WASHINGTON – In February, the Pentagon released a new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the first in eight years, calling for the modernization of the country’s aging nuclear arsenal, a key part of President Donald Trump’s plan to strengthen and expand the U.S. military. The 2018 NPR calls for the government to spend an estimated $1.2 trillion dollars on developing new nuclear weapons and missiles, and also rewrites the country’s nuclear doctrine in such a way that allows nuclear weapons to be used in response to a non-nuclear attack, including a cyberattack.
Although Trump has met little resistance from either party in his push to modernize the country’s nuclear weapons, there has been push-back from a handful of politicians as well as anti-war and nonproliferation advocates, resulting in the most public debate about the country’s nuclear weapons and nuclear doctrine in several decades.
Despite the long history of the nonproliferation and antiwar movements in the United States, some politicians have recently asserted that those opposed to the expansion of the nuclear arsenal, as well as the new nuclear doctrine that allows nuclear strikes in response to non-nuclear attacks, are part of a Russian influence campaign aimed at weakening the United States.
Such statements were recently made by Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX), who is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and, in 2016, received more money from American weapons manufacturers than any U.S. congressman. Earlier this month, Thornberry spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he stated:
[While] there are well-meaning, very sincere opponents to all of the things we talked about today, […] after what we’ve seen the past year or two, we better look under the hood and make sure that the Russians are not fueling our controversies in the way that we have seen them do in recent months.
I suspect we’re going to see much more sophisticated methods coming from Russia to try and influence the decisions that are required to implement this Nuclear Posture Review. So it’s a big deal.”
If you oppose us you must be under the influence
This type of language has become increasingly common in Washington, especially in attempts to paint those who oppose current government policy as tools of the Russian government. Last month, National Director of Intelligence Daniel Coates stated: “the United States is under attack” because Russia “views the 2018 midterm U.S. elections as a potential [emphasis added] target for Russian influence operations,” which would seek to “exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States.” Like Thornberry, Coates suggests that those who are against U.S. government policy – thus creating “social and political fissures” — constitute evidence of a Russian influence operation, while offering no concrete facts to support his claims.
Indeed, when asked to provide specific evidence of Russia currently funding non-proliferation and anti-war groups in an effort to challenge the 2018 NPR, Thornberry was evasive, eventually just restating, “I think we need to be much more alert than we have been on how they [Russia] are trying to influence our defense decisions.”
While this type of association between those opposed to nuclear war and the Russian government has become normalized in the U.S. political landscape, Thornberry’s statements set a troubling precedent. Any American who opposes giving Donald Trump newer, stronger and farther-reaching nuclear weapons that can be used to respond to any attack – including a “cyberattack” — will now be the target of unsubstantiated suspicion of their motives, patriotism, and commitment to their country.
Top Photo | House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, listens to testimony from U.S. Pacific Command Commander Adm. Harry Harris, Jr. during his committee’s hearing on North Korea, Wednesday, April 26, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News who has written for several news organizations in both English and Spanish; her stories have been featured on ZeroHedge, the Anti-Media, and 21st Century Wire among others. She currently lives in Southern Chile.