Amid heightening tensions with China and in the wake of accusations Russia somehow interfered in the election, U.S. Congress has instructed intelligence agencies and the Pentagon’s Strategic Command to assess the ‘survivability’ of Chinese and Russian leaders in the event of an above- or below-ground nuclear strike.
Under ordinary circumstances, such a review could be considered routine, but — given President Donald Trump’s ratcheting up of hostilities with China and the Democratic establishment’s scapegoating of Russia for its own shortcomings — it seems more an indication the U.S. could be preparing for war.
Interestingly, the plan for this analysis came buried in the 2017 NDAA, which former President Barack Obama signed into law two days before Christmas — timing almost certainly intended to deflect attention from several unsavory measures buried in the law’s pages.
This review, had it garnered attention, surely would have set off further debate on the perilous provocation to war with nuclear capable nations.
According to the NDAA, reviewers will perform “an identification of which facilities various senior political and military leaders of each respective country are expected to operate out of during crisis and wartime” and, additionally, the “location and description of above-ground and underground facilities important to the political and military leadership survivability.”
“Key officials and organizations of each respective country involved in managing and operating such facilities, programs, and activities” will also be identified by analysts.
Bloomberg reports, “Under the little-noticed provision in this year’s defense authorization measure, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the U.S. Strategic Command — which plans and would execute nuclear strikes — will evaluate the post-attack capabilities of the two nuclear powers. The law mandates a report on Russian and Chinese ‘leadership survivability, command and control and continuity of government programs.’”
Strategic Command will also evaluate how Chinese and Russian plans relate to the post-nuclear deployment plans of the United States.
“Our experts are drafting an appropriate response,” Strategic Command spokesman Navy Captain Brook DeWalt told Bloomberg in an email, adding, “it’s premature to pass along any details at this point, we can update you further at a later date.”
Written before Trump took office, the planned analysis nevertheless aligns with the president’s statement the U.S. nuclear arsenal should be strengthened — despite his stated goal of rapprochement with Russia.
In December, he told MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski on Morning Joe, “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.” And in a brazen tweet the same month, Trump declared, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
On Friday, Trump ordered Secretary of Defense 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.”
Ohio Representative Michael Turner, who sits on the House Armed Service Committee’s Strategic Forces panel, told Bloomberg via email 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.”
China and Russia, he continued, “have invested considerable effort and resources into understanding how we fight, including how to interfere with our leadership’s communication capabilities.
“We must not ignore gaps in our understanding of key adversary capabilities.”
While posturing about Russia being responsible for hacking and otherwise manipulating either the election or the U.S. populace has subsided since Trump took office, the president has intensified hostilities with China over trade, as well as maritime territorial issues in the South and East China Seas.
Russia and the U.S. ostensively possess some 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons — but Moscow has reportedly spent a great deal of time and money upgrading and improving its arsenal, where the U.S. has not.
Assessing the plans of world leaders in the event military action turns nuclear indicates the use of these weapons remains a viable option.
“Nuclear leaders in Russia and China ‘plan to direct nuclear forces from inside command bunkers buried deeply beneath the earth or deeply inside mountains,’ said Bruce Blair, a Princeton University research scholar on nuclear security policy and co-founder of Global Zero, a group devoted to eliminating nuclear weapons,” Bloomberg reports.
With a cascade of contentious executive actions coming nearly every day since Trump took the oath of office, vigilance — particularly concerning bellicose exchanges between the U.S. and China or Russia — is an absolute imperative.