Pentagon War Plans Include Limited Nuclear Use

‘Peace on More-Favorable Terms’: Pentagon War Plans Include Limited Nuclear Weapons Use An unclassified document published last week by senior US military leaders revealed the Pentagon has plans for the limited use of nuclear weapons in a conventional conflict to “create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability.” A document by the Joint Chiefs of Staff published on June 11 outlines how the US will strategically and tactically approach the question of nuclear weapons in a variety of conflicts. “Nuclear Weapons: Planning and Targeting” was quickly removed from the Pentagon’s website, but a copy was preserved by the Federation of American Scientists. “Integration of nuclear weapons employment with conventional and special operations forces is essential to the success of any mission or operation,” the Pentagon document says. Noting that both the use and the threat of use of nuclear weapons can have a significant influence on ground operations in a conflict, the document states that commanders must judge whether or not to introduce nuclear weapons into a theater of operations if they “could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability.”
“Employment of nuclear weapons can radically alter or accelerate the course of a campaign,” the document continues. “A nuclear weapon could be brought into the campaign as a result of perceived failure in a conventional campaign, potential loss of control or regime, or to escalate the conflict to sue for peace on more-favorable terms. The potential consequences of using nuclear weapons will greatly influence military operations and vastly increase the complexity of the operational environment.” “My guess is that nuclear weapons will be used sometime in the next hundred years, but that their use is much more likely to be small and limited than widespread and unconstrained,” the document says at the top of a chapter titled “Planning and Targeting.” In February of last year, the Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) iterated a shift in US strategic thinking for the first time since the dawn of the century: a turn from focusing on the War on Terror inaugurated after the September, 11, 2001, attacks, and the “return to Great Power competition” with Russia and China. Since then, the US has withdrawn from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia and frustrated attempts to secure an extension of New START (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty), which is set to expire next year.

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