Published in early February by the US Department of Defense, the new “Nuclear Posture Review” (Nuclear Posture Review, NPR-2018) drew the attention of both the media and the politicians for obvious reasons.
The comprehensive analysis of this complex document is quite extensive (about 100 pages, including 5 pages of the introductory article by the Defense Minister J. Mattis and 12 pages of “Main content”) and should be conducted by a team of professionals specializing in particular topics that are touched upon in it.
It is hardly advisable to bring forth such documents to the public through “discussion” in the format of TV show with random (for the most part) participants who, during the regime of time constraints, try to react to the market level questions such as “and what will be your response?”.
Let’s make some remarks of the general plan concerning the very phenomenon of nuclear weapons (“Doomsday”, “Apocalypse”) and some possible political consequences of the emergence of NPR-2018 for the situation in the Asia-Pacific region.
It seems that in our increasingly insane world, NW (and other WMD) should have emerged with inevitability, if not in the US, then in Germany, USSR, or Japan. In beginning of the Second World War, science created the necessary base for it. The nuclear Dragon (a similar image used by the creators of the first atomic bomb) entered our lives, is developing in full accordance with its crazy “laws” and is not going anywhere soon.
Let’s recall how India became a nuclear power. In the mid-1990s, when the question of indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was being resolved, the five “official” possessors were addressed approximately as follows: “We Indians are prepared to refrain from the possession of our own nuclear weapons, if you have at least any plan for your total nuclear disarmament. Not now, but to certain more or less definite term?”
Without hearing anything intelligible in response, India refused to sign the NPT and three years later conducted a series of nuclear tests. A few months later, it was followed by Pakistan.
The “Big Five” does not want to get rid of nuclear weapons as evidenced by its position during the discussion of this question at the UN in 2016-2017. Then the “Dragon” will live among us in accordance with the logic of lunatic world. This logic is obviously present in the document under discussion and while within its framework, it is difficult to oppose its main positions.
For instance, in the introductory article, J. Mattis, referring to the growing complexity of the international situation since the end of the Cold War (citing Russia, China, North Korea and Iran negatively), speaks of the impossibility of further delay in the process of replacing nuclear warheads that are outdated and exhausted of time in commission: “so that our diplomats continue to address the issue in a position of strength concerning matters of war and peace”. Appositely, this is the function of nuclear weapons and other Nuclear Powers.
As for the urgency of replacing the “Old with the New Ones”, the replacement and modernization of the old requires financial support, which is envisaged in the document in the amount of “additional” 3-4% of the total defense budget (for a period of “over ten years”). These resources will “complement” the already allocated 3% for the “maintenance” of existing nuclear postures.
It only remains to believe that J. Mattis requires precisely 3-4% (instead of 2 and 5%) “additional” expenditures. Moreover, it is evident that he does not need extraneous assessments and advice.
The enumeration in the main text of “critical tasks” of nuclear capabilities in the general issue of ensuring national security also does not contain anything unusual, if one does not forget that the United States considers itself obligated to “allies and partners”.
To the three main objectives of the U.S nuclear potential, an additional vital point indicates that the key element in the motivation for the U.S. nuclear policy is to prevent terrorists from accessing ready-made [nuclear] weapons, materials and knowledge.” Yes, any of the terrorist groups may well turn out to be a “serpent warmed in the bosom”, especially given the already known facts according to various media reports about Washington’s links with some of them.
A noteworthy passage (“Non-nuclear forces themselves are not considered by many of our allies as sufficient guarantee of their security”) directly leads NPR-2018 to a greater regional and global policy. It is impossible to vouch for “many”, but to one of the key American allies, Japan, the mentioned passage is directly relation. The fact is that the main component of Japan’s security system remains (so far) as a military-political alliance with the United States and, in particular, as a “Nuclear Umbrella” deployed by Washington in Northeast Asia. For each, more or less appropriate occasion, the parties do not forget to repeat the mantra of “cornerstone value” referred to the Alliance. Last time, it happened on February 7 in Tokyo during the meeting of the U.S Vice-President M. Pence with Prime Minister of Japan S. Abe. The high appreciation of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign affairs on NPR-2018 looks natural. The negative reaction to it expressed by the Ministry of Defence of China as well as in Russia is also clear
It is important to note that for Washington, its “overseas military presence” and the same “Nuclear Umbrella” are a good commodity in political bargaining with the allies. In this case, it is with Japan. If the latter “oversteps the mark” in the international arena, the United States will begin to hint transparently that the issue of the extension of American allied commitments, for example, to the islands of Senkaku is not unambiguous.
This happened in the spring of 2015, when Japan delaying the process of joining the U.S. anti-Russian sanctions in connection with the events in Ukraine. This is explains by the Japan’s strategic significance of developing relations with Moscow.
By strange coincidence, at the same time, several articles appeared in the authoritative edition of Forbes, which cast doubt on the very necessity of connecting the United States to a potential Sino-Japanese conflict over the Senkaku Islands.
In Japan, the hint was understood and joined the sanctions. After that, President Barack Obama publicly and firmly reaffirmed the “immutability” of the U.S. commitments (including those related to the “Nuclear Umbrella”) towards Japan as a whole, including the Senkaku Islands.
In the coming months, Washington will closely monitor the series of events planned for this year to improve Sino-Japanese relations (). And if Tokyo “oversteps” again, which is not a doubt, then Washington will “roll out” the same 3 year old argument afresh.
However, the time in the Asia-Pacific region flies in an accelerated mode and the vector of transformation of the emerging political puzzle can turn to a much unexpected direction. It is impossible, for instance, to exclude the scenario of cardinally positive improvement in the Sino-Japanese relations, which could devalue the American military-nuclear commodity in the eyes of the Japanese.
Who would have been able to admit the possibility of what is happening now in inter-Korean relations two months ago? The message from the Korean Peninsula to Washington (possibly the other “significant” capitals too) looks quite definite today: “Let’s try to solve our problems ourselves, without you. In the meantime, you can continue to fly the carrier striking forces back and forth across the Pacific Ocean with the nuclear weapons on board.” Panic at the level of hysterical reaction of the addressee to this message becomes simply indecent.
If Koreans are allowed to finish the started (however, not for the first time), it will be an example of solving problems in other elements of the above-mentioned puzzle. Only by moving on this path, we can hope that the “Nuclear Dragon” realizes that it is no longer needed a sharper wise humanity.
So, question for the need of documents like NPR-2018 is no longer relevant.
Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”