The Air Force general chosen to lead the country’s nuclear deterrence arsenal told Congress that the expanding relations between China and Russia are causing new worries among American war planners that the nuclear powers could soon constitute a unified nuclear threat.
In response to persistent questioning, Gen. Anthony J. Cotton, who is currently in charge of the Air Force Global Strike Command and is a candidate to lead the Strategic Command, stated during a Senate confirmation hearing that a China-Russia nuclear axis would necessitate stronger U.S. nuclear deterrent forces and new thinking on how the U.S. would handle a nuclear challenge.
The general’s remarks were delivered on the same day that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Uzbekistan for their first in-person discussions in seven months. Both leaders urged greater coordination in the expanding strategic alliance.
Mr. Xi, who in February signed an agreement with Mr. Putin stating there are “no limitations” to collaboration between the two, said China supports working with Russia on their “fundamental issues.”
China’s nuclear arsenal is likely to contain more than 1,000 warheads by the end of the decade, along with new missiles, submarines, and bombers to deliver them, according to U.S. intelligence. A fractional orbital bombardment system, a novel space-based hypersonic assault weapon that can send nuclear bombs to targets on Earth from any trajectory, was recently tested by China.
Additionally, satellite photographs showed that China is constructing silos for approximately 360 missiles, which according to American defense officials will be utilized for the new DF-41 multiwarhead ICBMs.
For its part, Russia recently completed a significant initiative to update its sizable nuclear arsenal, which included the addition of new heavy ICBMs and submarines. A hypersonic missile, a drone torpedo with nuclear bombs, and a cruise missile with nuclear propulsion are among the modern strategic weapons that Moscow is also fielding.
According to Gen. Cotton’s testimony to legislators last week, the U.S. nuclear modernization program faces concerns that outdated strategic systems won’t be replaced in a timely manner.
The upgrading is expected to cost $634 billion through 2030, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The price tag will cover brand-new B-21 Raider strategic bombers, Sentinel ground-based ICBMs, and Columbia-class nuclear missile submarines. Additionally, a new “Long-Range Standoff Missile” and nuclear command and control are added.
“The existing record program represents the bare minimum U.S. In his responses to committee inquiries, he stated that “Stratcom needs to deliver effective strategic deterrence.” Until replacements can be sent out, the command intends to preserve the outdated force of missiles, bombers, and submarines. Delays in modernizing funding could make it more difficult to discourage China and Russia.
Gen. Cotton declared, “Wherever practicable, we must pursue every opportunity to hasten modernization.
Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, questioned the four-star general about the new deterrent posture, which calls for shifting from a focus on a single opponent, Russia, to one that must now include Russia and China cooperating. He pointed out that due to a long history of hostility, American nuclear policy has long assumed that China and Russia would never become allies.
But, he continued, “they’re coming closer and closer every day, and frequently, they’re doing things not only with the two of them, but also with Iran, North Korea, and occasionally with Turkey.” We currently have two nuclear rivals, and evidence shows that they are increasingly cooperating, according to Mr. Kaine.
According to Gen. Cotton, the command is evaluating the problem and must continue if it is confirmed.
According to him, Strategic Command would also try to figure out how to carry out deterrence operations against a joint nuclear threat from China and Russia.
To your point, Gen. Cotton stated, “We’ll explore where I can better grasp what it looks like when you have two near-peer enemies that act differently, that might work together, [or] might not work together.”
Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, was informed by Gen. Cotton that the U.S. military must seriously consider the level of force necessary to deter both China and Russia simultaneously through at least 2030. It will be crucial for us to be able to discourage both countries at once, he said.
The president and his administration will need to develop national objectives to address the dual danger as part of that process.
The rapidity of China’s construction, in especially the 360 new silos, “is just remarkable,” according to Gen. Cotton.
He added, “We were describing China as having weak nuclear deterrent as recently as 2018.” “We would have probably talked about regional hegemony in that situation. They are now constructing ground-based ICBM silos. They have the H-6N medium bomber, which is nuclear-capable and possesses a strategic launch system.
In addition, Gen. Cotton stated that U.S. nuclear deterrent serves as a safety net for conventional military forces aiming to prevent China from attempting to annex Taiwan in response to Russia’s brazen assault against Ukraine.
He claimed that “nuclear and conventional [deterrence] work hand in hand.”
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