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Article and Statements on US Nuclear-Use Policy, March 9

On March 9, the Los Angeles Times reported that the US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), submitted to Congress on January 8, included a classified Pentagon report outlining contingency plans for the use of nuclear weapons against seven possible targets: Russia, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya and Syria. Use would be contemplated, according to the report, 1) in response to an attack using weapons of mass destruction, 2) against targets immune to destruction by conventional weapons, presumably a reference to underground facilities against which any new 'low-yield' nuclear weapons, or 'mini-nukes', could be deployed, and 3) in the words of the classified study quoted in the article, "in the event of surprising military developments". ('US works up plan for using nuclear arms', Los Angeles Times, March 9, http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-030902bombs.story; 'Secret plan outlines the unthinkable', a commentary by William M. Arkin, Los Angeles Times, March 9, http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/opinion/la-000017612mar10.story.)

The same day, the Defense Department issued the following statement: "We will not discuss the classified details of military planning or contingencies, nor will we comment on selective and misleading leaks. The Nuclear Posture Review is required by law. It is a wide-ranging analysis of the requirements of deterrence in the 21st Century. This review of the US nuclear posture is the latest in a long series of reviews since the development of nuclear weapons. It does not provide operational guidance on nuclear targeting or planning. The Department of Defense continues to plan for a broad range of contingencies and unforeseen threats to the United States and its allies. We do so in 0rder to deter such attacks in the first place. Of particular significance in the new Nuclear Posture Review is President Bush's decision to reduce operationally deployed strategic nuclear weapons by two-thirds, a decision made possible by the new strategic relationship with Russia. This administration is fashioning a more diverse set of options for deterring the threat of WMD. That is why the administration is pursuing missile defense, advanced conventional forces, and improved intelligence capabilities. A combination of offensive and defensive, and nuclear and non-nuclear capabilities is essential to meet the deterrence requirements of the 21st Century." ('Statement on Nuclear Posture Review, Department of Defense News Release, No. 113-02, March 9, http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Mar2002/b03092002_bt113-02.html.)

On March 12, Alexander Yakovenko, official spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, was asked on Russian television: "Please comment on the story in the American newspaper Los Angeles Times about US nuclear policy, including in terms of the possibility of using nuclear weapons. Has the American side given any additional explanations on that score?" Yakovenko replied: "Regrettably, we so far have no additional commentaries of the American side on that score... We have sent a letter to the US State Department asking to explain the line of Washington on this issue. The fact is that if the information set forth in the story corresponds to reality, then, as Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has said, it can cause regret and anxiety, not only in Russia, but also in the whole international community. Based on the contents of the story, one has the impression that a transformation of the approaches to using nuclear weapons is taking place in the United States. In particular, it is now recognized that they could be employed in regional conflicts, including against non-nuclear countries which have relinquished the nuclear choice. This transfers nuclear weapons from a means of deterrence to the operational military arsenal of the USA, which lowers the threshold of their application. All this, if it is really so, in the final analysis seriously weakens the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Yet Russia and the USA as some of the depositaries of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, on the contrary, should strive to strengthen, not to undermine, this major element of international security." ('Alexander Yakovenko, the Official Spokesman of Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Answers a Question from RTR's Vesti Program, March 12, 2002', Russian Foreign Ministry Transcript.)

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