Defense & National Security — Pentagon drops latest National Defense Strategy
The Pentagon on Thursday released a new set of documents outlining a sweeping strategy for U.S. security, seeking more deterrence for a list of threats topped by Russia and China.
We’ll share what’s in the strategy and what weapons the U.S. military is looking to cut from its arsenal, plus Russia’s new assurances it won’t use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine and the White House’s response.
This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.
2022 NDS says China, Russia pose biggest threats
The 2022 National Defense Strategy (NDS), released alongside the Nuclear Posture Review and Missile Defense Review, comes eight months after Russia invaded Ukraine and follows recent threats from China to bring Taiwan under its control.
First given to Congress in classified form in March, the document is the first in nearly five years — since early 2018, when the Trump administration released its version. That national defense strategy was the first in decades to focus U.S. defenses on China and Russia instead of violent extremist organizations.
The biggest threats: President Biden’s version continues with that line of thinking, though it labels China as a “consequential strategic competitor for the coming decades,” while calling Russia an “acute threat,” demonstrated most recently by its unprovoked attack on Ukraine.
“[China] and Russia now pose more dangerous challenges to safety and security at home, even as terrorist threats persist,” the document states, noting that both countries have deployed space capabilities that could target America’s GPS and other “space-based capabilities that support military power and daily civilian life.”
Why so dangerous?: Both Moscow and Beijing “could use a wide array of tools in an attempt to hinder U.S. military preparation and response in a conflict, including actions aimed at undermining the will of the U.S. public, and to target our critical infrastructure and other systems,” according to the strategy.
Speaking to reporters after the strategy’s release, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that while Russia “can’t systemically challenge the United States over the long term,” unlike China, it “does pose an immediate and sharp threat to our interest and values.”
Other areas of focus: The strategy also focuses on North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile capabilities, Iran’s nuclear program, violent extremist organizations including the Islamic State, al Qaeda and al-Shabaab, and transboundary challenges such as climate change and pandemics.
What’s in the strategy: The document does not include specifics as to how the Pentagon will work with allies and partners or how it will alter its procedures, weapons procurements or personnel to tackle the stated threats, though Austin described the strategy as the Pentagon’s “north star.”
Instead, the NDS ranks the biggest threats to the United States, broadly outlines how the military would respond and drives future defense spending requests and Pentagon policy, including what weapons to put money toward and how to spread its service members around the globe.
BIDEN MOVES TO SCRAP TRUMP-ERA MISSILE PROGRAM
The Biden administration is seeking to scrap the U.S. military’s development of nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missiles, despite recommendations to the contrary from top officials, according to the Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy.
The decision, which comes over top Defense Department officials’ public recommendations to keep the weapon, is part of a sweeping new strategy calling for better military deterrence in the face of threats from Russia and China.
A reversal: The document looks to reverse the Trump administration’s 2018 move to develop a new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM-N), a weapon meant to focus specifically on a Russian threat.
The U.S. will still maintain a submarine-launched nuclear arsenal.
The Biden administration said the Trump-era program was “no longer necessary,” as the United States already has the “means to deter limited nuclear use.”
Biden: Putin nuclear weapons talk ‘very dangerous’
“If he has no intention, why does he keep talking about it?” Biden told Nexstar’s Reshad Hudson in an exclusive interview. “Why does he talk about the ability to use a tactical nuclear weapon? He’s been very dangerous in how he’s approached this. He can end this all, get out of Ukraine.”
Scrutinized assurances: Putin earlier Thursday said at a gathering of foreign policy experts that it was not in Russia’s interests to use a tactical nuclear weapon.
“We see no need for that,” Putin said. “There is no point in that, neither political, nor military.”
Putin has repeatedly raised the specter of using nuclear weapons, highlighting Russia’s nuclear capabilities in response to any potential threats from the West.
No movement seen, yet: Still, Biden administration officials have said the U.S. sees no evidence Russia is imminently going to use a chemical or tactical nuclear weapon, nor does it see any reason to change its nuclear posture.
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW
- The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will hold the second and final day of its International Nuclear Policy Conference at 9 a.m.
- The Atlantic Council will host a talk on “Will Putin’s Invasion Go Nuclear?” with Gen. (Ret.) Philip Breedlove, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, at 10 a.m.
- The Center for Strategic and International Studies will hold a discussion on Department of Homeland Security cyber priorities with DHS Under Secretary for Policy Rob Silvers at 11 a.m.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- Progressives’ Ukraine letter darkens Jayapal leadership prospects
- Jan. 6 committee to seek interviews with Secret Service officials
- Putin: Russia has no plans to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine
- UN ambassador calls Russia’s gathering of Security Council ‘waste of everyone’s time’
- Cyber officials prioritizing securing critical sectors, foreign partnerships amid rising threats
- Zelensky says Ukraine ‘preparing good news’ in fight against Russia