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Nuclear Doctrine

Nuclear Deterrence
Nuclear deterrence aims to prevent unwanted action by an opponent by convincing them that the resultant costs would exceed any gains. In short, the costs would involve massive destruction

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from a nuclear strike.

Nuclear deterrence involves several paradoxes. For example, the threat of use of nuclear weapons is supposed to prevent war, including the use of nuclear weapons. But to be credible,

the deterring state must demonstrate a readiness to use nuclear weapons, which increases the probability of such use, particularly over a long period of time. Thus, nuclear deterrence is an inherently unstable policy.

Nuclear deterrence has evolved from the simple threat of massive retaliation to a range of forms. It includes: counter-force; the threat of nuclear retaliation against military targets, counter-value; the threat of nuclear retaliation against the opposing state in general, flexible response; the deployment of sub-strategic or tactical weapons for battlefield use or for use as an interim step prior to massive retaliation; first-strike; the use of nuclear weapons in response to a conventional attack or to pre-emptively destroy the weapons of an opponent, extended deterrence; the extension of nuclear deterrence to cover the territories of non-nuclear allies, existential deterrence; the ability to develop nuclear weapons without actual deployment.

See: The Naked Nuclear Emperor: Debunking Nuclear Deterrence, Commander Robert Green, Royal Navy (ret), Disarmament and Security Centre, Christchurch, 2000. www.disarmsecure.org

United States

In April 2010, the US Administration completed a Nuclear Poster Review. The NPR continues many policies outline in the 2002 NPR and the 1996 US Joint Chiefs of Staff Doctrine for Joint Theater Nuclear Operations. Key points in the document included:

Reducing the role and numbers of US nuclear weapons
Maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent will reassure non-nuclear allies of the US security commitment
Nuclear modernization
Promoting strategic stability with Russia and China
Stable deterrence can be maintained while reducing US strategic delivery vehicles
Us will not conduct nuclear testing and will pursue ratification and entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

In January 2002, the US Administration completed a Nuclear Posture Review. In many respects the NPR continues policies outlined in more detail in the 1996 US Joint Chiefs of Staff Doctrine for Joint Theater Nuclear Operations. Key points in the document included:
A strong US nuclear capability is necessary to deter aggression
Nuclear weapons could be used for political or military reasons
Nuclear weapons are not just to deter a nuclear strike, but have a role in deterring, or pre-emptively destroying, any weapons of mass destruction.
The US requires a wide range of nuclear systems tailored for a variety of military and political objectives.

The 1996 Doctrine includes detailed plans for nuclear strikes and describes targets for such strikes including: WMD, their delivery systems and support units; ground combat units; air defense facilties; naval installations and vessels; on-state actors that possess WMD; and underground facilties. In order to be capable of delivering such strikes at a moment's notice, the US maintains over 2000 nuclear weapons on high alert status.

In May 2001, US President George Bush outlined "new concepts of deterrence that rely on both offensive and defensive forces." The new policy was an admission that nuclear deterrence was not infallible, but the solution was not to abandon the current nuclear policy but supplement it with missile defence and conventional forces. The 2002 Nuclear Policy Review confirmed this "New Triad" of capabilities, as well as the intention of the US to modernise nuclear delivery systems and maintain a strong nuclear stockpile indefinitely. Thus the contradiction between US policy and its NPT commitments remains.

See: Policy Statements Contradicting Article VI of the NPT, John Burroughs, April, 2000. www.lcnp.org
US Nuclear Doctrine www.fas.org/nuke/guide/usa/doctrine
Nuclear Posture Review, http://www.ucsusa.org/global_security/nuclear_weapons/page.cfm?pageID=623

In January 2000, the Russian Government released its new nuclear policy in a document entitled Concept of National Security. The document updates policy statements made in 1993 and 1997, and indicates a heightened sense of conflict with NATO and the US on nuclear issues, and an increased reliance on nuclear weapons. It affirms a strengthened Russian policy for the use of nuclear weapons, not only in response to a nuclear attack, but also to a conventional attack.

