US Allies Threatened By Russian Nukes, Experts Say

Allies in Europe want American nukes to defend against Russia, Republicans and defense experts say

President Biden And Vice President Harris Visit The Pentagon
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April 5, 2021

Russia's growing nuclear arsenal and President Biden's inaction on nuclear weapons may put American allies in grave danger, Republicans and defense experts say.

Vladimir Putin's surging nuclear stockpile and military buildup leaves NATO allies all the more in need of protection from the U.S. military, according to Alan Mendoza, the executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, a British think tank. Mendoza said Europe needs more than Biden's harsh words for Putin's regime, particularly as Democrats weigh Pentagon cuts and advocate against America's nuclear capabilities.

"The world is going to get more rather than less dangerous ... that should surely reflect itself back into U.S. defense policy," Mendoza said. "What actually needs to be felt in Europe is that the U.S. will be there to support its NATO allies on the front lines."

Britain has sounded the alarm on Russia’s growing nuclear arms. Nearly half of Russia's nuclear arms are not covered by the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which the Biden administration extended in January. A March security review from London recommended a 40 percent increase in Britain’s nuclear stockpile as fears of Russia's arsenal grow.

For Major General Ferdinand B. Stoss, the director of plans and policy at U.S. Strategic Command, growing nuclear threats from Russia and others to American allies make his task of maintaining a strong nuclear stance all the more important.

"A challenge is that despite the U.S.'s concerted efforts to reduce the role of nuclear weapons ... our adversaries since 2010 are doing the opposite," Stoss said. "We have to make sure that our nuclear triad is safe, secure, and effective. If it’s not, we wont be able to honor our extended deterrence commitments."

President Biden and members of Congress meanwhile signal they do not want to grow or modernize America’s nuclear arsenal. Many of the key technologies used in deploying America’s nukes come from the Vietnam era. Republican members of Congress say America’s shrinking nuclear power combined with the potential of a lagging defense budget could prove unsettling to allies. Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the Biden nuclear plan could "directly impact" the security of our allies.

"Many of our allies rely on America’s nuclear umbrella for protection instead of their own nuclear programs," Wilson said. "If the Biden Administration fails to modernize our nuclear [weapons], the United States and our NATO allies will be more vulnerable to near-peer competitors Russia and China.... The United Kingdom in particular would be directly impacted."

Rep. Don Bacon (R., Neb.), a co-chair of the House Baltic caucus, said that a weakened nuclear stance would also hurt other European allies.

"Our European allies understand the importance of countering Russia and China’s growing threats and that a strong alliance is required to counter both simultaneously," Bacon said. "The push for unilateral reductions in our nuclear force is not only misguided, but it will undermine our ability to maintain a strong, credible alliance with our European partners and hurt NATO’s ability to deter Russian and Chinese aggression." 

Stoss’s commanding officer Admiral Charles Richard made headlines in January for saying his job may take a difficult turn if the defense budget does not work toward modernizing parts of the nuclear arsenal. In his confirmation hearing, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin dodged several questions on his own approach to building up the nation's nuclear weapons.

The White House did not return a request for comment.