The Pentagon plans to develop two “low-yield” nuclear warheads to be launched from ballistic-missile submarines and warships, to send a message to Moscow — which the Trump administration accuses of amassing a stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons.
The new plan is outlined in Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s Nuclear Posture Review, released Friday afternoon.
“Expanding U.S. tailored response options will raise the nuclear threshold and help ensure that potential adversaries perceive no possible advantage in limited nuclear escalation, making nuclear weapons employment less likely,” the new review said.
The Pentagon says Russia’s buildup of similar “low-yield” nukes is the reason it must match the threat.
“The United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances,” said Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan. “Extreme circumstances could include significant non-nuclear strategic attacks,” he added without offering specifics.
Russian and Chinese officials were briefed by State Department officials Friday morning about the nuclear posture review.
It’s the first such review in seven years, but much has changed since 2010, when the U.S. unilaterally reduced portions of its nuclear arsenal.
“Over the past decade, while the United States led the world in these reductions every one of our potential nuclear adversaries has been pursuing the exact opposite strategy,” said Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette. “These powers are increasing the numbers and types of nuclear weapons in their arsenal.”
After Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, it deployed nuclear-capable intermediate range missiles to Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on the border with Poland, leaving NATO leaders feeling helpless.
“Russia’s nuclear saber-rattling is unjustified, destabilizing and dangerous,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in 2015. Any deployment of nuclear forces to Crimea would “fundamentally change the balance of security in Europe,” he added.
Russia is bound by a decades-long arms treaty, known as the INF, from deploying ground-launched intermediate-range missiles. The Pentagon has accused Russia of violating the treaty, noting that Russia is also developing nuclear depth charges, torpedoes and anti-aircraft missiles among its 2,000 tactical nukes.
“Russia is also developing at least two new intercontinental range systems, a hypersonic glide vehicle, and a new intercontinental, nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered, undersea autonomous torpedo,” according to the review.
The United States has possessed hundreds of tactical “low-yield” nuclear warheads for decades, but they can only be delivered from planes, including B61 gravity bombs, but are vulnerable because the jets must fly over the target to use them making them susceptible to anti-aircraft missiles and guns.
Currently, only the B-2 stealth bomber can penetrate sophisticated air defenses.
The Trump administration wants to build off the previous administration’s concern that the nuclear force needs to be modernized. It has mapped out plans for the U.S. to spend more than $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years.
In 1982, B-52 bombers were equipped with air-launched cruise missiles, but those weapons are now “more than 25 years past its design life,” according to the review. The newest B-52 is also more than 50 years old, one of the reasons the Pentagon wants a replacement bomber as well replacement for the aging air-launched cruise missile.
The Air Force has 46 nuclear capable B-52H and 20 nuclear-capable B-2A stealth bombers.
Its bomber fleet is not the only aging portion of America’s “nuclear triad.”
The 400 Minuteman-III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) currently deployed across three Air Force bases in the Midwest were first deployed in 1970 with a planned 10-year service life. They are now expected to last until 2030.
The Navy has 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines capable of carrying 24 Trident D-5 intercontinental ballistic missiles, but are roughly 30 years old.
The new posture review calls for each of these submarines to carry a small number of “low-yield” nuclear warheads, modified from more powerful ones currently inside the Trident missile.
The new missiles could be deployed in the next few years, officials say.
The Pentagon is worried Russia thinks it can use its smaller nukes against NATO in a limited war without a U.S. response.
“Effective U.S. deterrence of Russian nuclear attack … now requires ensuring that the Russian leadership does not miscalculate regarding the consequences of limited nuclear first use,” the review states.
The last nuclear posture review came out just months after President Obama set as a policy goal a world without nuclear weapons in a 2009 speech in Prague.
“Nuclear weapons are the most dangerous legacies of the Cold War,” Obama said in the Czech Republic capital. “The U.S. will take concrete steps … [to] begin the work of reducing our arsenals and stockpiles.”
