Former launch officer warns Trump strategy fuels nuclear arms race

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Washington (CNN)A former nuclear launch officer is warning that President Donald Trump's nuclear weapons strategy is encouraging an arms race that could increase the chances of a catastrophic nuclear war.

He argues that the Pentagon should instead adopt a "deterrence-only" approach that phases out land-based missile systems that have served as one leg of the nuclear triad for decades.
In a new report released on Tuesday, Global Zero's Dr. Bruce Blair, a former Air Force launch control officer who's a nuclear security expert at Princeton University, argues that the United States' nuclear stance is a "vestige of the Cold War" that creates instability with an unnecessarily hefty price tag.
    His proposal is intended to reshape the Pentagon's thinking on nuclear weapons by promoting a "deterrence-only" strategy that supplements sweeping cuts to the US nuclear force with additional options involving conventional weapons that he says are better suited to hit specific targets.
    "This alternate nuclear posture review is the first and only analysis in the public domain that uses credible estimates of existing US war plan target requirements and goes on to define the forces needed to meet them, and thus it challenges the Pentagon on its own terms," Blair told CNN.
    "It starts from the same place as Pentagon officials and nuclear war planners, offering a different perspective -- one that questions the foundation of nuclear planning. The US shouldn't base decisions on a strategy of nuclear war fighting, it should make decisions based on a deterrence-only role for the nuclear arsenal," he said.
    The report also dissects what Blair characterizes as the US nuclear posture's "Achilles' heel" -- the system's communication network.
    "Having the ability to absorb an attack and retaliate is the essence of deterrence, and yet the United States has failed to ensure presidential survival and robust communications—both vital to executing a retaliatory attack," the report said.
    The Pentagon's Nuclear Posture Review released in February focuses primarily on countering threats posed by Russia, and military officials are adamant their plan walks the line between maintaining a nuclear deterrence and encouraging controls on nuclear weapons.
    "It reaffirms that the fundamental role of US nuclear policy is deterrence and continues our clear commitment to nonproliferation and arms control," said Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
    However, Blair argues that the Trump administration's nuclear posture "promotes a nuclear arms race."
    "The Trump administration's nuclear posture goes beyond legitimate goals of credible national security, and actually promotes a nuclear arms race and nuclear war fighting," he added.
    Blair said some of the Pentagon's nuclear strategies are "dangerous" and contain unnecessary redundancies that may increase the chances of a full-scale nuclear conflict.
    Mattis and Dunford call for classified nuclear changes