The Taiwan scenarios so far have essentially consisted of 3 scenarios: Taiwan’s independence, the status quo (what will happen after Hong Kong’s abolition of the 1 country 2 systems approach and the „new normal“ of crossing the Taiwan Strait medium line and invading Taiwan’s ADIZ unlikely after Pelosi’s visit) and China’s military conquest of Taiwan or perhaps a naval blockade. As a 4th scenario of a Taiwan crisis, there is also the US embargo approach against Cuba (so far not very successful over the decades) by China.
“Will Taiwan Be the Next Cuba?
China could follow the U.S. approach to Cuba and try to suffocate Taiwan economically.
By William Bratton
February 09, 2021
Taiwan’s future is frequently presented as one of three scenarios. The first is its successful declaration of independent sovereignty with international recognition and China’s acceptance of its new status. The second is the long-term continuation of the current uneasy status quo, and the third is China’s use of force to achieve reunification with the island.
The third scenario is often seen as the most probable. This is partly because nationalistic pressures in both China and Taiwan have grown dramatically over recent decades and will continue to do so. The two are on divergent political trajectories which will make the current status quo increasingly difficult to maintain. And whereas China historically lacked the necessary capabilities to transport an army across the Taiwan Strait, especially against U.S. intervention, the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army now make its threats of an enforced reunification much more potent.
Some argue that the economic and political costs of a forced reunification will deter China from such action. Such a sanguine view, however, underestimates the power of nationalistic sentiments over economic rationality. History is after all littered with examples of political actions that came with significant economic costs. But should China decide that the use of force would be too disruptive to its regional geopolitical and economic aims, then there is a fourth potential scenario: the Cuba option. China could adopt a comparable strategy toward Taiwan as the United States did toward Cuba.
This scenario reflects the situational similarities between Cuba and Taiwan. Both are in close proximity to the regional superpower and both have substantial ideological and political differences with their larger neighbor. While Taiwan is politically dependent on the United States, a geographically distant partner, Cuba was once reliant on the USSR, another remote ally. Furthermore, there are significant economic asymmetries between them and their neighboring superpowers, which in the case of Cuba, the U.S. weaponized to the smaller country’s detriment.
As background, Cuba was heavily dependent on the United States before sanctions were imposed in 1960. More than two-thirds of Cuba’s trade was with the U.S. and the larger neighbor was the country’s main source of capital. But over the last six decades, Washington has steadily ratcheted up measures to ensure Cuba’s near complete economic isolation. This stranglehold is maintained despite little evidence that the sanctions have achieved their desired outcomes, and in the face of persistent international criticism. But as a result, Cuba lurches from one economic crisis to another.
It is not difficult to imagine China pursuing a similar approach toward Taiwan, especially as the regional superpower has already demonstrated a growing willingness to use economic power to advance its foreign policies. China has leveraged access to its massive markets to encourage others to recognize its claimed sovereignty over Taiwan. It has also used Taiwan’s strong economic links with the mainland to both reward and punish the island, depending on circumstances.
But the consequences of these actions have been minor compared to the potential implications of a more comprehensive sanctions policy. Although China is yet to define its approach toward sanctions, especially relative to its international objectives, it has to be assumed that China will eventually weaponize its economic power to achieve greater influence – especially as the United States has already established substantial precedent on the use of sanctions, as demonstrated by Cuba’s and China’s own experiences.
As the United States did with Cuba, China could use sanctions to isolate Taiwan economically. A complete trade embargo may be impossible given how China views Taiwan’s status. But foreign corporates doing business in Taiwan or with Taiwanese entities could find themselves explicitly prohibited from the mainland or excluded from supplying any Chinese entity. And it is not difficult to predict the choice companies will make if forced to choose between Taiwan and China. In fact, depending on the specific policies adopted, China could either use sanctions to increase Taiwan’s economic dependency on it or to impose punitive costs on the island.
It is true that there are several potential caveats to this scenario.
The first is that Cuba shows the limitations of sanctions as a political tool. The United States may have hoped that the measures applied would encourage Cuba’s people to agitate for change or for the state to change its ideology. But neither has been achieved. The risk is that a similar policy toward Taiwan will be equally unsuccessful. Isolating Taiwan internationally could in fact accelerate the island’s declaration of independence, although this would trigger a military response by China.
The second is that China’s ability to wield unilateral sanctions is still limited by its own economic vulnerabilities. Not only is it still dependent on the imports of semiconductors from Taiwan but it remains vulnerable to U.S. counter-sanctions, especially if they excluded China from the U.S. dollar financial markets. However, these vulnerabilities will decline significantly over the next decade and as they do, China’s ability to implement its own sanctions policy will increase correspondingly.
Taiwan will be the U.S.-China flashpoint in the same way Cuba was for the United States and USSR. But the manner through which the U.S. resolved its Cuba problem could also be adopted by China toward Taiwan, at least in a modified manner. The challenge is whether this will be enough to achieve China’s desire for reunification, especially ahead of the 2049 centenary of the People’s Republic of China. But either way, it is difficult to envision a scenario that ends well for Taiwan.
William Bratton is the author of “China’s Rise, Asia’s Decline.”
