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This article was first published on March 9, 2022, revised and expanded on October 5, 2022
At no point since the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945, has humanity been closer to the unthinkable. All the safeguards of the Cold War era, which categorized the nuclear bomb as “a weapon of last resort”, have been scrapped.
Vladimir Putin’s statement on February 21st, 2022 was a response to US threats to use nuclear weapons on a preemptive basis against Russia, despite Joe Biden’s “reassurance” that the US would not be resorting to “A first strike” nuclear attack against an enemy of America:
“Let me [Putin] explain that U.S. strategic planning documents contain the possibility of a so-called preemptive strike against enemy missile systems. And who is the main enemy for the U.S. and NATO? We know that too. It’s Russia. In NATO documents, our country is officially and directly declared the main threat to North Atlantic security. And Ukraine will serve as a forward springboard for the strike.” (Putin Speech, February 21, 2022, emphasis added)
Last July 2021, the Biden administration launched its 2021 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) to be completed and formally announced in 2022. The 2021 NPR is to include what is described as a “nuclear declaratory policy of the United States”.
It is unlikely that the 2021 NPR will repeal the nuclear options of the Obama and Bush administrations which are largely predicated on the notion of preemptive nuclear war raised in President Putin’s speech.
The underlying US nuclear doctrine consists in portraying nuclear weapons as a means of “self defense” rather than as a “weapon of mass destruction”.
Moreover, there are powerful financial interests behind the NPR which are tied into the $1.3 trillion nuclear weapons program initiated under President Obama.
Although the Ukraine conflict has so-far been limited to conventional weapons coupled with “economic warfare”, the use of a large array of sophisticated WMDs including nuclear weapons is on the drawing board of the Pentagon.