The Federation of American Scientists and Natural Resources Defense Council has published a study entitled From Counterforce to Minimal Deterrence: A New Nuclear Policy on the Path Toward Eliminating Nuclear Weapons.
It recommends abandoning the decades-old "counterforce" doctrine and replacing it with a new and much less ambitious targeting policy that the authors call "minimal deterrence."
The report posits that current nuclear doctrine is "an artifact of the Cold War that needs to be fundamentally altered" and a minimal deterrence policy should be adopted "as a transitional step on a path to zero nuclear weapons."
It says a new targeting category and policy, termed "infrastructure targeting," would focus on "a series of targets that are crucial to a nation's modern economy, for example, electrical, oil, and energy nodes, transportation hubs."
"A minimal nuclear deterrence policy and posture with infrastructure targeting does not require nuclear forces to be on alert, to be configured for preemption, or to even retaliate quickly," the study said.
The report, released last Wednesday, has so far not provoked much reaction in Russia. However, earlier today, a Russian military expert commented to the effect that any potential "retargeting" would only erode trust between Moscow and Washington.
Col. Gen. Viktor Yesin (Ret.), chief of staff of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces in 1991-93, said it would be impossible to monitor the retargeting of U.S. nuclear missiles on infrastructure in Russia.
"They [the Federation of American Scientists] have put forward the idea of retargeting nuclear warheads from densely populated areas to major elements of infrastructure. Now let them explain how we are supposed to verify this," the expert said.
He added there were no credible verification mechanisms on either side.
Yesin said he was worried that the FAS "has not proposed any cuts in defensive armaments," suggesting that "there must be a snag here."