Conversely, it is possible that the USA will react with TX Hammes Offshore Control and a naval blockade against China, as he explained in more detail in a Global Review interview, especially since Lindsay Graham has now also called for a naval blockade not only in Asia in the event of a Taiwan crisis , but also in the Persian Gulf to cut off China’s energy imports:
As a 5th scenario, Global Review had also considered the „Conquest from within Taiwan“ using the KMT and the Chinese united front and their 5th columns. .Global Review and a few strategic voices are considering another scenario that has not yet been considered in the case of China and Taiwan, a 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis involving Taiwan, in which the Chinese Communist Party threatens nuclear strikes against the United States for the first time. Cuba and the Cuban Missile Crisis is on everyone’s lips and some see new Cuban crises coming should Putin be cornered too much in the Ukraine war, but this scenario has not yet been applied to Taiwan. So far not very broad in the discussion with a few exceptions, for example Peter Vincent Fry from the Center for Security Policy 2021, whereby he claims the nuclear inferiority of the USA in such a Cuban crisis for Taiwan, as well as the loss of Taiwan and the US American world power position in the New Cold War:
“The Taiwan nuclear powder keg: A new Cuban Missile Crisis?
–“As Somebody who is cognizant of the evidence at all classification levels, cognizant of what’s going on in our exercises…I believe the light is blinking red.” Lt. Gen. S. Clinton Hinote
—“Now the international situation has changed dramatically…In order to protect the peaceful rise of our country, it is necessary to make limited adjustments to our nuclear policy.” Unofficial People’s Liberation Army Website
As the 59th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis approaches on October 16th, it may be useful to reflect and consider some strategic similarities, and dissimilarities, between the U.S.-USSR nuclear confrontation over Cuba in 1962, and the present China-U.S. confrontation over Taiwan, that many fear could escalate into a nuclear World War III.
Cuba and Taiwan: Superpower Confrontation
Ideologically, the takeover of Cuba by communist revolutionary Fidel Castro in 1959 was perceived in Washington to be a serious blow to the credibility of the U.S. and the Free World in their Cold War struggle against Soviet communism. Cuba, a free enterprise “wild west” for U.S. corporations, and in America’s own backyard, had thrown off “the shackles of capitalism” to go communist.
Today, Taiwan is literally and figuratively an island of political and economic freedom, a prosperous rebuke to communist totalitarianism, in China’s own backyard.
Far worse from Beijing’s perspective, the government of Taiwan is descended from anti-communists who lost the civil war to control mainland China in 1949. Taiwan’s government calls itself the “Republic of China” because they still consider themselves the legitimate rulers of the mainland, in exile.
The “People’s Republic of China,” as communist China calls itself, regards Taiwan’s “Republic of China” as illegitimate, an unconquered pocket of rebellion, in illegal occupation of communist China’s island territory of Taiwan.
Worst of all from Beijing’s perspective, Taiwan’s government poses an existential threat to communist China. Taiwan could foment revolution, or someday return from exile with the backing of the U.S. and allies to take over control of the mainland, or so a paranoid Beijing fears.
Consequently, China’s ideological and political interests in conquering Taiwan are far greater than U.S. interests were or are in ousting communism from Cuba.
Yet the U.S. did covertly invade Cuba, in the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs operation, run by the CIA using an army of Cuban exiles, unsupported by the U.S. military, so Washington could avoid looking like an “imperialist” power.
Communist China has no qualms about breaking international law or making overt military threats to conquer Taiwan. China has been constrained from doing so for decades only because of their insufficient military capabilities and fear of U.S. intervention.
Cuba and Taiwan: Nuclear Flashpoints
Geostrategically, Cuba and Taiwan are in analogous situations, island nations next door to military superpowers, indefensible without a superpower friend.
In 1962, Cuba’s superpower friend was the USSR. But even the USSR could not project enough naval strength across the Atlantic to defend Cuba from the United States.
So Moscow protected Cuba with extended nuclear deterrence, including by basing nuclear missiles in Cuba—which also greatly increased the USSR’s capability to launch a surprise nuclear attack against the U.S.
So began the Cuban missile crisis (16 October – 20 November 1962), resolved by the USSR’s humiliating withdrawal of nuclear missiles from Cuba—compelled by the U.S. having a 5-to-1 advantage in ICBMs and vast superiority in strategic nuclear bombers.
President Kennedy also secretly agreed to withdraw U.S. obsolete Jupiter missiles from Turkey. That the Soviets accepted international humiliation and kept this part of the deal secret testifies to the bargaining leverage afforded by superior U.S. nuclear firepower in 1962.
Consequences of U.S. Military and Nuclear Decline
Today, if China attempts to conquer Taiwan, it will be the U.S., like the USSR in 1962, that will be militarily disadvantaged.
The Pentagon’s own wargames show the U.S. losing to China in a conflict over Taiwan.
The Defense Department’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategy, Integration, and Requirements, Lt. General Sam Hinote, warned recently: “As Somebody who is cognizant of the evidence at all classification levels, cognizant of what’s going on in our exercises…I believe the light is blinking red…Why? Because it used to be that when we did future war games, we were having trouble when we set the war game 5, 10, 15 years out into the future…But what has changed since the last time we sat in this building two years ago, is that it’s not a future problem…It is a current problem…We are out of time.”
