Top former U.S. officials are warning that the agenda of the national security team that President Joe Biden is assembling is in for a big shock once they get up to date on the latest classified intelligence reports on what America’s enemies, in particular China, have been up to lately.
Biden’s team is eyeing a progressive agenda that includes implementing new arm control treaties, reducing America’s stockpile of nuclear weapons, and significantly altering U.S. foreign policy.
“Veterans of the last administration fear this newly empowered group of progressives may be naive about what can be achieved without undermining U.S. security, and are already warning them to prepare for a shock when they read the latest intelligence,” Politico reported, noting that these former officials warn that the new administration will “be hit by a new reality when they learn more about real-world threats, including China’s major nuclear buildup in recent years.”
“I think a lot of these guys who are going into government are going to finally start getting classified briefings about what China has been up to,” Tim Morrison, who oversaw the arms control portfolio on the National Security Council under Trump, said. “I want to be a fly in the room. The color is going to drain out of their faces, they are going to sit back in their chairs, and they are going to say ‘oh sh**.'”
The report noted that Trump “significantly increased spending on nuclear weapons” and other aspects of beefing up the U.S. military, which are initiatives that Democrats are going to look to cut back on, likely to China’s benefit. Democrat Michael Bloomberg praised Trump’s accomplishments with the U.S. military, saying during a presidential debate last year that “the things that I’ve seen recently convinced me that the military today is better prepared than they’ve been in an awful long time and that the moneys they are spending on the war of weapons we need for the next war and not the last one, a common mistake that they’re not making now, they’re doing a good job.”
Former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said that he thought that the moves that Biden is making are “a bad signal and suggests that Biden may be a pushover when it comes to this sort of thing because even those who still see value in New START agree there are some things the United States should be pushing for.”
New START is a nuclear weapons treaty between the U.S. and Russia. Trump delayed deciding whether to extend the treaty because he wanted China to be included in a new treaty because he recognized that a treaty that did not include China would allow China to beef up its capabilities while the U.S. would be restricted from doing so.
The South China Morning Post reported that the extension of the treaty “gives China an additional five-year buffer period” that “Beijing can spend … catching up.” How serious is China about catching up the U.S.? Former Chinese military instructor Song Zhongping said China might use the time to catch up to the U.S. because China does “not [have] enough [nuclear weapons] to completely destroy all major cities in the U.S.”
“They gave away all of the leverage that they had in order to get additional arms control done,” Trump’ chief arms control negotiator, former Ambassador Marshall Billingslea, warned. “It’s not at all clear to me what further interest the Russians have in negotiating anything with the Biden administration.”
Politico noted that Bonnie Jenkins, Biden’s nominee to be undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, has argued for declaring a “no first-use” policy when it comes to nuclear weapons.
That policy position comes in direct opposition to what the head of U.S. Strategic Command said last week in a warning that he made about the urgent need to update America’s nuclear weapons playbook.
STRATCOM Commander Adm. Charles Richard warned that the U.S. Military needed to change its approach or else we are likely to “prepare for the conflict we prefer, instead of one we are likely to face.”
Acting in a responsible manner is incumbent upon any great power. For China, we must pay attention to PRC’s actions more than its stated policies. While the PRC has maintained a “No First Use” policy since the 1960s—contending it will never use a nuclear weapon first—its buildup of advanced capabilities should give us pause. This policy could change in the blink of an eye. Beijing is pursuing capabilities and operating in a manner inconsistent with a minimum deterrent strategy, giving it a full range of options, including limited use and a first-strike capability.
Faced with Russia and China’s growing threats and gray zone actions, the United States must take action today to position itself for the future. We must start by acknowledging that our most fundamental assumption—that strategic deterrence will hold, even through crisis and conflict—is going to be tested in ways not seen before. This assumption is the foundation on which we built strategies, plans, and capabilities. Unfortunately, our opponents invested in nuclear and strategic capabilities designed to constrain U.S. actions, test our alliances, and, if necessary, escalate past us—to include nuclear use. There is a real possibility that a regional crisis with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons, if they perceived a conventional loss would threaten the regime or state. Consequently, the U.S. military must shift its principal assumption from “nuclear employment is not possible” to “nuclear employment is a very real possibility,” and act to meet and deter that reality. We cannot approach nuclear deterrence the same way. It must be tailored and evolved for the dynamic environment we face.
Biden announced this week that the he had created a DOD China Task Force “to provide a baseline assessment of department policies, programs and processes in regard to the challenge China poses.”
“China is seeking to overturn the current rules-based structure, which has benefitted all nations in the Indo-Pacific region. The United States and its allies seek to continue the free and open environment in the region. China is using all elements of national power to bend the nations to its will,” the statement said. “The United States is conducting freedom of navigation operations to ensure all nations can use international waterways and air routes. The U.S. is working with allies to improve policing of national borders and exclusive economic zones to ensure sovereignty. Countering Chinese efforts is the focus of the task force.”
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