Admiral Charles Richard, chief of U.S. Strategic Command, warned that China and Russia are building up their nuclear stockpiles at an unprecedented rate.
Richard said Thursday that China’s nuclear weapons buildup and Russia’s advanced nuclear capabilities have prompted a reassessment of America’s ability to defend itself.
"We are in uncharted waters," Richard said at a Hudson Institute event. "We are facing a class of potential adversaries that we haven't had to deal with in 30 years."
Richard’s remarks come amid a heated fight over the future of America’s nuclear arsenal, as national security staff in the White House and lawmakers such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) push for a smaller U.S. stockpile.
A letter from Senate Democrats prompted the Biden administration to call for an independent review of ground-based nuclear weapons, which have been in service since the Vietnam War. Several powerful House and Senate Democrats have opposed nuclear modernization, an effort which experts say would give China and Russia an advantage in a growing arms race. Sen. Steve Daines (R., Mont.) called the attempt to "scuttle" America’s nuclear arsenal misguided in an August letter to the White House.
The admiral said that given the speed of Russia and China’s weapons buildup, policymakers should waste no time in strengthening America’s nuclear position.
"Business as usual will not work," Richard said. "It is going to be long enough before I get any new modernized capability into the forces that I am responsible for. We can ill afford, given the threats that we’re facing, any further delays on that. … If we make the wrong decision, we can’t come back a couple years later and buy it back."