America’s Enemies Justify the Nuclear Sea-Launched Cruise Missile 

Commentary There is justified concern that as part of its upcoming Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which assesses the nuclear deterrent requirements of the United States, the Biden administration will cancel the Trump administration’s 2018 NPR decision to revive production of the nuclear-armed, sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM-N). Russia’s repeated use of nuclear coercion during its faltering invasion of Ukraine, and China’s consideration of military and economic support to Russia, underscore the military nature of their alliance. In this context it would be a colossal mistake for President Joe Biden to cancel the U.S. SLCM-N deterrent. Such a decision would remove access by U.S. forces to a much-needed theater-based tactical nuclear weapon, further weakening the U.S.-extended nuclear deterrent. U.S. allies depend on that deterrent as part of a bargain made long ago in exchange for agreeing not to produce their own nuclear weapons. The Biden administration’s use of economic threats failed to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. Due to a vastly more complex economic interrelationship, such threats would be much more difficult for the United States to apply to China in a timely and comprehensive fashion, and likely would fail to deter its invasion of democratic Taiwan. To a large degree, Putin could invade Ukraine because the Russian strategic nuclear forces have rough parity with the United States, and Russia committed to deploying up to 1,550 nuclear warheads according to the Obama administration-Putin 2010 New START Treaty, extended by five years to 2026 by Biden in early 2021. Effectively, Putin has deterred American military intervention due to Russia’s enormous theater nuclear weapons superiority over the United States and its allies, Britain, and France. Russia is credited with over 2,000 non-strategic nuclear weapons, and this number is likely up to thousands higher, to include a new class of very low-yield nuclear weapons. A view of the joint strategic exercise of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus Zapad-2021 at the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, on Sept. 11, 2021. (Vadim Savitskiy/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP) These include missile warheads and artillery shells with yields 10 to 100 tons of dynamite; a 1 kiloton small tactical nuclear weapon would yield 1,000 tons. These weapons have been in development since the late 1980s and Russia has exercised their use in very large annual “Zapad” exercises. Even though the Russian army has been gravely weakened in Ukraine, it is these low-yield nuclear weapons that may give success to Russia should it decide to attack the Baltic states, Moldova, and Poland in an effort to rebuild the old Soviet Empire (styled as the Greater Russian Slavic homeland), even after great losses among Russian ground and air forces in Ukraine. In contrast, the United States may only base 100 tactical nuclear bombs in Europe, which would then be delivered by aircraft, even stealthy F-35A fighters, that would face deadly, modern fourth-generation Russian anti-aircraft missiles. Britain and France may deploy 80 to 100 strategic nuclear warheads on at-sea nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), while France has 40 tactical aircraft for delivering tactical nuclear missiles. Having tactical nuclear superiority in Europe, Putin had the confidence to believe he could succeed in conquering Ukraine because the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO) would not effectively intervene. On March 11, when Biden declared in a speech before Democratic Party leaders that “we will not fight the third World War in Ukraine,” he also proved the validity of Putin’s investment in theater nuclear superiority. While the United States and NATO have delivered effective soldier-launched missiles and nearly $1 billion in weapons supplies to Ukraine, they expressly refuse to offer any active combat support. Biden continues to refuse to allow Ukraine to have access to older Soviet-made MiG and Sukhoi combat aircraft compatible with its air forces, for fear of sparking a larger conflict. On March 12, when Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called Western arms shipments to Ukraine “legitimate targets,” he was counting on the United States and NATO being deterred from defending those arms shipments, due in large part to Russian theater nuclear superiority. The Chinese regime has also taken note of how Putin is using his strategic nuclear match and theater nuclear superiority, and it plans to achieve a similar nuclear deterrence against U.S. military support in the event it attacks Taiwan. On March 11, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Senior Col. Tan Kefei told reporters, “No one and no force can stop” China from a “complete national reunification” [sic] with Taiwan. Tan added that those who try “will suffer the worst consequences in the end.” Nucl

America’s Enemies Justify the Nuclear Sea-Launched Cruise Missile 

Commentary

There is justified concern that as part of its upcoming Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which assesses the nuclear deterrent requirements of the United States, the Biden administration will cancel the Trump administration’s 2018 NPR decision to revive production of the nuclear-armed, sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM-N).

Russia’s repeated use of nuclear coercion during its faltering invasion of Ukraine, and China’s consideration of military and economic support to Russia, underscore the military nature of their alliance. In this context it would be a colossal mistake for President Joe Biden to cancel the U.S. SLCM-N deterrent.

Such a decision would remove access by U.S. forces to a much-needed theater-based tactical nuclear weapon, further weakening the U.S.-extended nuclear deterrent. U.S. allies depend on that deterrent as part of a bargain made long ago in exchange for agreeing not to produce their own nuclear weapons.

The Biden administration’s use of economic threats failed to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. Due to a vastly more complex economic interrelationship, such threats would be much more difficult for the United States to apply to China in a timely and comprehensive fashion, and likely would fail to deter its invasion of democratic Taiwan.

