As the US military is focused on China, Pentagon officials are inflating the threat of Beijing to justify more spending and expansion in Asia. Last week, the deputy commander of US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) claimed China will soon surpass Russia as Washington’s top nuclear threat.
“There’s going to be a point, a crossover point, where the number of threats presented by China will exceed the number of threats that currently Russia presents,” Lt. Gen. Thomas Bussiere told an online forum on Friday.
China’s nuclear arsenal is estimated to be somewhere between 300 and 350 warheads, while the US and Russia each possess around 6,000, give or take a few hundred. But Bussiere insists it is not the size of China’s arsenal that makes them a threat, but how they’re “operationally fielded.” He said he believes China will overtake Russia as a nuclear threat “in the next few years.”
Bussiere said Beijing could be more of a threat because the US and China don’t have any nuclear treaties or dialogue mechanisms on the issue. The US has tried to include China in arms control talks with Russia. But Beijing has no interest in trilateral arms control due to its much smaller nuclear arsenal.
The best thing the US could do to engage China on nuclear arms control is work with Russia to dismantle warheads, something Bussiere and STRATCOM have no interest in. STRATCOM is the military command that oversees the US arsenal, and its officials need new threats in order to justify the nuclear modernization plan. The US plan to modernize each leg of the nuclear triad could cost up to $1.5 trillion.