Japan und Philipinen rüsten auf im One- War- Framework des US- Verteidigungshaushalts- Ersteinsatz von taktischen Atomwaffen um Taiwan?

Japan und Philipinen rüsten auf im One- War- Framework des US- Verteidigungshaushalts- Ersteinsatz von taktischen Atomwaffen um Taiwan?

Die Global Times berichtet heute zur weiteren Aufrüstung Ostasiens: Indische Raketen für die Philipinen für etwaige Seegefechte mit China im Südchinesischen Meer,, US-Tomahawks für Japan, die mit einer Reichweite von 1600 km Chinas Festland treffen können, womit Japan nun seiner neuen Verteidigungsstrategie und ihren vorgesehenen ememy base strike capabilities wie Südkorea kill chain nachkommen wollen.. Auch Peking kann nun angegriffen werden, wie nun auch mit der taiwanesischen hyper sonic missile Ching Tien mit ihrer Reichweite von 2000 km.

Missile milestone for US allies, but security dilemma for Asia

By  Wang WenwenPublished: Mar 16, 2024 09:35 PMIllustration: Liu Xiangya/GT

Illustration: Liu Xiangya/GTAccording to a news report on Breaking Defense, the two US allies of Japan and the Philippines are nearing important milestones in their plans to invest in new missiles that will extend the reach of their militaries in the Western Pacific. The first set of BrahMos missile systems the Philippines bought from India is expected to reach the Philippines by the end of March. Around the same time, 30 personnel from Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force are expected to receive guidance from the US Navy to operate Tomahawk missiles the Japanese government plans to purchase from the US.

Zhang Junshe, a Chinese military expert, told the Global Times that this development reveals that US allies are responding to the US‘ so-called Indo-Pacific Strategy and its much hyped „China threat“ theory with which the US tries to form small cliques. 

Tokyo and Manila’s investment in new missiles are based on their own calculations. Since last year, China-Philippines tensions have heightened over the South China Sea maritime disputes under the incitement of Washington. BrahMos missiles have a flight range of up to 290 kilometers at supersonic speed and can be launched from land, ship or fighter aircraft. The missiles could pose a striking capability toward Nansha islands such as Ren’ai Jiao (also known as Ren’ai Reef) and Meiji Jiao (also known as Meiji Reef) and even the Huangyan Dao (also known as Huangyan Island). 

As for Japan, the Tomahawk missiles Japan plans to buy from the US can hit the targets 1,600 kilometers away, which far exceeds Japan’s need for self-defense but greatly boosts Japan’s offensive capabilities. Japan is using the connivance and support of the US to break through the constraints of its pacifist Constitution and realize its dream of being a political and military major power. 

Japan decided in late 2022 to develop a strike capability allowing it to launch attacks on enemy forces, which was a major shift of its postwar commitment to limit its military to self-defense capabilities. If the Tomahawk missiles are deployed in Japan’s offshore islands, it could have the capability of striking the Chinese mainland.
Wang Yunfei, a naval expert, told the Global Times that BrahMos are mainly used against weaker targets. If a real conflict occurs, China has various kinds of weapons such as air-to-surface missiles, anti-ship missiles, cruise missiles that can overwhelm BrahMos. Although BrahMos missiles can boost the ability of the Coastal Defense Regiment of the Philippine Marine Corps, they have limited deterrence against China.

As for Tomahawk missiles, which is subsonic but not supersonic, China has many counterstrike abilities as it has more kinds of missiles such as DF and other types of cruise missiles.

Wang said that the analysis of the use of a weapon does not depend on its performance, but the underlying intention and motivation. Under the encouragement of the US, Japan and the Philippines are investing in these two missiles to undermine China’s efforts to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits. China has no motives to attack the territory of the two countries, but if they harm China’s interests, they will inevitably face counterstrikes from China and become cannon fodder for the US‘ aggressive Asia policy. 

Japan and the Philippines are not alone in missile investments. Australia is enhancing its long-range strike capabilities through similarly purchasing Tomahawk missiles. 
Sun Xihui, an associate research fellow with the National Institute of International Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that the US‘ Asian allies always use the „China threat“ rhetoric as an excuse to develop offensive military forces. In fact, their actions are a trigger for regional arms race, which will poison the atmosphere of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and lead to a security dilemma in Asia. This is what the US likes to see. 

