"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
Shannon Bugos

Putin’s Reckless Decision to "Suspend" New START Will Increase Chances of Global Nuclear Arms Race



Statement from Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

For Immediate Release: Feb. 21, 2023 (Updated)

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst, (202) 463-8270 ext. 113

In a rambling attempt to justify Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine one year ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his decision to suspend implementation of the last remaining treaty limiting the world's two largest nuclear arsenals, the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

His comments suggest Russia will not engage in talks to resume New START’s on-site inspections, participate in meetings of the treaty's Bilateral Consultative Commission, nor share data on strategic nuclear stockpiles as required by the treaty. These actions represent a major violation of the terms of New START and are not allowed for under the terms of the treaty. Other senior Russian officials have previously said Russia will maintain under the central limits set by the treaty (1,550 deployed strategic warheads and 700 deployed strategic delivery vehicles). In a separate statement issued today, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed that Russia will continue to observe limits on the number of strategic nuclear warheads and delivery systems it can deploy under the treaty.

While this does not mark the end of New START, which is scheduled to expire Feb. 5, 2026, Putin’s announcement makes it far more likely that, after New START expires, there will be no agreement limiting U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972.

Putin’s “suspension” of New START harms Russia’s own security interests. Absent full implementation of treaty provisions, Moscow (and Washington) gains less insight and information regarding the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal.

In addition, the suspension undermines Russia’s obligations as a party to the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires the nuclear-weapon states to "pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament…."

In contrast, U.S. President Joe Biden has made it clear that his administration stands ready to expeditiously negotiate a new nuclear arms control framework with Russia to supersede New START–but that Russia must first work in good faith to resume New START inspections. This is a more than reasonable request.

If New START expires in 2026 with no successor arrangement, Washington and Moscow could each double the number of their deployed strategic nuclear warheads in short order. Such a course of action would produce an arms race that no one can win and that increases the dangers of nuclear weapons for everyone.

We strongly support the Biden administration's announcement today that the United States "remains ready to talk about strategic arms limitations at any time with Russia irrespective of anything else going on in the world or in our relationship."

We reiterate our call upon Russia to comply with its obligations to allow for on-site inspections to verify compliance with New START and to engage in further nuclear disarmament diplomacy with the United States.

We also urge all states-parties to the NPT, no matter their position on Russia's war on Ukraine, to urge the Kremlin to meet its nuclear disarmament responsibilities by complying with New START and by agreeing to negotiate new–and ideally lower–limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals, as doing so would enhance global security and support the long-term viability of the NPT system.


Putin’s announcement makes it far more likely that, after New START expires, there will be no agreement limiting U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972.

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U.S. Plan for "Responsible Military Use of AI" Constructive but Inadequate



For Immediate Release: Feb. 16, 2023

Media Contacts: Michael Klare, senior visiting fellow, [email protected]; Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst, [email protected]

WASHINGTON, DC— Today, the United States proposed a "Political Declaration on Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy" during a conference on the issue in Europe.

While a positive signal, the declaration ultimately proves an inadequate response to the militarization of AI and the risks posed by lethal autonomous weapons, according to experts at the independent, nongovernmental Arms Control Association (ACA).

“The motivation for the U.S. framework stems from the deliberations at the expert group meetings convened by the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), where a significant number of states have voiced support for a binding international ban on autonomous weapons capable of killing humans," notes Shannon Bugos, a senior policy analyst at ACA.

In October 2022, the United States joined a diverse, cross-regional group of United Nations member states, led by Austria, on a joint declaration that expressed concern about “new technological applications, such as those related to autonomy in weapons systems.”

"However, the United States and other states with technologically advanced militaries have resisted negotiations on a legally binding instrument to regulate behavior at the CCW, which operates by consensus,” Bugos notes. “Many other states–including Austria, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand, and Spain–have proposed negotiations on a legally binding, enforceable agreement to ban lethal autonomous weapons altogether.”

