The US must strengthen its defenses in the face of growing threats from China and Russia, the US defense strategy says



CNN

The United States must strengthen its defenses against the growing threat of China and Russia, focusing on Beijing as the main global competitor, the Biden administration’s national defense strategy released Thursday says.

According to the strategy, while Russia remains an “acute threat” to the US, “attacking NATO is completely out of the question,” a senior defense official said.

China is the U.S.’s “rhythmic challenge” because it is “the only competitor with the intent and the growing ability to systematically challenge the U.S. militarily, economically, technologically, diplomatically,” said a second senior defense official. strategy

The National Defense Strategy, Nuclear Posture Review and Missile Defense Review, all policy documents that guide the US government’s defense and military strategy, come as the Biden administration confronts Russia’s increasingly modernized nuclear arsenal and China’s rapidly growing forces. It also comes amid global tensions, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in its eighth month of ongoing conflict, heightened rhetoric from China over new ballistic missile tests in Taiwan and North Korea.

The nuclear challenge posed by China and Russia is long-standing, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and recent aggressive rhetoric about China’s willingness to retake Taiwan have underscored the complexity of the challenge to the US.

“First, we will have to deter two major nuclear weapons competitors, China and Russia,” the top defense official said. “This presents new dilemmas for strategic deterrence and regional warfare.”

Senior defense officials acknowledged that global tensions have risen since the release of the latest national defense strategy in 2018, and that the “international security environment has deteriorated” since then, the first official said.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine presents us with new risks and uncertainties due to the nuclear risk of the current conflict and China’s nuclear modernization and its rapid expansion,” the official added.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the US is “certainly concerned” by the escalation in Ukraine, as it has been “from the beginning”.

“If we have the lines of communication open and we’re able to communicate, you know, what’s important to us, then I think we have a chance to manage the escalation,” Austin said at the press conference. strategy at the Pentagon.”

Austin also said that Russia’s use of a nuclear weapon in Ukraine would have a “very significant international response.”

“We will continue to communicate that the use of such a weapon or talk about the use of such a weapon is dangerous and irresponsible,” Austin said, adding that if Russia were to use it, “it has the power to change things in the international community.”

China is “the broadest and most pressing national security challenge to the United States” because of its “coercive and increasingly aggressive efforts to shape the Indo-Pacific region and the international system according to its authoritarian interests and priorities,” the national defense strategy says.

A major concern for the US is China’s rapid modernization of its military and nuclear weapons, the senior official said. China “is likely to have at least 1,000 warheads on hand by the end of the decade,” says the Nuclear Posture Review.

The US “has seen in recent years that the RPCE has become more capable and reckless in its behavior in the Indo-Pacific, especially, I would mention, to take an example, the deep modernization and diversification of the PRC. nuclear capabilities in recent years,” the second official added.

The former commander of the US Strategic Command, Admiral Charles Richard, warned about China’s nuclear modernization in 2021.

“We are witnessing a strategic breakdown of China. The explosive growth and modernization of its nuclear and conventional forces can only be what I consider unparalleled, and frankly, that word breathing may not be enough,” Richard said in 2021.

While China is a challenge to the pace of the US, Russia remains an “acute threat” to the US, the documents say. Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine “underscores that nuclear risks remain and may grow in an increasingly competitive and volatile geopolitical landscape,” the nuclear posture review says.

Russia “continues to emphasize nuclear weapons in its strategy, continues to modernize and expand its nuclear forces, and continues to use its nuclear weapons in support of its revisionist security policy,” the study says.

Russia plans to continue growing its nuclear arsenal, which currently includes “1,550 reliable and deployable warheads” for nuclear forces limited by the New START Treaty in strategic delivery vehicles and with no numerical limits under arms control treaties. ” says the review.

While Congress released classified versions of the documents in March — and the documents were finalized before that — they take into account Russia’s war in Ukraine, the second defense official said.

“Frankly, at the end of last fall, we all had the idea that Russia was interested in launching this unprovoked attack on Ukraine, and we were able to put that into our thoughts when we were reviewing all of those months,” the official said. have proven to be more prominent as this war continues.”

Meanwhile, while the world has watched the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine unfold, the Pentagon has warned that Russia is using thousands of offensive missiles, including those that lack precision guidance and have hit civilian targets. Pentagon officials increasingly see that as an inevitable part of a future conflict, the first defense official said.

“Russia has used thousands of offensive missiles in Ukraine indiscriminately,” the official said. “The use of missiles in Ukraine shows that we should expect these weapons to be a common feature of 21st century conflict.”

So far, Russia has “completely shied away from attacking NATO,” the official said, with a level of confidence rarely heard from the U.S., especially amid heightened rhetoric from Russia and its state media.

“President Biden has stated unequivocally that we will defend every inch of NATO territory, and we are very clear here at the Pentagon that Russia has gotten that message,” the official said.

The latest posture review, as expected, formalizes the cancellation of a new nuclear-tipped sea-launched cruise missile that Richard and General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, had championed as a necessary option. Earlier this year, Richard told a Senate subcommittee that the strategic rift between Russia and China “shows that we have a deterrence and certainty gap in the face of the threat of limited nuclear employment.” To help close that nuclear gap, Richard repeatedly advocated for the new cruise missile. Other top commanders recommended that the effort to develop that missile continue.

But the Pentagon rejects that advice in its Nuclear Posture Review, questioning the missile’s deterrent value and expected costs, especially in light of other nuclear modernization programs.

“The marginal ability it provides far outweighs the cost,” he told Congress in April.

The nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile, featured in the 2018 nuclear posture review, is “no longer necessary” given the other nuclear weapons the US has and is developing, according to the review.