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Inside the Ring: Bill blocks nuclear cuts
The House approved an amendment to the fiscal 2014 defense appropriations bill this week that would block the Obama administration's plan to cut U.S. nuclear forces under the 2010 U.S.-Russia New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
The amendment, drafted by Rep. Mike Rogers, Alabama Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces, states simply that no U.S. funds will be spent to reduce nuclear forces under New START.
Mr. Rogers said approval of the amendment reflects congressional concerns about the Obama administration's disregard for current laws.
"Too often, this president acts as if he is above the law," Mr. Rogers said in a statement. "He ignores the law when it comes to his health care law; he ignores the enforcement of immigration laws; and now he is applying this approach to defense policy."
The White House had no immediate comment on the amendment.
In floor remarks, Mr. Rogers said the president's policy "appears to be tearing down our nuclear deterrent, which is America's ultimate security guarantee."
The president is seeking a "blank check" from Congress to implement the New START treaty without any questions being asked, he said.
"This amendment will force the President to follow the law and hold him accountable if he expects one dime of the American people's money to be appropriated," Mr. Rogers said.
The amendment reflects concerns in Congress that implementing New START and further cuts may not benefit U.S. national security.
During the speech in Berlin, the president announced plans to further reduce U.S. warhead levels to around 1,000 — from the goal of 1,550 warheads under New START. Further cuts beyond New START levels would be limited in other pending defense legislation.
"We need to put the brakes on this rush to zero," Mr. Rogers added. "This President is proposing dangerous and irreversible changes to our nuclear forces. Congress must ensure we use caution when tinkering with the nation's ultimate insurance policy — our nuclear deterrent."
Mr. Rogers also said Russia is violating a major treaty with the United States that was omitted in a recent State Department report.
"Based on the most recent arms-control compliance report, it appears, yet another year is passing while the president will ignore significant Russian cheating — let me say that again, Russia is cheating on a major treaty with the United States — so that he can propose further reductions with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin," Mr. Rogers said.
Other officials identified the Russian cheating as related to the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
The White House on Monday threatened to veto the defense appropriations bill over limits on terrorist detainee transfers, added overseas operations funding, and other provisions.
DEMPSEY: NO ZERO OPTION
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters during a visit to Afghanistan on Monday that pulling all U.S. troops out of the country next year is not one of his options.
"I don't have a zero option," Gen. Dempsey said. "No one has asked me to prepare a zero option. I don't recommend a zero option. So there is no zero option, but there could be a zero outcome because we can only stay here if we're invited to do so."
The White House floated the idea of a complete pullout of all troops from Afghanistan by next year in a New York Times article that appeared July 8.
White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden earlier this month offered a different view.
"There is nothing new to add to our many previous comments on post-2014 options," she said. "Zero was an option we'd consider."
Gen. Dempsey said he is committed to reaching a U.S.-Afghan security agreement. The two countries currently are at odds on a plan to tax the U.S. military withdrawal.
Building Afghan security forces is the key for the country's security, he said.
"That won't happen in the next year but it can happen if we stay at it beyond 2014," he added.
Several options are under consideration for the U.S. military bases and the number of troops to take part in training and assistance after the end of 2014, he said, without providing further details.
U.S. troops will be reduced to 34,000 by February. There are currently 97,920 foreign troops in the country, including 68,000 Americans.
CHINA MILITARY BUILDUP MISSED
U.S. government officials and academics underestimated China's military buildup for decades.
That is one of the conclusions of a new book, "The Dragon Extends Its Reach: Chinese Military Power Goes Global," by former military intelligence officer Larry M. Wortzel.
Mr. Wortzel, who spent 32 years as a China specialist in the military, recalled that, as he prepared to go to China as a military attache in 1988, one scholar in a briefing described China's military as a "nuisance" force unable to fight because of outdated arms and equipment and a lack of military capabilities.
"Even then it struck me that this characterization was wrong," he stated, noting Chinese warfighting in the Korean War and in border wars with India and Vietnam.
The problem of underestimating China continued. Some 20 years later at a conference at the U.S. Army War College, Navy officers "scoffed" at the notion that China was rapidly building up its forces with new weapons and, more significantly, the command and control systems needed for waging high-tech war, Mr. Wortzel wrote. The decades of underestimating the Chinese military threat prompted him to write the book.
Today, he notes, the Pentagon has developed an entirely new military battle concept to deal with the threat of China's new weapons, specifically China's arms designed to deny U.S. forces access and transit to areas near China.
Those weapons include cyberwarfare capabilities, anti-satellite arms and, in particular, the unique DF-21D medium-range anti-ship ballistic missile — a weapon the U.S. Navy has few defenses against.
Mr. Wortzel also makes clear that the Chinese military is not a national defense force but an arm of the Communist Party of China with its foremost mission to keep the party in power. The book also makes clear another hard truth: China's military views the U.S. military as its main enemy.
The book highlights the incongruity between robust trade and economic relations between Washington and Beijing and the fact that both countries' militaries are planning for war with each other, in space, on Earth and in the cyberrealm.
For high-tech warfare, China's military has learned from advanced U.S. command, control, surveillance and targeting architectures. The result is improved precision targeting by the Chinese. To counter the Chinese threat, the United States should develop directed energy weapons, Mr. Wortzel writes.
Mr. Wortzel also challenges long-held U.S. intelligence estimates of China's nuclear forces that put the number of Beijing's strategic warheads at around 200. Other estimates by think tanks and the Russians place the Chinese nuclear arsenal as much as eight times higher — a significant gap that poses risks for U.S. nuclear deterrence capabilities.
Mr. Wortzel told Inside the Ring in summing up the book: "A cyber war between the United States and China is already taking place and China's capacity in electronic warfare, information warfare, space, and missiles already is global."
"The People's Liberation Army also has made significant power projection advances in its naval and air power, and is improving in those areas," he said.
CHINA CYBERSTRIKES RISK WAR
China's aggressive cyberattacks are destabilizing and pose a growing risk of future conflict in Asia, a security specialist told Congress on Tuesday.
"Weak cybersecurity creates the risk of conflict in Asia," said James Lewis, a cybersecurity specialist with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"In cybersecurity, as in so many other issues, China's behavior is the central strategic issue. North Korea's cyberactions are worrisome, but China's actions have a destabilizing regional and global effect."
Mr. Lewis told the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific that the United States needs to take steps to curb Chinese cyberattacks that he said pose "the risk of a cyberincident escalating into armed conflict."
Other needed efforts include upgrading existing alliances with Australia, Japan and South Korea to create a collective cyberdefense, and working with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to pressure China into halting aggressive cyberattacks.
Mr. Lewis said the U.S. government has placed "red lines" that will trigger a significant offensive U.S. cyber or other response.
They include cyberattacks that cause the deaths of Americans or significant economic damage.
"China, Russia and others have been very, very careful not to cross that line, not to use force," he said. "And we have the best cyberoffensive capability in the world."
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
- Inside the Ring: Pentagon reevaluating Obama's pivot to Asia
- Inside the Ring: All eyes on Moscow's military moves in Ukraine
- Inside the Ring: China readies for 'short, sharp' war with Japan
- Inside the Ring: U.S., China in war of words over South China Sea air zone
- Inside the Ring: China military on the rails
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