Michael T. Klare, a senior fellow with ACA, concluded that "The U.S. principles on responsible behavior, however comprehensive and commendable, do not make up formal rules or regulations, and are therefore not readily enforceable. This means that any state (including the United States) can endorse the declaration and claim to be abiding by its principles, but then violate them with impunity.”

Klare is the author of the new ACA report Assessing the Dangers: Emerging Military Technologies and Nuclear (In)Stability that assesses the risks and dangers of new military technologies, including AI and autonomous weapons. The report also provides a framework strategy for curtailing the indiscriminate weaponization of emerging technologies. 

"Principles are nice in theory but will not adequately protect us from the deployment and use of autonomous weapons systems capable of killing humans, possibly in an abusive and indiscriminate manner," Klare argues.

"Given the risks posed by autonomous weapons systems and AI, we continue to urge the United States to act more responsibly and call upon all governments represented at the CCW to support the initiation of negotiations on autonomous weapons, and to help craft an outcome ensuring continued human control over weapons of war and decisions to employ lethal force," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.



While a positive signal, the U.S.-proposed "Political Declaration on Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy" ultimately proves an inadequate response to the militarization of AI and the risks posed by lethal autonomous weapons, according to experts.

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U.S. Cites Russian Noncompliance with New START Inspections

Russia has failed to fully comply with the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty ( New START ) because of its refusal to allow on-site inspections and to reschedule a meeting to discuss treaty concerns, according to a U.S. assessment released in January. Senior Russian officials have accused the United States of “politicizing nuclear arms control,” saying that Washington “would have to adjust its policy towards Russia to move to a constructive arms control agenda.” In August, Moscow prohibited U.S. on-site inspections of its nuclear weapons-related facilities subject to the treaty over...

New Report Examines Effects of Emerging Military Technologies on Strategic Stability



For Immediate Release: Feb. 7, 2023

Media Contacts: Michael Klare, senior visiting fellow, [email protected]Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst, [email protected] 

(WASHINGTON, DC) — A new report from the Arms Control Association assesses the extent to which the military utilization of emerging technologies will result in or exacerbate the accidental, unintended, or premature use of nuclear weapons in a great-power crisis. The report also provides a framework strategy for curtailing the indiscriminate weaponization of emerging technologies. 

Increasingly in recent years, the major powers have sought to exploit advanced technologies— artificial intelligence, autonomy, cyber, and hypersonics, among others—to gain battlefield advantages. Some officials and analysts posit that such emerging technologies will revolutionize warfare, making obsolete the weapons and strategies of the past. 

Yet, before the major powers move quickly ahead with the weaponization of these technologies, there is a great need for policymakers, defense officials, diplomats, journalists, educators, and members of the public to better understand the unintended and hazardous outcomes of these technologies.

“As was the case during World Wars I and II, the major powers are rushing ahead with the weaponization of advanced technologies before they have fully considered—let alone attempted to mitigate—the consequences of doing so, including the risk of significant civilian casualties and the accidental or inadvertent escalation of conflict,” writes Michael Klare, a senior visiting fellow and board member at the Arms Control Association.

“While the media and the U.S. Congress have devoted much attention to the purported benefits of exploiting cutting-edge technologies for military use, far less has been said about the risks involved,” he emphasizes.

This primer, Assessing the Dangers: Emerging Military Technologies and Nuclear (In)Stability, unpacks the concept of “emerging technologies” and summarizes the debate over their utilization for military purposes and their impact on strategic stability. 

The report provides a deep analysis of four particular technologies—autonomous weapons systems, hypersonic weapons, cyber weapons, and automated battlefield decision-making systems—and details an overarching strategy for mitigating their dangerous weaponization and their associated risks. The primer provides an invaluable resource for policymakers, journalists, educators, and others seeking a concise yet comprehensive overview of recent developments in the field.

The full report is available for download at ArmsControl.org/Reports.


