Admiral Charles Richard, head of the U.S. Strategic Command, warned on March 1 that the United States is facing two governments ready to deploy nuclear arsenals.
His statements came amid the backdrop of Russia’s readiness to conjure nuclear warheads in the invasion of Ukraine while it is under constraining sanctions from world powers.
Moscow’s behavior has somewhat indicated its close ally China’s potential actions in the face of international condemnation.
Richard told the House Armed Services Committee that “Today, we face two nuclear-capable near-peers who have the capability to unilaterally escalate a conflict to any level of violence in any domain worldwide, with any instrument of national power, and that is historically significant.”
He said it has become “imperative” for the United States to pay attention to countering both Russia and China. The hazards from both governments were still perceived as significant concerns just last year.
But he said that concern “has now become a reality.”
China last fall astonished expectations of its arms advances when it tested nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles. A situation in which Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley referred to as a “Sputnik moment.”
There were also reports that China was building hundreds of additional nuclear silos. The Pentagon warned that China might develop 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030.
Richard was confident that the U.S. is still on track with its weaponry advances, saying that “The nation’s nuclear command and control is in its most defended, most resilient lineup that it’s ever been in its history.”
However, noting that the U.S. doesn’t know “the endpoint of where [China] is going,” he said it was critical to maintaining close supervision of the country’s arms development.
He said, “While I’m very confident we’re going to wind up with a very good strategy, I think it will need to be a question that we continue to ask ourselves as we see where China goes, as we see where others go. What are the overall capability and capacity that the United States requires in order to execute that strategy against a changing threat.”
“We’re going to have to ask that question much more frequently than we have in the past.”