Russia is a military power primarily because of its large arsenal of nuclear weapons. So central are these weapons to Moscow’s foreign and defense policies that it was even willing to deploy a new long-range, land-based cruise missile in violation of the long-standing Intermediate-Range Nuclear Weapons Treaty to bolster Russian theater nuclear force capabilities. NATO and the U.S. must accept as an absolute priority the need to recreate a solid, credible and capable escalation ladder with clearly delineated and identifiable capabilities are available for each rung. The U.S. has announced plans to modernize all the legs of its nuclear triad. The U.S. also has a program underway to modernize its only tactical nuclear weapon, the B61 gravity bomb. Several NATO allies are also enhancing their capabilities to support the Alliance’s nuclear deterrent. The outlier among the major NATO allies is Germany. Germany is at risk of not being able to maintain its critical role under the nuclear sharing agreement. Germany’s nuclear-capable Tornado aircraft are rapidly approaching the end of their service lives. The only viable near-term solution is for the Luftwaffe to acquire the F-35A, some of which will be nuclear-capable. I have written more about this subject for RealClearDefense here.
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