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The first US Navy ballistic missile submarine carrying new low-yield nuclear warheads is now patrolling the Atlantic Ocean. Other submarines will also carry the so-called ‘usable’ nuclear weapons, alongside the usual much larger warheads.

The new W76-2 warhead, that was set out in Trump’s nuclear posture review in 2018, makes nuclear warfare more likely because it increases the circumstances in which nuclear weapons can be used.

Nuclear weapons have conventionally been promoted as a ‘deterrent’. One state’s nuclear weapons, so the argument goes, deter other states from using their nuclear weapons because both sides will bear huge costs if they are used.

Trump’s new low-yield weapons move away from this approach and the 2018 nuclear posture review increased the number of circumstances in which nuclear weapons could be used. It includes a group that ‘supports or enables terrorist efforts to obtain or employ nuclear devices’, as well as against ‘significant non-nuclear strategic attacks,’ including attacks on ‘civilian population or infrastructure’.

Kate Hudson, CND general secretary, said:

“Donald Trump famously asked a foreign policy expert in 2016, why can’t the US use nuclear weapons? This marriage of an unpredictable and belligerent president to these new so-called ‘usable’ nuclear weapons is a marriage made in hell.

“Low-yield nuclear weapons make nuclear use far more likely – and escalation to high yield nukes would be almost inevitable.”

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