Home » Aviation » Mattis Wants Sub-Launched Nuclear Cruise Missile to Curb Russia  

Mattis Wants Sub-Launched Nuclear Cruise Missile to Curb Russia  

Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva testify on the National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review to the House Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill, Feb. 6, 2018. DoD Photo

The Pentagon’s plan to deploy a new sea-launched nuclear cruise missile is envisioned as a way to force Russia back into compliance with a decades-old arms control treaty, Defense Secretary James Mattis said Tuesday.

The idea is “to keep our negotiators negotiating from a position of strength,” Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee in his first public remarks on the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, which was released last Friday. The report unveiled plans for two new nuclear weapons: a sea-launched cruise missile and a so-called “low yield” ballistic missile.

At issue are Russian violations of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, which banned the development of ground-based cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers The Obama administration first accused Moscow of violating the pact in 2014, a charge the Trump administration has picked up. Russia denies violating the treaty, and accuses the United States of also undermining the pact.

“I don’t think the Russians would be willing to give up something to gain nothing from us,” Mattis said, adding that if Russia came back into compliance with the treaty, the United States would consider halting work on the cruise missile.

But the Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review actually goes much further than Mattis’ suggestion, stating that “if Russia returns to compliance with its arms control obligations, reduces its non-strategic nuclear arsenal, and corrects its other destabilizing behaviors, the United States may reconsider the pursuit of a [sea-launched cruise missile.]”

Pressed by lawmakers over whether the United States actually needed new nuclear capabilities, and why existing lower-yield gravity bombs delivered by strategic bombers wouldn’t be enough to deter nuclear powers like Russia, China and North Korea, Mattis admitted that he does not believe there is any such thing as a “tactical” nuclear weapon.

“Any nuclear weapons used at any time is a strategic game-changer,” he said, but low-yield weapons fit into an emerging deterrence model that seeks to match Russian doctrine to “escalate to de-escalate.”

The Ohio-class fleet ballistic-missile submarine USS Maryland (SSBN-738) off the coast of Florida on Sept. 31, 2016. US Navy Photo

Russian doctrine has long held that the use of smaller nuclear weapons would be permitted against non-nuclear threats, something that has alarmed western military commanders who charge Moscow maintains a lower threshold for the use of nuclear weapons than the United States and NATO. Mattis insisted the proposed new U.S. nuclear weapons wouldn’t lower the threshold for their use by American commanders.

Even before calling for the creation of these new nuclear capabilities, the Pentagon was planning on spending at least $1.2 trillion on modernizing its nuclear forces over the next three decades. But planners aren’t sure how they are going to pay for the existing plan, much less the new nukes.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon last week, Greg Weaver, deputy director for strategic stability on the Joint Staff J5, said “we don’t know what that would cost because we don’t know how we’re going to do it yet. Specifically, you can’t cost it out until you know the approach you’re taking technically and the cost of operations, etc. And that’s all going to go through our normal process. “

Where that money is going to come from is a significant problem. Congress has been unable to provide a consistent budget for the federal government, and the Defense Department has long complained that it cannot embark on long-term modernization projects without a consistent and reliable funding stream.

Mattis also pulled no punches when tackling budget issues on Tuesday, lambasting lawmakers for failing to pass the 2018 budget, and shutting down the government a day after the Pentagon delivered a new National Defense Strategy late last month – a report that Congress had demanded.

“I regret that without sustained, predictable appropriations, my presence here today wastes your time because no strategy can survive, as you pointed out chairman, without the funding necessary to resource it,” he told the House Armed Services Committee.

The defense secretary also pointed out that another government shutdown looms in 48 hours, unless both houses of Congress can pass legislation Tuesday to keep the government funded until March 23, while providing the Pentagon a full year $659 billion in funding.

  • NavySubNuke

    We’ve tried to encourage Russia to behave since 1991 and in response to our repeated efforts – both unilateral reductions and mutually verified treaty based reductions they have forced our hand.
    Mattis and the rest of the NPR team is correct – our efforts at appeasing Russia have only encouraged their poor behavior. Now it is time to start countering their efforts and ensure that we can adequately deter them at a every step of the escalation ladder. Continuing to allow them to dominate the low end of the nuclear spectrum makes nuclear war MORE likely not less. Rebuilding some of the capability we have lost in this area will help fix that imbalance, strengthen deterrence, and help ensure the peace we have enjoyed between the great powers since 1945 continues.

    • SvD

      This all the US fault…

      The US departed from the ABM treaty, which made the Russian killing Start III (as they told the US in advance) and they killed Start II right on the next day.

