U S Nuclear Strategy toward China Charles Glaser

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U. S. Nuclear Strategy toward China Charles Glaser (Elliott School, George Washington University) April

U. S. Nuclear Strategy toward China Charles Glaser (Elliott School, George Washington University) April 21, 2017 1

Basic purposes of US nuclear strategy • Deter nuclear attacks against the US homeland

Basic purposes of US nuclear strategy • Deter nuclear attacks against the US homeland • Deter attacks against US allies—that is, extend deterrence • Reassure US allies about the effectiveness of its deterrent, thereby helping preserve the alliance • Reduce the damage/costs the US would suffer in a nuclear war, either by: – Averting escalation to all-out nuclear war – Reducing the adversary’s ability to damage the United States 2

Basic strategy questions about US nuclear policy toward China • Should the United States

Basic strategy questions about US nuclear policy toward China • Should the United States pursue a “damagelimitation” capability? • Should the US threaten first use of nuclear weapons to deter conventional attacks against its allies? – The questions are related: a damage-limitation capability might enhance extended deterrence • I will spend most of my talk on the first question and sketch an analysis of the second question 3

Roadmap of analysis damage-limitation question • Glaser and Steve Fetter, “Should the United States

Roadmap of analysis damage-limitation question • Glaser and Steve Fetter, “Should the United States Reject MAD? Damage Limitation and U. S. Nuclear Strategy Toward China, ” International Security (Summer 2016) • Is damage limitation feasible? – What counts as damage limitation? – Vulnerability of Chinese forces: fixed silos, mobile missiles, SSBNs, C 2 – Ballistic missile defense • How large would the benefits be? – Reducing costs of all out war – Deterrence—homeland extended – Reassuring allies • How large would the costs be? – Accidental and unauthorized attacks; tactical windows – Political costs of military competition 4

Background • Why the question of US-China nuclear strategy is becoming more important •

Background • Why the question of US-China nuclear strategy is becoming more important • Why damage limitation is the key question • Policy is less straight forward than during Cold War – The Soviet Union deployed over 10, 000 warheads on thousands of long-range missiles – China now deploys about 20 silo-based ICBMs and 25 mobile ICBMs; it may soon deploy up to 60 SLBMs – Given current projections, China is likely to have around 100 warheads on mobile missiles by 2030 – Technological advances have increased the ability to find forces compared to hide them 5

What counts as damage limitation? • Cold War levels: – Mc. Namara: 20 -25%

What counts as damage limitation? • Cold War levels: – Mc. Namara: 20 -25% of Soviet population and 50% of industry 200 EMT; “corrected” 40 EMT • How should we define damage limitation? – Level at which the costs of additional damage are insignificant – Level at which a modern state cannot recover • Need for comprehensive technical analysis 6

Survivability of ICBMs • All fixed silos are highly vulnerable • Mobile missiles: survivability

Survivability of ICBMs • All fixed silos are highly vulnerable • Mobile missiles: survivability depends on: – How China operates its forces during a crisis – Whether China can launch from unprepared positions – US ability to locate missiles: • US space-based surveillance, and possibly other surveillance • Chinese countermeasures 7

Survivability of SSBNs and C 2 • China is deploying a second-generation ballistic missile

Survivability of SSBNs and C 2 • China is deploying a second-generation ballistic missile submarine: – BUT, it will be vulnerable to US ASW • China’s nuclear command control is vulnerable; “solutions” are available: – Ensuring the survivability of links between political leaders and launch commanders – mobility, diversity, redundancy – Predelegation – Launch on warning 8

Effectiveness of US Ballistic Missile Defense • Current US BMD systems is not oriented

Effectiveness of US Ballistic Missile Defense • Current US BMD systems is not oriented against China • China will be able to defeat an expanded version of the current US system: – Extreme difficulty of midcourse discrimination – Attacks against BMD radars 9

Benefits of a Damage-Limitation capability • Reducing costs of all out war: – US

Benefits of a Damage-Limitation capability • Reducing costs of all out war: – US ability is relatively small and declining • Homeland Deterrence: generally quite easy—retaliatory threats are highly credible • Extended Deterrence: Benefits are small because deterrence is already highly effective – US-Japan alliance conventional forces can defend Japan against conventional attack – The possibility of nuclear will cast a deterrent shadow over major crises, even if the United States can not limit damage • Limited nuclear options can add credibility to US nuclear threats – Taiwan is the exception • Reassuring allies: benefits are small, because US commitments can be highly credible w/o D-L 10

Cost of a damage-limitation capability • Escalatory pressures and risks – Accidental Chinese launch

Cost of a damage-limitation capability • Escalatory pressures and risks – Accidental Chinese launch via pressure to launch quickly – Unauthorized Chinese launch via predelegation of launch authority – Incentives for US to attack early, before Chinese forces become survivable • Political costs: – China will view US efforts to maintain a significant damage -limitation capability as reflecting malign motives – Nuclear competition will strain the US-China relations, increasing the probability of dangerous crises 11

Conclusions re damage limitation • Prospects for significant damage limitation over the medium to

Conclusions re damage limitation • Prospects for significant damage limitation over the medium to long term appear to be poor – Does depend, however, on where the D-L threshold is set • Benefits of feasible damage-limitation capabilities are small: – US already possess effective deterrent capabilities • Costs are significant: – A damage-limitation posture generates an array of escalatory pressures and strains political relations • Bottom-line: US should forego efforts to preserve its damage-limitation capability – However, other analysts disagree along all of these dimensions 12

No First Use? • The US has extended deterrence commitments to Japan and South

No First Use? • The US has extended deterrence commitments to Japan and South Korea • A policy dedicated to deterring conventional attacks requires a policy of first use: – This was NATO strategy for deterring the Soviet Union/Warsaw Pact during the Cold War • The marginal deterrent value of FU threats depends on: – Whether conventional forces are sufficiently effective to deter Chinese conventional attack – Whether nuclear weapons, essentially independent of US doctrine, contribute to deterrence of conventional war when the US lacks a D-L capability • Reassurance: do US allies believe FU is necessary? • Risks of FU: early use, unauthorized use 13