Russia Should Agree to Resume Inspections, Discuss Follow-On To New START



For Immediate Release: Feb. 3, 2023

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270 ext. 107; Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst, 202-463-8270 ext. 114

(Washington DC) —Experts from the Arms Control Association called upon Russia to comply with its obligations to allow for on-site inspections to verify compliance with the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and to engage in further nuclear disarmament diplomacy with the United States.

“It is in Russia’s self-interest to resume on-site inspections and to engage in talks with the United States to hammer out new nuclear arms control framework agreement to supersede New START before it expires in three years, on Feb. 5, 2026,” says Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

“Russia’s failure to allow for the resumption of New START inspections is irresponsible and unnecessary, especially at this time of heightened tensions and uncertainties,” says Kimball. “Maintaining common sense limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals remains in the common security interests of Washington and Moscow, as well as the world.”

The U.S. State Department released its annual compliance assessment report on New START Jan. 31.

“Russia’s decisions to prohibit on-site inspections and to unilaterally cancel a meeting of the treaty’s Bilateral Consultative Commission meeting stand in clear violation of New START,” said Cara Abercrombie, deputy assistant to the president and coordinator for defense policy and arms control for the U.S. National Security Council, during a Feb. 1 briefing hosted by the Arms Control Association.

In August 2022, Moscow announced a prohibition of on-site inspections of its nuclear weapons-related facilities subject to the treaty citing obstacles to its ability to conduct those inspections. Russia and the United States planned to convene the Commission in Cairo, Egypt, in November 2022 to resolve the dispute issue, but Moscow called off the meeting and has since refused to reschedule as required by the treaty. The United States has made it clear that there are no obstacles that would impede Russia from conducting reciprocal inspections of U.S. strategic nuclear facilities.

New START will expire in exactly 1,098 days. Two years ago today, U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to extend the treaty by the full five years, in order to allow for more time to put into place a replacement arrangement.

“The United States and Russia have continued to emphasize their support of New START and have cited its great value in providing predictability, transparency, and stability,” says Shannon Bugos, a senior policy analyst at the Arms Control Association. “Washington and Moscow must maintain strong adherence to the agreement, so as to mitigate nuclear escalation and misunderstandings and to pave the way for further U.S.-Russian nuclear arms reductions.”

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Congress Boosts Defense Budget Beyond Biden’s Request

January/February 2023
By Shannon Bugos

For the second consecutive year, Congress deemed President Joe Biden’s proposed national defense budget insufficient to counter growing inflation and rising security threats, prompting lawmakers to increase the fiscal year 2023 defense authorization by $45 billion over Biden’s $813 billion request.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, was among the leading forces behind the 2023 National Defense Authorization Law.  (Photo by Oliver Contreras/AFP via Getty Images)“There were compromises made to get this bill across the finish line,” acknowledged House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) on Dec. 8. But “now more than ever, at a time when global democracy is under attack and the rules-based international order is being threatened, we need a strong national security and defense strategy, and this bill helps us deliver on that front.”

The House passed the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by a vote of 350–80 on Dec. 8, followed by an 83–11 vote in the Senate on Dec. 15. Biden signed the bipartisan legislation into law on Dec. 23. The NDAA totals $848 billion. An additional $10 billion of national discretionary defense spending falls outside of the armed services committees’ authority. The $858 billion defense topline is an increase of $80 billion, or 10 percent, over the 2022 national defense budget.

The New York Times, citing an analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, reported on Dec. 18 that the new total means the Pentagon budget has grown 4.3 percent annually over the last two years, after inflation, compared to 1 percent in real dollars from 2015 to 2021. Military spending is on track to reach its highest level in inflation-adjusted terms since 2008–2011, during the peaks of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the newspaper said.

The chairpersons and ranking members of the House and Senate armed services committees settled on compromise NDAA text on Dec. 6. Although the House passed its version of the legislation in July, the full Senate did not and brought its armed services committee’s version to the negotiations. (See ACT, September 2022.)

