Defense & National Security — China quickly expanding nuclear arsenal
China could have 1,500 nuclear warheads within 13 years, according to a new Pentagon report warning of Beijing’s plans to greatly expand its power in the coming decades.
We’ll share what’s in the report, plus a new missile defense system being considered for Ukraine and what the head of NATO is saying about Kyiv’s chances of making it into the alliance.
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.
DOD: China may quadruple nuclear arsenal by 2035
In a 196-page report released Tuesday, the Defense Department assessed China plans to greatly expand its power and could assert even more aggression over self-governing neighbor Taiwan in the next several decades.
The report, which is provided annually to Congress, outlines ambitions to realize a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by 2049 through economic, military, political and other means.
Containment attempts: The People’s Republic of China (PRC) also apparently sees the U.S. as “deploying a whole-of-government effort to contain” its rise.
Chinese “leaders believe that structural changes in the international system and an increasingly confrontational United States are the root causes of intensifying strategic competition between the PRC and the United States,” the Department of Defense (DOD) said.
A global network strategy: China is seeking to mold the international order around its principles at the same time it builds up a world-class military with a network spread across the globe.
- To bolster its national defense, China is on pace to expand its nuclear warhead stockpile from around 400 to 1,500 in 2035, according to the Pentagon’s estimates. It is expected to complete modernization of its national defense and armed forces by that year.
- China is also pursuing methods to modernize and diversify its nuclear forces, boosting its infrastructure to increase nuclear arms production.
Upping the tests: The People’s Liberation Army, China’s military force, launched
135 ballistic missiles in 2021, firing off more tests than the rest of the world combined last year, according to the Pentagon.
Increased aggression: DOD also noted China has increased its aggression over Taiwan and that Beijing has several strategies it could employ against the democratic island, including a “full-scale amphibious invasion” to seize parts or all of the island.
- Taiwan has remained one of the more contentious issues between the U.S. and China, which sees the island as historically part of the mainland.
- The U.S. government operates under the One China policy, which recognizes Taiwan as part of China but has informal ties with the country.
US mulls sending missile defense system to Ukraine
The U.S. government is mulling sending the Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine to help bolster its air defenses against an ongoing barrage of Russian strikes, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters.
“All capabilities are on the table,” the official said when asked if the Biden administration was considering sending Patriot batteries to Ukraine. “Patriot is one of the air defense capabilities that is being considered along with all others.”
A second voice: Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder later told reporters that the Department of Defense (DOD) is discussing “a wide variety of capabilities and support with Ukraine,” regarding the country’s defense needs.
- “Air defense continues to be a top priority for DOD and for the international community when it comes to supporting Ukraine,” he added.
- “In terms of any type of Patriot battery from the U.S., right now we have no plans to provide Patriot batteries to Ukraine but again, we’ll continue to have those discussions.”
A constant plea: Since the start of Russia’s attack on Ukraine in February, Kyiv has repeatedly called for more Western air defense systems along with other weapons and equipment to help keep Kremlin missile and drone strikes at bay.
The U.S. and other NATO countries have steadily poured such weapons into the country — including the recent shipment of the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System to Ukraine earlier this month — but Kyiv’s government is requesting more advanced systems that can shoot down bigger threats from further away.
Why Patriots matter: Patriots, made by U.S. firm Raytheon, are the most advanced surface-to-air missile defense systems NATO has in its repertoire, as they are meant to track and take out incoming ballistic and cruise missiles and aircraft.
NATO chief says ‘door is open’ to Ukraine
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday said the “door is open” to admitting Ukraine into the security alliance and that the country would one day be a member.
Stoltenberg reaffirmed the commitment to bringing Ukraine into the Western alliance and said Russian President Vladimir Putin would also have to contend with Finland and Sweden soon joining NATO after both countries applied in the wake of Russia’s late February invasion of Ukraine.
“President Putin cannot deny sovereign nations to make their own sovereign decisions that are not a threat to Russia,” Stoltenberg said in comments ahead of a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Bucharest, Romania. “I think what he’s afraid of is democracy and freedom, and that’s the main challenge for him.”
Earlier: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced he would apply for NATO membership in late September with the hope to fast-track the application process amid the ongoing war with Russia.
A waiting game: Ukraine is unlikely to be admitted anytime soon. Stoltenberg said last month that all 30 members of the alliance must approve and reach a consensus, while the main priority for NATO at the moment was providing support for Ukraine’s war effort.
Finland and Sweden are waiting on just two nations to ratify membership. Along with Ukraine, all three countries will have representatives in Romania this week.
Expected: The meeting of foreign ministers in Romania is likely to result in new funding for Ukraine as the war heads into the winter months.
Russia has pounded Ukrainian infrastructure, including energy grids, with missile strikes as it seeks to knock out power in cities across the country. NATO could announce additional nonlethal support for the nation, including generators and medical supplies.
ON TAP TOMORROW
- The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host a talk on “The U.S.-South Korea Alliance in Turbulent Times,” at 7:30 a.m.
- The Center for Strategic and International Studies will hold another conversation on “The Politics of Policy: Japan’s Road Ahead on National Security and Economic Strategy,” at 8 a.m.
- The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies will host a virtual discussion on “future digital environment as it relates to air and space power,” with Air Force Chief Information Officer Lauren Knausenberger, at 10 a.m.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- Oath Keepers leader found guilty of seditious conspiracy
- US battles Iran at World Cup amid heightened tensions
- McConnell says there’s ‘widespread agreement’ among leaders on need for omnibus
- State Department acknowledges El Salvador tried to influence ‘certain election outcomes’
- US providing $53M to help restore Ukraine power grid
- Supreme Court hears clash over DHS immigration enforcement policy
- The Hill: Opinion: Remember ISIS? It’s why Biden must stop a Turkish invasion of Kurdish Syria
- The Hill: Opinion: 20 years later, the ‘Axis of Evil’ is bigger, bolder — and more evil