Pentagon Warns of ‘Increased Potential’ for Nuclear War: ‘An Unprecedented Range and Mix of Threats’

Newly released report from the U.S. Department of Defense says Russia and China’s newly expanded nuclear weapons arsenals and tactics have “increased potential for regional conflicts involving nuclear-armed adversaries in several parts of the world and the potential for adversary nuclear escalation in crisis or conflict.”

The Pentagon released a 67-page report titled “Joint Nuclear Operations.” It offers “fundamental principles and guidance to plan, execute, and assess nuclear operations.”

Cover of “Joint Nuclear Operations”

The report was released to the Federation of American Scientists last week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, though it was originally completed in April 2020.

The introduction to the first chapter asserts that—at a time when the U.S. is working to “reduce [its own] number and salience of nuclear weapons”—China and Russia specifically have become more aggressive in developing their nuclear weapons capabilities.

“They have added new types of nuclear capabilities to their arsenal, increased the salience of nuclear forces in their strategies and plans, and engaged in increasingly aggressive behavior,” the report says. “There now exists an unprecedented range and mix of threats, including major conventional, chemical, biological, nuclear, space, and cyber threats and violent non-state actors.”

The report goes on to emphasize how our “adversar[ies]” show no signs of cutting back development of their nuclear capabilities.

“[N]o potential adversary has reduced either the role of nuclear weapons in its national security strategy or the number of nuclear weapons it fields. Rather, they have moved decidedly in the opposite direction,” the report warns.

“As a result,” it continues, “there is an increased potential for regional conflicts involving nuclear-armed adversaries in several parts of the world and the potential for adversary nuclear escalation in crisis or conflict.”

The document, prepared by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, goes on to list specific technologies and policies being pursued by Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran, for example, which it maintains are pressing toward an “increased potential” for nuclear conflict to occur. It states:

In addition to modernizing ” legacy” Soviet nuclear systems, Russia is developing and employing new nuclear warheads and launchers. It is also developing three new intercontinental-range nuclear weapon systems; a hypersonic glide vehicle; a nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered ground-launched cruise missile; and a nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered, undersea autonomous torpedo.

China has developed a new road-mobile, strategic, intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM); a new multi-warhead version of its DF-5 silo-based ICBM; and its most advanced ballistic missile submarine armed with new submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). It has also announced development of a new nuclear-capable strategic bomber, giving China a nuclear triad.

In the past few years, North Korea has dramatically increased its missile flight testing, most recently including the testing of intercontinental-range missiles capable of reaching the US homeland.

Iran retains the technological capability and much of the capacity necessary to develop a nuclear weapon within one year of a decision to do so. Iran’s development of increasingly long-range ballistic missile capabilities, and its aggressive strategy and activities to destabilize neighboring governments, raises questions about its long-term commitment to forgoing nuclear weapons capability.

American Faith has reported on remarks from Japan’s number two defense official warning about China and Russia’s apparent plans to launch a “Pearl Harbor” style attack against the U.S., as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s increasingly violent rhetoric.

Jon Fleetwood is Managing Editor for American Faith.