Like the U.S. in 1962, China may soon, if not already, dominate the nuclear balance.
U.S. STRATCOM Commander, Admiral Charles Richard, as reported by Bill Gertz in the Washington Times (12 August 2021), warns China is building silos for “350-400 new long-range missiles” like the DF-41 ICBM, that carries 10 warheads. Consequently: “If 10 warheads are deployed on the DF-41s, China’s warhead level will increase to 4,000 warheads on the DF-41 alone.”
4,000 DF-41 ICBM warheads alone would give China a 10-to-1 advantage over the United States’ 400 ICBM warheads, and nearly a 3-to-1 advantage over the 1,400 operationally deployed U.S. strategic nuclear weapons on all ICBMs, SLBMs, and bombers.
China already has a nuclear first-strike capability against the U.S. 400 ICBM silos, 3 bomber bases, 2 SSBN ports, and C3I targets comprising the U.S. nuclear deterrent. China’s existing DF-41 ICBMs have enough warheads with yield/accuracy combinations capable of achieving 90% single-shot-kill-probability against the hardest U.S. targets.
Dr. Mark Schneider, a former senior Defense Department official and prominent nuclear strategist, in his excellent article “The Chinese Nuclear Breakout and the Biden Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review” (Real Clear Defense 28 August 2021), makes a compelling case that U.S. ICBMs and SLBMs lack yield/accuracy sufficient to destroy China’s hardest targets, including ICBM silos that may be hardened to 30,000 psi (U.S. ICBM silos are hardened to 2,000 psi).
Moreover, U.S. retaliatory capabilities against counterforce targets in China—including ICBM silos, missile tunnels, mobile missiles, bomber and SSBN bases, C3I bunkers, and the 5,000 kilometers long “Underground Great Wall”—are grossly inadequate.
China, Russia, North Korea: Nuclear Triad
China’s race toward nuclear domination of the U.S. probably accounts for why Beijing appears to have retracted its nuclear “No First Use” pledge.
Recently, China threatened a nuclear first strike against Australia for buying U.S. nuclear-powered (not nuclear-armed) submarines.
In July, an “unofficial” website (Xigua Video) affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army threatened:
—“Now the international situation has changed dramatically…In order to protect the peaceful rise of our country, it is necessary to make limited adjustments to our nuclear policy.”
–“When we liberate Taiwan, if Japan dares to intervene by force, even if it deploys only one soldier, one plane and one ship..we will use nuclear bombs first. We will use nuclear bombs continuously until Japan declares unconditional surrender for the second time.”
—“We’ll join force with Russia and North Korea [to] shoot together to hit the Japanese mainland thoroughly and in full depth.”
—“After defeating Japan, we must take more severe measures than in World War II to partition Japan…by dividing the four Japanese islands into four independent states…China and Russia should each formulate its own Peace Constitution, and each of the four countries should be placed under the administration of China and Russia, with China and Russia stationing troops.”
Victorious in a nuclear war over Taiwan, would China be more merciful to its chief opponent, the United States, than to Japan? In the above, substitute “Japan” with the “United States” for the “unofficial” PLA vision of the post-war.
Russia and North Korea have made no official denial that they would join with China in a nuclear war against the United States. Indeed, China, Russia, and North Korea are strategic partners. China and Russia have conducted major military exercises together, including at least one strategic forces exercise postulating a nuclear war with the U.S. over Taiwan.
In 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy did not face a coalition of three nuclear powers.
China’s most compelling reason for conquering Taiwan is for ownership of the future—and this probably makes war inevitable. China needs Taiwan as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” to defend itself and to dominate the South China Sea and the Pacific. No empire aspiring to world dominance will tolerate a rival in their own backyard.
What Is To Be Done?
Given rapidly growing nuclear threats from China, Russia, North Korea and the proximity of nuclear confrontation over Taiwan, the Biden Administration’s failure to publicly spurn Democrats calling for unilaterally banning U.S. ICBMs, banning SLCMs, deep reductions in nuclear weapons, Minimum Deterrence, a U.S. “No First Use Pledge” etc., is suicidal.
Not only are these anti-nuclear policies irrational, but their vociferous proposal risks “sending the wrong message” to China, Russia, and North Korea at a perilous time. Their message of weakness, combined with the Afghanistan debacle, is far worse than Secretary of State Dean Acheson’s “wrong message” in 1950 that helped start the Korean War.
What is needed is another President John F. Kennedy or President Ronald Reagan, who invested in “Peace Through Strength” by building a nuclear deterrent “second to none,” and who understood weakness is an invitation to World War III. President Biden has an opportunity to follow their good example in the Nuclear Posture Review and by greatly accelerating and expanding U.S. nuclear deterrent modernization.
Nuclear strength enabled President Kennedy to win the Cuban missile crisis without war. Nuclear strength enabled President Reagan to win the Cold War peacefully.
U.S. nuclear inferiority will be tantamount to surrender in the New Cold War.
