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Nuclear utilization target selection (NUTS) is a hypothesis regarding the use of nuclear weapons often contrasted with mutually assured destruction (MAD). NUTS theory at its most basic level asserts that it is possible for a limited nuclear exchange to occur and that nuclear weapons are simply one more rung on the ladder of escalation pioneered by Herman Kahn. This leads to a number of other conclusions regarding the potential uses of and responses to nuclear weapons.
Limited countervalue strikes
Some NUTS theorists hold that a mutually assured destruction-type deterrent is not credible in cases of a small attack, such as one carried out on a single city, as it is suicidal. In such a case, an overwhelming nuclear response would destroy every enemy city and thus every potential hostage which could be used to influence the attacker's behavior. This would free up the attacker to launch further attacks with and remove any chance for the attacked nation to bargain. A country adhering to a NUTS-style war plan would likely respond to such an attack with a limited attack on one or several enemy cities.
Since NUTS theory assumes the possibility of a winnable nuclear war, the contention of many MAD theorists that missile defense systems should be abandoned as a destabilizing influence is generally not accepted by NUTS theorists. For NUTS theorists, a missile defence system would be a positive force in that it would protect against a limited nuclear attack. Additionally, such a system would increase the odds of success for a counterforce attack by assuring that if some targets escaped the initial attack, the incoming missiles could be intercepted. But protection against a limited attack means that the opponent has incentive to launch a larger scale attack, against which the defence is likely to be ineffective. Additionally, increased possibility of success of counterforce attacks means that the opponent has the incentive to act preemptively, which increases the risk of a large scale response to misinterpreted signals.
NUTS and US nuclear strategy
NUTS theory can be seen in the US adoption of a number of first-strike weapons, such as the Trident II and Minuteman III nuclear missiles, which both have an extremely low circular error probable (CEP) of about 90 meters for the former and 120 meters for the latter. These weapons are accurate enough to almost certainly destroy a missile silo if it is targeted.
Additionally, the US has proceeded with a number of programs which improve its strategic situation in a nuclear confrontation. The Stealth bomber has the capacity to carry a large number of stealthy cruise missiles, which could be nuclear-tipped, and due to its low probability of detection and long range would be an excellent weapon with which to deliver a first strike.
This report outlines how NATO and Russian force levels and capabilities have evolved in the post–Cold War era and what recent trends imply for the balance of capabilities in the NATO member states that border Russia in the Baltic Sea region. It is intended to inform debate over appropriate posture and force structure for NATO forces to respond to the recent growth in Russian military capability and capacity and to increased Russian assertiveness in the use of force. Given NATO's current posture and capability, including European battalions and a rotational U.S. armored brigade combat team, Russia can still achieve a rapid fait accompli in the Baltic states followed by brinksmanship to attempt to freeze the conflict. Nothing about this analysis should suggest that Russian conventional aggression against NATO is likely to take place; however, prudence suggests that steps should be taken to mitigate potential areas of vulnerability in the interest of ensuring a stable security relationship between all NATO members and Russia. NATO has sufficient resources, personnel, and equipment to enhance conventional deterrence focused on Russia; a more robust posture designed to considerably raise the cost of military adventurism against one or more NATO member states is worthy of consideration.
originally posted by: gariac
a reply to: penroc3
No sarcasm here. The experts believe the silos based systems are useless due to improved accuracy of enemy guidance systems. If we think missiles are incoming, we have no choice but to launch since it is a 100% certainty our silos will be destroyed.