U.S. Nuclear Commander Says Nuclear War with Russia, China Possible

In an article heavily influenced by the 2018 National Defense Strategy, which defines Russia and China as strategic adversaries, published yesterday in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings, Adm. Charles Richard, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, warned that nuclear war with Russia and China is very possible and that therefore we must reshape our nuclear deterrent to make sure it doesn’t happen. “The implications of today’s competition and the associated risk of great power crisis or direct armed conflict are profound; they affect nearly every fundamental assumption we make about the use of armed force in the defense of the nation and its allies,” Richard writes.

Richard complains that for the past two decades the U.S. military has been focused on anti-terrorism operations, thus “ignoring the nuclear dimension,” while Russia and China have been aggressively modernizing and expanding their nuclear forces. “At the U.S. Strategic Command, we assess the probability of nuclear use is low, but not ‘impossible,’ particularly in a crisis and as our nuclear-armed adversaries continue to build capability and exert themselves globally,” Richard writes further. “Further, assessing risk is more than just assessing likelihood; it also involves accounting for outcomes. We cannot dismiss or ignore events that currently appear unlikely but, should they occur, would have catastrophic consequences.”

Richard goes on to give the entire laundry list of offenses and “aggressions” of which Russia and China are supposedly guilty, offenses that, of course, require a response from the U.S. “We must actively compete to hold their aggression in check; ceding to their initiatives risks reinforcing their perceptions that the United States is unwilling or unable to respond, which could further embolden them. Additionally, our allies may interpret inaction as an unwillingness or inability to lead. Remaining passive may deny us opportunities to position in ways that underpin one of our greatest strengths: strategic power projection.”

“Faced with Russia and China’s growing threats and gray zone actions, the United States must take action today to position itself for the future,” Richard declares. “We must start by acknowledging that our most fundamental assumption—that strategic deterrence will hold, even through crisis and conflict—is going to be tested in ways not seen before.” Unfortunately, he continues, “our opponents invested in nuclear and strategic capabilities designed to constrain U.S. actions, test our alliances, and, if necessary, escalate past us—to include nuclear use. There is a real possibility that a regional crisis with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons, if they perceived a conventional loss would threaten the regime or state. Consequently, the U.S. military must shift its principal assumption from ’nuclear employment is not possible” to “nuclear employment is a very real possibility,’ and act to meet and deter that reality. We cannot approach nuclear deterrence the same way. It must be tailored and evolved for the dynamic environment we face.” This is clearly an argument for continuing the sweeping modernization plan for the U.S. nuclear arsenal and is perfectly in line with Pompeo’s scorched-earth approach to U.S. policy on China while in office, something that Richard cites in the article.

The Washington Times reports that Richard said in an interview that the article, which was actually written last September, is meant to energize Navy leaders regarding the rapidly changing threat environment and how to provide the best military advice to civilian leaders. “In this new era of competition, this will be the first time in our nation’s history that we will have to face two nuclear-capable peers by the end of this decade,” he said. “We’ve assumed strategic deterrence will hold in the future, but as the threat environment changes, this may not be the case,” he added. “We need to be ready to respond to cross-domain threats to ensure the security of our nation and allies by thinking holistically about strategic deterrence in the 21st century.” Strategic nuclear competition should be viewed as maintaining relative advantage over competitors, with the United States seeking to play the dominant role.

“As a department, we are wise to establish unity of effort in addressing Russian and Chinese aggression, while understanding they require different deterrence approaches, and incorporating that thinking into professional military education at the earliest opportunity,” Adm. Richard said.

The same day, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger placed an op-ed in the Washington Post which, while focused on military readiness rather than nuclear deterrence, was based on the same assumptions about Russia and China from the National Defense Strategy.

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  • Lawrence Henni
    commented 2021-02-04 00:21:46 -0500
    Space may be considered a mere theatre by some, the Nature of which to devour it’s splendor bends intentions towards Justice. For in the Noetic filaments, is the cause of cause itself demonstrating a dynatropic Space? Permeates the entire Universe greater an ETERNAL life? Can we have more discussion on these matters ABOVE nuclear weapons, into the Noetic?
  • Carl Osgood
    published this page in Home 2021-02-03 20:36:21 -0500