The advancement of strategic nuclear weapons is now the highest priority for the Department of Defense in the wake of the perceived threats from Russia, China and North Korea. These three nations are upgrading their nuclear arsenals to the extent that it has now became critical for the United States to maintain a strong nuclear deterrent force far into the future, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said Thursday.
China, Russia, North Korea Pose existential threat
China has stationed multiple nuclear warheads on its intercontinental ballistic missiles, North Korea is expanding its nuclear weapons and missile programs and Russia is spending billions in military upgrades, Work outlined.
A nuclear attack is the only existential threat to the nation, Work highlighted. U.S. nuclear weapons should undergo upgrade to deter imminent nuclear attack, Work said.
“While we seek a world without nuclear weapons, we face the hard reality that Russia and China are rapidly modernizing their already-capable nuclear arsenals, and North Korea continues to develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them against the continental United States,” Work said.
“A strong nuclear deterrent force will remain critical to our national security for the foreseeable future,” Work added.
Challenges to U.S. advancement of nuclear weapons
Navy Adm James Winnefeld outlined three hurdles that the U.S. face in terms of upgrading its nuclear arsenals. First, the government needs to maintain a reliable and capable deterrent. In doing so, the government shall recapitalize on its nuclear weapons. Thirdly, the need for nuclear advancement comes at a time when defense budget is limited as compared to Russia.
“The fact is that systems age and need to be refreshed, modernized or replaced. Russia is going through this exact same experience now but the unfortunate coincident timing for us … in the coming years presents a large bill over a relatively short period of time,” Winnefeld said.
“As it stands. any remaining margin we have for investing in our nuclear deterrent has been steadily whittled away as we’ve pushed investments further and further into the future. The fact is there is no slack left in the system. We will need stable, long-term funding to recapitalize this most important element of what we do,” he said.
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter should be installed with nuclear weapons
The statements from Pentagon officials come as a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies urged for the government to install nuclear weapons on the F-35C Joint Fighter. The move is crucial in order to deter attack from Russia and China, the report said.
The report titled Project Atom proposed for alternative nuclear strategies that the U.S. can work on within the 2015 to 2015 timeframe.
“While I think bombers are an important hedge capability, what’s really important are nuclear-capable aircraft that can be forward-deployed on the territory of our allies,” said Clark Murdock, author of Project Atom.
Murdock outlined that U.S. had 7,000 nuclear weapons deployed in Europe at the peak of the Cold War. The U.S. had 1,000 deployed on the Korean Peninsula and 3,000 were deployed in the Asia pacific. The U.S. should bring that same level of capability in the air with air-delivered tactical nuclear weapons.
“When the Soviets looked out at their borders, they didn’t just see a ring of American men and women in uniform, they saw a ring of nuclear weapons. They knew that any major, conventional aggression on their part would go nuclear because all the weapons were there,” Murdock said.
Contributing author of the Project Atom, Elbridge Colby, seconded.
“US nuclear weapons should and need to do more than threaten unhindered devastation. It’s not very credible if the United States threatens to lose apocalyptic destruction that would call forth a matching response over something less than a very central or grave interest. It’s a bad idea.”
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