U.S. intelligence agencies are evaluating the respective Russian and Chinese capabilities to survive a nuclear war, as well as those of the United States.
Congress has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and U.S. Strategic Command, through the National Defense Authorization Act of the Fiscal Year 2017, to report on Russian and Chinese "leadership survivability, command and control, and continuity of government programs and activities" in the event of a nuclear strike.
A Russian Topol M mobile nuclear missile. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
The directive was pushed forward by Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio).
The U.S. "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," Turner told Bloomberg.
Russia and China "have invested considerable effort and resources into understanding how we fight, including how to interfere with our leadership's communication capabilities," he added.
"We must not ignore gaps in our understanding of key adversary capabilities," he concluded.
The intelligence review is required to identify "which facilities various senior political and military leaders of each respective country are expected to operate out of during crisis and wartime," "location and description of above-ground and underground facilities important to the political and military leadership survivability," and "key officials and organizations of each respective country involved in managing and operating such facilities, programs, and activities."
"Our experts are drafting an appropriate response," Navy Captain Brook DeWalt, a spokesman for U.S. Strategic Command, told Bloomberg.
"We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems," Russian President Vladimir Putin said in December. He said that Russian forces should be able to "neutralize any military threat."
China should "build more strategic nuclear arms and accelerate the deployment of the DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile," China's nationalist Global Times said in December.
Last week, Chinese reports indicated that China had deployed its nuclear-capable DF-41s in response to President Donald Trump's "provocative remarks."
The request predates Trump's election; however, it appears consistent with his intentions for enhancing the power of the U.S. military.
"The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes," Trump tweeted in late December.
Trump instructed Secretary of Defense General James Mattis to "initiate a new Nuclear Posture Review to ensure that the United States nuclear deterrent is modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready, and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies" Friday.
At the same time, Trump hopes that he can reshape relations with both China and Russia.
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