Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that there will be a greater risk of nuclear conflict if the US begins to produce W76-2 warheads.
“This topic was already included in last year’s review of Washington’s policy in the nuclear sphere. Then, already, we expressed serious concern about the fact that developing such low-capacity munitions lowers the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, and, of course, increases the risk of a nuclear conflict. As we understand, this provision has been converted into practical actions. Without a doubt, this does not add security to the modern world,” the TASS news agency cites Lavrov as saying.
The Pantex nuclear weapons plant in Texas has begun assembling the first W76-2 low-capacity warheads (5-7 kiloton), which will be fitted on the US Navy’s Trident II three-stage solid fuel ballistic missiles, and deployed on submarines.
The Pentagon has 14 missile carriers which can carry up to 24 Trident II missiles. The missiles have been equipped with W76-0 warheads since the 1970s. In 2008, the decision was made to upgrade them to the 100-kiloton W76-1 warheads. The W76-2 was created on the basis of the existing block with the second stage removed.
In February 2017, US President Donald Trump said that he was displeased by Moscow’s presumed deployment of cruise missiles which contravene the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and expected Washington to grow its own nuclear arsenal.
In 2014, the US officially warned Russia that it is in breach of the INF Treaty. The Obama administration even considered denouncing the treaty, although it decided not to due to Germany’s protests and fears that it could lead to an arms race.
The primary reason for the US’s decision to possibly withdraw from the treaty was Russia’s deployment in Europe of short-range missiles capable of taking a nuclear warhead. During a meeting with the defense ministers of the NATO states, former US Defense Secretary James Mattis said that, unless Moscow changes its behavior, Washington will be forced to create an adequate counterweight to the new Russian missiles.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, nine countries – the US, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – possessed roughly 14,465 nuclear weapons. The US and Russia together account for 92% of all the world’s nuclear weapons.