      The US has reduced nuclear weapons which were never covered under any treaty, while the Russians kept some of them. All the waste in the Pentagon for daily operation, the hundreds of bases around the world, the waste on weapon programs and the wars, wrecked the budget and the cuts were across the board even on cost reduction programs!

      Any nuclear cruise missile on the Russian side is a reaction to void the anti-ballistic missile systems.

      There was never a real attempt at fixing this mess the US created with the departure from the ABM treaty with a real treaty. There was also never a real attempt to get the other nuclear powers at a table and discuss a global treaty.

      The Russians claim they need certain weapon classes, cause China has them. Expanding the INF to all nuclear powers would help.
      The next thing would be the banning of MIRV on ICBMs.

      • NavySubNuke

        **Pats SvD on the head ** Certainly comrade – all of this is entirely the fault of the US and Czar Vlad the bare chested just wants to ride around on horses in peace never threatening anyone or invading the Ukraine.
        It is all so clear now!

        • SvD

          Do you have anything meaningful to say?

          The US canceled a treaty and the Russians did what they promised to do, they canceled one in the making and got of another one close to taking effect.

          That is history, it is a fact.

          The US wasted all changes for a real reduction of nuclear weapons and the looming nuclear threat. And for what? For a pretty expensive non-working anti-ballistic missile system.

          • NavySubNuke

            You have an impressively loose interpretation of the word “fact” but I guess you are paid well enough to post that sort of nonsense.
            Well for starters the US actually legally withdrew from the ABM treaty in accordance with the treaty agreement itself which outline exactly how one side or the other would withdraw.
            Russia on the other hand is openly violating the INF treaty and the conventional forces Europe treaty. They have also violated the Budapest memorandum that called for all parties to respect Ukrainian sovereignty in exchange for Ukraine giving up their nuclear weapons.
            But go ahead and keep blaming the US — your lies are entertaining.

          • SvD

            “Well for starters the US actually legally withdrew from the ABM treaty in accordance with the treaty”

            So did the Russians with START II and III. ABM systems are breaking the balance, that’s the reason there was a treaty for them.

            “Russia on the other hand is openly violating the INF treaty”
            The problem with that is, no one knows the real range of Iskander-m and K. A future long-range SLCM would violate the INF for sure.

            “and the conventional forces Europe treaty”
            And how exactly?

            Crimea is not connected to the nuclear balance. Mixing things up here is extremely dangerous.
            The US is not the peace angel either, breaking most war laws… but no one cares.
            There is no right to fly into another country and drone strike or bomb what you like. Same goes for ground troops.

            If the Russian were to connect their nuclear policy to this, oh man, that would be terrifying.

          • NavySubNuke

            What exactly do you mean by “START II and III” since no such treaties were every formally agreed to and ratified by both parties?
            Ah yes – typical pro-Russia troll response as expected on INF….
            If you want to know about CFE – just google it and you will see. I’m not here to google things for you.
            The annexation of crimea and the invasion of Eastern Ukraine is of course connected to this. And of course Russia has connected both this and the actions of the US into their nuclear policy — why else would they be openly violating so many agreements and maintaining thousands of tactical nuclear weapons?
            I realize you pro-Russia trolls are paid to post this kind of nonsense but you really should try to a little more to earn your pay – you might actually feel better about yourself and go on to do something with your life.

          • SvD

            You are just ignorant and manipulative.
            There was a START II treaty signed and ratified, ready to take effect! Russia withdrew before it took effect, as a direct reaction to the USA withdrawing from the ABM treaty.
            START III was under negotiation, while the US declared the plan to field an ABM system and get eastern Europe into Nato. Russia halted the negotiation due to both actions.

            Google it, I’m not here to google for you!

            There was a chance for a huge warhead reduction or further limiting the delivery systems and their capabilities and the US just tossed it away for a non-working ABM system.

            Crimea has nothing to do with nuclear policy, mixing the actions of conventional forces with the nuclear arsenal reduction is crazy.

            Russia has every right to keep its tactical nukes, there is no treaty reducing the numbers of these. A lot of US warheads can be dialed to a low yield, acting in the range of a tactical nuke. But the count as strategic warheads and their number is limited under the treaties.

            Blaming everyone to be a Russian paid troll just shows how pathetic your argumentation is.

