The U.S. says it needs smaller nuclear weapons as a deterrence against other so-called "Great Powers".
The US Department of Defence's latest Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) argues that Washington must create a more effective nuclear deterrent, with Russian Federation and other nations holding the "misconception" that the US would not use its large-scale strategic nuclear weapons in response to nuclear aggression from other countries.
The theory goes Russian Federation expects the US wouldn't use a high-yield nuclear weapon if it detonated a smaller, low-yield nuke.
The new nuclear posture, in contrast, cites a more unstable geopolitical climate and the need to match capacity in Russian Federation and China to create more "flexible" capabilities - terminology many said could propel the US into a new arms race.
"While just having a flick through the document, one can notice that its confrontational charge and anti-Russian focus stare in the face", the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The US says Russian Federation has developed, tested and deployed an intermediate-range missile system that breaks its commitments under a 1987 treaty between Washington and the Soviet Union.
The Pentagon has released its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, adding nuclear capabilities and updating the United States' current arsenal in order to deter nuclear attacks.
Since the development of nuclear weapons, the US has never completely ruled out a first strike, but the NPR appeared to expand the circumstances in which a "first use" would be contemplated.
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"Our goal is to convince adversaries they have nothing to gain and everything to lose from the use of nuclear weapons", Jim Mattis, defence secretary, said in the review document, arguing that more usable tactical nuclear weapons would deter adversaries and raise the threshold for enemy attack.
The 2018 Nuclear Poster Review released Friday notes the USA military will use "tailored deterrence" to prevent aggression and attacks across a spectrum of adversaries.
She added the administration was blurring the line between nuclear and conventional war-fighting. Low-yield nukes would provide a proportionate method of response, forestalling a larger nuclear conflict or one with weaker weapons.
On the campaign trail and as president, Donald Trump has vowed to build up the US nuclear arsenal and has occasionally spoken flippantly about nuclear warfare.
The mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki separately issued statements protesting the USA policy shift.
North Korea has continued to pursue nuclear weapons development, and Iran retains much of the capacity needed to develop a nuclear weapon within a year of deciding to do so, according to the review. This is why we must modernize all three legs of our nuclear triad as well as our stockpile of nuclear warheads. It also criticized the practice of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation "joint nuclear missions" that allow non-nuclear weapon member states of the Alliance to take part in planning and training in the use of nuclear weapons.
Being more specific does not mean the threshold for nuclear usage is lowered. Second, "in the longer term", the administration would develop a nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile _ re-establishing a weapon that existed during the Cold War but was retired in 2011 by the Obama administration.