In public, administration officials have used obscure terms like “counterforce” and “countervailing strike capabilities” to describe two of its military response options, apparently hoping to buy time for diplomacy.
The Obama administration is weighing a range of aggressive responses to Russia’s alleged violation of a Cold War-era nuclear treaty, including deploying land-based missiles in Europe that could pre-emptively destroy the Russian weapons.
This “counterforce” option is among possibilities the administration is considering as it reviews its entire policy toward Russia in light of Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine, its annexation of Crimea and other actions the U.S. deems confrontational in Europe and beyond.
The options go so far as one implied — but not stated explicitly — that would improve the ability of U.S. nuclear weapons to destroy military targets on Russian territory.
It all has a certain Cold War ring, even if the White House ultimately decides to continue tolerating Russia’s alleged flight-testing of a ground-launched cruise missile with a range prohibited by the treaty.
Russia denies violating the treaty and has, in turn, claimed violations by the United States in erecting missile defenses.