          • NavySubNuke

            START was replaced by SORT – there was no need for START II. Just as SORT was replaced by New START.
            Under SORT and continuing with New START there WAS a huge reduction in both warheads and delivery systems. It was not impacted in even the slightest manner by the US legally and in accordance with the treaty withdrawing from ABM.
            You can keep claiming that Russia violating the Budapest memo by annexing Crimea and invading eastern Ukraine has nothing to do with nuclear policy but that doesn’t make it correct. Particularly to the members of the NATO alliance who also share a border with Russia and are at risk of similar invasions.
            Certainly there is no treaty that limits Russia from maintaining their thousands of tactical nuclear weapons and they are legally allowed to do so. But it sure would have been nice if they chose to follow the US example and gotten rid of this weapons rather than expanding their arsenal and further integrating them into their plans and doctrines.
            That said Russia’s violation of the INF treaty is a serious issue that is made more serious by the thousands of tactical nuclear weapons they have retained.
            “A lot” is a weasel term since “a lot” could be as few as ten depending on the opinion of the holder. Saying the US has “a lot” of dial a yield warheads is meaningless. Particularly since they can only be carried by slow and vulnerable heavy bombers or in very limited quantities by fighter aircraft. Both of which can take tens of hours if not days to respond.
            I don’t blame everyone for being a paid Russian troll in the slightest. But I am not afraid to point out that liars and fools such as yourself who blame the US for everything and refuse to concede obvious facts such as Russia invading eastern Ukraine are almost certainly paid Russian trolls.

  • Leroy

    At least we have the capability to respond to Russia’s foolish “e to de-e” doctrine using the B61-12 on its “low” (0.3 kilotons) setting. Especially survivable and deadly once it’s fully integrated into the F-35.

  • Sir Bateman

    Seriously how difficult/expensive could it be to take a Tomahawk cruse missile and swap out a conventional warhead for either a W80 or a W84 nuclear warhead? I seem to remember reading that after the Cold War ended a number of nuke Tomahawks were converted to the conventional variant.

    Besides Tomahawks are still in production and from what I understand W80 and W84 warheads are still in the Endearing Stockpile, it’s not like they’re starting from complete scratch.

    • Centaurus

      That was the original design of the GLCM

      • Sir Bateman

        I thought the TLAM-N and the GLCM while concurrent designs were individual variants of their own kind?

        • Centaurus

          It all comes down to $$$

  • Centaurus

    We need a division of miniature “super-soldiers” to deploy to the Kremlin leaders, crawl into their ears and set off low-yield Nuclear weapons to blow their minds.

  • marti

    I Russia “corrects its other destabilizing behaviors,….” Other destabilization behaviors like react to US coups on buffer states like Ukraine? Or react when we bomb their clients states like Syria? (It didnt take them too far when the US bombed their client states Iraq and Libya and they did not “destabilize” the US destabilization) or behave like a lap dog when the US provokes North Korea, incessantly to provoke a nuclear war right on their border. Indeed, Russia should not destabilize the destabilization that the US creates all around the world, roll over and show its belly so Mattis does not develop more nuclear weapons to destroy the earth 5x more over the 10x already available.

    • El Kabong


      ‘….react to US coups on buffer states like Ukraine?”

      Where’s the tinfoil on sale?

      ALL those ex-Warsaw Pact countries joined NATO for a reason.

      Decades of Russian occupation would do that.

      Ask Finland about Russian aggression.

      Ever hear of the Budapest Memorandum?

  • kye154

    Mattis is doing nothing more than throwing gasoline on a fire.

    • Ctrot

      Wrong. The Russians did that by violating treaties in the first place.

      • Paul Hunt

        So, then, is that also what happened in Iraq? Afghanistan? Syria?

        No, I’m not changing the subject — as your counterpoint in response to kye154 implies that you think, at least in part, that this is all about who did what first.

        Is nothing ever our fault?

        • Ctrot

          In the realm of the breaking of treaties it does matter who did what first.

  • ElmCityAle

    You mean there are trade-offs for spending money on new programs that impact other programs? Wow, that’s news to the current administration – someone should tell them.

  • Chesapeakeguy

    In the 1980s, this country, along with a LITTLE help from NATO, literally spent the USSR out of existence. They could not sustain or keep up with our investments in defense. Their inability to provide for their population(s) needs led directly to the overthrow of the commie government there. But lo and behold, they seem to be returning that favor.They are being proactive while we are reactive. A big mistake that this country makes from time to time is to engage in the belief that “they are just like us when it comes down to it”. Thinking that if we reduce our arsenals and cut back on our military capability, well gosh, they will see that we mean them no harm, and hence do like-wise. That’s how it is, ain’t it? How has that worked out? One thing that has always been true when dealing with the Russians, during and in the post commie periods, is that their philosophy when it comes to ‘horse trading’ is “what’s mine is mine, it’s what is YOURS that is negotiable”. Until we learn that, they are going t have their way, and things like ‘adhering to treaties’ is not going to faze them!

