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U.S. Nuclear Umbrella Extends to Allies, Partners, Defense Official Says

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Allies and partners around the world should and do take comfort in the fact that the U.S. has both the will and the means to use its nuclear weapons, if necessary, to protect them from aggression, the deputy undersecretary of defense for policy said here today.

In a speech at the Brookings Institution, David J. Trachtenberg said nuclear deterrence underwrites all diplomacy and dissuades adversaries from even the thought of employing nuclear weapons — including tactical nuclear weapons — as a means to coerce, he added.

“We continue to engage with allies and partners so they understand our commitment to extend deterrence to them,” he said.

Trachtenberg added that it was therefore no surprise to allies and partners that an emphasis of that commitment was reflected in the language of the fiscal year 2020 defense budget request, the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy, the Nuclear Posture Review and the Missile Defense Review.

An important aspect of this strategy, he said, is keeping adversaries such as Russia and China guessing whether the U.S. would ever employ its nuclear weapons. That’s why this and previous administrations have refused to countenance the promise to not use nuclear weapons as a first-strike option, Trachtenberg noted.

Important Steps Being Taken

The Defense Department has taken action to assure allies and partners through demonstration of its commitment to strengthening nuclear deterrence, he said.

As examples, Trachtenberg cited the $25 billion request in the 2020 defense budget to modernize the nuclear triad, sharing nuclear strategy and nuclear deployment capability with NATO partners and forward-deploying U.S. nuclear weapons to Europe.

He noted that the U.S. coordinates nuclear deployments with France and the United Kingdom, which also have nuclear weapons.

And finally, Trachtenberg said, throughout the Indo-Pacific region, the U.S. works closely with allies and partners who feel threatened by an increasingly belligerent China. Over the last 10 years, much more robust discussions with them have been taking place regarding U.S. commitments, he said, including extending the nuclear umbrella.

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