However, author Peter Vincent Fry died in 2022 with an obituary from the Republican-sponsored Heritage Foundation. He was considered a security policy icon with a specialty in EMP and had already warned of an EMP war by China against the USA:
“China Is Plotting an EMP Attack on the U.S., Expert Peter Pry Claims in Op-Ed
Updated Sep 28, 2022 at 2:32pm
Peter Pry, an expert in electromagnetic pulse weapons, known as EMPs, published an op-ed on June 18 in The Hill stating that China might be planning an EMP attack on the U.S. He says in the opinion piece that the country is vulnerable to such an attack.
Pry says the COVID-19 pandemic “exposed dangerous weaknesses in U.S. planning and preparation for civil defense protection and recovery.” He argues despite the U.S. spending decades and billions on preparing for biological warfare, they “have not even been able to competently cope” with the coronavirus outbreak.
Pry also points to the ongoing “cold civil war” in the U.S., saying anarchists and criminals have been “infiltrating recent protests” and that our “adversaries also have noticed.” He claims that for the last quarter-century, China has been planning an EMP attack on the U.S. in a “Pearl Harbor” type of cyber attack.
Pry was the chief of staff to the Congressional EMP Commission and was a staffer on the House Armed Services committee, according to his biography on The Hill website. Pry has also authored several books, including most recently, The Power And The Light: The Congressional EMP Commission’s War To Save America 2001-2020, published earlier this year.
Pry has faced criticism from other military and foreign policy experts of overstating the risk EMP weapons pose to the U.S. Jeffrey Lewis wrote in 2013 for Foreign Policy that the EMP threat is being pushed by mainly fearmongering conservatives who warned of nuclear attacks during the Cold War. Lewis wrote, “Enter the EMP threat. Having dug themselves into a hole on nuclear weapons issues, EMP advocates think they have another shot at winning the foreign policy argument. If the mortal threat posed by nuclear weapons doesn’t favor policies that emphasize our apartness from the wider world, what if a nuclear weapon were detonated way out there in the blue?”
So what is EMP and what would an EMP attack look like? Here’s what you need to know about Pry’s article and EMP attacks:
EMP Weapons Use Pulses of Energy to Damage Electronic & Electrical Equipment
EMPs are electromagnetic pulses — pulses of energy — that can travel through the atmosphere at high speeds. There are three main ways that EMP can be emitted, Forbes outlined in 2019: through the blast of a nuclear weapon, natural phenomenon like a solar flare or through a manmade portable weapon like a high power microwave weapon (HPMW).
A powerful EMP can affect the Earth’s magnetic field and damage electronic and electrical equipment, including computers, cell phones and transmission lines. Worse, it can impact critical communications infrastructure, and due to the way the U.S. electric grid is designed, small-scale attacks can lead to cascading failures across the whole country, affecting everything from food, water and public health to dams and nuclear reactors.
According to an internal memo by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission quoted by the EMP task force:
Destroy nine interconnection (transformer) substations and a transformer manufacturer and the entire United States grid would be down for at least 18 months, probably longer.
The EMP Task Force on Homeland and National Security is a non-governmental organization whose goals are to “educate the American people” about EMP threats and “advocate for policy changes” to boost the country’s preparedness. It’s made up of “citizens, engineers, field experts, and others” with Pry as the executive director.
Pry States That Despite Last Year’s Executive Order Designed to Boost the Electric Grid & Other Critical Infrastructure, No Steps Have Been Taken
In Pry’s op-ed, he explains that he warned the U.S. government back in 2005 about the risk of an EMP attack. He shares an excerpt of China’s military strategy that points to the U.S. vulnerability: “It could be regarded as the ‘Pearl Harbor incident’ of the 21st century if a surprise attack is conducted against the enemy’s crucial information systems … by such means as electronic warfare, electromagnetic pulse weapons, telecommunications interference and suppression, computer viruses, and if the enemy is deprived of the information it needs as a result.” The excerpt continues:
Even a super military power like the United States, which possesses nuclear missiles and powerful armed forces, cannot guarantee its immunity. … In their own words, a highly computerized open society like the United States is extremely vulnerable to electronic attacks from all sides. This is because the U.S. economy, from banks to telephone systems and from power plants to iron and steel works, relies entirely on computer networks.
Pry points out that Trump signed an executive order on March 26, 2019, the “Executive Order on Coordinating National Resilience to Electromagnetic Pulses.” Despite that order, Pry says the federal government, specifically the Department of Energy and the Department of Homeland Security, has taken no steps to “protect the national grid or other critical infrastructures.”
The EMP Task Force Recently Released a Full Report on the EMP Threat From China
The EMP task force states on its website that it is “concerned about the vulnerability of our electrical grid and other critical infrastructures and the danger that it poses to our children and families.” It says that the U.S. power grid crashing is a “very real” threat, and according to their experts, 70-90% of Americans would die in the first year after the power grid is destroyed.
A full report issued by the task force on June 10 says that “China has long known about nuclear high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) and invested in protecting military forces and critical infrastructures from HEMP and other nuclear weapon effects during the Cold War, and continuing today.” A HEMP is a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse created by a nuclear explosion in space.
