The Trump administration announced its new nuclear doctrine on Friday, claiming it would take a tougher stance on Russia. The NPR outlined that President Trump, just like his predecessor Barack Obama, would consider in "extreme circumstances" using nuclear weapons.
Freeman, who served as assistant secretary of state for international security affairs under President Bill Clinton, said the review appeared to prepare to release the US armed forces from weapons constraints they had kept for more than 30 years.
"These policy changes seem preparatory to withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty of 1987. This eliminated an entire class of land-based nuclear forces targeted at Western Europe and the European USSR," he said.
Pulling out of the 1987 treaty "would allow the United States to develop and deploy short and medium-range cruise missiles against China as well as against Russia," Freeman explained.
The new posture could trigger a sequence of serious consequences reducing global security, Freeman warned.
"This is therefore the first move in a return to levels of nuclear tension not seen since the height of the Cold War," he said.
The wording of the review indicated that current US policymakers would be more ready to authorize first use of nuclear weapons, even against non-nuclear armed enemies, Freeman observed.
"It is also a doubling-down on the announced willingness of the United States to be the first to use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear-armed foe," he said.
However, the increasing likelihood the United States was prepared to use a nuclear weapon was bound to provoke a wave of nuclear arming by nations that felt themselves potentially threatened by the US armed forces, making the American people far less safe, Freeman cautioned.
"In my view, it will stimulate an effort by countries that feel threatened by the United States to develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them to US soil," he said.
The NPR "thus foreshadows others taking the path North Korea has taken toward safety through the development of a credible nuclear deterrent against US attempts at regime change," he said.
Chas Freeman is a lifetime director of the Atlantic Council and served as US Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge d’affaires at the US embassies in Beijing and Bangkok. Freeman also held several senior level positions at the US Defense Department.
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