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The U.S. Nuclear Arsenal Can Deter Both China and Russia

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Titan II Decommissioned ICBM
Charles L. Glaser, James M. Acton and Steve Fetter, "The U.S. Nuclear Arsenal Can Deter Both China and Russia." Foreign Affairs, October 5, 2023. 

In a speech this June, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan drew attention to China’s nuclear buildup, Russia’s development of new nuclear capabilities, and the United States’ planned response. His remarks signaled the Biden administration’s assessment that nuclear risks are growing, particularly in the wake of Russia’s suspension of New START, the last U.S.-Russian treaty governing the two states’ nuclear arms, in February. What was most notable about his speech, however, was what he promised President Joe Biden would not do: launch a countervailing U.S. nuclear buildup. On this point, Sullivan was emphatic: “I want to be clear here—the United States does not need to increase our nuclear forces to outnumber the combined total of our competitors in order to successfully deter them.”

Sullivan’s statement was a direct response to various calls for such a buildup. Advocates of nuclear expansion are motivated by a new national security problem: for the first time, the United States faces two nuclear peers, China and Russia.

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