In fact, Pry says that China has HEMP simulators and offensive and defensive programs that are much more “robust” than the U.S. The Chinese military doctrine views HEMP attacks as a type of cyber attack and the “most likely kind of future warfare.”
But in his 2013 op-ed in Foreign Policy, Lewis criticized the studies by the task force:
The solution of the EMP Commission was simply to collect more data, essentially creating laundry lists of things that might go wrong. For example, the EMP Commission exposed 37 cars and 18 trucks to EMP effects in a laboratory environment. While EMP advocates claim the results of an EMP attack would be “planes falling from the sky, cars stalling on the roadways, electrical networks failing, food rotting,” the actual results were much more modest. Of the 55 vehicles exposed to EMP, six at the highest levels of exposure needed to be restarted. A few more showed “nuisance” damage to electronics, such as blinking dashboard displays.
Lewis added, “For those of us who see the United States as part of the world, nuclear weapons mean an end to the illusion of isolation and invulnerability. We are a member of the family of nations. And like many families, we don’t like all our relatives. But we don’t get to skip Thanksgiving. Nuclear weapons, like climate change, pose a shared danger to all nations and compel us to set aside our petty national differences.”
Pry Is an EMP Expert Who Has a Long Background in National Security Issues
According to his bio on the EMP task force website, Pry began his career in national security in the 1980s when he served as an analyst at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency focusing on Soviet compliance with treaties. From 1985 to 1995, he worked as an intelligence officer in the CIA and was tasked with “analyzing Soviet and Russian nuclear strategy, operational plans, military doctrine, threat perceptions” and more.
Pry, 66, established the Congressional EMP Commission and helped it develop plans to protect the U.S. from EMP attacks in collaboration with “senior scientists who first discovered the nuclear EMP phenomenon.” He wrote many books and articles on national security and serves as the director of the United States Nuclear Strategy Forum.
Pry has frequently spoken out about the necessity of the U.S. being prepared for an EMP weapon attack. In 2019, he warned North Korea could wage an EMP attack on America and that technology would be quicker to develop than nuclear weapons feared by most in the U.S.
In 2015, Pry warned an EMP attack could claim nine out of 10 American lives, according to The Daily Advertiser. Pry said Americans would die from starvation, disease and societal collapse. His concerns were echoed by Ambassador Henry Cooper, the former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative. He told the newspaper, “Our governmental systems are broken in dealing with these issues, I believe so dysfunctional that people locally have got to learn to deal with the issues.”
In 2010, Yousaf Butt, an atomic scientist, wrote about EMP weapons in The Space Review, criticizing the takes by experts like Pry. Butt wrote:
The precise effects of nuclear EMP are difficult to predict but depend on, among other factors, the yield of the weapon, the detonation altitude, as well as upon the geographic latitude and the magnitude of the local geomagnetic field. Knowing the type of adversary who may entertain such an attack allows us to narrow down the sorts of weapons that may be employed, how they may be used, and thus the type of threat we possibly face.
Sim Tack, a military expert, told Vice News in 2015, “It’s not a work of fiction. It’s an actual technology that exists. It’s being played with in some capacity, and will potentially play a much greater role in future warfare. With the increasing importance of electronic circuits on the battlefield… There’s only more and more reason to create weapons that specifically target networking ability and electronics dependence.”
Within the security community of the US and the Republican China hawks and other hardliners, he is seen as one of the few real experts who saw „the real threats“ hwich were mostly apocalyptic worst case scenario, but an inspiration to think security matters and appropriate deterrence startegies through:
„Farewell to a Tireless Advocate for National Security: Dr. Peter Pry
Aug 24, 2022 3 min read
Director, Center for National Defense
Thomas W. Spoehr conducts and supervises research on national defense matters.
Pry, who died recently at the age of 68, was the nation’s leading expert on the dangers of EMP.
He played a key role in running hearings in Congress that warned of the EMP threat that terrorists and rogue states could pose.
Having the courage to steadfastly advocate for a cause, even when most Americans would prefer to focus on easier issues, is a rare quality—and Pry had it in spades.
Chances are if you one of the small number of Americans who know about the national security threat from electromagnetic pulse, you have Dr. Peter Pry to thank.
Pry, who died recently at the age of 68, was the nation’s leading expert on the dangers of EMP and was a tireless advocate for methods that America could use to protect itself from this little known but potentially catastrophic danger.
An EMP—a high-intensity burst of energy caused by a rapid acceleration of charged particles from either solar weather or a nuclear bomb detonated high in the atmosphere—can cause devastating damage to the U.S. electric grid.
A high-altitude nuclear explosion above the continental United States could easily cause widespread failure of, and permanent damage to, the electric grids of entire regions of the country, grinding the U.S. economy to a halt. Subsequent deaths due to starvation or exposure could reach into the millions.
Pry saw this danger clearly and resolved to act, playing a key role in elevating knowledge about this threat.
He played a key role in running hearings in Congress that warned of the EMP threat that terrorists and rogue states could pose and in establishing the congressional EMP Commission. He helped the commission develop plans to protect the United States from EMP and worked closely with senior scientists who first discovered the nuclear EMP phenomenon.