The US has used the Russia-Ukraine conflict to create fear and firmly controlled its European allies, forcing them to increase their defense budgets. Now it wants to replicate this approach in Asia. Sun noted that the US does not want to have a direct confrontation with China; instead, it relies on its allies and partners in Asia to contain China and turns its sense of strategic crisis into mutual confrontation among Asian countries to achieve the dual goals of mastering the minds of its Asian allies and maintaining regional hegemony.

In the face of the disruption by the US, China must maintain strategic steadiness, strengthen self-defense, and enhance its long-range defense capabilities to ensure its national security and legitimate rights and interests.

The author is an editor with the Global Times. wangwenwen@globaltimes.com.cn

Missile milestone for US allies, but security dilemma for Asia – Global Times

Wozu dies und auch der neue US- Verteidigungshaushalt? In einem Beitrag der Brookings Institution nimmt Militärexperte Michael O Hannon, Autor des Buches „Great power wars on small stakes“ und Befürworter einer „integrated deterrence“ eine historische und strukturelle Analyse vor, auch hinsichtlich der US National Security Strategy und ihrer Ziele, sihet vor allem statt einem Two-Ware- Framework ein One- War- Framework, wie auch mehr Wert auf Qualität statt auch Quantität des Militärs und seiner Waffen gelegt werde:


„COMMENTARY

What’s in Biden’s $850-billion defense budget proposal?

Michael E. O’Hanlon and Alejandra Rocha

March 15, 2024

President Joe Biden submitted his fiscal year (FY) 2025 budget proposal on March 11, including a request for $850 billion in discretionary budget authority for the Department of Defense. The new request represents a 4.1 percent increase from the FY 2023 enacted level—or a $34 billion increase.1 Once inflation is taken into account, however, that projected two-year growth totaling 4.1 percent turns into negative growth, given that aggregate inflation over the last two years totaled about 7 percent.

The Biden administration did not have much choice in the matter since Biden’s deal with then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in spring 2023 capped defense spending for FY 2025 at the requested level. The FY 2025 total grows to $895 billion if the National Nuclear Security Administration’s nuclear weapons activities (and a few other, smaller things) are also included; indeed, formally speaking, the “National Defense Budget” of the United States (called the 050 budget function by the Office of Management and Budget) includes those funds as well.

By any measure—but particularly in this election year and in this era of competing budget priorities—that is an enormous amount of money that will surely raise many eyebrows. The sum prompts questions about how it compares internationally and historically. And most importantly, it begs an exploration of its purpose. What is the money for? Why does the military cost this much? Why is it of its current size? And what is it intended to do?

What is the money for?

One way to understand the U.S. national defense budget is to break it down by broad function, or in the language of budgeteers, by “appropriations title.” In rough numbers, this approach shows that the United States is proposing to allocate, in FY 2025, approximately:

  • $182 billion a year on military personnel (for active, reservist, and retired personnel but not including costs associated with the Department of Veterans Affairs).
  • $338 billion a year on operations and maintenance.
  • $168 billion a year on the procurement of weaponry and other equipment.
  • $143 billion a year in Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) funding.

Personnel funds pay for an all-volunteer force that the nation has rightly decided should be well compensated, at a time when recruiting woes make any consideration of economization almost unthinkable. Operations and maintenance accounts include salaries and benefits for the 795,000 civilians who work full-time for the Department of Defense, and also pay for equipment upkeep, training, fuel, many spare parts, and more mundane aspects of running perhaps the second-largest organization on Earth.2 Procurement funds purchase the cutting-edge equipment that, along with our people, gives America’s military its fighting edge. Finally, RDT&E pays not only for basic science and laboratory work, and initial design and development, but also for prototyping and testing advanced equipment. None of these categories of military expenditure is easily reduced; each is critical to what makes the American military successful and strong.

U.S. versus global military spending

Shifting focus to an international perspective, in 2023, the United States spent a towering $905.5 billion on defense, more than twice what the rest of NATO spends ($397.7 billion). Meanwhile, U.S. rivals and adversaries collectively spent an estimated $301.6 billion, with China accounting for approximately $219.5 billion and Russia for $74.8 billion. In fact, U.S. defense spending accounted for over 40 percent of the global total for military expenditures. These figures underscore the immense scale of U.S. defense spending relative to that of other nations and are often cited by those who advocate for a smaller defense budget.