To a large degree, Putin could invade Ukraine because the Russian strategic nuclear forces have rough parity with the United States, and Russia committed to deploying up to 1,550 nuclear warheads according to the Obama administration-Putin 2010 New START Treaty, extended by five years to 2026 by Biden in early 2021.

Effectively, Putin has deterred American military intervention due to Russia’s enormous theater nuclear weapons superiority over the United States and its allies, Britain, and France. Russia is credited with over 2,000 non-strategic nuclear weapons, and this number is likely up to thousands higher, to include a new class of very low-yield nuclear weapons.

Epoch Times Photo
A view of the joint strategic exercise of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus Zapad-2021 at the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, on Sept. 11, 2021. (Vadim Savitskiy/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

These include missile warheads and artillery shells with yields 10 to 100 tons of dynamite; a 1 kiloton small tactical nuclear weapon would yield 1,000 tons. These weapons have been in development since the late 1980s and Russia has exercised their use in very large annual “Zapad” exercises.

Even though the Russian army has been gravely weakened in Ukraine, it is these low-yield nuclear weapons that may give success to Russia should it decide to attack the Baltic states, Moldova, and Poland in an effort to rebuild the old Soviet Empire (styled as the Greater Russian Slavic homeland), even after great losses among Russian ground and air forces in Ukraine.

In contrast, the United States may only base 100 tactical nuclear bombs in Europe, which would then be delivered by aircraft, even stealthy F-35A fighters, that would face deadly, modern fourth-generation Russian anti-aircraft missiles. Britain and France may deploy 80 to 100 strategic nuclear warheads on at-sea nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), while France has 40 tactical aircraft for delivering tactical nuclear missiles.

Having tactical nuclear superiority in Europe, Putin had the confidence to believe he could succeed in conquering Ukraine because the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO) would not effectively intervene.

On March 11, when Biden declared in a speech before Democratic Party leaders that “we will not fight the third World War in Ukraine,” he also proved the validity of Putin’s investment in theater nuclear superiority.

While the United States and NATO have delivered effective soldier-launched missiles and nearly $1 billion in weapons supplies to Ukraine, they expressly refuse to offer any active combat support.

Biden continues to refuse to allow Ukraine to have access to older Soviet-made MiG and Sukhoi combat aircraft compatible with its air forces, for fear of sparking a larger conflict.

On March 12, when Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called Western arms shipments to Ukraine “legitimate targets,” he was counting on the United States and NATO being deterred from defending those arms shipments, due in large part to Russian theater nuclear superiority.

The Chinese regime has also taken note of how Putin is using his strategic nuclear match and theater nuclear superiority, and it plans to achieve a similar nuclear deterrence against U.S. military support in the event it attacks Taiwan.

On March 11, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Senior Col. Tan Kefei told reporters, “No one and no force can stop” China from a “complete national reunification” [sic] with Taiwan. Tan added that those who try “will suffer the worst consequences in the end.”

Nuclear attack and destruction would certainly rate as “worst consequences,” as China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is now sprinting to achieve nuclear superiority over the United States.

Epoch Times Photo
A man walks among supersonic cruise missiles at the 13th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, in southern China’s Guangdong Province, on Sept. 28, 2021. (Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images)

Since early 2021, China has been building about 360 new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos that could launch ICBMs armed with up to 10 warheads. Adding expected new SSBNs and intercontinental bombers amounts to a possible PLA deployment of up to 4,000 strategic weapons by the late 2020s.

Additionally, the PLA has about 2,200 theater range ballistic and cruise missiles, with many of them being dual-capable, meaning able to be armed with tactical nuclear warheads.

So one might understand how, like Putin, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping is losing his fear of the United States, and could soon assess that this strategic and theater nuclear forces will deter major U.S. military support against a PLA invasion of Taiwan.

The last Trump administration Nuclear Posture Review in February 2018 stated that a nuclear sea-launched cruise missile “will provide a needed non-strategic regional presence, an assured response capability. It also will provide an arms control compliant response to Russia’s non-compliance with the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, its non-strategic nuclear arsenal, and its other destabilizing behaviors.”

Also according to the 2018 NPR, the SLCM “will not require or rely on host nation support to provide deterrent effect.”

However, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and newly-elected South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, both favor co-hosting U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to deter Chinese and North Korean aggression.

In 2019, Biden campaigned against the SLCM-N, and some in the Democrat Party and many in the academic arms control community oppose the SLCM-N, just as they reflexively oppose most U.S. nuclear weapons.

If the United States is to better deter Russia from deciding to expand its war from Ukraine to Moldova, the Baltic states, and Poland—and to deter the CCP from a near-term invasion of Taiwan—it will need the SLCM-N on its nuclear attack submarines (SSNs) and nuclear cruise missile submarines (SSGNs) as soon as possible.

Approving production of the SLCM-N is the clearest signal of strength and determination to survive that America can now send to its allies in Europe and Asia.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Rick Fisher is a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center.