    • Samuel Clemens

      Congratulations. Now you see how China and Russia are pushing this country into self-destructive excessive military spending. It is the only thing that losers in Congress want to do.

      • Hugh

        Expand to read – NATO and aligned nations.

      • Ctrot

        So if China/Russia are driving the US to self destruction by causing us to spend $800 billion or so a year on defense you would then have to agree, if you are a logical, intelligent and honest person, that American leftists are an even bigger threat given that they cause the US to spend 2-3 times that amount on the American welfare state every year.

        • Samuel Clemens

          Military welfare has very little economic benefit beyond a very tiny already over privileged economic super elite who control the production of war material. Money spend on weapon systems and diverted labor give next to zero economic return. It is value forever gone for other productive use. Eisenhower knew that. Any economist knows that. Keeping your people alive, fit, and active does have economic value. Ever since the American Civil War (ironic turning point isn’t it) all major hot and cold wars ultimately boil down to who has the largest productivity and population. Witness the success of the US in two World Wars of the 20th Century. The Soviet Union and the Empire of the Alt-Right militarism have equal trouble grasping that. Relying ever more on raw killing power creates decline in global influence except to create resentment and hatred. Increasingly USA like USSR before it falls into that trap with similar results.The trajectory is the same regardless of the ideological veneers. Anyone care for a military parade to celebrate the People’s Republican of Bananistan? So un-American. Such perfect symbolism of militarism triumphant. Perhaps it can open with a tank bursting through a giant poster of the US Constitution.

          • Ctrot

            “Military welfare” LOL. No need to read any further in your leftist screed. Feel safe behind your keyboard with your freedoms protected by “military welfare”

          • Gary Wilson

            If you worked at the Newport News shipyard, or at Boeing, or at any one of ten thousand subcontractors, you would have a different perspective on the “economic return” of our defense dollars. We are hiring Americans to build these systems, that means jobs. You socialists believe your pseudo-scientific Marxist garbage and think that is the real world. Fools….!

          • Centaurus

            “You socialists believe your pseudo-scientific Marxist garbage”, Catchy-phrase,

      • Chesapeakeguy

        My point, and I take the hit for not being clear enough about it, is that THEY are setting the agenda. We have ships and especially planes that will need to be replaced soon enough, and the money to do so is now more problematic because of the financial drains that the LCS and the Zumwalts have been, to name just a few examples. I am not worried about there being enough money, we have that now and have had it forever it seems. But we keep digging holes in how we spend it, within the military and in other government expenditures. At 20 plus trillion dollars in the hole and counting, the money concerns will be critical if certain things happen..

        • Samuel Clemens

          Throwing money at problems will not solve them but it will waste money. Resources are not infinite. If they are, please send me a $24 million refrigerator because I want to see what they are like. But the US does have hideous infant mortality. 41 million at or below the poverty line. 41 million think about that. More dead from opioids than guns in which the US is also at the bottom of the world for needless deaths. An entire generation buried in massive debt before their first job. The most inefficient medical system in the advanced world. Civilian infrastructure that is deep trouble. Thew worst, not the best, social mobility of any Western country meaning the society is economically sick and stratified. Scientific research that has fallen behind in significant areas including many dual use ones. The most important advanced technologies are not made here. The most expensive and inefficient military in the world that lost its previous longest war and must now admit it has lost the longest one – a war taken over as the foreign invader following after the Soviet Union itself. A balance of trade deficit year in and year out that is not sustainable meaning the standard of living overall must decline. A burdensome over extended military will not solve any of those problems. The day of reckoning is not more than one stupidly chosen war away. Binge spending makes us all more at risk, not less. Good luck with all that missile bait you call the oversize and ill fitting surface fleet. All the battleships and aircraft carriers won’t save you from 21st century weapons and the inability to sustain prolonged combat or asymetric warfare.

          • Chesapeakeguy

            Geezz man, why are you still here? You hate this place this much, why don’t you trot off to one of your European paradises to live out your days? I can take your claims and assertions on one-by-one, but what would be the point? I’m talking about the MILITARY, and not to your diatribe about the entire rote on why some folks hate their own country. We can discuss why there are 41 million in poverty despite TRILLIONS devoted to ending poverty some other time. Perhaps we can get into the stats that show the very same level percentage-wise of poor folks in this country as there were in 1965 when the Great Society coffers were open full tilt. But that should be fodder for some other discussion. The only thing it all does is prove my point about how, as you DO astutely point out, mass amounts of money are wasted that do nothing for this country. On that we agree. Now, if you or any others have some actual ideas on how the world can realistically achieve peace that does not come across as some contrived ‘Kumbaya’ fantasy, I’ll be glad to read it.

