Recently the USS Tennessee began patrolling the Atlantic whilst armed with low yield nuclear warheads known as the W76-2, fastened upon Trident ballistic missiles, aimed at Russia. It is almost certain that other US Navy missile boats have the same weapon systems on board and can be found inside the Pacific too, aimed at China.
As expected, the Pentagon was quite proud: Secretary of Defence Mark Esper,
“Low-yield nuclear weapons give the president options. We always want to give options. Options allow us to deter conflict, at the end of the day we want to deter conflict. But if necessary we want to be able to fight and win.”
The Russians were less than amused: Sergei Ryabkov, Deputy Foreign Minister:
“The US is actually lowering the nuclear threshold and conceding the possibility of waging a limited nuclear war and winning this war… this is extremely alarming.”
Yes, it is. The problem here is exactly what Esper stated and probably not even realized it. A low yield nuke gives the US President the option to use it against whoever is designated as America’s latest enemy. The President really should never have such an option, ever. It is only human nature to use a weapon if you have it available. Therefore, the Russian view is correct. The low yield warhead lowers the nuclear threshold to where stupidity will takeover.
The question is what will the consequences be of a low yield nuclear strike? Let us look at the thinking behind the bomb. Within weeks of World War Two ending with the USAAF August 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, the Pentagon was demanding a minimum 123 atomic bombs and preferably 466. The purpose for this desire, to bomb 66 Soviet cities. The Soviets knew about that too. It made them pull all stops to become the owners of nuclear weapons. The Pentagon’s war mongrel demand ensured that all the major powers have nuclear weapons pointing at each other since 1949. The world was on an edge called the First Cold War. Since then, the UK, France, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, North Korea and (formerly) South Africa, all got nuclear bombs. As a footnote, the South African nuclear weapons were dismantled and handed over to the USA in the early 1990s to prevent the new black government from getting them (the Mandela government would not have wanted nukes anyway). See Code Name Angel for a history on South African nukes if interested. The South African nukes were not, repeat not, copies of the Israeli ones. Of course, as warned many times in my books, South Africa still has the knowledge to re-manufacture nukes whenever it pleases to do so and to deliver them accurately. Somehow that point is not remembered by "Western Experts."
Of all the nuclear armed countries only the USA is not committed to a non-first-strike or first use of nuclear weapons. The rest all declared that they will launch only after detecting a strike on themselves. They understand the danger. They understand that a nuclear strike will lead to hundreds of millions of dead. In fact, it will be the end of this planet as we know it. Nukes under formal government control will not easily be used since there will be a counter strike that will bring forth mutually assured destruction (MAD Principle, Mutually Assured Destruction). Thus the weapons keep peace between major powers. Such countries will respond with every nuclear weapon they have and Russia has more powerful ones than the USA (see American Military Might – Debunked). A low yield strike will never be contained to the battlefield. The launching country, that is the US mainland as things stand now, will be destroyed. Vladimir Putin, Russian President: “We would be victims of aggression and would get to Heavens as martyrs, while those who would launch the strike would just die and not even have time to repent.” The highly respected Federation of American Scientists stated that “although the nuclear weapon has been touted as a deterrent to Russian battlefield nukes, it’s actually much more likely that the new low-yield weapon is intended to facilitate first-use of nuclear weapons against North Korea or Iran amid an increasingly assertive US nuclear posture.”
But note that the MAD Principle will not work with terrorists that do not have a country to be destroyed and don’t care anyway. See Code Name Caribbean where we dealt with maritime terrorism and especially the danger that large LNG ships bring – 55 times the Hiroshima bomb if an LNG ship explodes. Have no doubts, a terrorist will use a nuke against US cities (US includes any NATO country). It is the ultimate terrorism act. They dream of that day.
Low yield does not mean low power – the W76-2 nuclear warhead delivers between 5,000 to 6,000 tons of conventional explosives. There will also be the radiation fallout afterward. I don’t believe that such a weapon should exist in any arsenal but they do. The difference is the actual deployment of them where they can be used within minutes. The temptation to use them will be too high to resist. Somewhere down the line the use will be authorized. The consequences will be too high for the White House to spin away. The weapon should be dismantled and kept in a warehouse under armed guard if not destroyed.