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The launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile during a developmental test The launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile during a developmental test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Feb. 5, 2020 (Photo by Senior Airman Clayton Wear for U.S. Air Force via AP Images).

Is Trump’s Nuclear Strategy Fueling a New Arms Race?

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

The U.S. military recently confirmed that it has fielded controversial low-yield nuclear warheads on certain submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Plans for the new warhead were included in President Donald Trump’s 2018 nuclear posture review, and its explosive yield is roughly a third of the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.

Trump administration officials argue that the new warhead will serve as a deterrent for Russia’s so-called tactical nuclear weapons, but experts fear that the prevalence of these low-yield nuclear weapons will make an eventual conflict more likely. The news of their deployment comes amid broader scrutiny of Trump’s record on nonproliferation issues, including his position on key nuclear agreements like New START, which is set to expire in February 2021.

For this week’s interview on Trend Lines, WPR’s Elliot Waldman discusses nuclear strategy and arms control in the age of Trump with Thomas Countryman, chair of the board of directors at the Arms Control Association in Washington, D.C. He previously served for 35 years as a career foreign service officer before retiring from the State Department in early 2017, having most recently been the acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

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Relevant Articles on WPR:
Trump Wants a ‘Big Deal’ on Arms Control, Even If It Sinks the New START Treaty
The Myths and Realities of European Security in a Post-INF World
It’s Time for the U.S. to Rethink Its Approach to Crisis Management and Deterrence
NATO Is Focusing on the Wrong Russian Threat in Eastern Europe

Trend Lines is produced and edited by Peter Dörrie, a freelance journalist and analyst focusing on security and resource politics in Africa. You can follow him on Twitter at @peterdoerrie.

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