Obama got rid of nuclear-tipped, sea-launched cruise missiles in 2011.
The Pentagon now wants to bring some of those weapons back.
“Every U.S. administration over the past six decades has called for a flexible and limited U.S. nuclear response options,” said the review. “Potential adversaries do not stand still. On the contrary, they seek to identify and exploit weaknesses in U.S. capabilities and strategy.” The U.S. nuclear arsenal cannot remain “fixed.”
Mattis spoke to reporters Friday morning, hours before the release of the Nuclear Posture Review.
“What we’re trying to do is ensure that our diplomats and our negotiators are in a position to be listened to when we say we want to go forward on nonproliferation and arms control. At the same time, you do so by having an effective, safe deterrent,” said Mattis.
While not mentioning cyberattack directly, the Pentagon makes clear in this document that the U.S. reserves the right to use nuclear weapons to respond to any attack on infrastructure or population centers, even if that attack uses a conventional weapon.
It also addresses the nuclear threat from China, Iran and North Korea, in addition to Russia.
Any nuclear attack by Kim Jong Un would “result in the end of that regime,” the report says.
Greg Weaver, deputy director of strategic capabilities on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff said “there’s evidence the Russians think that their coercive nuclear use strategy has some prospect of success. We want to make sure that we disabuse them of that idea.”
The two new “low-yield” nuclear weapons are designed to do just that, Weaver said.
A sea-launched nuclear cruise missile could be fired from a warship or a submarine, but is still seven to 10 years from being fielded, said Dr. Robert Soofer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear policy, in a briefing with reporters ahead of the review’s release.
If Russia returns to compliance with its arms control obligation and reduces its tactical nukes, the U.S. “may reconsider the pursuit” of the sea-launched cruise missile, according to the report.
The Pentagon is hoping history will repeat itself. After the U.S. deployed intermediate-range missiles to Europe, the Soviet Union signed the 1987 INF treaty with the United States. President Reagan’s secretary of state, George P. Shultz, said if not for the deployment of the American missiles, “there would be no incentive for the Soviets to negotiate seriously for nuclear weapons reductions.”
Asked how the Russians were likely to respond to the Pentagon calling for “low-yield” nukes, Soofer replied, “I am sure they won’t respond well.”
Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews
Jennifer Griffin currently serves as a national security correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) and is based out of the Washington D.C. bureau. She joined the network in October 1999 as a Jerusalem-based correspondent. You can follow her on Twitter at @JenGriffinFNC.
Iraqi supporters of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr wave the national flag as they listen to his speech during a demonstration in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on Feb. 26, 2016, calling for governmental reform and elimination of corruption. (Photo: AFP/Ahmad al-Rubaye)
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Muqtada al-Sadr, a key Shia Muslim cleric in Iraq, called his supporters to participate in the upcoming elections, warning people that boycotting the ballot would pave the way for corrupters to gain power.
The parliamentary election is scheduled to be held across Iraq on May 12 and will include the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region.
“Whoever wants to sell Iraq to the corrupters and abandon reform and patriotism, let the elections be boycotted, and whoever wants to complete the project, let him win the elections and keep the power corrupt,” Sadr addressed his supporters on his official social media network.
He warned his followers against boycotting the elections and said the move would pave the way for those who are suspected of corruption to reach Parliament again.
“We do not elect a particular religion, a particular faith, a particular doctrine, a certain ideology, a particular party, a particular bloc, not a specific person, but we elect Iraq for Iraq, for all freedom of religion, belief and thought,” he added.
Sadr warned that returning the same “current faces” to power in the upcoming elections would “end Iraq.”
Sadr has previously led many protests demanding reform and the end of corruption which has partially contributed to the financial crisis and instability in the country.
