Nuclear Battleground: Debating the US 2018 Nuclear Posture Review
Policy Briefs

Nuclear Battleground: Debating the US 2018 Nuclear Posture Review

Policy Brief No 63

The following is a summary. Click on the adjacent link to download the full brief.

This Policy Brief compares and contrasts the Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review with past reviews and its Obama predecessor. It concludes that this review offers a much harsher assessment of the security environment; it posits a more expansive role for nuclear weapons; and proposes a substantial de-emphasis on arms control.

In tone and direction, the 2018 NPR signals a nuclear environment that is more menacing and more competitive, less regulated by negotiated agreement, and marked more by modernization than by reductions in forces. It focuses too much attention on Russian threats, sees weaknesses in the US deterrence posture and believes that deterrence will be bolstered by providing the president with additional usable nuclear options. While there are continuities between this NPR and earlier ones what makes this one particularly worrying is the incumbent Commander in Chief who seeks to blur past distinctions between conventional and nuclear forces. 

About the Author

Steven Miller is Director of the International Security Program, Editor-in-Chief of the quarterly journal International Security, and also co-editor of the Belfer Center Studies in International Security. Previously, he was Senior Research Fellow at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and taught Defense and Arms Control Studies in the Department of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, where he co-chairs their Committee on International Security Studies and co-directs the Academy’s project On the Global Nuclear Future. He is co-chair of the U.S. Pugwash Committee and a member of the Council of International Pugwash.


Image: Flicker, U.S. Mission/Eric Bridiers.

Related Articles
  • What a Twitter-Happy Trump Might Mean For Nuclear Diplomacy

    What a Twitter-Happy Trump Might Mean For Nuclear Diplomacy

    1 Jan 2017 | Ramesh THAKUR

    Far from making America great again, Trump is more likely to make America grope again in the darkness of the post-nuclear age.

  • How Did We Get Here?

    How Did We Get Here?

    25 Feb 2020 | APLN

    The Hanoi Summit ultimately culminated in a failure between Trump and Kim to sign an agreement. How did we get here, and what will come next?

  • US Nuclear Weapons Launch Authority under Fire

    US Nuclear Weapons Launch Authority under Fire

    27 Sep 2021 | Angela WOODWARD

    NZIIA - APLN member Angela Woodward argues that in the dying days of President Trump’s administration, concerns that he might seek to launch a pre-emptive war – potentially nuclear - intensified.