Pry also authored numerous books on the subject, including “Civil-Military Preparedness For An Electromagnetic Pulse Catastrophe,” “War Scare: Russia and America on the Nuclear Brink,” “Nuclear Wars: Exchanges and Outcomes,” “The Strategic Nuclear Balance: And Why It Matters,” and “Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal.” Pry was also a prolific writer of magazine articles highlighting the danger of EMP (his last appearing just two months ago) and a frequent guest on television and radio.
Pry started his career in national security as a verification analyst at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and was responsible for assessing Soviet compliance with strategic and military arms control treaties. He followed that work by serving as an intelligence officer with the Central Intelligence Agency, where he was responsible for analyzing Soviet and Russian nuclear strategy.
Pry later served as professional staff on the House Armed Services Committee of Congress, with portfolios in nuclear strategy, weapons of mass destruction, Russia, China, NATO, the Middle East, intelligence, and terrorism.
Because of his extraordinary expertise and passion for the subject of EMPs, Pry was selected to serve on the staffs of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, the Commission on the New Strategic Posture of the United States, and the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack.
Pry was troubled that the issue of EMP did not receive the appropriate amount of attention from policymakers and, indeed, the general public. He remained convinced with that with some judicious investments, Americans could be better protected from the dangers of EMP.
I did not know him well, but in 2018, when my colleague at the time, Michaela Dodge, and I wrote a paper for The Heritage Foundation on EMP, Pry was at the same grateful for our work bringing attention to the problem but was also quick to point out some points he thought we got wrong. I was incredibly impressed he took the time to let us know.
Having the courage to steadfastly advocate for a cause, even when most Americans would prefer to focus on easier issues, is a rare quality—and Pry had it in spades.
Rest in peace, Dr. Peter Pry. Well done, good and faithful servant
The good and best worst case thinker thought in very large strategic weapon systems and absolute worst-case scenarios (“Cyber-EMP WW III”, Cybergeddon, etc.), always claimed that the USA are militarily and nuclear too weak and are harboring illusions regarding of the nuclear balance and had therefore no credible strategic deterrence:
In addition to writings on “Blackout Wars”, he also wrote about nuclear deterrence and the nuclear balance, which he called into question by a alleged nuclear triad of China, Russia and North Korea, which is why he called for the United States to rearm again, like Kennedy did with the Minutemen or Reagan with arms race with the Sowjetunion to upgrade the USA to a strategic nuclear military super power.
“The Great Illusion: The ‘Nuclear Balance’
By Dr. Peter PryJuly 17, 2021
The piece below is an article written by Dr. Peter Vincent Pry which originally appeared on Newsmax on July 13, 2021. Check out the original here
Generations of U.S. and allied policymakers, strategists, academics, and the general public have been conditioned by arms control theory, which is unique to our strategic culture, to measure our security against nuclear war by the “nuclear balance”—most simply, comparing the number of U.S. nuclear weapons to those of potential adversaries.
According to this simplistic paradigm, the U.S. is safer and more likely to deter nuclear conflict as long as it maintains rough parity in the nuclear balance with its closest peer competitor: Russia.
So, the New START Treaty limits the U.S. and Russia to 1,550 nuclear warheads deployed on intercontinental delivery systems (ICBMs, SLBMs, bombers) on the assumption that equality in numbers of nuclear weapons contributes to strategic stability, deterrence, and peace.
Furthermore, by the logic of arms control theory about the nuclear balance, the U.S. should be safer and even more likely to deter nuclear conflict against nations like China and North Korea, whose nuclear arsenals are numerically far inferior to the United States.
Consequently, responding to the recent discovery that China is building some 145 new ICBM silos, the press has been quick to remind and reassure the public that the U.S. is still far superior to China in the nuclear balance. For example, Kyle Mizokami writes in Popular Mechanics (8 July 2021):
“China, the fifth country to develop nuclear weapons, now maintains an arsenal of between 250 to 350 nukes. This contrasts to the U.S.’s [sic] arsenal of 5,800 weapons, with 1,373 deployed on missiles, bomber bases, or submarines…”
Counting the nuclear balance is an arms control imperative—but that does not mean the confidently expounded and oft repeated estimates of the U.S. Government and independent analysts are trustworthy.
The notion that we know for sure the “nuclear stockpiles” and “operationally deployed” numbers of nuclear weapons belonging to Russia, China, and North Korea is a great illusion:
–Russia, China, and North Korea’s nuclear weapons inventories, stockpiled and operational, are unknown to the U.S. Government, and estimates vary by tenfold.
–For example, Russia may have a 2-to1 advantage over the United States in operationally deployed strategic nuclear weapons, despite the New START Treaty, as its verification provisions are grossly inadequate.
–For example, the Defense Department recently estimated China has about 200 strategic nuclear weapons, the Federation of American Scientists estimates 320 weapons, Russian General Viktor Yesin estimates 1,600-1,800 weapons, and former DOD analyst Phil Karber calculates China could have up to 3,000 nuclear weapons.
