Putin Afraid US Has Forgotten What Mutually Assured Destruction Means

Putin, Trump, and the Nuclear Danger


Yves here. This Real News Network interview with MIT’s Theodore Postol (the second part of a series) discusses some of the history in the fraught relationship between Russia and the US which spurred Putin to invest heavily in technologies that could circumvent some of our core weapons platforms.

AARON MATÉ: It’s The Real News. I’m Aaron Maté. This is part two of my conversation with Theodore Postol, Professor of Science, Technology and National Security Policy at MIT. We’re talking about Russian president Vladimir Putin’s recent speech where he announced upgrades to his country’s nuclear arsenal, calling it a response to the US withdrawal from the ABM treaty in 2002, as well as the recent Nuclear Posture Review issued by President Trump. I want to go to one more clip from his speech where he’s reacting to Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review which lowered the threshold for nuclear use by the US, and this is what Putin said.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Translator): Several points of the renewed US nuclear strategy which lower the threshold of using nuclear weapons provokes great concern. You can reassure anyone in any way behind the scenes, but if we read what is written and what is written is that it can be launched in response to an attack with conventional weapons or even a cyber threat.

AARON MATÉ: So, that’s President Putin speaking last week. Professor Postol, so he’s talking there about this lowered threshold under Trump’s review which called for the authorizing the use of nuclear weapons even in response to a non-nuclear, non-military attack like a cyber attack, like if vital US infrastructure is hacked and damaged, the Trump review would authorize nuclear weapons in response to that. As we wrap, Professor Postol, your thoughts on this move by the Trump administration, and overall, where you think this nuclear competition is going under Trump in the aftermath now of Putin’s speech.

THEODORE POSTOL: Well, I think this competition has been in place, in fact, as Putin said it, certainly since 2004. He actually signals 2004 as a time where there was a decision made in Russia that you couldn’t talk to the Americans and we’re just going to have to go ahead and build some weapons to make it clear to them that there’s no possible advantage they can gain from missile defenses. He made that pretty clear in his speech. And the issue of using low yield nuclear warheads in conventional military situations or in response to a cyber attack, first of all, I don’t know how you would know where the cyber attack came from. I think when you look carefully at the issues associated with cyber attacks, it’s so easy to conceal the true perpetrator, the identity of the true perpetrator. It would be a remarkable, remarkably reckless thing to do, to

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