Home » US will soon need to deter two major nuclear powers for first time, White House says

US will soon need to deter two major nuclear powers for first time, White House says

by Mahmmod Shar

New national security strategy warns of Russia as more immediate threat and China as long-term competitor

the guardian

Within a decade, the US will need to deter two major nuclear weapons powers for the first time, the Biden administration has warned, pointing to the Russian arsenal that is increasingly being brandished by Moscow and an expanding Chinese stockpile.

The president’s new national security strategy (NSS) depicts China as the most capable long-term competitor, but Russia as the more immediate, disruptive threat, pointing to its nuclear posturing over Ukraine. It warns that threat could grow as Russian forces continue to suffer defeats on the battlefield.

“Russia’s conventional military will have been weakened, which will likely increase Moscow’s reliance on nuclear weapons in its military planning,” the strategy blueprint says. Its publication was scheduled in the spring but was postponed because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin has threatened to use “all means” to defend Russian territory, in which he included Crimea, annexed in 2014, and four Ukrainian regions he now claims. The NSS pledges US support for Ukrainian resistance would not be affected by such threats.

“The United States will not allow Russia, or any power, to achieve its objectives through using, or threatening to use, nuclear weapons,” the document says.

In a foreword, Biden makes a distinction between the types of threats posed by Moscow and Beijing. “Russia poses an immediate threat to the free and open international system, recklessly flouting the basic laws of the international order today, as its brutal war of aggression against Ukraine has shown,” the president writes.

He describes China, on the other hand as “the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to advance that objective”.

The policy document portrays Beijing as “America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge”.

“Even as the United States remains committed to managing the competition between our countries responsibly, the People’s Republic of China harbors the intention and, increasingly, the capacity to reshape the international order in favor of one that tilts the global playing field to its benefit,” it states.

According to a report by the Federation of American Scientists, China is estimated to have 350 nuclear warheads, while Russia has 5,977 and the US has 5,428. The Pentagon predicts that by 2030, China’s nuclear arsenal will have more than 1,000 warheads, making it a third major nuclear power.

The US and Russia adhere to a limit of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads under the New Start treaty, the last major arms control agreement still in force. By deployed strategic warheads, we mean warheads mounted on land- or sea-launched missiles or prepared for loading on long-range bombers.

The head of the Arms Control Association, Daryl Kimball, expressed concern about whether the new language in the strategy document might signal a reevaluation of the US arsenal’s size.

What does it mean for the number of targets in Russia and China that the president thinks we need to hold at risk in order to thwart those nuclear threats if we have to worry about two near-peer nuclear rivals by the year 2030? How does that factor into the overall number of strategic nuclear weapons the president and the United States believe they need to deploy? Kimball enquired.

It’s not hard science, he continued, “basically they’re looking at issues and questions that could lead to a larger number calculation. It might be greater or smaller. Even though China has twice as many nuclear weapons as we do, I contend that we should still be able to reduce the total number of strategic nuclear weapons because the current level is excessive compared to what would be required to deter a nuclear attack.

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