However, one should be wary of comparisons that rely solely on these metrics for three reasons.

  1. Some of these figures, particularly those of our rivals and adversaries, are uncertain and cannot be robustly backed by data.
  2. The seemingly straightforward comparison gets more nuanced when considering defense spending as a percentage of each country’s GDP. In 2023, the United States spent 3.4 percent of its GDP on defense. In comparison, Russia spent approximately 4.01 percent. Notably, NATO’s defense investment guideline sets the expectation that allies must spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense. Granted, many NATO allies fall short of this burden-sharing expectation—a reality that has incited former President Donald Trump’s wrath—with only 18 out of 32 allies expected to meet this requirement in 2024. Comparatively speaking, however, 3.36 percent is not dramatically higher than the guideline set by NATO.
  3. Dollars do not win wars; people, weapons, tactics, and strategies do. History is littered with examples of countries with larger military budgets losing wars (including the United States itself in Vietnam and Afghanistan).

When comparing Biden’s defense budget request on historical terms, the verdict on whether or not we are spending enough on defense also depends on how you look at it. On the one hand, this sum—in absolute dollar terms, adjusted for inflation—is still substantially greater than the Cold War average and indeed more than peak spending in that period. On the other hand, it is not as high a percentage of GDP as during the Cold War years; from 1950 to 1990, U.S. defense spending varied between roughly 4.5 percent and 10 percent of GDP.

The military’s size and objectives

Comparisons aside, what is the size of today’s military, and what are its designated objectives? Today’s U.S. military is comprised of 1.3 million active-duty troops and 800,000 reservists, backed up by about 750,000 civilian employees of the Department of Defense, along with an additional 2 million to 3 million contractor personnel engaged in the construction, maintenance, and logistical support of weaponry and infrastructure. According to official doctrine, the military is intended to have the following key capabilities:

  • Fight, together with at least some allies, and defeat China or Russia (but not both at the same time), presumably in conflicts centered on the Western Pacific region and Eastern European region, respectively.
  • Defend the American homeland while also maintaining a nuclear deterrent.
  • Deter North Korea and Iran.
  • Maintain momentum against transnational violent extremist organizations as part of the so-called “war on terror.”

In as crisp an explanation as one can find, former chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, General David Goldfein, offered the following insights about what the Air Force, and by extension the entire U.S. military, needs to be able to successfully execute the five missions of the Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy (released in early 2018 by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis—and something the Biden administration under Secretary Lloyd Austin changed only slightly in its own 2022 strategy):

“We’re told that we have to simultaneously, first, be able to defend the homeland. And as we are defending the homeland, we must ensure that we have a safe, secure, effective nuclear deterrent, and on our worst day as a nation, get the president where he needs to be when he needs to be there and stay connected to his leadership team and forces in the field to execute the nuclear deterrent. While we are doing that, we are expected to defeat a peer threat and ensure that while we are in a fight to defeat a peer in a return to great power competition that we’re also able to deter a rogue nation that might choose to take us on because they see that we’re anchored. And so we have to do those four things simultaneously while we do the fifth, which is to maintain momentum against violent extremism as a global campaign.”

This list does not even include other responsibilities either subsumed within the capabilities of any force that could do the above or, in some instances, that place additional burdens on the American armed forces. These may include disaster relief, joint exercises with allies around the world, and modest activities in Africa, Latin America, and South/Southeast Asia. It also does not explicitly include another crucial imperative: to innovate constantly and modernize the joint-service force.

This force-sizing framework amounts to a one-war (or “one enemy”) combat capability. To be sure, this scenario anticipates a major war against a capable enemy, and, as Goldfein alluded to, we are expected to be able to deter other threats while fighting this single war—but we are not prepared to fight simultaneous wars should deterrence fail. This one-war framework might further increase this risk by tempting other adversaries to take advantage of the opportunity and use military force in one region while U.S. forces are engaged elsewhere.