–For example, North Korea up until 2017 was estimated by the International Institute for Strategic Studies to have as few as 6 nuclear weapons, 6-20 weapons was the most often cited estimate by media. But after North Korea tested an H-bomb in September 2017, the intelligence community reportedly increased its estimate to 60 weapons, and some independent analysts estimate North Korea could have over 100 nuclear weapons.
On the China nuclear threat, an excellent article “How Many Nuclear Weapons Does China Really Have?” is well worth reading.
Dr. Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon official and nuclear weapons expert, writes: “China has traditionally been extremely secretive about its nuclear forces. In 1982, Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, said that China should ‘…hide our capabilities and bide our time.’”
Perhaps the truest thing ever said by Federation of American Scientists President, Hans Kristensen, is: “Only the Chinese Government knows how many nuclear weapons China has”—and this is also true of Russia and North Korea.
Intelligence, arms control, and academic communities pretend to have omniscience about the numbers of nuclear weapons deployed by adversaries, despite often being wrong, and despite extraordinary efforts by Russia, China, and North Korea to conceal their nuclear forces.
Prudent policymakers and military planners should have low-confidence in intelligence community and other estimates of the nuclear balance—and prepare for the worst.
The worst is that Russia, China, and North Korea do not think like Western arms control theorists—they think and plan like nuclear warfighters.
For example, China knows it does not need nuclear parity with the United States, an equal number of nuclear weapons, in order to prevail.
A successful counterforce attack must destroy 90% of the 400 U.S. ICBM silos, and all of 3 strategic bomber bases, 2 SSBN ports, and some other key C3I nodes—altogether fewer than 500 targets.
China’s DF-41 ICBM has 10 warheads, each with selectable yield (20, 90, 150, or 250 kilotons), and accuracy of 100 meters CEP, comparable to the accuracy of the U.S. Peacekeeper ICBM deployed in the 1980s.
At the higher yields, 400 DF-41 warheads can achieve over 90% probability of damage against 400 U.S. ICBMs, while China’s less accurate missiles can destroy the softer U.S. targets.
Thus, China already has, or is very close, to 40 DF-41 ICBMs and a first strike capability. Just having the capability may be sufficient to prevail by deterring the U.S. in a crisis or conflict.
We need to think less about arms control and more about adversary nuclear capabilities—and ours.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, served as Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum and on the staffs of the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA.
At least the Cuban Missile Crisis scenarios are now also being used in relation to China and Taiwan beyond Ukraine. In addition, the Wall Street Journal has now published reports that China is planning to operate a spy station in Cuba. While this was presented as fact in the US and also by Secretary of State Blinken, NSC advisor Jack Sullivan called these reports „not accurate“. But now the Washington Post is adding the next article, which claims that China wants to build a military training facility in Cuba and station Chinese troops in Cuba:
“China weighs putting military troops in Cuba, according to report
Beijing and Havana in advanced talks on establishing joint training facility
By Guy Taylor – The Washington Times – Tuesday, June 20, 2023
China and Cuba are in talks to establish a joint military training facility, which could lead to Chinese troops being stationed on the island, U.S. intelligence reports indicate.
The Biden administration has contacted Cuban officials to try and derail the plan, according to The Wall Street Journal, which reported that the China-Cuba negotiations relating to the facility are at an advanced stage but not complete. Cuba, which is communist too, is about 100 miles away from Florida.
China’s communist leadership has increased defense ties with several Latin American nations over the past decade, but the purported Cuba training facility talks have not previously been disclosed. The Washington Times was unable to immediately verify The Wall Street Journal report, which cited officials speaking on condition of anonymity.
News of the development sparked concern in Washington on Tuesday, a day after Secretary of Antony Blinken met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top officials in Beijing. The meetings are part of the Biden administration’s attempt to cool friction with China.
Pentagon officials Tuesday would not address the specifics of the report but acknowledged they were aware of Chinese efforts to establish a foothold closer to the U.S. mainland. U.S. military and intelligence agencies have extensive surveillance systems positioned close to China’s borders and coasts, a point of significant irritation for Beijing.
“What we do know and what we have seen is [China] continuing to express interest in the Western Hemisphere,” Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh told reporters. “We know they want to expand their military presence, and so we are going to continue to monitor that. We feel we will have the resources needed to counter any further actions if they decide to take any, but at this time there’s nothing I can add to those reports.”
Pressed on military preparations for an expansion of the China-Cuba relationship, Ms. Singh said: “We feel very confident in our capabilities.”
The new activities of the Chinese Communist Party in Cuba, but also in Latin America, especially Brazil under Lula, are also being observed by the Latin America expert from the US Army War College, Dr. Evan Ellis very precisely:
“Brazil and the Illiberal Anti-U.S. Alliance
R. Evan Ellis | June 20, 2023
During World War II, Brazil contributed to the security of allied trans-Atlantic shipping routes and sent a division-sized expeditionary force to Italy to help liberate Europe from Hitler and Mussolini’s murderous dictatorships. In 1985, Brazilians rallied around Tancredo Neves and José Sarney to end undemocratic military rule. However, there has been a disturbing shift in Brazil’s view of democracy.
