US Should Return to Nuclear Deterrence Amid Growing Threat From Rivals: Expert

US Should Return to Nuclear Deterrence Amid Growing Threat From Rivals: Expert
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Far Eastern Federal University campus on Russky island in the far-eastern Russian port of Vladivostok on April 25, 2019. (Alexey Nikolsky/ AFP via Getty Images)
Tiffany Meier

The United States should return to nuclear deterrence because of growing threats from rivals that include Russia, China, and North Korea, according to Rick Fisher, senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

“We need to get back into the regional nuclear deterrent business. The United States needs to deploy hundreds, maybe thousands of nuclear-armed short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles,” Fisher told NTD’s “China in Focus” program.

“It must match China’s growing nuclear arsenal; it must have enough to deter China and Russia and North Korea.”

Fisher noted that Russia has more theater nuclear weapons than the United States.

According to Arms Control Association, Russia has 1,458 warheads on 527 intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched missiles, and bombers. Meanwhile, the United States has about 100 nuclear weapons stored in Europe at NATO bases in Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

“These bombs would have to be carried by aircraft that could be shot down by Russia’s very effective surface-to-air anti-aircraft missile systems,” he said.

Fisher also pointed to the Biden administration’s termination of the Trump-era nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile program in late March.

“Most of our military leaders want this cruise missile because they know regional nuclear deterrence is just as important as strategic global nuclear deterrence,” he said.

“We understood this during the Cold War. And we did produce thousands of nuclear weapons that successfully deterred Russia.”

Emboldening Russia

According to the expert, the U.S. nuclear inferiority would embolden Russia’s further move in Ukraine.

“Putin thinks that his tactical nuclear weapons were largely responsible for deterring President Biden from sending American and NATO troops into Ukraine,” Fisher said.

“He now thinks that his nuclear superiority will deter Biden and NATO from agreeing to a nuclear response to his small use of nuclear weapons.”

In Fisher’s opinion, if the United States would respond in kind by using tactical nuclear weapons on Russians, it then would give the Russians an excuse to escalate, perhaps attack Poland, the Baltics, any European country, or even the United States with larger nuclear weapons.

Thus, Fisher believes it’s doubtful that the United States would respond in kind by using tactical nuclear weapons on Russia because it simply doesn’t have the systems to do that.

He said that the situation would endanger Taiwan, as “the Chinese are going to start doing the same thing to intimidate the democratic government in Taiwan, blowing up or demonstrating nuclear explosions near the Taiwan Strait.”

Shooting Down North Korean Missiles

As part of the nuclear deterrence approach, Fisher said that the United States “needs to up our game in missile defense and actually start shooting down some of these North Korean missiles.”
He mentioned the report that North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan on Oct. 6, one day after the United States had redeployed an aircraft carrier to the region.

“We should just shut this down and put the North Koreans on notice that we have this capability, and we will use it: ‘You are not allowed to fire your missiles over Japan,’” he stressed.

North Korea’s response, he said, will provide a further excuse to clamp down on that rogue regime. Washington also needs to convince the public in South Korea that the United States needs to redeploy tactical nuclear weapons to their soil.

“And if we do that, it is very likely that Japan and Australia will follow suit,” he said.

Fisher said the United States needs to return to the “Peace Through Strength” policy, which had been the consistent policy during the Cold War.

“We really have no choice. The other choice is to witness our children being drafted and sent off to war.”

Hannah Ng is a reporter covering U.S. and China news. She holds a master's degree in international and development economics from the University of Applied Science Berlin.
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