The Pentagon says it is deploying long-range missiles armed with low-yield nuclear warheads of reduced destructive power in response to Russia testing similar weapons.
A U.S. Defense Department statement issued Tuesday asserted it will increase the security of the United States.
According to the statement, the ‘low-yield’ weapon, known as the W76-2, will “address the conclusion that potential adversaries, like Russia, believe that employment of low-yield nuclear weapons will give them an advantage over the United States and its allies and partners.”
This debut deployment of the weapon on long-range submarines comes during a reassessment of the U.S.-Russia strategic relationship. It is unclear whether the Trump administration will accept Moscow’s offer to extend the New START arms control treaty before it expires next February.
Russia also is believed to have a supply of “tactical” nuclear weapons that are less destructive than American weapons, inciting fears the W76-2 will increase the possibility of a nuclear conflict because it lowers the threshold of the use of nuclear weapons and might represent a miscalculation of Russia’s intentions.
It is suspected that Russia’s focus has shifted to non-nuclear means, such as undermining Western cybersecurity.
“I maintain that this is one weapon that will not add to our national security but would only increase the risk of miscalculation with dire consequences,” Democratic U.S. Senator Jack Reed said in a Senate floor speech in December.
VOA National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.