In May 2023, Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva rolled out the red carpet for Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro—a man wanted internationally on a wide range of criminal charges. Lula, however, dismissed these charges as “exaggerated” and just a “narrative.” This in spite of the well-established records of Maduro’s violations of democratic constitutional order, the law, and the more than 7 million Venezuelans his regime’s abuses and mismanagement of the country. While Maduro previously avoided attending the December 2022 Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) meeting in Buenos Aires out of fear that the independent Argentine judiciary would serve an international arrest warrant against him, he apparently did not have similar fears from Lula’s judiciary.
Lula’s embrace of Maduro was only the opening salvo of the Brazilian populist leftist’s convocation of 12 South American leaders in a gambit to resurrect the failed, fundamentally anti-U.S. alliance UNASUR. Lula’s agenda was implicitly, if not explicitly anti-U.S.—he railed against the United States and others for their sanctions and other efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela, but more importantly, called for UNASUR to establish its own currency to liberate the region from dependence on the U.S. dollar.
Frighteningly, Lula’s UNASUR gambit is only the tip of the iceberg of his dangerously radicalized orientation. Lula is also collaborating with China and Russia to expand BRICS to include his neighbors, the illiberal Peronist government in Argentina the anti-U.S. Maduro dictatorship, as well as Iran and Saudi Arabia. The latter would be particularly flush with oil money to bankroll anti-Western causes, even as it deepens its economic collaboration with the PRC. Additionally, Saudi Arabia is increasingly resentful of Washington questioning its record on Human Rights and Democracy.
Lula’s attempt to rally the region against U.S. policy and a dollar-based financial system also comes on the heels of his permission for Iranian warships to dock in the port of Rio de Janeiro. It also shortly after his 240-person delegation trip to the PRC. While in China, Lula went far beyond talking business, signing 15 MOUs including commitments to a new USD $100 million jointly developed satellite as well as media and military collaboration. Indeed, literally the day after Lula embraced Maduro in Brasilia, his government hosted a delegation of 20 generals and other officers from the People’s Liberation Army.
Beyond such collaboration, Lula’s embrace of the PRC also includes coordination on the expansion of the explicitly political Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) alliance. Additionally Lula is attempting to insert his government and the PRC in a “peace initiative” in Ukraine that does not explicitly include Russian withdrawal from Ukraine. Indeed, Lula brought Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Brasilia to warmly talk of expanded Russia-Brazil trade at a time when most of the democratic world is sanctioning Russia in an effort to stop the conflict. Ironically, at the same time, Lula has criticized the West for helping Ukraine to defend itself against Russian aggression as “prolonging the war.”
Although the United States and Brazil have not always seen eye-to-eye, it is hard to remember a time when the South American giant so unequivocally embraced criminal dictatorships or so forcibly sought to leverage extra-hemispheric U.S. rivals and rally the region against U.S. interests. Nor has there been a time in recent memory when so many of the region’s leaders were politically receptive to such a call. This all comes at a time when many are indirectly bankrolled by the PRC, whose economic might eclipses that of Russia during the height of the Cold War, and whose collaboration with Russia, Iran, and other illiberal U.S. rivals continues to expand.
Lula’s work to create a de facto anti-U.S. illiberal alliance of Latin American leftist regimes and extra-hemispheric U.S. rivals further comes at a time in which those countries geographically closest to the United States—including Mexico, the Northern Triangle, and parts of the Caribbean—are moving away from political and security cooperation with the US, and toward a deepen embrace of the PRC.
While the United States must respect Brazil’s democratically elected leadership and sovereign right to make its own foreign policy, Washington must demonstrate that it will not give the Lula regime a pass on embracing internationally wanted dictators, extra-hemispheric rivals. That it will not stand idly by while Brazil actively rallies sympathetic leftist regimes to work against U.S. interests, simply because Lula cooperates with the United States and Europe on climate and social justice issues. Washington should increase coordination with the European Union and like-minded democratic actors on the long-term risks played by Lula’s posture, both despite and because of the positive image he enjoys in Europe.
Washington must make its case more clearly to the Brazilian people and elsewhere in the region. It must explain why embracing criminals, dictators, and extra-hemispheric threats is beneath the dignity of the democracy and respect for human rights Brazil has long espoused. In U.S.-Brazil bilateral discourse, Washington must make it clear that Lula’s behavior puts the good faith, commerce, investment, and other collaboration between the two nations at risk. Yet, Washington must also plan for the worst. Brazil is a great nation and friend of the United States. The tragedy of the path it is now on is avoidable, but only if Washington shows it cares.
Evan Ellis is a Featured Contributor with Global Americans and Latin America Research Professor with the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute. The views contained herein are his own.
In any case, the US now seems to see China’s engagement in Cuba as a hyped danger, with the Chinese not yet stationing medium missiles, which is why there will not be a Cuban Missile Crisis around Cuba yet, even if they are suspicious of China’s encroachment into their backyard of their old Monroe Doctrine sphere of interest. It remains to be seen whether there could be a new Cuban Missile Crisis in Taiwan, and to what extent China, Russia and North Korea will continue to upgrade their nuclear weapons or whether the nuclear balance is really in danger, even though the CSBA study “Rethinking Armaggeddon”, which claims that the world has already entered a second nuclear age and simulates this scenario of an Chinese ICBM upgrade.