The United States has introduced a new, less destructive nuclear warhead to its submarine arsenal, marking a landmark development that some are warning could push us closer to nuclear war on a global scale. 

The US has deployed its first low-yield nuclear warhead, and while the Pentagon claims it will keep Americans safe by making the breakout of nuclear war less likely, critics are warning it could actually do the opposite.

The new weapon has been deployed to an unknown location in the Atlantic Ocean, on the USS Tennessee. The battleship typically carries multiple D-5 submarine-launched missiles, such as the W88 warhead, which has an explosive yield of 455 kilotons, and the W76, which has an explosive yield of 90 kilotons. The new W76-2 is a modified version that is believed to be around just 5 kilotons.

To compare, the atomic bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945 was just 16 kilotons. Yet it still devastated the city, wiping out 90 percent of its population, and killing more than 80,000 people instantly. And it has gone on to harm the health of countless others from radiation exposure.

But while the Obama Administration promoted the reduction of nuclear weapons, the Trump Administration seems to be on the opposite course. The Pentagon’s top policy official insisted that the new weapon will keep Americans safe, because it will deter other nations, like Russia, from launching limited nuclear attacks.

“This supplemental capability strengthens deterrence and provides the United States a prompt, more survivable low-yield strategic weapon,” said John Rood, Pentagon Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.

The United States remains on guard and ready to respond to any possible nuclear attacks. But critics are warning of the long-term consequences, noting that by creating a tactical nuclear weapon, US political and military leaders now have “a dangerous new option” when confronting countries that go far beyond just Russia.

As a result, they could incorporate these weapons in other wars without considering the devastating loss of civilian lives at risk.

Despite these claims from the Pentagon that the US has to square up to Russia in order to deter an attack, Moscow has repeatedly said it does not want nuclear war.

Since Washington withdrew from the INF Treaty last year, Moscow has offered to renew the New START Treaty, which is the last remaining nuclear agreement between the two countries, with no pre-conditions. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has criticized the US for its “aggressive” policies, and last month, he said, “We will act strongly to avoid depriving the world of agreements that control and limit nuclear weapons.” He went on to say, “I hope that the Americans hear us, but we haven’t received any coherent signals from them.”

Now it remains to be seen how global powers will respond to the news of Washington’s latest nuclear deployment, as many question how close the world is coming to the brink of nuclear war.