The LRSO also has potential for spin-off use as an NSNW, which could further enhance US flexible response options.
Improved US NSNWs–such as submarine-launched missiles and/or intermediate-range, forward-deployed ground-launched missiles–could, in principle, obviate the need for nuclear-capable bombers in some scenarios, but starting one or more programs for new and better NSNWs would be expensive and controversial.
Open-source estimates suggest that Russia has 1,000-6,000 NSNWs of many types.
Nevertheless, in 1991 and 1992 the presidents of the United States and Russia unilaterally decided to reduce their respective arsenals of NSNW, and in the Helsinki Summit of 1997 they agreed that future strategic nuclear arms control negotiations would include a separate venue for discussions surrounding the nonstrategic weapons of both sides.
The large imbalance in the numbers of NSNW possessed by Russia relative to NATO and the opacity of intentions this imbalance may represent create real concern among U.S.
Unfortunately, over twelve years later the status of Russia’s NSNW remains unclear.
For example, Lewis Dunn focuses on how the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (START) have not kept pace with Russia’s financial ability to destroy over 10,000 NSNW warheads.
Andrea Gabbitas points out the crucial problem of NSNWs that are not equipped with permissive action links–locks that safeguard these weapons from being deployed by unauthorized persons.