As someone that lived through the Cold War, I can tell you that the slightest possibility that there might be nuclear involvement on any scale is frightening.
I recall in the early to mid-1980s, my father was stationed at a military facility in the Panama Canal Zone. My mother and I were watching the movie Fail Safe when he came home from work one night and told us that he had gotten his orders for his next duty station.
He was going to Offutt AFB in Nebraska, which happened to be the headquarters of Strategic Air Command, the place that gets bombed in the movie. Now, you might think about this today and hear of a city being hit by a bomb and think “oh, that’s just movie stuff.”
Back then, it was a very real possibility. My mother had a bit of a fit about it..
The United States must be ready for a nuclear war with Russia and China while seeking methods to curb their use of strategic weapons, said the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command—the department that manages the U.S. integrated missile defense and other systems.
Adm. Charles Richard wrote that there is a “real possibility” for a regional crisis with China or Russia that “could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons, if they perceived a conventional loss would threaten the regime or state.
“Consequently, the U.S. military must shift its principal assumption from ‘nuclear employment is not possible’ to ‘nuclear employment is a very real possibility,’ and act to meet and deter that reality,” he wrote for the U.S. Naval Institute’s February journal. “We cannot approach nuclear deterrence the same way. It must be tailored and evolved for the dynamic environment we face.”
Richard said the department should “establish unity” to deal with “Russian and Chinese aggression, while understanding they require different deterrence approaches, and incorporating that thinking into professional military education at the earliest opportunity.”
“Until we, as a Defense Department, come to understand, if not accept, what we are facing and what should be done about it, we run the risk of developing plans we cannot execute and procuring capabilities that will not deliver desired outcomes,” Richard argued. “In the absence of change, we are on the path, once again, to prepare for the conflict we prefer, instead of one we are likely to face.”
Speaking to the Washington Times, Richard said both Russia and China could become “two nuclear-capable peers by the end of this decade,” which he described as unprecedented.