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the armed services committee, described the Biden administration’s defense budget request, released in March, as “woefully inadequate.” (See ACT, June 2022.) The compromise bill corrects course by “prioritiz[ing] nuclear modernization amid Chinese nuclear breakout,” and stays “tough on Russia,” Inhofe stated Dec. 6.

Although the NDAA authorizes funding, appropriations bills allow for actual spending. The fiscal year 2023 defense and energy and water appropriations bills, which, on the whole, reflect the same budget levels in the defense authorization bill, passed through the Senate on Dec. 22 and the House on Dec. 23. Biden signed the omnibus appropriations legislation on Dec. 29.

For the most part, the 2023 NDAA either fully authorizes or boosts the requested budgets for U.S. nuclear weapons modernization programs, including delivery systems and warheads. In addition to mandating some reporting requirements to bolster congressional oversight on nuclear matters, the law adds funding for a new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM) and an associated low-yield warhead and allows only a partial retirement of the megaton B83 gravity bomb fleet. It fails to reverse language that undermines support for the international organization that monitors the world for signs of nuclear testing.

Nuclear Delivery Systems

The Biden administration requested no funding for the new nuclear-armed SLCM as it views the capability as unnecessary and potentially detrimental to other priorities.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the unveiling ceremony of the B-21 Raider at Northrop Grumman’s Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, in December. The high-tech stealth bomber can carry nuclear and conventional weapons and is designed to fly without a crew on board.  (Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images) Further developing this SLCM “would divert resources and focus from higher modernization priorities for the U.S. nuclear enterprise and infrastructure, which is already stretched to capacity after decades of deferred investments,” the White House noted in an administration policy statement in October.

Although Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro concur with this assessment, members of Congress from both parties and other defense officials do not.

“No one can tell in an uncertain world what we will need, but it’s important to keep this option available,” said Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who led the House effort to insert funding for the capability, in July.

Gen. Mark Milley and Adm. Christopher Grady, chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, respectively, wrote in June that they see value in the nuclear-armed SLCM due to “its distinct contribution.”

The NDAA authorizes $25 million for the Pentagon to develop the missile and $20 million for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to develop the associated warhead, the W80-4 Alt SLCM.The law also requires reports on the concept of operations, operational implications, and costs of the capability, as well as a detailed, unclassified summary of the analysis of alternatives for the missile before the Pentagon can move into the development and demonstration phases.

Congress also authorized $6.2 billion, slightly more than the administration’s request, for construction and continued research and development on a future fleet of 12 Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines.

The Air Force, meanwhile, received an authorization of $4.9 billion for the B-21 Raider dual-capable strategic bomber, a decrease of $110 million from the request. On Dec. 2, the service unveiled the new highly secretive bomber, which will take its first flight in 2023 and is slated to be deployed later this decade. Six bombers are under construction, and the Pentagon plans to acquire at least 100 bombers total.

Lawmakers authorized $3.6 billion, slightly over the request, for replacement of the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and supporting infrastructure with the new Sentinel system. They banned any decrease in the number of deployed ICBMs, currently 400. Congress also authorized the requested $981 million for the new nuclear-capable, long-range standoff (LRSO) weapons system to replace the
air-launched cruise missile.

Nuclear Warheads

For the NNSA, Congress authorized the Biden administration’s requests of $672 million for the B61-12 gravity bomb, $680 million for the W87-1 ICBM warhead, and $1.1 billion for the W80-4 LRSO weapons system warhead upgrade.

Congress also approved the agency’s $241 million request for the controversial new high-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead, the W93, and authorized the Pentagon to receive $97.1 million to develop the warhead’s aeroshell.

According to the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review, the Biden administration, reversing Trump administration policy, aims to follow through on retiring the megaton-class B83-1 gravity bomb, but Congress has now slowed that process. The NDAA only allows for the deactivation or retirement of up to 25 percent of the B83-1 fleet until the Pentagon submits a report to Congress. (See ACT, December 2022.)