Cooperation between the US and Russia, including the Cooperative Threat Reduction Programs to secure Russian nuclear weapons and fissile materials, have come under strain in the wake of NATO expansion, the NATO attacks on Serbia and the decision by the US to move ahead with National Missile Defense. Russia no longer maintains a 'no-first-use' policy, and is considering re-deployment of tactical nuclear weapons. The Russian Duma (Parliament) ratified START II on the basis that the ABM Treaty be maintained. Thus US plans to withdraw from the ABM are prompting Russia to maintain a number of START II missiles, and possibly even increase the numbers of warheads on some of them.

See: Russian / Soviet Doctrine http://fas.org/nuke/guide/russia/doctrine/
Russia's Strategic Priorities, Celeste A. Wallander, Arms Control Today, Jan/Feb 2002


At the NATO Summit in Lisbon in 2010, NATO’s leaders decided to build a ballistic missile defense capability for NATO-Europe with the goal of protecting its populations and territory. All Interim Capability Step 2 components were successfully linked, tested, and handed over to NATO’s military commanders. When completed, the Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defense capability (ALTBMD) will be able to protect NATO forces from short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.
The US deploys tactical nuclear weapons in seven NATO countries (Greece, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, UK, Netherlands), and has agreements wit these countries allowing them to take control of the weapons and use them in a state of war. These agreements are somewhat controversial with some NPT members claiming they are in violation of NPT Articles I and II.

NATO policy, like that of the US, UK, France and Russia, allows for the possible 'first-use' of nuclear weapons. In the 1980s NATO Military Command maintained detailed plans for the use of nuclear weapons in specific scenarios. However, in recent years it has developed "adaptive targeting capability" designed to allow NATO commanders to develop target plans and nuclear weapons employment plans on short notice.

NATO reliance on nuclear weapons was reaffirmed in the 1999 Strategic Concept released on NATO's 50th anniversary. Attempts by Canada, Germany and the Netherlands to initiate a wide debate on NATO nuclear doctrine were rebuffed by the US, UK and France. However, they did agree to an ongoing review of NATO nuclear policy.

See: Martin Butcher NATO Nuclear Policy: Between Disarmament and Pre-Emptive Nuclear Use, Nuclear Futures Series, BASIC, 1999. www.basicint.org
NATO Notes. Centre for European Security and Disarmament www.cesd.org

United Kingdom

In July 1998 Britain's Labour government announced several changes to its nuclear forces following a Strategic Defense and the UK Trident program was put into place.

Only one British submarine will patrol at any given time carrying 48 warheads. The submarine will patrol at a reduced state of alert - capable of firing its missiles within several days instead of within several minutes. Britain will maintain fewer than 200 operationally available warheads.

In addition, the United Kingdom has supported the concept of multi-lateral negotiations leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons, but says that such negotiations cannot start until the nuclear stockpiles of the US and Russia are reduced commensurate to the stockpiles of the other NPT NWS.

In preparation for nuclear disarmament negotiations, the Defence Department conducted a feasibility study on verification of the elimination of nuclear weapons.

See: British Nuclear Policy http://www.basicint.org/nuclear/UK_Policy/main.htm
Confidence, Security and Verification. Aldermaston Weapons Establishment, 2000. www.awe.co.uk

China joined the "nuclear club" in 1964 with a nuclear test at Lop Nor. At the same time China announced a 'no-first-use' policy. It joined the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1984 and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1992. In comparison to Russia and the USA, China maintains a limited nuclear capability, emphasising the deterrent effect of retaliation rather than flexible use strategies. However, US development of ABM systems are perceived by China to be eroding the retaliation capabilities and thus the deterrence value of their nuclear arsenal. In response, China may increase its arsenal. China has opposed NMD and called for negotiations to prevent an arms race in outer space. It has a policy of nuclear disarmament, and supports negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention, but calls on the US and Russia to bring their stockpiles down to numbers commensurate with those of the other nuclear powers as the first step.

