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Biden moves to cancel Trump nuclear cruise missile program

The Biden administration has affirmed its intention to scrap a Trump -era nuclear cruise missile program as well as other parts of the Trump administration’s nuclear weapons policy.
The federal government’s Nuclear Posture Review , released on Thursday, changed several aspects of Trump’s, mainly shifting U.S. nuclear capabilities to focus on strategic rather than tactical weapons. Perhaps the more significant change was the planned cancellation of the nuclear sea-launched cruise missile program, or SLCM-N, which had been a focus of the Trump administration. However, despite the administration’s announcement, the changes are unlikely to be realized due to opposition from bipartisan lawmakers and the military, experts told the Washington Examiner.
The new nuclear posture aims to “adopt a strategy and declaratory policy that maintain a very high bar for nuclear employment while assuring Allies and partners, and complicating adversary decision calculus,” the review says.
The NPR drew heavy criticism from disarmament advocates who see it as not doing enough and national security experts who review it as weakening the United States’s global standing.
Marshall Bilingslea, a former special presidential envoy for arms control at the State Department under the Trump administration and an Vandenberg Coalition advisory board member, spoke with the Washington Examiner about the effects Biden’s plan may have.
First, Bilingslea stressed that Biden’s NPR almost certainly won’t be implemented, as the SLCM-N has bipartisan support in Congress and is seen as essential by the military. He believes that the neglect of U.S. tactical nuclear arms capabilities is a major mistake but that particularly the planned scrapping of the SLCM-N would spell disaster.
“Scrapping the nuclear tomahawk was a bad idea under Obama administration, and just as bad an idea with President Biden’s efforts to kill its replacement capability,” he said.
Russia has several thousand short-range tactical nuclear weapons, while the U.S. only has a few hundred — a number that would be further reduced if Biden’s NPR were put in place. Bilingslea explained that the SLCM-N is conspired essential by military leaders because it serves as a very important filler in a gap in the U.S.’s tactical nuclear capabilities. The quick and easy-to-launch missile would send the signal to adversaries such as Russia or China that the U.S. could match tit for tat any use of nuclear weapons, even low-yield ones.
In response to advocates who argue that making nuclear weapons smaller and easier to use leads us closer to nuclear Armageddon, Bilingslea argued that the U.S. is simply matching Russian and Chinese actions. Giving the U.S. the ability to respond proportionally to any nuclear weapons use, he argued, would serve as the best deterrence.
Speaking with the Washington Examiner, Rebecca Heinrichs, a Vandenberg Coalition Advisory Board member and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute specializing in U.S. national defense policy with a focus on strategic deterrence, echoed Bilingslea’s criticisms.
“For his entire political life, Biden has been a leading advocate for idealist goals of disarmament, arms control, and for resisting improvements to nuclear deterrence. Knowing that, it should tell us something about how real and pressing the nuclear threats are, that he wasn’t able to actually depart from US bipartisan policy on deterrence and the need to fully modernize our weapons. His NPR even made the case that the Chinese nuclear program is a serious and growing challenge. But Biden just couldn’t bring himself to back a weapon system that the last Administration determined is needed to help deter Russia from using nuclear weapons in a war of aggression,” she said.
“And the fact that Biden still opposes it while Russia is threatening the very thing the last administration and military officials warned about, and after his own military advisers told him to keep it, shows his ideological inflexibility is just that strong. Thankfully, there is bipartisan opposition to Biden’s cut. So the military and the Congress have rebuked him, and I hope they’ll fund and get the system fielded in spite of him,” Heinrichs added.
Biden’s NPR also has its defenders, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who embraced the new approach in a press conference at the Pentagon. He said it adequately addresses the threats from Russia and China mentioned in the report.
“We determined, as we looked at our inventory, that we did not need that capability. We have a lot of capability in our nuclear inventory,” Austin said, according to the Hill
While the U.S. is well aware of Russia’s extensive tactical nuclear capabilities, those of China are more ambiguous. China has produced numerous dual-use missiles that have the capability to carry a nuclear or conventional warhead, according to Bilingslea. However, U.S. analysts believe they are slowly building up their tactical nuclear capabilities.
Biden’s NPR claimed that China is likely to possess over 1,000 deliverable nuclear warheads by the end of the decade, many of them tactical.



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