A report has been published on nuclear weaponry by the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States in response to “the militarily troubling and increasingly aggressive behaviors of Russia and China.”
The Commission, comprised of six Democrats and six Republicans, released the report amid tensions with China over the country’s aggression towards Taiwan and increasing frictions with Russia over Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Congress created the panel in 2022 to assess long-term nuclear threats to the United States and recommend any changes to US nuclear weaponry and conventional forces.
US Nuclear Weaponry Recommendations From the Commission
With regards to US nuclear weaponry, the report states:
Leaders must communicate to US citizens both the need and urgency to rebuild the nuclear infrastructure and modernize the nuclear forces. These investments in the nuclear enterprise are a relatively small portion of the overall defense budget but provide the backbone and foundation of deterrence and are the nation’s highest defense priority.
This recommendation directly opposes US President Joe Biden’s stance that the existing US nuclear weaponry is sufficient to deter both Russia and China combined.
In response to the report, The Arms Control Association advocacy group, the publisher of the monthly magazine Arms Control Today, told Reuters the arsenal’s makeup “still exceeds what is necessary to hold a sufficient number of adversary targets at risk so as to deter enemy nuclear attack.”
The Rising Nuclear Threat From Russia and China
The panel drew on a Pentagon forecast which predicted that China’s nuclear weaponry expansion will likely give it 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035, confronting the US with a significant second nuclear-armed adversary for the first time.
The 145-page report stated that “decisions need to be made now in order for the nation to be prepared” in the knowledge that the Chinese and Russian threats will become more intense in the 2027 to 2035 timeframe.
The report also said the thirty-year US nuclear arms modernization program, which started in 2010 and was estimated to cost around four hundred billion dollars by 2046, must be fully funded to enhance all warheads, infrastructure, and delivery systems on schedule.
Other recommendations included deploying more tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and Asia, making plans to deploy reserve US nuclear warheads, and producing more Columbia-class nuclear submarines and B-21 stealth bombers beyond numbers currently planned.
What is the likelihood of a nuclear exchange?
The report admits the risk of a major nuclear conflict is low but claims the risk of military conflict with either or both Russia and China has grown. With this risk comes the increased risk of nuclear use—as the report states—”against the US homeland.”