The Iraqi Shia cleric has a parliamentary bloc with 34 seats in the Iraqi Parliament with considerable influence in Baghdad and the predominantly Shia southern provinces. He is also known for being against Iran’s influence in the country.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
Geoff BrumfielFebruary 2, 20182:33 PM ET
On March 1, 1954, the U.S. conducted its largest nuclear test with a yield of 15 megatons. The new Russian weapon would be up to 100 megatons, according to reports.
The Trump administration released a report on the state of America’s nuclear weaponry on Friday. The assessment, known as a Nuclear Posture Review, mainly concerns U.S. nukes and missiles.
But buried in the plan is a mention of a mysterious Russian weapon called “Status-6.” On paper, at least, Status-6 appears to be a kind of doomsday device. The report refers to it as “a new intercontinental, nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered, undersea autonomous torpedo.”
“The radius of total or near-total destruction is the size of a pretty large metropolitan area, actually,” says Edward Geist, a Russia specialist at the Rand Corp. who has spent time looking at the weapon. “It’s difficult to imagine in normal terms.”
Status-6 made its first public appearance in 2015, while Russian President Vladimir Putin was visiting with his generals in the city of Sochi.
Russia state television reported on the visit. The camera shows Putin seated at a long table. Then it cuts to a shot over one of the general’s shoulders. He is looking at what appears to be a drawing of a new nuclear weapon called the Oceanic Multipurpose System Status-6.
Status-6 made its first public appearance in 2015, on a television broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting with his generals in the city of Sochi.
Status-6 looks like a giant torpedo about a third the length of a big Russian submarine. According to the slide, it is nuclear-powered, meaning it can roam for months and possibly even years beneath the ocean without surfacing. Its payload is a nuclear warhead “many tens of megatons in yield,” Geist says.
That is thousands of times more powerful than the bombs dropped at the end of World War II and more powerful than anything currently in the U.S. and Russian arsenals.
Status-6 would launch from beneath a Russian submarine. It would shoot at a depth too deep to be intercepted and travel for thousands of miles. Upon reaching its target along the U.S. coastline, it would detonate, swallowing up whatever city happened to be nearby.
“The only possible U.S. targets are large port cities,” says Mark Schneider, a senior analyst with the National Institute for Public Policy, wrote in an e-mail. “The detonation of Status-6 in any of them would essentially wipe out their population into the far suburbs.”
“The detonation would cause a very large amount of radioactive fallout,” adds Pavel Podvig, an arms control expert who runs a blog called Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces. Podvig believes the weapon could potentially bathe the entire Northeast Corridor in radioactive soot.
Status-6 would probably be used as a “third-strike” weapon of last resort. If Russia fell under attack from the U.S. and couldn’t retaliate with its missiles, it might trigger Status-6: a doomsday machine. Or at least a doomsday-ish machine.
Then again, the whole thing might be a fake.
“The drawing of this drone looks more like an enlarged drawing of a smaller torpedo,” says Podvig. In other words, it looks as if the Russians may have just taken some torpedo clip art, blown it up to terrifying size and then broadcast it on state television.
“It’s a way to get our attention,” says Geist.
Geist says that the “leak” of Status-6 was deliberate. Russia worries that U.S. missile defenses might be able to shoot down its missiles in a nuclear war. By showing a plan for Status-6, Russia is warning the U.S. that if it continues to build such defensive systems, then Russia will find another way to strike, with a missile that can’t be intercepted.
“My read of the whole Status-6 slide leak is that the Russians were trying to send us a message,” Geist says.
Podvig agrees that the leak of Status-6 is probably just a warning shot. But the fact that it appeared in the Pentagon’s newest report on nuclear weapons shows that some war planners are taking the idea seriously.
There may be some politics involved in that decision as well, says Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists. The Trump administration is pushing hard for upgrades to America’s nuclear arsenal. In his State of the Union address, the president called for making the arsenal “so strong and so powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression by any other nation or anyone else.”
Citing Status-6 helps to build the case that upgrades to American nukes are needed, Kristensen says.
