The ability of the United States to extend deterrence to key allies like Australia and Japan, and partners like Taiwan, depends on two considerations. First, there are political considerations, which include the credibility of the United States to honor its commitments and its willingness to run the risks inherent in providing another state with the American nuclear umbrella. Second, it requires sufficient military capabilities – conventional and nuclear forces possessed by the United States – to defeat the enemy’s military objectives or inflict unacceptable punishments.
The Biden administration released three major policy documents: the National Defense Strategy (NDS), the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), and the Missile Defense Review (MDR).
The NDS claims to advance a China-centric strategy. According to the NDS, this requires deterring China from viewing aggression as a viable means of advancing goals that undermine US interests. The document states that the United States will deter China by leveraging the capabilities, posture and activities of existing and emerging forces to strengthen denial and by building resilience, the ability to resist, fight and recover. disturbances quickly. The NDS and NPR tout the benefits that will come from modernizing the nuclear triad and nuclear command, control and communications (NC3) systems.
At the same time, the administration said in the NPR that it would cancel the sea-launched nuclear-capable cruise missile (SLCM-N) and retire the multi-megaton B-83-1 gravity bomb.
Additionally, the Air Force‘s plan is to replace the F-15 fleet at Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa with a rotational force, which will likely include the deployment of F-22s from Alaska, after the departure of the F-15s. However, this raises concerns about gaps in the force structure and precisely what forces and when those forces will be present on the island. This move should have been executed only if there had been no capability gap and the F-15s had been permanently replaced by the correct number of aircraft with a capability greater than the F-15 . As it stands, this step diminishes the ability of the United States to offer conventional deterrence to China in the Indo-Pacific.
The Biden administration is weakening the ability of the United States to credibly expand conventional or nuclear deterrence in the Indo-Pacific.
There are three major problems with the Biden administration’s strategy documents. First, it assumes that the modernization of the triad, which is occurring this decade, will be sufficient to meet the United States’ extensive deterrence obligations. Only a small number of tactical nuclear weapons and no theater systems will be in the US arsenal. Essentially, and rejecting the Cold War posture of force where considerable capabilities were devoted to tactical and theater nuclear weapons, there are no rungs on the escalation ladder for the United States. Thus, Washington will be forced to move from a conventional war to a strategic nuclear exchange. This gives China every reason to expand its tactical and theatrical systems, as well as its conventional systems, to convey to the United States the will to switch to tactical nuclear weapons if its conventional army loses, as Vladimir Putin is now signaling with Russia. escalating threats by employing tactical nuclear weapons to end the war – “escalate to defuse” as Russian doctrine identifies. China would also have options that the United States does not have for escalating to the theater level, thus keeping a nuclear conflict localized and leaving it up to the United States to decide whether to escalate to a limited or major exchange between the strategic arsenals of the two countries. Moreover, the United States also faces Russia, so the American strategic nuclear arsenal is already taxed.
Second, collectively, these documents assume that the United States has time, that it can wait for its strategic systems to be modernized, and for the right conventional force posture to be provided for deterrence – the enemy will not act before then. In fact, the Chinese regime declared, most recently at the 20th Party Congress in October, that the United States was their enemy and that they were determined to conquer Taiwan. They have reason to act before the triad is modernized and the US and Taiwan can deploy the right force structure for their respective forces. Thus, if the American enemy were to act on its own timetable, believing that it is better to act now, immediately or in the short term, rather than later to bring about the changes it seeks in world politics, then the United States face a new window of vulnerability. The Chinese regime has an incentive to employ coercive measures against Japan, India, the Philippines or Taiwan now that the United States is still in retreat, rather than many years from now.
Third, the document troika was a rare and wasted opportunity to let the world know that the United States will meet its extensive deterrence requirements by explaining what steps the administration was taking to deal with the grave threat. Each could have explained the threat from the Chinese regime and what the US defense strategy was to deal with and defeat the threat, with additional details provided on nuclear issues in the NPR and ballistic, hypersonic and cruise missile defenses. in the MDR. Everyone could have learned the lessons of the Cold War when US extended deterrence worked in difficult circumstances. Instead, the administration has produced reports that signal US weakness, uncertainty, and lack of strategic focus on the threat. As the Chinese threat grows, the Biden administration weakens US military capabilities. Xi was emboldened due to his triumph at the 20th Party Congress, he declared his intention to replace the United States and conquer Taiwan, and his perception of the weakness of the United States may invite his aggression and cause failure of the extended deterrence of the United States.
The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Epoch Times.