US nuclear weapons test in Nevada in 1957InternationalIndiaAfricaEarlier this week, Pentagon released nuclear posture, which suggests that the US doesn’t rule out use of the nuclear arsenal against non-nuclear threats – which contradicts previous pledges by the Biden administration.Scott Ritter, a military analyst and former US Marine Corps intelligence officer, explained Sputnik why Washington adopted new nuclear policies and what do they mean for regular Americans. Sputnik: Why are Russia and Сhina to be blamed for the Biden’s administration failure to reduce nuclear weapons?Scott Ritter: We have to look for somebody to blame. We can’t blame ourselves. That’s normally what happens. But we are solely to blame. President Biden ran on a platform that said that he would be seeking what’s called the single-use policy for nuclear deterrence. And what that means is its a single-purpose policy. And the single purpose would be that the sole purpose of the US nuclear weapons arsenal is deterrence. And that’s it; that we would never use nuclear weapons under any circumstance other than to respond to somebody using nuclear weapons against us; that we are here to deter a nuclear attack on the United States.He’s broken that promise. The strategy that he has propagated recently is a strategy that continues the past practice of having deliberate ambiguity about the conditions and circumstances under which America could use nuclear weapons, up to and including a pre-emptive nuclear attack by the United States in response to a non-nuclear incident.© AP Photo / Evan VucciPresident Joe Biden boards Air Force One for a trip to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.President Joe Biden boards Air Force One for a trip to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.Basically, the United States is holding the world hostage to its nuclear arsenal, saying that we reserve the right to use nuclear weapons any time we determine under any circumstances so that we have a broader definition of deterrence, meaning that we are deterring. But what are we deterring? You see, with a sole purpose declaration, we’re deterring a nuclear attack against us. But the current nuclear strategy is to deter something that is ambiguous in nature, meaning we haven’t precisely spelled it out. We’re leaving the world guessing. And what we’re saying is, don’t mess with us, or else we’ll nuke you.This has nothing to do with China and Russia. China and Russia have nuclear weapons arsenals. Which would be covered under the sole purpose doctrine. But this is about blackmailing the world. But we can’t tell the world that we’re blackmailing it. We have to blame it on China and Russia. But there’s no linkage whatsoever between the nuclear posture, as published by the Biden administration, and the nuclear arsenals of China and Russia. If that was it, then we’d have a bold purpose doctrine.
Sputnik: What’s the reason for the West to escalate the nuclear rhetoric?
Scott Ritter: That’s a separate question, separate from the issue of the nuclear posture in the National Security Strategy. We have a current situation right now where Ukraine is losing this conflict. The West is recognizing that ultimately Ukraine will lose this conflict and that there’s nothing they can do to forestall this defeat. And so what they’ve done is they have created in terms of an information warfare, propaganda driven exercise, the threat of a Russian nuclear strike against Ukraine. It makes no sense. I think Vladimir Putin addressed this in his presentation to the Valdai conference, that it makes no sense whatsoever to talk about a Russian nuclear weapon used in Ukraine. There’s no reason for this. It’s not part of their doctrine. It isn’t going to happen.But this isn’t about reality. This is about shaping perception. And so that’s where this nuclear crisis is coming from today – talks of a dirty bomb, talks of a Russian pre-emptive nuclear strike, President Zelensky begging NATO to carry out their own pre-emptive nuclear strikes against Russia, NATO holding an annual exercise that trains the use of the very weapons President Zelensky asked NATO to use against Russia. NATO should have cancelled that exercise or at least postponed it to a later date, but they didn’t. Russia has now responded with its own strategic nuclear exercise. Again, an annual exercise, this one testing not tactical nuclear weapons, but strategic nuclear weapons.CC0 / / Nuclear mushroomNuclear mushroomAnd people are trying to make a linkage between all of this. There isn’t. But this is where the heightened rhetoric and the heightened threat and the heightened crisis comes from. This is independent from the publication of the National Security Strategy. The National Security Strategy isn’t designed to do anything different than what past national security strategies have done, which is to put the world on notice that the United States has a nuclear weapons arsenal, that it will use any time it determines, whether or not the threat is nuclear in nature. We’re holding the world hostage, but we’ve been holding the world hostage for decades.Sputnik: In the 2022 NPR, the Pentagon refuses to back away from the possibility of using nuclear weapons in response to “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks” – what were the reasons to obliterate main agreements in the sphere of strategic security?Scott Ritter: This is not a new position by the Pentagon. This is actually a posture that emerged during the presidency of George W. Bush. That was the first time that this notion that we would use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear threat emerged.The Obama administration talked about walking away from that, but it’s very difficult for presidents to disentangle their desires from the pressures of the establishment. And when we’re dealing with nuclear weapons and the issue of nuclear deterrence, the establishment is extraordinarily powerful because they can always say that you’re weakening. You can tell a president that you’re weakening America, you’re putting American lives