Pentagon and US Intelligence Agencies are now investigating the robustness of Chinese and Russian nuclear preparedness programs, specifically to gauge if Chinese and Russian leaders could survive a nuclear attack
The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a controversial piece of legislation signed by President Obama well before Trump’s inauguration, contains orders for a comprehensive investigation by US intelligence and Strategic Command into Russian and Chinese “survivability” plans to ensure their leadership survives a nuclear strike. Included in the wording, Congress specifically calls for an investigation of, among other aspects, the programs’ size and location, key leadership players, command structure, program costs, technical assessment and the survivability of such programs in the event of a spectrum of nuclear scenarios. The NDAA makes clear that as an outcome of the investigation, the committee will submit, “an assessment of how the command, control and communications systems for the national leadership of the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation, respectively, compare to such system of the United States.”
Although 9 nations currently possess nuclear weapons and 59 others have the capability to create their own nuclear programs, the US and Russia have historically harbored by far the largest nuclear arsenals, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 2017 Doomsday Clock Statement. In 2017 the Science and Security Board’s Doomsday Clock was advanced to two and a half minutes before midnight, signifying the, “probability of global catastrophe” is higher now than it has been since the early 1980s.
With regard to US nuclear strategy, Republican Representative Michael Turner of Ohio, a member of the House Armed Service Committee’s Strategic Forces panel told Bloomberg news in an email that, the US “must understand how China and Russia intend to fight a war and how their leadership will command and control a potential conflict. This knowledge is pivotal to our ability to deter the threat.” President Trump has signaled via Twitter his own intentions regarding nuclear preparedness with regards to the US arsenal stating, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” toward the end of December of last year. He has since pledged to “greatly strengthen and expand” US Nuclear capabilities. VOX, however, has also reported Trump confusingly said in an interview a month after his statement about strengthening and expanding nuclear capabilities that he wanted to actually reduce the nation’s nuclear arsenal: “For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially.”
In contrast to the stated goals of the current administration, the Global Zero US Nuclear Policy Comission, chaired by former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General (Ret.) James E. Cartwright, issued a report calling, “for the US and Russia to reduce their nuclear arsenals 80% to 900 total weapons each. This bold step would pave the way to bringing other nuclear weapons countries into the first multilateral nuclear arms negotiations in history.” As The Financial Times noted, “Global Zero makes a good case for such a deep cut. An arsenal of 900 weapons would easily meet the reasonable need for mutual deterrence and vastly exceeds what is needed by either Washington or Moscow to deter third countries.”
The Strategic Command is still drafting a response to investigative findings and spokesman Navy Captain Brook DeWalt told Bloomberg Monday that while, “it’s premature to pass along any details at this point, we can update you further at a later date.”
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