Meanwhile, the NNSA program for producing plutonium pits for nuclear weapons received $500 million more than the administration’s $758 million request for the Savannah River Site location, while the Los Alamos site was authorized for the requested $1.6 billion.

According to an internal NNSA document, pit production is running more than a year behind schedule, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby acknowledged last spring that the agency will not reach its goal of producing 80 pits a year by 2030.

Hypersonic Weapons

Congress also broadly threw its full support behind the Pentagon’s hypersonic weapons programs.

The Air Force’s air-launched hypersonic boost-glide vehicle, the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), received $47 million less than the request and the authorization for a total of $115 million. The system hit a major milestone Dec. 9 with the successful completion of its first all-up-round test, meaning a test of the full prototype operational missile, off the southern California coast.

“Following the ARRW’s separation from the [B-52H Stratofortress bomber], it reached hypersonic speeds greater than five times the speed of sound, completed its flight path and detonated in the terminal area,” an Air Force statement said. The service aims to conduct three more all-up-round tests before deciding whether to move into production.

Congress added $145 million to the requested $317 million for the Air Force’s Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile program.

As for the Navy, the service received a $20 million increase for the Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) program, bringing the total to $1.2 billion, and a $67 million increase for the Hypersonic Air-Launched Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare Weapon, for a total $160 million.

The Navy’s CPS program shares the common hypersonic glide-body vehicle with the Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW), which could enter the field in 2023. Congress authorized $1.1 billion for the Army’s hypersonics program, an increase of $50 million above the request, to account for the National Hypersonic Initiative, which will improve coordination and address any development gaps among the hypersonic weapons programs.

In late October, the Pentagon conducted two test launches of rockets, each carrying about a dozen different experiments, meant to inform continued development of the CPS and LRHW systems.

The NDAA also requires a report on the ARRW, CPS, and LRHW programs to assess their respective costs, schedules, and potential alternatives.

Various hypersonics programs overseen by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency received substantial increases in the authorized budget. Glide Breaker jumped from $18 million to $38 million, Tactical Boost Glide from $30 million to $65 million, and Operation Fires, which was in line to be zeroed out, received $42 million. The MoHAWC hypersonic air-launched cruise missile program was authorized for its requested $60 million.

Missile Defense

The NDAA authorized the Pentagon’s efforts for hypersonic missile defense at $518 million, a 1.3 percent increase above the request.

The Space Force landed $830 million for its effort to build a satellite system to track missiles, including hypersonic weapons, which marked a 30 percent increase from the request. This effort includes plans by the Space Development Agency, now part of the Space Force, for the development of a tracking layer.

Congress also authorized the requested $2.8 billion for the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense weapons system based in Alaska and California, which includes $1.8 billion for the Next Generation Interceptors.

Lawmakers boosted the budget requests for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system by $165 million to $587 million to buy 15 additional interceptors and for the Aegis ballistic missile defense system by $245 million to $2 billion.

Risk Reduction

The NDAA contains a slight $13 million increase above the $354 million request for the Cooperative Threat Reduction program to account for inflation. In each of the previous two fiscal years, Congress significantly boosted the program’s budget by more than $100 million. This program is aimed at reducing threats from weapons of mass destruction and related challenges, including the spread of dangerous pathogens such as COVID-19.

The NDAA omitted language originally in the House version that would have repealed the restriction, imposed by the 2018 NDAA, on funding the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, which oversees the systems in place to detect signs of nuclear testing across the world.


For the second year, Congress deemed the president’s proposed national defense budget insufficient to counter growing inflation and rising security threats.

Pentagon: Chinese Nuclear Arsenal Exceeds 400 Warheads

January/February 2023
By Shannon Bugos and Michael Klare

China’s nuclear arsenal likely exceeds 400 operational nuclear warheads, a level that the Pentagon estimated two years ago might not be reached until the end of the decade.