at risk.There’s an old saying in the military: when you’re explaining, you’re losing. You may have all the facts on your side. You may be right. But if you’re standing in front of somebody explaining something you’ve already lost because people don’t want to listen to complicated arguments, no matter how well-intended and factually-based they are. People want simple arguments that are seen as addressing fundamental issues.And so the establishment defines the problem as the world possesses a multitude of threats that can bring harm to the American people, and that nuclear weapons enable us to deter these threats and to deter not just a nuclear attack, but a chemical weapons attack, a biological weapons attack, a cyber attack against our infrastructure, a non-nuclear conventional strike that threatens national command and control.We can define any level of threat, sell these threats to the American people, and then the American people will say, well, then what are you doing to protect us? And the answer is, we have the nuclear deterrent. Nobody will do this because we can respond with nuclear weapons.© AP Photo / Mark SchiefelbeinChinese military vehicles carrying DF-41 ballistic missiles roll during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019Chinese military vehicles carrying DF-41 ballistic missiles roll during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019That’s just a fundamentally stupid approach. But when you’re explaining, you’re losing. And on this issue, Joe Biden and other presidents have found that they, even Barack Obama, was unable to implement changes in the nuclear posture because to do so would require them to explain to the American people why they’re getting rid of the very nuclear umbrella that protects us from all of these threats that have been articulated by the establishment.You can’t come out and say those aren’t threats because what American is willing to take the risk? You say, yes, we’re going to jump on this nuclear disarmament bandwagon and we’re just going to trust that these threats really don’t exist. Or are they going to say, we can’t take the risk because these threats don’t exist, therefore, we need this nuclear umbrella to protect us. It’s very difficult for a politician to go against the stream on this.Sputnik: How much would it cost for the US economy to “catch up and overtake” in the nuclear race?Scott Ritter: It’s a false premise that we can catch up and overtake. First of all, let’s just break that down a little bit. Catching up means that the opponent has the initiative, because we’re the ones catching up. So as we catch up, all the opponent has to do is get further ahead. And then we have to catch up. They get further ahead, and this is an endless cycle. We will never catch up unless the opponent stops seeking to get ahead. This is why arms control is so important, because arms control will create a ceiling for development. And then we can begin to work on the process of reductions. That’s why we couldn’t have had a strategic arms reduction treaty without first having a Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty.Anybody who thinks that we can produce our way out of this problem doesn’t understand history. We’ve already tried that once. It doesn’t work. Every time we come up with something, the Russians and the Chinese will come up with something in response to that. We have to respond to that and it’s an endless cycle. So, I reject the logic behind that concept. Not only will it never work, but we can’t afford it. Right now, we’re speaking of a modernization program for our ground launched ballistic missile deterrent, for our submarine launched ballistic missiles and for our strategic bombers. The total cost of this over the course of the next decade could very well be over a trillion dollars. And that’s without even reflecting on the concept of catching up.© ALEXEI DRUZHININRussian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for a photograph during their meeting in Beijing, on February 4, 2022.Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for a photograph during their meeting in Beijing, on February 4, 2022.You see, all of the weapons systems that we’re talking about, a new generation of ballistic missiles, a new submarine with new missiles, a new bomber, are designed to deal with the Russian and Chinese threat as it currently exists or as it existed even five years ago, ten years ago.Russia has a whole new generation of weapons which far outperform anything we’re talking about building. Right off the bat, we either have to modify our current strategic posture modernization programs – that costs a lot of money, or we build these but understand that we’re going to have to build a new generation right after this. That costs even more money.
We’re talking trillions of dollars at a time when the American economy is under attack. The taxpayers can’t afford this. You have Americans talking about, we need a trillion dollars to forgive student loans. That has a greater impact on the American public at a time when these proponents of this nuclear posture are talking about spending upwards of a trillion dollars to build weapons that will never achieve what they are intended to achieve. We need to understand right off the bat that we can’t use nuclear weapons. They can never be used.That’s sort of the going-in premise that the five acknowledged nuclear powers came to earlier this year: because a nuclear war can’t be won, nuclear weapons can never be used.And yet we put forward a policy that says, no, we need to build newer nuclear weapons, we need to modernize, we need to do X, we need to do Y. Why? We can never use these weapons, but why are we building them as if they are a viable tool? This is why disarmament is so much better, so much more logical, and ultimately has a more humanitarian basis and national security basis than the continued pursuit of a so-called nuclear deterrent. Disarmament is the only thing that will save mankind. Continuing to pursue a nuclear deterrent could very well be the end of mankind.