The remarks by the head of the US Strategic Command and the US nuclear weapons program are shocking, that the war in Ukraine is a “warm-up” and soon “we will be tested in ways we haven’t been tested in a long time.”
The war in Ukraine is a prelude to greater military challenges in the near future and the US is losing its competitive edge in nuclear weapons, Strategic Command (Stratcom) chief Adm. Charles Richard, who oversees the nuclear weapons program, warned in speech at the Naval Submarine League’s 2022 Annual Symposium & Industry Update last Wednesday, the US Department of Defense reported.
Although the event was closed to the public, Richard’s comments were published in a US Department of Defense news article last Friday.
Richard has been commander of Stratcom since 2019 and is described by the Pentagon as “responsible for global command and control of US strategic forces to achieve critical national security objectives.”
“This crisis in Ukraine that we’re in right now is just the warm-up,” Richard said, adding:
“The big one is coming. And it’s not going to be long before we’re tested in ways we haven’t been tested in a long time.”
He warned that the US is losing its nuclear deterrent to rivals such as China and Russia.
“As I assess our level of deterrence against China, the ship is slowly sinking,” he said, adding, “It’s sinking slowly, but it’s sinking because they’re actually putting the capability in the field faster than we are.”
And he pointed out: “As these curves get bigger, it doesn’t matter how good the [επιχειρησιακό μας σχέδιο] or how good our commanders are or how good our forces are – we’re not going to have enough. And this is a very immediate problem.”
In its October 27 National Defense Strategy document, the Pentagon also presented a dire situation in the nuclear balance between the US, Russia and China.
“Our main competitors continue to expand and diversify their nuclear capabilities, including new and destabilizing systems, as well as non-nuclear capabilities that could be used to conduct strategic attacks,” the nuclear strategy review says.
“They have shown little interest in reducing their reliance on nuclear weapons.
“Instead, the United States is focused on timely replacement of aging systems that are rapidly approaching the end of their lives,” it added.
China aims to have at least 1,000 deliverable warheads by the end of 2030, and Russia plans to deploy 1,550 warheads on launch vehicles under START treaty limits.
“The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is the overall challenge to US defense planning and a growing factor in the assessment of our nuclear deterrent.
“The DPRK has embarked on an ambitious expansion, modernization and diversification of its nuclear forces and created a nascent nuclear triad,” the nuclear policy review also noted.
“Russia continues to emphasize nuclear weapons in its strategy, modernize and expand its nuclear forces, and brandish them in support of its revisionist security policy,” it said.
However, Sabrina Singh, the Pentagon’s deputy press secretary, expressed more confidence about the competition China presents during a press briefing last Friday.
“I think we feel very confident in our capabilities when it comes to China or the Indo-Pacific in general,” he said.
He added: “Richard mentioned in his National Defense Strategy that China remains the challenge for our pace.
“We know that to compete with China, we are doing more in terms of our readiness and our own exercises.
“But I think we’re certainly watching things going on in the Indo-Pacific and we remain ready to act if necessary.”
Richard pointed out that the only area in which the US still dominates is underwater capabilities.
“Underwater capabilities are still the one … perhaps the only true asymmetric advantage we still have over our adversaries,” he said.
“But if we don’t pick up the pace, in terms of fixing the maintenance problems, starting new construction … if we can’t figure it out … we’re not going to be in a good position to maintain strategic deterrence and national defense,” he said.
The head of the US Strategic Command also called on the US military to look to the way it has operated since the 1950s for inspiration in order to restore its competitive edge.
He noted that 60 years ago America’s military was more flexible, resourceful and innovative, citing as an example the invention of the AGM-28 Hound Dog cruise missile, which entered service in 1960.
“The Air Force went with a request almost written on a napkin,” he said.
“They realized in the late 1950s that Soviet air defense systems were getting to the point where the B-52 just wasn’t going to get through and we needed a thing called a ‘cruise missile.’
“So, they envisioned what a confrontational weapon looks like,” he explained.
The US military managed to deliver the Hound Dog cruise missile in just 33 months.
“We had two squadrons of B-52s equipped with this one-megaton, 800-nautical-mile Mach nuclear warhead, with accuracy that was really good for its time, hanging from the wings of B-52s in less than three years,” he reported.
That’s why “We need to make some quick, fundamental change in the way we approach the defense of this nation,” he pointed out.
He continued: “We need to get back to work and not talk about how we’re going to mitigate our supposed eventual failure.”
He recommended that policymakers “go back to the way we used to ask questions in this nation, which is:
“Otherwise,” he concluded, “China is just going to overtake us, and Russia isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.”