DF-41 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles are a key weapon in China’s expanding nuclear arsenal.    (Photo by Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)A senior U.S. defense official described China’s effort to modernize, expand, and diversify its nuclear arsenal as “a rapid buildup that is kind of too substantial to keep under wraps.” Beijing has undertaken plans “that exceed really their previous attempts, both in terms of the scale, the numbers, and also the complexity and technological sophistication of the capabilities,” the official said at a press briefing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian criticized the Pentagon’s report on Nov. 30. “We have exercised utmost restraint in developing nuclear capabilities,” he said. “We have kept those capabilities at the minimum level required by national security.”

The nuclear warhead estimate comes from the Pentagon’s annual report on China’s military power, which was published Nov. 29 and covers developments through 2021. In its National Defense Strategy released this year, the Biden administration named China as “the most comprehensive and serious challenge” for the United States. (See ACT, December 2022.)

The report projects that China aims to complete its nuclear modernization plans by 2035.

“If China continues the pace of its nuclear expansion, it will likely field a stockpile of about 1,500 warheads by its 2035 timeline,” the report states. This statement extrapolates the Pentagon’s estimate from the previous year, which said that Beijing may be able to amass 700 warheads by 2027 and 1,000 by 2030. (See ACT, December 2021.)

China is continuing to build three silo fields for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which will feature at least 300 new silos in total for two Dongfeng (DF) missile variants. Open-source intelligence analysts discovered these fields in 2021. (See ACT, September 2021.)

“At least some of the new silos might be operational,” according to Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists on Nov. 29. He made the assessment based on the Pentagon’s estimate that China has tripled its number of ICBMs to 300 silo-based or road-mobile missiles from a previous estimate of 100.

Although the report finds that China’s nuclear arsenal continues to closely align with the concept of a limited deterrent, senior U.S. defense officials have suggested that Beijing may be shifting away from that posture.

The Defense Department disclosed in the report that the DF-41, a fixed or mobile ICBM with a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) capability, likely will carry no more than three warheads per missile.

Beijing also continues growing its inventory of about 200 DF-26 ground-launched, intermediate-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear or conventional warheads to the western Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and the South China Sea. The report says China is probably seeking a low-yield nuclear weapon and, if so, is likely using the DF-26 for that purpose.

In 2021, China launched approximately 135 ballistic missiles for testing and training, more than the rest of the world combined outside of conflict zones, according to the report.

The Pentagon confirmed China’s test in July 2021 of a hypersonic glide vehicle paired with an ICBM in a demonstration of a fractional orbital system. (See ACT, November 2021.) The vehicle flew around the world in low-orbit space for a total of 40,000 kilometers in roughly 100-plus minutes and very nearly struck its target inside China.

The development of such a system, the report acknowledges, is probably “due to long-term concerns” about U.S. missile defense capabilities and to a drive “to attain qualitative parity with future worldwide missile capabilities.”

As for sea-based nuclear forces, the Pentagon revealed for the first time that China “likely began near-continuous at-sea deterrence patrols” with its six operational Jin-class nuclear-powered submarines, each of which can carry up to 12 submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

Beijing operationally fielded the H-6N nuclear-capable bomber in 2020 as part of its “nascent” nuclear triad, according to the report. The Chinese military likely is developing tactics and procedures for the bomber to support its nuclear mission, the report states.

To support its nuclear force expansion, China continues to pursue the construction of fast breeder reactors and reprocessing facilities, the Pentagon said, reaffirming a previous assessment.

“Despite China’s public support for a fissile material cutoff treaty,” the report says, “we judge that Beijing intends to use this infrastructure to produce nuclear warhead materials for its military in the near term.”

The report reiterates previous assessments that China, which keeps a majority of its launchers and missiles separated from nuclear warheads, may ramp up this peacetime status by moving toward a launch-on-warning posture. At this stage, this posture largely has been associated with military exercises.

