There is a "real possibility" that a regional crisis with either China or Russia could escalate to nuclear war, the head of U.S. Strategic Command is warning in a call for federal and military leaders to change their approach to nuclear deterrence.
"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," STRATCOM Commander Adm. Charles Richard wrote in the February issue of "Proceedings," the monthly magazine for the U.S. Naval Institute. "Consequently, the U.S. 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."
He also warned that China and Russia are beginning 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. He also cited investment in advanced arms, such as nuclear weapons, as well as a rise in cyberattacks and threats in space.
Meanwhile, recent actions from both countries will "increase the risk of great power crisis or conflict" if U.S. officials leave the matter unchecked.
Russia is "aggressively modernizing" its nuclear arsenal, Richard wrote, and China is on a "trajectory to be a strategic peer," so it shouldn't be dismissed as a lesser threat.
There are several ways to improve preparedness, said Richard, including developing a "unity of effort" to deter both countries and reviewing how to proceed if deterrence fails.
"While this is a sobering picture, it is not intended to discourage; rather, it is meant to highlight reality and reinvigorate a conversation across the enterprise," he said. "Our challenges are not insurmountable."
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during his confirmation hearing that he will look to "update the strategy" toward China. He also said that while he does think the United States has the "qualitative edge and the competitive edge over China ... that gap has closed significantly and our goal will be to ensure that we expand that gap going forward."
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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