MOSCOW — The approval of a new United States nuclear doctrine has been postponed for another month. The military had taken almost a year to prepare it. The initial wording, in which America renounces any pre-emptive strike, avowing instead to use nuclear weapons only in response to attack, was rejected by President Barack Obama.
The draft makes it clear that the emphasis is on non-nuclear weapons, including missile defense in the Persian Gulf in direct proximity to Iran. The Quadrennial Defense Review, unveiled last month, provides for the development of a new class of non-nuclear missiles capable of reaching a target anywhere in the world in less than an hour.
According to Kommersant’s sources, this type of defense system, called “Prompt Global Strike”, would be deployed on U.S. territory. Launch sites would be open to international inspectors, including those from Russia, who would be able to see that the missiles carry no nuclear warheads. As conceived by the U.S. military, such weapons would be able to deliver a massive strike on Al-Qaeda positions in Afghanistan or prevent the launch of a North Korean missile.
Pentagon supporters of this new defense system are confident that these missiles will achieve the same effect as nuclear weapons without escalating conventional warfare into a full-scale nuclear war. As a result, the U.S. administration is going to suggest a new concept of deterrence which allows states developing various kinds of weapons of mass destruction, ranging from chemical to bacteriological, to be held in check, without resorting to nuclear weapons.
But the fundamental point that President Obama must answer as he presents the final version of the doctrine is: why America needs nuclear weapons? Experts think this is far from being an idle question. Daryl Kimball, director of the Arms Control Association, says any suggestion that deterring a nuclear attack is the main objective of the U.S. nuclear arsenal signals there are also other objectives. And this, he adds, does not tally well with the speech made by President Obama in Prague a year ago where he proposed a plan for the global destruction of nuclear weapons.