To put this reality into perspective, once the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, U.S. forces had for 25 years been organized around a two-war framework. However, those two overlapping wars were imagined to be against much less capable foes: the likes of Iraq, Iran, North Korea, or perhaps Syria or another relatively small state in a key strategic region like the Middle East. In fact, the United States was engaged in two overlapping wars for many years in Iraq and Afghanistan—though they differed from the typical scenarios envisioned in these force-sizing paradigms, since they were long and modest in scale, rather than short and big (like Operation Desert Storm in 1991). And even then, it turned out that the United States was not able to undertake both missions at the full required tempo simultaneously.

By way of further historical backdrop, during the Cold War, the United States generally aimed to be able to fight a major war alongside NATO allies against the Soviet bloc in Europe and at least one other simultaneous conflict (like the Korean or Vietnam wars) elsewhere. The U.S. military during the Cold War was generally at least 60 percent larger than it is today; in fact, it was more than twice as large during the Vietnam War. Today, being prepared to fight both China and Russia at the same time would likely require a military 25-50 percent larger than today’s (in rough numbers).

Linking force sizing and war planning

So, the Mattis/Austin framework is one way to understand the size, shape, structure, and global posture of America’s armed forces today. However, it’s worth taking a step back and evaluating whether factors like inertia, bureaucratic dynamics within the Pentagon, and America’s challenges in foreseeing strategic shifts influence our military capabilities. Indeed, the structure of U.S. military forces has changed little over the last 5 to 10 years, even as the last two administrations have dramatically changed the focus of American defense planning from regional contingencies to great-power deterrence. In fact, U.S. military force structure has actually not changed much since the 1990s.

Some advocates want the overall U.S. military, or at least its own services, to grow a substantial amount. But such ambitions are improbable. Although discussion continues around the idea of pursuing a 500-ship Navy with dozens of unmanned vessels, and although the Air Force still harbors hopes of a larger force structure itself—dating back to Goldfein’s “386-squadron Air Force” vision—those services, as well as the Army and Marine Corps, have not changed in size by more than about 5-7 percent over the last 10 years. The Navy has grown modestly, as has the still-tiny Space Force; the other services have declined modestly, and force posture remains generally unchanged.

The Navy continues to struggle to reach a 300-ship size given the inertia and long construction timelines involved in any such changes. The Air Force would have to grow almost 25 percent to reach Goldfein’s goal—and no one is really trying to make that happen now. The Army remains below authorized strength largely because of a problem with recruiting.

Overseas basing has changed somewhat. Since 2022, there are now roughly 20,000 more troops in Central and Eastern Europe and more small bases and contingency access in parts of the Western Pacific. There is also a somewhat smaller Middle East presence than 10 years ago (and much smaller than 20 years ago). But the United States continues to have nearly 100,000 uniformed personnel in East Asia, about the same number in Europe, and about half that number in the broader Middle East/Persian Gulf region. Most of these forces stationed abroad do not cost much more to maintain overseas than they would at home; salaries and equipment costs are about the same either way, and host nations often cover some local costs for the American armed forces.

So, in addition to Goldfein’s five tasks, a more diffuse and general goal of maintaining multi-purpose forces with a substantial presence in three key parts of the world guides American defense strategy and force planning as well. A preference for some secrecy also may limit the degree to which the Trump and Biden administrations link the size and characteristics of the U.S. military to specific contingencies and missions.

There is one more big reason why it is hard to see a direct link between force sizing and war planning. For both the Trump and Biden administrations, the force’s quality has been seen as a higher priority than its exact size. Rather than encourage a debate about whether America needs an even larger military, planners have wanted to focus on military lethality, survivability, sustainability, resilience, and adaptability in an era of rapid technological change. In other words, many would reasonably argue that it is not all about quantity or about which country spends more, but about quality and what we get for the money—about what capabilities would allow our forces to sustain military advantages for the most relevant military scenarios of importance to the nation.

So, when it’s all put together, yes, we have a one-war planning framework, and yes, that helps drive force planning and shaping. However, bureaucratic politics, concern about other possible missions, and a certain inertia also contribute to American defense decisions. At times, that makes the system inefficient and expensive. But it also tends to create a certain hedging or insurance against the unexpected and unforeseen. Perhaps that is not all bad. As Congress gets to work evaluating and modifying the president’s request for national defense funding for FY 2025, there is room for debate about many specifics, to be sure. Yet to us at least, the overall magnitude of the American national defense budget does not seem out of kilter when measured against the geopolitical realities it is meant to address.

