A recent US Congress report urges a strategic defensive posture review of simultaneous near-peer conventional and nuclear threats.
This month, the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the US released a report urging the country to be prepared for a two-front conflict against China and Russia.
The report says that US defense strategy and strategic posture must change to properly defend its vital interests and improve strategic stability with the two nuclear-armed adversaries while advocating that critical decisions should be made now to address nuclear threats expected to arise during the 2027-2035 time-frame.
It also assessed that the USA needs to address the looming nuclear threat with a comprehensive strategy and force structure adjustments.
Although it says the fundamentals of US deterrence strategy remain sound, size and composition adjustments are needed to its nuclear capabilities.
The report also emphasizes the importance of non-nuclear capabilities for the US strategic posture, including strengthened infrastructure and risk reduction efforts. It notes allies and partners are crucial to the US approach in the new emerging threat environment.
The report recommends that the US Congress fund the expansion of the US nuclear weapons defense industrial base and the Department of Energy (DOE)/National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) nuclear security enterprise.
It also suggests that Congress should ensure funding stability for the defense industry to respond to innovative Department of Defense (DOD) contracting approaches.
The report’s recommendations include deploying a stronger space architecture with offensive and defensive elements, prioritizing funding for long-range precision strike programs, developing homeland missile defense systems and transferring missile defense responsibility to the Military Departments by October 2024.
The report says that the US should maintain and strengthen its network of alliances and partnerships to deter aggression, ensure regional security and boost economic prosperity through access to international markets.
It warns that withdrawing from these relationships would benefit adversaries, increase the risk of aggression and reduce the USA and its derailed allies’ security and economic prosperity.
It also recommends exploring nuclear arms control opportunities and researching potential verification technologies to support future negotiations in the US national interest that seek to limit all nuclear weapon types.
The foundation of US national defense, including the defense of allies and support of military operations, is based on the concept of nuclear deterrence that has been in place since 1945.
In a January 2023 article for the US Naval Institute, Daniel Post outlines the value and limits of nuclear deterrence. Post says that the unparalleled destructiveness of nuclear weapons underpins their deterrent value, making them desirable to acquire alongside conventional military capabilities.
Given that, he says the US nuclear strategy must aim at manipulating the rational calculations of adversaries by understanding how its capabilities are perceived by the other.
Post also says nuclear weapons are useless to coerce other states but are effective when held in reserve as a defensive capability, denying benefits and imposing costs on aggressors once deterrence has failed, noting that they deter nuclear and other major strategic attacks on the USA and its allies and major state-on-state wars between nuclear powers.
Along with nuclear deterrence, conventional deterrence is more applicable to a broader range of circumstances, has greater flexibility than nuclear weapons and is not subject to the political constraints of the former.
Robert Haffa Jr argues in a 2018 article for Strategic Studies Quarterly that the USA should reinforce the logic of conventional deterrence as a central concept of its defense policy.
However, Haffa points out that the main issue with conventional deterrence is its tendency to fail. Given that, he says Cold War-era conventional deterrence strategies are inadequate for today’s great power competition.
According to Haffa, a modern approach to deterring US adversaries should focus on non-nuclear threats, be intense and overwhelming in threat, focus on US and allied strengths and adversary weaknesses, and be able to punish, deny and utilize advanced technologies and weapons systems across the globe.
China and Russia have multiple approaches to negate US nuclear and conventional deterrence, running a spectrum between threatening to use nuclear weapons and unconventional means.
In a September 2022 article for the Heritage Foundation, Patty-Jane Geller says that China’s growing nuclear forces could potentially increase the risk of unintentional escalation.
In terms of conventional deterrence, Tim Sweijs and others write in a January 2022 report for the Hague Institute of Strategic Studies (HCSS) that Russia poses a hybrid threat to NATO and Europe through using proxies, covert activities, cyber capabilities, political subversion and economic influence.
Asia Times / ABC Flash Point News 2023.