            Best regards…

    • Hugh

      This applies to all commies with nukes!

      • Centaurus

        Ooooo, You sound soo Red Scarry. Here is my can of of anti-Reds-with-Nukes flavored commies with nukes Spray. When shall we start building the backyard nuke shelters again ? But have a concrete condo-backyard-cum-tray-for-roses kinda place. So I guess I will die in the 2nd-Strike. Lucky for you.

  • Leatherstocking

    Our string of nuclear treaties with Russia bring back memories of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 and its follow-on London treaties of 1930 and 1936. We have been played and continue to be played. We lack the will to force compliance much as we didn’t get serious with Iran or North Korea. We are setting the stage for a very hostile and risky world in the next decade.

    • SvD

      You might wanna check the ABM treaty and what happened after the US departure from it.

      • Leatherstocking

        Yup, there are no clean hands in that action.

  • Ctrot

    It is to weep when I see wringing of hands of the spending of “1.5 trillion over 3 decades ” on defense when we spend that much and more on the US welfare state EVERY YEAR.

  • Ctrot

    Our debt will soon be $30 trillion because of the main driver of said debt: Welfare state spending. Spin it however you like but that is a fact.

  • RobM1981

    Word games. “Escalate to de-escalate,” after a nuclear strike?

    This is how close to the edge we want to be?

    Have the guts to speak clearly. If the Soviets… errr… “Russians” are cheating, then accuse them of it, abrogate the treaty, and build the weapons that Reagan rightfully labeled as deeply destabilizing.

    For that is what they are.

    Do it with malice, and openly, and with an offer all along the way that we’ll stop if and only if the Russians back down.

    Done properly, they will.

    Done this way, in the half-light of a quasi-accusation? Dumb.

    Don’t wee on my shoe and tell me it’s raining. Mattis and Trump want to re-introduce weapons that, by their very nature, are deeply destabilizing. A nuclear weapon that is “nuclear, but not tooooo nuclear.”

    Bring back the Davy Crockett. It’s nice to see a mini-mushroom cloud, isn’t it? I’m sure our adversaries will just fold up their tents…

    …just like they did after we carpet bombed them, 80 years ago. The thought of retaliation never entered their minds.

    Japan surrendered because they were defeated and could not retaliate. Had they been able to retaliate, via any means including nuclear or biological, who here thinks that they would not have?

    A nuclear attack on a nation unable to retaliate is a very different thing than a small nuclear attack on a nation that only has Big Nuclear Weapons.

    I like Mattis, but on this one he is way, way wrong.

    • Gary Wilson

      So….your choice is to do nothing? Do you think that might lead the Russians, Chinese, and anybody else who might get frisky, to question our resolve? I guess we should just act like Canada…..NOT! Maybe our problem is we have too many hand-wringing types who think you can just sound sophisticated and our adversaries will be awed and contain themselves. The strong don’t get attacked, but the weak often do. Destabilization occurs when there is an imbalance. If the Russians have lots of tactical nukes and we don’t, that is an imbalance. General Mattis wants to fix that.

      • RobM1981

        My choice was laid out in my post. I’ll even expand on it.

        Have the guts to say “the treaty is broken” before you break it.

        Have the brass, not hand wringing, to say “we’re heading in the wrong direction, but you leave us no choice.”

        Maybe they’ll back-down; maybe they won’t. But don’t dance around it with these sophisticated terms, to use your words against you.

        “escalate to de-escalate” is the kind of language that you’re talking about, not me.

      • Paul Hunt

        “I guess we should just act like Canada…..”

        Could we — with roughly half the world’s nuclear weapons — even begin to pretend to act like Canada?

        I mean, by what new definition of the word — or what new strained notion of military weaponry — can the United States be seen as “weak”?

        I’m just asking you to examine your language, Gary.

  • Gary Wilson

    He means we are spending too much money on “free stuff” for a lot of “dead wood” in our country. Too many takers and not enough makers. Giving away money for no return is naked waste.

  • SFC Steven M Barry USA RET

    It is the US that is in violation of the INF and ABM treaties. But, given the four cornerstones of US foreign policy — lies, hypocrisy, deceit, and duplicity — that ought not astonish anybody. It certainly does not astonish the Russians.

  • John B. Morgen

    We should build up our cruise missile catalogs, without any regard of changing Russia’s behavior; plus, do not sign any arms limitation treaties. Seek our own path for protecting our interests.