rus­sia, and to a de­gree China, are out­lined as nu­clear pol­icy prob­lems that de­mand a tougher ap­proach.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s view is that Rus­sian poli­cies and ac­tions are fraught with po­ten­tial for mis­cal­cu­la­tion lead­ing to an un­con­trolled es­ca­la­tion of con­flict in Europe. It specif­i­cally points to a Rus­sian doc­trine known as “es­ca­late to de-es­ca­late,” in which Moscow would use or threaten to use smaller yield nu­clear weapons in a lim­ited, con­ven­tional con­flict in Europe in the be­lief that do­ing so would com­pel the U.S. and NATO to back down.

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