China also maintains its declaratory no-first-use nuclear policy, but the Pentagon believes it may consider using nuclear weapons if a conventional attack imperils the country’s existence.

In parallel with China’s efforts to enhance its strategic nuclear capabilities, the Pentagon sees a concerted Chinese drive to advance its emerging and disruptive technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous weapons systems, and cyberweapons. The report indicates that Chinese leaders are convinced that mastery of these technologies will be essential to success in future wars with a “strong power” such as the United States.

“The PLA [People’s Liberation Army] is pursuing next-generation combat capabilities based on its vision of future conflict, which it calls ‘intelligentized warfare,’ defined by the expanded use of AI and other advanced technologies at every level of warfare,” the report states.

According to the Pentagon, China is exploring using AI in target detection and identification systems, missile guidance, computer-assisted decision-making, and autonomous weapons platforms of various sorts, including unmanned air, sea, and ground vehicles.

China also is reported to have developed a significant capacity for offensive cyberoperations and intends to employ these capabilities at the onset of battle to disable an adversary’s command, control, and communications systems, a scenario with significant implications for strategic stability.

The report includes a special section on Chinese views of strategic stability, which are described as increasingly revolving around the concept of “ensuring mutual vulnerability” with its nuclear-armed adversaries. “Beijing views significant risks to strategic stability from potential U.S. technological breakthroughs or new commitments to produce and deploy cutting-edge weapons systems at greater scale or near China’s periphery,” the report says.

China’s main strategic stability concerns include rapid, credible advances in U.S. missile defenses, U.S. and allied hypersonic weapons capable of threatening China’s land-based arsenal, space surveillance assets, conventional prompt-strike weapons, and cyberoperations capable of undermining nuclear command and control, the report adds.

A senior U.S. defense official described China’s effort to modernize, expand, and diversify its nuclear arsenal as rapid and substantial. 

Putin Denies Wielding Nuclear Threats

January/February 2023
By Shannon Bugos

After raising the nuclear temperature with his comments in recent months, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied issuing any threats of possible nuclear weapons use, stating that “we have not lost our minds.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin conducts a video conference in Moscow on Dec. 7, the day he denied issuing threats to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. (Photo by Mikhail Metzel/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)Russian nuclear forces are “in a more advanced and up-to-date condition than the weapons in the possession of any other nuclear power,” Putin said on Dec. 7. “Yet, we are not going to wield these weapons like a razor running around the globe.”

But even as the Russian president denied having ever spoken about the possibility of using nuclear weapons, he emphasized that Russia will protect itself and its allies “with all means at our disposal, if needed.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin denounced Putin’s statements on Dec. 9, saying that “the whole world has seen Putin engage in deeply irresponsible nuclear saber rattling” during Russia’s “cruel and unprovoked war of choice against Ukraine.”

Bloomberg reported the same day that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declined to hold an annual meeting with Putin due to the threats of nuclear use. But the two leaders held a telephone call on Dec. 16, during which Modi emphasized dialogue and diplomacy as the only way forward in Ukraine, according to the prime minister’s office.

The Kremlin readout of the call reported that “the two leaders agreed to maintain personal contacts.”

After Russia’s cancellation of a Russian-U.S. meeting to discuss the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, Austin reiterated in December that the United States “stand[s] ready to pursue new arms control arrangements with willing partners operating in good faith.” (See ACT, December 2022.)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Dec. 1 that “it is impossible to discuss strategic stability today while ignoring everything that is happening in Ukraine.” Washington and Moscow typically include arms control under the umbrella of strategic stability matters.

By contrast, Sergei Ryabkov, Lavrov’s deputy, said two weeks earlier that so long as the United States demonstrates an “interest and readiness,” Russia would be willing to discuss matters of strategic stability only.


After raising the nuclear temperature with his recent comments, the Russian president denied issuing any threats of possible nuclear weapons use.


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