Why does US need new nuclear bomb?
The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) announced that they recently formally authorized technical works to start the production of B61-12 warhead life extension program (LEP).
The first production unit (FPU) of this weapon is planned for Fiscal Year 2020, the same year the US plans to deploy the bomb at its bases in Europe. B61-12 will be more accurate and have a higher capability than the B61s, currently deployed in Europe. The radius of deviation does not exceed few meters, that is why they have already called the new bombs more "ethical", since their use will have smaller consequences for the humanity.
The Russian Foreign Ministry believes that these "improvements" will lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons and flagrantly violate the spirit and essence of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, Mikhail Ulyanov, said.
A military observer of the TASS news agency, retired Colonel Viktor Litovkin, speaking with a correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, said that, in general, due to the US military modernization, the threat for Russia stays the same as before. According to the expert, the fact that the US nuclear weapons are stored in Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Turkey is not the main problem. It is the new bombs, which can be placed on aircraft, which carry out air patrols along the Russian borders that pose the threat.
"NATO aircraft are located at the Zokniai military airfield near the city of Siauliai and in Estonia's Amari near Tallinn. F-15, F-16, Eurofighter and Tornado aircraft can deliver these atomic bomb to a target, and the distance from Siauliai to Moscow and Smolensk, or from Tallinn to St. Petersburg is 10-15 minutes. Moreover, these aircraft can get B61 nuclear gravity bombs," Litovkin noticed.
At the same time, the colonel noted that the United States directly violates the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, since these NATO aircraft are piloted by the non-nuclear weapons states. The military expert also expressed a view that the US President Barack Obama should return his Nobel Peace Prize, because he did nothing to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
Answering the question of possible Russia's response, Litovkin said that Moscow will not formally respond to American bombs. "Russia has certain tasks for its armed forces, its strategic missile forces, its tactical missiles Iskander, its long-range aircraft, including strategic aviation. I think our rocketeers and pilots have held all the US bases at gunpoint for a long time," he said.
In general, the colonel stressed that Russia has a quite advanced missile system in the Kaliningrad special district and in the Central part [of Russia]. "We have a joint defense system with Belarus. But, nonetheless, the threat of the use of tactical nuclear weapons still exists. This threat is reinforced by the fact that the US keeps its nuclear weapons on foreign soil. We deploy all our nuclear weapons on our own territory," Litovkin concluded.
The deputy director of the Institute of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a military expert Vladimir Yevseyev, believes that the replacement of nuclear weapons in Europe is posing threat to Russia, since there are no legally binding documents limiting the number or areas of installation of tactical nuclear weapons. "In these circumstances, the atomic bomb, which will be put into service in 2020 in the US, can be placed in an unlimited amount in Europe. At the same time, the bomb will be approximately four times more effective. In addition, a high targeting accuracy and, apparently, lesser destructive capacity will lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons," the expert said.
"In general, I believe that this bomb will be mainly used as a tactical nuclear weapon, but it can also become a counteracting potential. In these circumstances, the placement of such bombs can significantly increase the number of nuclear warheads, which are not covered by the contract. In addition, considering the missile defense system, which is being created by the US, as well as its significant advantage in high-precision weapons, Russia will be forced to take certain military-technical measures to counter the threat by placing such weapons on the territory of the EU," Vladimir Yevseyev believes.
Russia has capabilities to respond to the NATO nuclear modernization in Europe. "Firstly, Russia can place its operational-tactical complex Iskander. Secondly, Russia can point additional weapons at those areas where the nuclear bombs are stored," the deputy director of the Institute of the Commonwealth of Independent States said.
Answering the question of whether additional protective measures will affect the national budget, the expert noted that any respond requires funds, but Russia is not going to respond symmetrically. "Apparently, there will be redistribution of military spending within the allocated defense budget. At the same time, those systems which will be added to Russia's arsenal, will allow it to hit not only the tactical nuclear stockpiles, but also the US territory," Vladimir Yevseyev concluded.