Russia’s apparent willingness to use nuclear weapons in more situations could undermine NATO cohesion, a new Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment report found. “While NATO’s been progressively reducing its reliance on nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War, Russia has been more recently moving in the exact opposite direction,” author Evan Montgomery said Tuesday while introducing the report. Russian analysts, he said, believe the use of small-yield nuclear weapons would actually de-escalate a conflict by causing an adversary to back down. The new doctrine, Montgomery said, is creating an “emerging gap in the escalation ladder” and challenging US commitments in Europe. To deter Russia from engaging in nuclear coercion, the report proposes NATO incorporate additional nations, including Poland, into the nuclear delivery mission. The report notes many NATO members might see the move as too provocative, but might be open to Polish aircraft being stationed at bases where nuclear weapons are already stored. “So long as other NATO members are willing to host [US] nuclear weapons in peacetime and deliver them during a conflict, the unique structure of the alliance will continue to underpin the credibility of [US] extended deterrence,” Montgomery wrote.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.