NOEL KING, HOST:
The U.S. has started to deploy smaller nuclear weapons on some of its submarines according to a new report. Some people worry this could make a nuclear war more likely. Here's NPR's Geoff Brumfiel.
GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: The new weapon is believed to be relatively small, capable of leveling several city blocks instead of the whole city. According to the Federation of American Scientists, an independent watchdog, this little nuke was loaded onto a missile submarine late last year and sent out into the Atlantic Ocean on patrol. The Pentagon declined to comment about the new system. What's behind this weapon? In a word, it's Russia.
KATARZYNA ZYSK: Russia maintains an option to use the nuclear weapons primarily politically, which means to intimidate.
BRUMFIEL: Katarzyna Zysk is with the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies in Oslo. She says if Russia was under extreme threat by the West, it might fire off a small nuclear weapon to get the U.S. or NATO to back down. The best way to stop Russia from doing that - build your own small nuclear weapon to undermine the plan.
ZYSK: That's the simple logic.
BRUMFIEL: Critics like Hans Kristensen, with the Federation of American Scientists, worry all these small nukes could lead to big trouble.
HANS KRISTENSEN: The big illusion with this weapon that I think people are arguing - well, it's just a little one; you know, we're just doing for deterrence purposes.
BRUMFIEL: But Kristensen worries in the real world, these less destructive nukes might get used. If that happens, who knows what would come next?
KRISTENSEN: Once you start popping nukes, the bets are off.
BRUMFIEL: And the big doomsday bombs are more likely to get used.
Geoff Brumfiel, NPR News, Washington.
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