Defense

Pentagon mulls nuclear response to cyberattacks: report

A Pentagon report outlining an updated U.S. nuclear strategy suggests using nuclear weapons to respond to non-nuclear attacks on the U.S., according to The New York Times

The newspaper reported Wednesday that the draft document, the Nuclear Posture Review, provides for possible nuclear responses to devastating cyberattacks on U.S critical infrastructure. 

The suggestion marks a dramatic expansion of what the U.S. believes warrants a first use of nuclear weapons, the Times noted. Only in narrow cases, such as in the event of a biological attack on the U.S., has Washington suggested that it could respond with nuclear force.

The U.S. typically views the use of nuclear weapons as appropriate in extreme circumstances. But the review expands the definition of what constitutes an extreme circumstance to "include significant non-nuclear strategic attacks," according to the Times.

That could include massive cyberattacks, it said.

Current and former U.S. officials told the newspaper that while the report includes a massive cyberattack among the actions that could warrant a nuclear response, there remain other, more-conventional plans for responding to such attacks.

A draft version of the Nuclear Posture Review, which was commissioned by President Trump last year, was first published by HuffPost last week, though the Pentagon has dismissed that draft as "pre-decisional."

The White House is currently reviewing the report, which provides recommendations for modernizing the U.S. nuclear strategy. 

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