AUTHORS

Michael O'Hanlon

Michael E. O’HanlonDirector of Research – Foreign Policy, Director – Strobe Talbott Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology, Co-Director – Africa Security Initiative, Senior Fellow – Foreign PolicyStrobe Talbott Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology, Philip H. Knight Chair in Defense and Strategy@MichaelEOHanlon

What’s in Biden’s $850-billion defense budget proposal? | Brookings

Während Biden und Scholz China drängten, Putin zu einem Verzicht auf einen möglichen Ersteinsatz von taktischen Atomwaffen in der Ukraine zu verzichten, gibt es nun in US- Kreisen, die dieses „nuclear taboo“ im Falle eines Krieges um Taiwan seitens der USA infrage stellen. Dazu ein warnender Artikel in War on the Rocks, der dies strikt ablehnt. Einige in den USA meinen da die sich zugunsten Chinas verändernden Konventionen Kräfteverhältnisse in der Taiwanstraße auch schon mal mit dem Ersteinsatz taktischer Nuklearwaffen beantworten zu wollen. Mal sehen, ob das Scowcroft-Center noch eine Fangemeinde bekommt.

„STRATEGIC MYOPIA: THE PROPOSED FIRST USE OF TACTICAL NUCLEAR WEAPONS TO DEFEND TAIWAN

DAVID KEARN

MARCH 14, 2024

COMMENTARY

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The United States first deployed nuclear weapons in Europe in September 1954. Over time, thousands were sent to a series of bases to offset the vast conventional advantage of Red Army and Warsaw Pact forces, and deter their use against NATO allies. These weapons were not only viewed as important for defending the alliance but also for maintaining an unambiguous link to U.S. strategic nuclear forces that would virtually guarantee any Soviet incursion into Western Europe would quickly escalate to general nuclear war, or so the logic was explained. In reality, serious questions persisted throughout the Cold War concerning the utility of tactical nuclear forces, the capacity to control nuclear escalation, and the willingness of the United States to tie its fate to that of its European allies. Scholars and practitioners devoted significant time and effort to analyzing the problem of fighting limited wars against nuclear-armed adversaries, attempting to devise means to achieve strategic objectives while avoiding escalation to a large-scale nuclear exchange and mutual catastrophe. Their efforts bore little fruit.

China’s rapid nuclear buildup, after a massive two-decade program of conventional military modernization, confronts the United States once again with the prospect of fighting a conventional conflict against a major nuclear power. It may be prudent to revisit the topic of limited nuclear war and the use of tactical nuclear weapons given the challenges of the current security environment. However, one idea that has emerged from the Scowcroft Center at the Atlantic Council seems particularly short-sighted and fraught with dangers: the proposal to plan and prepare for the first use of tactical nuclear weapons against a Chinese naval and amphibious force massed in the Taiwan Strait in the initial stages of an invasion.

BECOME A MEMBER

In a series of recent reports, analysts from the Scowcroft Center argue that the potential first use of tactical nuclear weapons by the United States would be particularly useful against an enormous Chinese amphibious invasion force as it began to stage operations off Taiwan’s coast. It would have a high probability of destroying or crippling the fleet and therefore defeat the invasion, its use against military targets in the Taiwan Strait would minimize collateral damage, and its clear limitation to explicitly military targets would mitigate potential escalation dynamics by avoiding more provocative targets on the Chinese mainland, for example.

Acknowledging the importance of defending Taiwan, the proposal seems to be an overreaction to a significant — but not irreversible — shift in the conventional military balance in the region in China’s favor. So, first and foremost, it is not clear that such a policy shift is necessary. It is also not evident that a deterrent threat based upon the first use of tactical nuclear weapons would have the desired, decisive impact on Beijing that the authors seek. If employed, such a policy would trigger dangerous escalatory dynamics — something proponents downplay. The proposal is likely to be seen as dangerous and provocative, alarming allies and increasing regional tensions. Finally, it may undermine broader U.S. foreign policy goals, such as non-proliferation. Fortunately, the military challenge of a Chinese invasion can be addressed with existing and planned conventional forces, making such a radical departure from U.S. national security policy unnecessary.

