Risk of Nuclear War From China and Russia Increases

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News Analysis

With rising global instability, caused primarily by the belligerence of the new ChinaRussia axis, these and other countries keep surprising America with their quest for new nuclear weapons and delivery systems, including the hypersonic variety.

The chief of U.S. Strategic Command, Adm. Charles Richard, believes that China’s “breathtaking expansion” of its nuclear arsenal leads the United States in hypersonics and already escalates the risk for America, according to his April 5 congressional testimony.

In July, China launched its first test of a hypersonic glide vehicle, which was launched from an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

According to Richard, the test was a “technological achievement with serious implications for strategic stability.”

The hypersonic reentry vehicle flew 25,000 miles in one hour and 40 minutes—“the greatest distance and longest flight time of any land attack weapon system of any nation to date,” he wrote in his testimony, which was delivered to the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee on April 5.

Epoch Times Photo
Military vehicles carrying DF-5B intercontinental ballistic missiles participate in a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, on Oct. 1, 2019. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

One of the greatest dangers of this high-speed nuclear-capable delivery vehicle is that it could destroy American defenses, including in space, before we had time to react adequately. That puts all major American weapons systems, which tend to be thoroughly technological and interdependent upon each other, at high risk of defeat at their weakest link.

According to Richard, all Pentagon operational plans and “every other capability we have, rests on the assumption that strategic deterrence, and in particular nuclear deterrence, will hold.”

Now that Beijing and Moscow have broken our assumption with their hypersonic capabilities, American nuclear deterrence may already have been defeated. We’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Moscow and Beijing no longer seem scared of the United States, judging by China and Russia’s apparently coordinated belligerence in Ukraine and Asia, including alleged Chinese cyberattacks on Ukraine just before the invasion. They now feel confident in jointly violating international law by committing war crimes and genocide, including at the Bucha massacre.

This muscular disregard for international law, backed by a nuclear deterrent held by Moscow and Beijing, is fueling a global nuclear arms race on a global level. The good guys want to defend themselves with nuclear weapons—and they should. The bad guys want to acquire more nuclear weapons so they can continue their dictatorial rule over their own populations and their territorial theft from neighbors, abetted they hope by terrorizing nuclear threats.

It’s not a spiral of insecurity, but the dictators are backing the democracies up a spiral staircase to choose between the suicide of their sovereignty or a catastrophic war they do not want to fight.

According to an April 4 report, spending on nuclear weapons, including bombs and delivery systems such as missiles, will surpass $126 billion over the next 10 years, an increase of 73 percent since 2020. Much of this will be small nuclear warheads for tactical use and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). Nuclear growth will be strong in China, India, and Pakistan, according to the report.

Yet the Biden administration is canceling American development of the tactical nuclear weapons necessary, according to one defense analyst, for deterring Russia and China at the regional level.

Nikkei reported on April 4 that the Biden administration decided to discontinue a new sea-launched nuclear-capable cruise missile (SLCM-N) championed by the Trump administration. By doing so, the administration reportedly hopes to “add momentum to the flagging nuclear disarmament movement.”

Richard Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Washington, wrote in an email that canceling the SLCM-N “is a serious mistake that will only serve to increase the chances of aggression against the United States and its allies.”

Fisher said that SLCM-N would have given “the United States a near-term survivable tactical nuclear deterrent–that does not require the often difficult approval of allies for basing—with which it can help convince Russia and China not to initiate the use of tactical nuclear weapons.”

Without a robust tactical nuclear option, the United States would be forced to back down given Russian or Chinese use of tactical nuclear weapons or escalate to the strategic level and risk retaliation against U.S. cities.

“Today Russia has 2,000 or many more theater nuclear weapons and China likely has more than 1,000 whereas the United States reportedly only has about 500 tactical nuclear bombs and only deploys 100 of these in Europe and none in Asia,” wrote Fisher.

The Biden administration is doing something to improve America’s nuclear arsenal, though not enough. It requested a record $813 billion in defense spending for 2023, which eclipses the former president’s. Some of this will be spent on modernizing the nuclear triad, which is composed of America’s nuclear weapons deployed on bombers, submarines, and land-based missiles, but not for the SLCM-N.

Epoch Times Photo
The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) conducting underway operations in the South China Sea on April 28, 2020. (Samuel Hardgrove/U.S. Navy/AFP via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden is apparently attempting to return to the Barack Obama era of nuclear strategy, which sought a “world without nuclear weapons” through gradual acts of unilateral peacemaking at the expense of relative American power and the ultimate strategy of peace through strength.

In 2010, then-President Obama preceded Biden in scrapping the nuclear cruise missile, only briefly revived by President Donald Trump.

However nice a concept, the pacifist approach to nuclear strategy didn’t work. Instead, it gave Russia and China a head-start on hypersonic missile development and the rapid buildup of their conventional military and nuclear forces, much of which is meant for offense rather than defense.

If America did ever fully disarm its nuclear arsenal, there is no guarantee that Moscow and Beijing would do the same, even if they promised otherwise. If they did, their larger conventional military power and China’s massive population could then overwhelm American military forces, with no American nuclear deterrent available.

There is no risk-free solution to the threats above. Risks and costs abound whatever path is chosen because those risks and costs are imposed on America by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its allies, who respond to the olive branches of democracy with daggers hidden behind dictatorial backs. Appearing soft may be riskier than getting tougher.

America should beware of thinking that by being nicer, the CCP will somehow back off. It won’t. It will take niceness as a sign of weakness and advance on our positions globally, starting with the weakest of democracies, like Ukraine and Taiwan, that we left out in the cold from our alliances.

Beijing has a goal of global hegemony and a set of sophisticated strategies to achieve this, including using tactical nuclear weapons to scare us into a fatal paralysis when we should be ever more active in our defense. Biden needs to return America to its only successful strategy against the world’s most ruthless dictators: peace through strength.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Anders Corr

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Anders Corr has a bachelor’s/master’s in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea” (2018).



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