See: Chinese Nuclear Doctrine Savita Pande, Research Fellow, IDSA

On February 13, 1960, France became the fourth country to test a nuclear device by detonating its first atomic bomb in Reggane (Sahara). The decision to go nuclear was prompted by WWII experience of occupation by Germany and the differences with allies post World War II, especially in the Suez Canal crisis. Since then, nuclear weapons have been integral to France's international political status as well as to military doctrine. At the International Court of Justice hearing on nuclear weapons, France argued that it had a special right and duty, as a responsible nuclear weapon state, to maintain nuclear weapons for the purpose of international peace and security.

France has developed both tactical and strategic weapons. However, the military purpose for its tactical weapons is to serve primarily as warning shots in a strategic conflict and not as battlefield weapons.

The most comprehensive statement on French nuclear doctrine was contained in the 1994 Livre Blanc (White Paper) on Defence. It re-affirmed existing doctrine on the possible threat or use of nuclear weapons in international or regional conflicts, but did not adopt the US doctrine of counter-proliferation roles for nuclear weapons.

President Hollane's February 2015 speech on Nuclear Deterrence

See: French Nuclear Policy After the Cold War, Camille Grand,Associate Lecturer, Paris http://www.idsa-india.org/

In 1998 India openly tested nuclear weapons and declared that it had achieved a nuclear capability. It had been widely suspected that India had an undisclosed nuclear capability since the early 1970s. The decision to openly declare nuclear capability has been attributed to a combination of reasons including domestic popularity, an attempt to gain greater international consideration and frustration at the lack of progress towards nuclear disarmament by the nuclear weapon states.

The government followed its tests with policy announcements including the report on "Indian nuclear doctrine" released by India's National Security Advisory Board in August 1999. These hold that:
India would not be the first to use nuclear weapons and would be willing to enter into negotiations on a treaty on non use of nuclear weapons;
India supports negotiations on a nuclear weapons abolition convention;
India supports the inclusion of the threat or use of nuclear weapons as a crime in the Statute of the International Criminal Court.

India had initially proposed negotiations for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, but in 1996 opposed its conclusion on the grounds that it allowed sub-critical explosions and other high-tech nuclear weapons experiments and was no longer a step towards nuclear disarmament.

See: http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/MONITOR/ISSUE2-6/hobbes.html

Pakistan is believed to have been developing a nuclear capability since the early 1970s. In May 1998, Pakistan responded to India's nuclear tests by testing a series of nuclear weapons and declaring itself a nuclear weapon power. Pakistan's quest for a nuclear deterrent has been motivated principally by fears of domination by India. The ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir has further fueled this fear, and provided an unstable environment which makes the deployment of nuclear weapons in the region extremely dangerous.

Pakistan, like India, has supported comprehensive disarmament proposals at the United Nations and Conference on Disarmament, but did not join the CTBT for similar reasons as India. Pakistan has proposed a number of bilateral or regional initiatives which India has not supported. These include a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in South Asia and joining the NPT. India opposes these on the grounds that they do not address the nuclear threat India faces from China and the other NWS. Pakistan and India have concluded a number of bilateral confidence building measures including a hot-line agreement and an agreement not to attack each other's nuclear power facilities.

Both India and Pakistan have developed missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

See: Pakistan's Nuclear Descent, Zia Mian http://www.inesap.org/bulletin16/bul16art03.htm

Israel does not officially acknowledge that it has nuclear weapons but is believed to have been developing a nuclear weapons program since the mid 1950s, with technical support from France and possibly the US. In October 1986, the Sunday Times published details of Israel's undeclared nuclear programme, based on information and photographs supplied by Mordechai Vanunu, who had worked as a nuclear technician at Israel's secret Dimona complex.

Israel's nuclear policy is related to its relationships with its Arab neighbours. It includes policies of deterrence to prevent conventional attacks or those with weapons of mass destruction, as well as the "Samson option" of nuclear use following outbreak of war in order to ensure the survival of the state.

Israel has joined the CTBT but not the NPT. It is not opposed to negotiations on nuclear disarmament, but links its participation to these with progress on peace in the Middle East.
Israel also has concerns about verification provisions of arms control treaties, believing that these can be too intrusive and detrimental to intelligence security particularly in geographically small states.

Prepared by Alyn Ware, coordinator of the Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament, a project of the Middle Powers Initiative.