17 April 2018
On Tuesday, April 17, 2018 the Strategic Studies Institute Islamabad (SSII) organised a ‘Public Talk’ with Ambassador Munir Akram (Pakistan’s Former Ambassador to the UN) titled “The 2018 US Nuclear Posture Review: Global and Regional Security” at Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS), Islamabad.
In her opening remarks Director General SSII, Dr. Shireen Mazari highlighted that the purpose of the talk was to highlight the new trends in the United States’ Nuclear Policy and its implications for global and regional security.
In his remarks, Ambassador Munir Akram said that the 2018 US Nuclear Posture Review’s importance should be viewed in relation to its predecessors. Though the previous reviews were focused on the retention of nuclear weapons, they were favourable for arms control and disarmament initiatives as well.
By contrast the 2018 NPR is not only a de-facto justification for the US nuclear rearmament but also justifies a number of policy goals of the country.
Ambassador Akram said that primarily the NPR endorses the US’ nuclear modernisation in face of emerging threats from Russia that includes violating of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force (INF) treaty, Russia’s nuclear doctrine envisaging use of low-yield nuclear weapons in the battlefield and first use of its strategic nuclear weapons. “ In contrast, the Russian nuclear armament increased and intensified owing to expansion of the NATO and withdrawal of the US from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty,” he added.
He further stressed that the NPR identifies China as its strategic rival and therefore endorses entire nuclear modernisation and sustenance programme of the US in response to the expansion of Chinese nuclear arsenal. However, he said that this is not a credible response owing to the disparity in their nuclear arsenal. The US’ nuclear force is much bigger than that of China.
On North Korea and Iran, Ambassador Akram said that the NPR has also targeted both these countries. The document suggested that North Korea poses a credible nuclear threat to the US. Since the country is now in possession of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) that can target mainland USA, it has become an even greater threat. Similarly, the NPR has targeted Iran’s nuclear programme as well. Trump urged his EU allies to fix Iran’s July 2015 Nuclear Agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), until May 2018 and freeze the country’s missile programme. However, Iran maintains that its missiles are capable of carrying a conventional warhead only and its missile programme is solely for defence purposes.
Akram said that the 2018 US nuclear policy commits the country to developing new nuclear weapons including Submarine Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM) and low-yield nuclear warheads for its Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) and future SLCMs. It implies that more modernization and development of weapons will take place.
He warned that the 2018 US NPR would have numerous implications for global and regional security. The Ambassador said that a new nuclear arms race would be triggered and would also increase greater likelihood of use of weapons. He stressed that the document increases the possibility of nuclear weapons attack on both nuclear weapons states and non-nuclear weapons states as the US reserves right to use nuclear weapons in response to a non-nuclear strategic attack on itself, its allies or partners. He cautioned that the NPR also raises the likelihood of preventive war and pre-emptive nuclear attacks in the future.
In his closing remarks Ambassador Akram said that although South Asia has not been mentioned in the NPR is covered in the context of non-proliferation. He mentioned that the emerging US-India strategic cooperation has implications for Pakistan. He deplored that Indian nuclear force expansion and its war-fighting doctrine (Cold Start) has never invited US or Western criticism. In her closing remarks Director General Strategic Studies Dr. Shireen Mazari said that Pakistan had increasingly become the target of US’ criticism specially in the contect of its nuclear weapon. She reiterated that Pakistan should remain wary of the US-India strategic partnership.