The United States must be ready for a nuclear war with China or Russia and seek new ways to deter both countries’ use of newly acquired advanced strategic weapons, the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command is warning in a major new review of the global balance of nuclear forces.
Adm. Charles Richard, writing in the current issue of the U.S. Naval Institute journal Proceedings, offered a blunt and detailed assessment that the luxury of living in a post-Cold War era when direct armed conflict with a rival nuclear power was not possible is over.
“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,” the four-star admiral wrote.
The Pentagon must shift from a principal assumption that nuclear weapons’ use is nearly impossible to “nuclear employment is a very real possibility,” he urged in the new survey.
Government and military leaders need to better understand the new dangers of nuclear conflict and fashion new concepts of deterrence and — if needed — nuclear war-fighting strategies.
The deployment of advanced strategic forces by China and Russia calls for greater action by the United States to bolster deterrence in the face of new threats. Deterring both nations through crises or ultimately nuclear war is being tested in ways not seen before, Adm. Richard said.
“Until we, as a [Defense] Department, come to understand, if not accept, what we are facing and what should be done about it, we run the risk of developing plans we cannot execute and procuring capabilities that will not deliver desired outcomes,” Adm. Richard argued. “In the absence of change, we are on the path, once again, to prepare for the conflict we prefer, instead of one we are likely to face.”