The Resort to First Use of Tactical Nuclear Weapons: A Rash Overreaction

While the conventional military balance in the Taiwan Strait has certainly shifted in China’s favor over the past two decades, the first use of tactical nuclear weapons against an invasion force is an extreme and unnecessary option. Precisely because that large force would have to traverse nearlya hundred nautical miles to reach shore on Taiwan, it would be highly vulnerable to a host of conventional military options that the United States currently possesses or could feasibly develop and deploy in short order to credibly threaten the success of such an operation. For example, U.S. attack submarines coordinating with long-range U.S. bombers carrying conventional cruise missiles and other precision-guided munitions should be able to significantly attrit Chinese forces as they attempt the risky voyage across the strait. Various analysts have offered several potentially inexpensive and innovative conceptsbased on autonomous unmanned underwater vehicles, mines, and other counter measures that could be developed relatively quickly. Two platforms that seem particularly useful that are scheduled for retirement with no planned follow-on programs are the four nuclear-powered, Ohio-Class guided missile submarines (each of which carry up to 154 conventionally armed cruise missiles, as well as mines and unmanned underwater drones), and the B-1B bomber, which can deliver precision-guided munitions and anti-ship missiles from ranges outside of contested areas. The central objective is to confront China’s leadership with the high probability that its invasion force will be severely degraded — if not destroyed — during its misguided attempt to reunify Taiwan by force. The United States can achieve this without resorting to the threatened first use of tactical nuclear weapons through continued investment in conventional platformsmunitions, and innovative countermeasures.

Impact on Deterrence: Less than Meets the Eye

The proposed shift to planning and threatening — whether overtly or tacitly — the first use of tactical nuclear weapons is unlikely to significantly enhance the ability of the United States to deter China from attacking Taiwan. Taiwan is not a formal treaty ally, and thus it enjoys no guarantee of direct military intervention by the United States on its behalf in the event of an attack. Thus, a U.S. deterrent threat to employ nuclear weapons against a conventional invasion force after nearly 80 years of non-use of nuclear weapons, and in the face of likely Chinese escalation, may not be perceived as credible.

A credible deterrent threat is composed of material capabilities and an assessment of the defender’s resolve. The former typically comprises military forces sufficient to ensure that the expected costs suffered by the adversary in response to taking a proscribed action is so high as to undermine any perceived benefits accrued (punishment), or that the risks of failure to achieve the adversary’s objectives are so great that doing so is seen as futile (denial). The latter — a defender’s resolve — is more difficult to achieve and sustain with confidence. It boils down to a psychological relationship between the defender and the adversary in which the adversary believes that the defender has the will and commitment to follow through on its threat should the adversary take unwanted action. Deterring an aggressive and risk-acceptant adversary from launching a direct attack may be difficult. But given that the defender is fighting for its people, territory, and survival as a sovereign state, making the adversary believe that the costs and risks will outweigh any expected benefits should be straightforward with the possession of sufficient military power.

The challenge of constructing and sustaining a credible deterrent threat becomes significantly more difficult when a defender attempts to prevent an adversary from acting against a third-party, such as an ally. Extending a deterrent guarantee demands making an adversary believe not only that the defender will follow through on its commitment and intervene on behalf of it ally in the event of an attack, but also that the defender is willing to suffer significant damage in doing so. With the advent of nuclear weapons and the arrival of a strategic nuclear stalemate between the United States and the Soviet Union — where either superpower could annihilate the other in the event of a large-scale nuclear exchange —  maintaining a strong and credible deterrence that extended to NATO allies required careful calibration of military capabilities, extensive and painstaking diplomacy, and constant reassurance to maintain alliance cohesion.

While the Taiwan Relations Act can be interpreted as obligating the United States to support Taiwan with direct military intervention in the event of a Chinese attack, it is equally valid to interpret the commitment to “provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character” and “maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion” as primarily constituting military aid, vital supplies, and other forms of material support. This is simply not the formal diplomatic and security relationship that would provide a foundation to consider the potential use of nuclear weapons under virtually any circumstance, never mind launching a nuclear first strike against an adversary’s conventional forces. Moreover, U.S. public support for Taiwan, which is as high as it has ever been according to polls, supports aiding Taiwan to defend itself against China in the event of an attack, but consistently opposes any direct military intervention by the United States. Taken together, these two facts — an ambiguous and murky diplomatic obligation and scant public support for direct U.S. involvement — significantly undermine the credibility of a threat of U.S. nuclear use in the Taiwan context.

