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  • The Pentagon's new policy reverses previous efforts to reduce the size of the nuclear arsenal in the United States.

    The Pentagon's new policy reverses previous efforts to reduce the size of the nuclear arsenal in the United States. | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 February 2018

The policy shift has prompted concern among experts and activists. who warn it could trigger a new arms race.

Citing concerns over Russia's nuclear arsenal, the U.S. State Department has confirmed the United States will expand its nuclear capabilities.

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The Pentagon document released Friday and known as the Nuclear Posture Review said the strategy "will ensure Russia understands that any use of nuclear weapons, however limited, is unacceptable."

U.S. officials argue that expanding their own low-yield nuclear capability will deter Russia from using nuclear weapons.

The Pentagon paper also accuses Russia of expanding its non-strategic nuclear weapons; deploying a ground-launched cruise missile that breaches the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty banning the testing of missiles with a range of 500-5,500km, and developing a hypersonic nuclear-powered underwater torpedo.

Less than 24 hours after the paper was released, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he was "disappointed" by the document: "The confrontational and anti-Russian character of this document leaps out at you."

Lavrov also denied the U.S. allegations, saying Russia will "take into account the approach enacted now in Washington" and "take the needed measures to secure our own safety."

The report seemed at odds with recent remarks made by U.S. President Donald Trump during his State of the Union address, emphasizing the strategic need for low-yield nuclear weapons versus Trump's vow to build a nuclear arsenal "so strong and powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression."  

The Pentagon's new nuclear policy reverses previous efforts to reduce the size of the nuclear arsenal in the United States. Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said: "While the United States has led the world in these reductions, every one of our potential nuclear adversaries has been pursuing the exact opposite strategy."

The shift has prompted concern among experts and activists. Kingston Reif, director for disarmament research at the Arms Control Association advocacy group, and Alex Bell, advocate at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, have warned it could trigger a new arms race.

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