Admiral Charles Richard, in charge of US Strategic Command (STRATCOM), spoke at the Space & Missile Defense Symposium last Thursday, where he highlighted the increasing danger China’s and Russia’s strategic capabilities are creating for the United States.
In his energetic speech the Admiral outlined his concerns:
“We are witnessing a strategic breakout by China. The explosive growth and modernization of its nuclear and conventional forces can only be what I describe as breathtaking. And frankly, that word breathtaking may not be enough. […] It really doesn’t matter why China is and continues to grow and modernize. What matters is that they’re building the capability to execute any plausible nuclear employment strategy – the last brick in the wall of a military capable of coercion.”
The Admiral already spoke before Congress on the issue earlier this year and wanted to highlight one thing: “business as usual will not work”. China’s capabilities are expanding rapidly and the US nuclear arsenal is falling behind; if the US fails to effectively follow through on nuclear modernization its strategic arsenal may no longer prove a sufficient deterrent.
“Every operational plan in the Department of Defense, and every other capability we have, rests on an assumption that strategic deterrence will hold. And if strategic deterrence, and in particular nuclear deterrence, doesn’t hold, none of our other plans, and no other capability that we have is going to work as designed.”
Admiral Richard also encouraged think tanks, experts and open-source intelligence enthusiasts to continue looking for new Chinese missile silos.
“If you enjoy looking at commercial satellite imagery or stuff in China, can I suggest you keep looking? Normally I have to pay people to do it. If you like doing it for free it just helps.”
The importance of such information has been underscored by the recent discovery made by Matt Korda and Hans Kristensen and published by the Federation of American Scientists – they used satellite imagery to find over a hundred of new Chinese missile silos under construction.
The admiral warned back in April that the state of the US arsenal is critical and, in many areas, urgent upgrades and replacements are required as underinvestment and end-of-life limitations leave him with “no operational margin” and that extending the life of Cold War systems isn’t going to cut it. In his speech last week, he mentioned that modernization must include areas like nuclear command and control and cybersecurity.