The head of U.S. Strategic Command says Moscow’s and Beijing’s successes undermine conventional deterrence
Two top U.S. military commanders warned of the growing nuclear capabilities of China and Russia, stressing the need to modernize U.S. deterrence forces.
“For the first time in our history, the country is facing two strategic adversaries with nuclear weapons at once,” Navy Admiral Charles Richard, head of Strategic Command, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
Strategic Command is responsible for maintaining the nation’s nuclear triad of strategic bombers, submarines, and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
“The advances of China and Russia are undermining our deterrence capabilities by conventional means,” Richard said.
As for China, it is rapidly expanding its strategic capabilities and is on its way to doubling its nuclear stockpile by the end of the decade, Richard said.
The admiral mentioned that Chinese ICBMs can be mounted on tractors so that their location can be concealed. Beijing also has advanced sixth-generation strategic bombers and submarines capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
“China is capable of carrying out any strategy to use nuclear weapons regionally, and will soon be able to do so on an intercontinental scale,” Richard said.
At the same time, Russia remains “the defining nuclear strategic threat,” actively engaged in conventional and nuclear weapons modernization, which is about 80 percent complete, he said, adding that the United States has not yet begun modernizing nuclear capabilities.
Given these threats, modernizing the nuclear triad is the Pentagon’s top priority, he said.
“We’re at a point where the timing constraints and the cumulative effect of underinvestment in our nuclear deterrent force and supporting infrastructure amid a growing threat leave me with no margin for maneuverability. “Our country simply cannot indefinitely try to extend the life of our remaining Cold War weapons systems and successfully execute our chosen strategy,” Richard said.
Army Gen. James Dickinson, the head of the U.S. Space Command, said China continues to rapidly develop its space activities, posing a “defining threat” to the United States.
According to the general, China invests heavily in space, having more than 400 satellites in orbit.
China is rapidly building up its military-space capabilities, including sensing and communications systems, as well as a range of anti-satellite weapons, Dickinson said, noting that at the same time Beijing has publicly opposed the placement of weapons in outer space.
Similarly, published Russian military doctrine calls for the use of weapons to “threaten the space forces and assets of the United States and its allies,” Dickinson said.
Faced with these threats, Space Command has focused on expanding existing and creating new space capabilities, he said.
“We intend to build an adequate space operational architecture to achieve full operational readiness, supported by a team of military specialists who can outsmart and outperform our adversaries,” he added.