If implemented as a formal U.S. policy, it could place an unfortunate U.S. president in an interminably difficult position of a credibility trap — forced to choose between utilizing tactical nuclear weapons in a situation that does not directly engage vital U.S. national security interests or standing down. For this reason alone, it should be rejected.

Overlooking Dangerous Escalation Dynamics

The Atlantic Council report argues that, while there would be “significant escalation risk,” Beijing would have little incentive to escalate to nuclear use in the aftermath of the U.S. first strike against China’s invasion force because that escalation would do nothing to improve the outcome of the invasion.

As noted above, the destruction of the PLA amphibious force would make pursuit of “military advantage” a somewhat moot point, as China’s remaining forces would be unable to seize Taiwan as long as they had not yet seized several major ports and airfields

This may be technically accurate. However, given the shock of a U.S. nuclear strike, extensive casualties, and loss of naval assets, it is dubious to assume that Chinese leaders would react so meekly. The massive amphibious operation may effectively be defeated, but China’s investments in conventional and nuclear ballistic and cruise missile forces offer a wide range of options to respond to U.S. nuclear strikes in ways that could be damaging to the U.S. position in the Western Pacific. A conventional and/or nuclear barrage against one or more U.S. carrier groups in the region may be viewed as a proportional response to U.S. first use. Andersen Air Force Base and other installations on Guam, while technically constituting an attack on U.S. territory and therefore risking further U.S. escalation, is another inviting target, as are U.S. bases on Okinawa and Japan. Chinese planners could conceivably view these targets as attractive to degrade the capacity of the United States to generate forces in the immediate region for some time during which China could execute a sustained and devastating coercive air and missile campaign against Taiwan.

Whether driven by a leader’s emotional reaction, the pressure to be seen as taking decisive action to meet to demands of an angry populace, or a carefully planned strategic counterattack, the likelihood of Chinese escalation should be considered extremely high in the aftermath of losing a significant portion of its navy and invasion force in the initial hours of a campaign against Taiwan.

Alarming Allies and Provoking Conflict

Allies constantly seek reassurance that if they were indeed attacked by an adversary, the response would be automatic and (ideally) overwhelming. They are also highly sensitive to actions that the patron takes that could either undermine the credibility of the alliance relationship or potentially increase the probability of a military conflict that might otherwise be avoided. As the discussion above concerning the United States and NATO during the Cold War intimated, the reassurance of allies may be even more difficult to achieve than maintaining a credible deterrent. For a patron like the United States, balancing credible extended deterrence threats and the reassurance of allies is often difficult, and the perceptions and foreseeable responses of allies should be seriously considered in devising policies.

A U.S. threat to launch a tactical nuclear strike against a Chinese invasion force will likely be viewed with alarm in allied capitals for two major reasons. First, making these states believe that the United States views their security and territorial integrity as so vitally important that it is willing to defend them and (more importantly) face the expected costs of conventional or even nuclear conflict is difficult under the best of circumstances. Simply extending a nuclear deterrent threat to Taiwan for the specific case of a Chinese invasion would call into question the seriousness with which the United States brandishes such threats. Because it may be very well seen as a bluff and not credible, leaders in these countries may view this sudden and drastic change in policy as undermining the value of their alliance commitments and question the U.S. guarantee to protect them in a critical time of need. It is likely to be perceived as a sign of panic and lack of confidence on the part of the United States, and an unwelcome development for its allies.

Second, the perceived shift to a first use policy against a Chinese invasion force would undoubtedly raise tensions in the region and ignite fears that the leadership in Beijing may act preventively against Taiwan. The potential overturning of the de facto regional status quo and foreclosing of China’s option to determine the status of Taiwan through military force may precipitate the action it is meant to deter. Allies in the Western Pacific do not seek a regional war. A policy seen as a stark deviation from the norm would create serious tensions or even open ruptures in alliance relations.

