“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,” Vice Adm. Charles Richard wrote in the February edition of the US Naval Institute’s monthly magazine.
Richard said the US 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.”
The STRATCOM chief said Russia and China “have begun to aggressively challenge international norms and global peace using instruments of power and threats of force in ways not seen since the height of the Cold War.”
Richard hyped up Russia and China’s nuclear modernization, calling for the US to compete with the two nations. When it comes to China’s nuclear weapons, the US and Russia have vastly larger arsenals. Current estimates put Beijing’s nuclear arsenal at about 320 warheads, while Washington and Moscow have about 6,000 warheads each.
Even if Beijing doubles its arsenal over the next decade, as the China hawks are predicting, it will still be small compared to Washington’s. The US would have to eliminate a good amount of its arsenal to convince Beijing to participate in arms control agreements.
Since STRATCOM is the command post that oversees Washington’s nuclear arsenal, its commanders are always overplaying the risk of nuclear war and asking for more money to modernize the stockpile. But with the US prioritizing so-called “great power competition” with China and Russia and an increased US military presence in places like the South China Sea, the Arctic, and the Black Sea, the threat of nuclear war is rising.
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