President Joe Biden has decided against significantly altering the U.S. policy on nuclear weapons.
The decision goes against Biden’s 2020 campaign promise to push the country toward a policy wherein the sole purpose of the nuclear arsenal would be to deter or retaliate against nuclear attacks by enemy countries, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Under Biden’s latest decision, the “fundamental role” of the nuclear arsenal would be to serve as a deterrent against nuclear attacks.
U.S. officials told the outlet Thursday that the words “fundamental role” leave room for the administration to deploy nuclear weapons in “extreme circumstances” as deterrence against conventional, biological, chemical and even cyber attacks.
This is in line with existing U.S. policy, which permits the country to use the threat of nuclear weapons to deter conventional attacks as well as nuclear ones.
Last year, speculation that Biden could decide that the “sole purpose” of the arsenal would be to prevent or respond to a nuclear attack led to allies expressing concerns that such a decision would dampen American deterrence against adversaries, the Financial Times reported.
Republicans also criticized his considerations of a “sole purpose” doctrine on nuclear weapons.
“Allies were concerned that moving too far away from current posture would leave them vulnerable — in theory or in practice — to Russian threats,” Jon Wolfsthal, a senior arms control and nonproliferation official in former President Barack Obama’s National Security Council, told the Wall Street Journal.
Biden decides NOT to change US nuclear policy, will say “fundamental role” of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack. Won’t eliminate other rolls. Allies were nervous, but this leaves open threat of 1st nuclear use by US, mimicking Putin’s threats. https://t.co/KYoqg73TNI
— Jon B. Wolfsthal (@JBWolfsthal) March 25, 2022
U.S. officials speaking to Financial Times said the concerns of allies in Europe and Asia led Biden to use the words “fundamental role” to describe the purpose of the arsenal in his declaratory policy on nuclear weapons use.
According to the outlet, that decision is expected to be seen in the Biden administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, which helps lay down the nuclear weapons the United States must possess and when and how they should be used.
The officials reportedly said the Biden administration’s review will maintain some continuity from the Obama and Donald Trump administrations in that nuclear arms could be used under “extreme circumstances.”
According to officials speaking to the Wall Street Journal, the Biden administration’s review would back measures that, if approved by Congress, could result in cuts in the Trump-era program to develop a nuclear sea-launched cruise missile and to the retiring of the B83 thermonuclear bomb, the outlet reported.
However, it said, the Biden administration’s review also will back a modernization program for America’s nuclear arsenal, including upgrades for land-based missiles, submarine-based missiles and bombers.
Biden’s decision comes amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has given rise to fears the Kremlin might use weapons of mass destruction against Ukraine and the Western nations helping it resist the invaders.
Experts fear Russia could use tactical, low-yield nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Yahoo News reported.
Biden has been in Europe this week meeting with key allies to rally support for a united front against Russian aggression.