One of the rationales that has been offered to underscore the importance of defending Taiwan is the impact on America’s alliance relationships in East Asia. This is certainly a valid concern. However, the critical geographic position of Taiwan is not — in and of itself — a sufficient strategic rationale to warrant the consideration of the first use of nuclear weapons against a Chinese invasion force. Simply put, an attack on Taiwan is not an attack on Japan or South Korea, and it would not be seen as such in either Tokyo or Seoul, respectively. The U.S. extended-deterrent commitment to those nations is exclusively for their protection. Stretching the definition of “protection” to include a conventional attack on Taiwan would undermine the credibility of the guarantees that constitute these alliances. The larger issue is that the U.S. threat of the first use of nuclear weapons on Taiwan’s behalf introduces a volatile new element into East Asian security that is likely to be viewed by allies as destabilizing and increasing the probability of a conventional or nuclear strike against U.S. allies. Rather than seeing this as enhancing deterrence, domestic political opposition within Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and even Australia is likely to become a significant hindrance to cooperation with allies in the event of an actual Taiwan crisis. In short, the introduction of a potential U.S. first use of nuclear weapons would only complicate alliance operations and significantly degrade the value of that cooperation when it is needed most — a strikingly self-defeating outcome.

Ignoring Larger Policy Implications

Finally, while it is unlikely to be of concern to the authors of these reports, the threat or actual first use of nuclear weapons against a Chinese invasion force would have significant, long-lasting, and negative diplomatic implications for the United States beyond the impact on regional allies described above. The perceived shift in policy is likely to complicate global non-proliferation efforts. Given the nature of the international security environment, the United States may indeed be forced to rely more heavily on its nuclear arsenal in coming decades, but this attempt to substitute tactical nuclear weapons for a perceived erosion of conventional power as a shortcut to address a military challenge that could be addressed through conventional means undermines the credibility of U.S. diplomatic efforts to maintain and/or enhance the international non-proliferation regime.

More broadly, the idea that the first use of nuclear weapons since 1945 would be by the United States in the defense of Taiwan against a conventional Chinese invasion would have significant, negative, and long-lasting, diplomatic ramifications. It is difficult to fathom the myriad potential consequences, but U.S. nuclear weapon use would almost certainly shatter the non-proliferation regime as a functioning entity, incentivize states (including China) to acquire or improve their existing nuclear arsenal, and damage America’s standing globally.

The proposal to plan and prepare to execute tactical nuclear operations against a Chinese invasion force in the Taiwan Strait is myopic. It is an unnecessary solution to a military problem that is otherwise completely detached from U.S. national security or diplomatic interests. With dubious value as a deterrent, it would be dangerous and self-defeating, with long-term deleterious consequences for the United States, its alliance relationships, and its position in the world.

David W. Kearn, Jr., Ph.D. is a visiting scholar at the Managing the Atom Project at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is also an associate professor at St. John’s University in New York City.

Strategic Myopia: The Proposed First Use of Tactical Nuclear Weapons to Defend Taiwan – War on the Rocks

Nachdem Trump den INF- Vertrag für nukleare Mittelstreckenraketen, den Reagan und Gorbatschow damals unterzeichnet hatten, aufkündigte, zumal dieser den USA und Rußland die Stationierung und Entwicklung nuklearer Mittelstreckenraketen untersagte, China und Nordkorea aber in dieser Richtung kräftig aufrüsteten, we sich Putin auch nicht mehr an die Abmachung zu halten schien, ist nun der Weg für die USA nukleare Mittelstreckenwaffen in Europa und Asien zu stationieren. Momentan wird nicht nur die Stationierung von US- Nuklearwaffen in Großbritannien erwogen, das Deutschland unter Scholz scheinbar keinen zweiten Nachrüstungsbeschluß wie Helmut Schmidt oder Helmut Kohl mittragen würde, obgleich Trump anders als Biden ja den US-Atomschutz infrage stellt, Weitergehend als die Stationierung von nuklearen Mittelstreckenwaffen in asien sind nun aber die Übelregungen des Scowcroft- Zentrums nun auch den Ersteinsatz von taktischen Atomwaffengegen China, etwa i Rahmen eines Taiwankonfliktes zu überlegen. Wobei e durchaus möglich wäre, dass Trump auch noch Gefallen an dem Gedankenfindet, um ordentlich mit „fury nd fire“ drohen zu können.

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