Within a decade, the United States will for the first time have to deter two major nuclear powers, the Biden Administration warned, pointing to the Russian arsenal which is increasingly wielded by Moscow and an expanding Chinese stockpile.
The new president national security strategy (NSS) describes China as the most capable long-term competitor, but Russia as the most immediate disruptive threat, underscoring its nuclear stance on Ukraine. He warns that the threat could grow as Russian forces continue to suffer battlefield defeats.
“Russia’s conventional military will have been weakened, which will likely increase Moscow’s reliance on nuclear weapons in its military planning,” the strategic plan says. Its publication was scheduled for spring but was postponed due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin threatened to use “all means” to defend Russian territory, in which he included Crimea, annexed in 2014, and four Ukrainian regions which he now claims. The NSS promises that American support for the Ukrainian resistance would not be affected by such threats.
“The United States will not permit Russia, or any power, to achieve its objectives by using or threatening to use nuclear weapons,” the document said.
In a foreword, Biden makes a distinction between the types of threats posed by Moscow and Beijing. “Russia poses an immediate threat to the free and open international system, recklessly flouting the basic laws of today’s international order, as demonstrated by its brutal war of aggression against Ukraine,” writes the President.
He describes Chinaon the other hand as “the only country intent both on reshaping the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to advance that goal”.
The policy document describes Beijing as “the most significant American geopolitical challenge”.
“The People’s Republic of China harbors the intention and, increasingly, the ability to reshape the international order in favor of one that tilts the global rules of the game to its advantage, even if the United States remains determined to manage competition between our countries responsibly,” it says.
China has about 350 nuclear warheads, according to an assessment by the Federation of American Scientists, compared to 5,977 in the Russian stock, compared to 5,428 in the United States. However, the Pentagon estimates that the Chinese force will reach more than 1,000 warheads by 2030, making it a third major nuclear power.
Under the last major arms control agreement in place, the New Start treaty, the United States and Russia are observing a cap of 1,550 strategic warheads deployed, referring to warheads mounted on land- or sea-launched missiles. , or ready to be charged over long distances. range bombers.
Daryl Kimball, the head of the Arms Control Association, expressed concern over whether the strategy document’s new language could herald an overhaul in the size of the US arsenal.
“If we have to worry about two close nuclear rivals by 2030, what does that mean for the number of targets in Russia and China that the president believes we need to hold at risk to deter those nuclear threats? And how does that affect the total number of strategic nuclear weapons that the United States and the president think he needs to deploy?” Kimball asked.
“They’re basically looking at issues and questions that could lead to a bigger reckoning,” he said, adding, “It’s not hard science. It could be more; it could be less. I would say that even though China has twice as many nuclear weapons, we can and should still reduce the total number of strategic nuclear weapons, because what we have exceeds any reasonable calculation of what it takes to deter nuclear attack.