For all the rhetoric around Status-6, Podvig and Geist both believe that the program isn’t completely made-up. Geist says a long-range underwater drone without a nuclear warhead would be a useful weapon.
“You could use it for tapping our underwater communications cables,” he says. “Or simpler, in a war, is just going out and like finding them and cutting them.”
Status-6 could also carry conventional munitions, like cruise missiles, and launch them after hiding for months beneath the water.
Podvig has seen photos that he says indicate the Russians are working on some hardware for big underwater drones.
“My best guess is that there is there is a project to design an underwater vehicle with a purpose, unknown at this point,” he says. “There is something there.”
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – North Korea violated United Nations sanctions to earn nearly $200 million in 2017 from banned commodity exports, according to a confidential report by independent U.N. monitors, which also accused Pyongyang of supplying weapons to Syria and Myanmar.
The report to a U.N. Security Council sanctions committee, seen by Reuters on Friday, said North Korea had shipped coal to ports, including in Russia, China, South Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam, mainly using false paperwork that showed countries such as Russia and China as the coal origin, instead of North Korea.
The 15-member council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.
“The DPRK (North Korea) is already flouting the most recent resolutions by exploiting global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries and the international banking system,” the U.N. monitors wrote in the 213-page report.
The North Korean mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the U.N. report. Russia and China have repeatedly said they are implementing U.N. sanctions on North Korea.
The monitors said they had investigated ongoing ballistic missile cooperation between Syria and Myanmar, including more than 40 previously unreported North Korea shipments between 2012 and 2017 to Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre, which oversees the country’s chemical weapons program.
The investigation has shown “further evidence of arms embargo and other violations, including through the transfer of items with utility in ballistic missile and chemical weapons programs,” the U.N. monitors wrote.
They also inspected cargo from two North Korea shipments intercepted by unidentified countries en route to Syria. Both contained acid-resistant tiles that could cover an area equal to a large scale industrial project, the monitors reported.
One country, which was not identified, told the monitors the seized shipments can “be used to build bricks for the interior wall of a chemical factory.”
Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013. However, diplomats and weapons inspectors suspect Syria may have secretly maintained or developed a new chemical weapons capability.
The Syrian mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the U.N. report.
The U.N. monitors also said one country, which they did not identify, reported it had evidence that Myanmar received ballistic missile systems from North Korea, along with conventional weapons, including multiple rocket launchers and surface-to-air missiles.
Myanmar U.N. Ambassador Hau Do Suan said the Myanmar government “has no ongoing arms relationship, whatsoever, with North Korea” and is abiding by the U.N. Security Council resolutions.
BANNED EXPORTS, IMPORTS
Under a 2016 resolution, the U.N. Security Council capped coal exports and required countries to report any imports of North Korean coal to the council sanctions committee. It then banned all exports of coal by North Korea on Aug. 5.
The U.N. monitors investigated 16 coal shipments between January and Aug. 5 to ports in Russia, China, Malaysia and Vietnam. They said Malaysia reported one shipment to the council committee and the remaining 15 shipments violated sanctions.
After the coal ban was imposed on Aug. 5, the U.N. monitors investigated 23 coal shipments to ports in Russia, China, South Korea and Vietnam. The U.N. monitors said all those shipments “would constitute a violation of the resolution, if confirmed.”
“The DPRK combined deceptive navigation patterns, signals manipulation, transshipments as well as fraudulent documentation to obscure the origin of the coal,” the monitors said.
The U.N. monitors “also investigated cases of ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products in violation (of U.N. sanctions) … and found that the network behind these vessels is primarily based in Taiwan province of China.”
The monitors said one country, which they did not name, told them North Korea had carried out such transfers off its ports of Wonsan and Nampo and in international waters between the Yellow Sea and East China Sea between October and January.
The report said several multinational oil companies, which were not named, were also being investigated for roles in the supply chain of petroleum products transferred to North Korea.
Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by James Dalgleish and Cynthia Osterman