US Ought to Contemplate Increasing Nuclear Arsenal to Deal with China and Russia, Research Says

A brand new report from a examine group organized by the Lawrence Livermore Nationwide Laboratory hopes to form an important rising debate in Washington: the right way to handle two nuclear near-peers for the primary time in U.S. historical past.

“This new downside compels a broad rethinking of the assumptions of U.S. nuclear coverage and of the deterrence practices of the US,” write the authors of the report, which embrace former senior protection and nuclear coverage officers. 

Among the group’s proposals have bipartisan assist and are already underway. It argues the U.S. ought to put money into the modernization of the nation’s nuclear triad by certifying the F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter as a dual-capable plane—able to carrying standard and nuclear weapons—by 2024, fielding a major variety of new B-21 Raider stealth bombers, and making certain the Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile is fielded to interchange the getting older Minuteman III. 

The examine, nonetheless, argues for extra steps, together with consideration of accelerating the variety of U.S. nuclear forces to spice up their possibilities of surviving an enemy assault. 

It additionally says policymakers ought to contemplate some hotly-debated concepts the Biden administration has shot down, similar to fielding assault submarines with the nuclear Sea-Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM-N), which the Pentagon doesn’t plan to develop regardless of Congressional pushback by Republican lawmakers, and exploring a cellular variant of the Air Power’s Sentinel ICBM.

“The US must also severely discover making a portion of the ICBM drive road-mobile (however garrison-based), and take steps to make sure that the Sentinel ICBM could be made cellular sooner or later if essential,” the report states. “This enhances the survivability of the ICBM drive with out growing the necessity to contemplate launch below assault and hedges in opposition to a breakthrough in anti-submarine warfare.”

The 18-member examine group was chaired by Brad Roberts, a former senior Pentagon official who now serves as director of the Heart for International Safety Analysis at Lawrence Livermore Nationwide Laboratory. Different members embrace retired Air Power Gen. C. Robert Kehler, the previous commander of U.S. Strategic Command; Robert Soofer, a Protection Division official through the Trump administration; and Elbridge Colby, who performed a key function in drafting the 2018 Nationwide Protection Technique which positioned an growing emphasis on China.

U.S. nuclear posture has lengthy targeted on Russia, with smaller threats of rogue states or actors utilizing nuclear weapons looming within the background. Amid tensions over Ukraine, Russia has “suspended” its participation within the New START treaty, which limits the U.S. and Russia to 1,550 deployed nuclear weapons, although it has pledged to stay below the cap for now.

The largest change within the safety state of affairs, although, is China. It has expanded its nuclear arsenal at a fast tempo to round 400 warheads, and the Pentagon tasks that China’s nuclear drive might attain 1,500 warheads by 2035. The Chinese language have additionally proven no curiosity thus far in partaking in arms management talks.


Nonetheless, some former officers say the examine authors did a greater job at diagnosing the challenges of dealing with two peer nuclear opponents than in mapping out an answer. As a substitute of prioritizing methods to increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal, they argued, the U.S. ought to put extra emphasis on diplomacy and renewed efforts at arms management. 

“If China’s arsenal grows as predicted, the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile won’t ever equal that of Russia plus China mixed,” Lynn Rusten, a former senior director for arms management and nonproliferation on the Nationwide Safety Council through the Obama administration, advised Air & Area Forces Journal.

“The extra we construct up, Russia will definitely preserve parity, and our choices will affect what China does,” Rusten, now a vice chairman on the Nuclear Menace Initiative, added. “So why not attempt to affect all of it within the different route, which is to keep up mutual constraints on U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons, perhaps train some self-restraint, and hold pushing to get China right into a strategic stability and danger discount dialogue, and ultimately arms management.”

Among the group’s suggestions additionally face substantial political challenges. The U.S. developed plans for cellular ICBMs through the Chilly Warfare, together with rail-mobile Peacekeeper IBCMs and road-mobile “Midgetman” ICBMs, which might have difficult adversaries’ focusing on. However deploying cellular missiles on U.S. territory was not politically sustainable. 

“The emergence of a second nuclear peer is definite to drive renewed debate in regards to the continued necessity, values, and dangers of sustaining a requirement to have the ability to strike an enemy’s nuclear forces,” the report says. “We can’t now know the longer term decisions leaders in Moscow, Beijing, and elsewhere would possibly make about what extra or completely different strategic capabilities to hunt.”