Pentagon Officials Openly Challenge Obama over Pre-emptive Nuclear War
August 9, 2016
Russia Today & Agence France-Presse & DefenceTalk
US Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James has called Russia the greatest challenge to US national security, even when compared to Islamic State fighter and North Korea's nuclear ambitions. James also challenged her Commander-in-Chief by publicly stating that she would be "concerned" if President Obama were to declare a "no-first-use" policy for America's arsenal of nuclear weapons. James argued the potential for a nuclear pre-emptive strike raised some useful "ambiguity."
Russia Poses 'Existential Threat' to US
National Security, Air Force Secretary Says
(August 8, 2016) -- The US Air Force views Russia as the greatest challenge to US national security, even when compared to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
"I think the number one threat is Russia. [Russia] is one of the handful of [countries] that could actually present an existential threat to the US," US Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told Fox News' 'America's News HQ' program.
"They have nuclear weapons. They have been acting [in] very aggressive manners in recent years. And they are also investing and are testing military capabilities . . . that is very worrisome for the United States and to our allies," she elaborated.
Claiming that the US Air Force is "now globally engaged to deter and to counter" a number of threats, James went on to list them.
"We are facing resurging Russia in Europe and in other parts of the world. We now have a fight against this group called ISIL that did not exist a few short years ago."
"We have issues in the South China Sea. We have N. Korea that is investing and testing and acting in a very belligerent way," James said, placing Russia at the top of the list.
This is not the first time that American politicians and top military brass have called Russia the greatest threat to the United States, particularly during the two years following the outbreak of the Ukrainian conflict in 2014.
In late July, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) General Curtis Scaparotti of the, who also serves as head of US European Command, said he was "impressed" by Russia's efforts to modernize its military.
"They've been watching us . . . they've fired long-range precision missiles from submarines, from surface ships, from medium bombers, all at Syria," he said. "You know, we have an adversary here that we have to take very seriously."
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter told the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies in April that America faces five strategic challenges, which he named as "Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and terrorism."
In turn, Russia's military leaders linked stirring up fears of the so-called "Russian threat" to the US military's struggle for a defense budget worth $582.7 billion.
"One needs to remember that the 'Russian threat' has been the best-selling threat delivered by the Pentagon not only to Congress, but also to NATO partners since the middle of the previous century," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in February.
US Air Force Head 'Concerned'
About No-first-use Nukes
Agence France-Presse / DefenceTalk
(August 5, 2016) -- The head of the US Air Force on Thursday said she would be "concerned" if President Barack Obama were to formally declare a "no-first-use" policy for America's arsenal of nuclear weapons.
US media reports have in recent weeks said Obama is weighing an overhaul of long-standing nuclear policy, including by pledging to never conduct the first strike in a nuclear conflict.
"I would be concerned about such a policy," Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told the New America think tank in Washington.
"Having a certain degree of ambiguity is not necessarily a bad thing. You certainly want to communicate certain things to allies and to your potential adversaries around the world, but you don't necessarily want to show all your cards all the time."
The US Air Force is responsible for two legs of America's nuclear defence "triad" -- a three-pronged nuclear system comprising long-range bombers, ground-launched missiles and submarines.
The Washington Post last month reported that Obama, who has espoused a world free of nuclear weapons, is weighing a range of measures that he could implement before leaving office at the end of the year.
Among these measures are funding cuts to modernise America's nuclear arsenal, and cancelling or delaying development of the Long-Range Stand-Off nuclear cruise missile, the Post reported.
Separately, James reacted to this week's news that an initial squadron of Air Force F-35 jets is finally ready for combat. At nearly $400 billion, the most expensive plane in history has been beset by delays, technical problems and cost overruns.
"It has taken too long, there were too many schedule slips and of course it's gone over budget, and that's the part [of the plane's history] I would like to re-write," she said.
But "the thing I am bullish about is it's exactly the type of aircraft we need for some of these high-end threats around the world that we believe are going to be the key threats of the future".
Pentagon Attacks on Russia Linked
To Military Budget Debate in Congress -- MoD
(February 26, 2016) -- Statements warning of a so-called "Russian threat" to US security are linked to discussions in Congress on next year's military budget, said a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, noting the idea of this "threat" has been a "top-seller" for the Pentagon.
"We were not surprised by the loud statements of US security officials who saw Russia as the main threat to US national security," said Russia's Ministry of Defense spokesman, Igor Konashenkov.
It is not a thing to be impressed by," he said, adding that the statements have the same timing each year. "The reason is simple -- the discussion of the military budget in Congress for the next year."
He pointed out that the idea of a so-called Russian threat is not new. "One needs to remember that the 'Russian threat' has been the best-selling threat delivered by the Pentagon not only to Congress, but also to NATO partners since the middle of the previous century," he said. "What would they do without us?"
Earlier in February, the Pentagon proposed a $582.7 billion defense budget that emphasizes emerging threats from Russia, China, and Islamic State militants (IS, former ISIS, ISIL). The proposed budget would quadruple the last year's request for the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) to $3.4 billion in a bid to reassure NATO allies.
Moscow's statement comes as General Philip Breedlove, Commander of US European Command (EUCOM), outlined major security challenges in Europe while speaking before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday. He said that the top two were a "resurgent, aggressive" Russia and IS.
"Russia continues to foment security concerns in multiple locations around the EUCOM AOR. Concurrently, we deal with a variety of transnational threats that largely emanate from instability in Iraq, Syria, North Africa, and the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)."
Breedlove said Russia has "chosen to be an adversary and poses a long-term existential threat" to the United States and its allies and partners in Europe.
He claimed that Russia wants to exert influence over its neighbor-states to create a "buffer zone," as it sees the US and NATO as a threats.
He accused Moscow of failing to "share common security objectives with the West" and pledged to continue to take steps aimed at deterring Russia.
NATO intensified its military activities in Europe after the eruption of the Ukrainian crisis in 2014. The alliance carried out a number of massive military drills last year, including "Trident Juncture 2015," the biggest since 2002, which included 36,000 international troops, as well as more than 60 warships and about 200 aircraft from 30 states. Russia has repeatedly stated that it regards NATO's enlargement as a threat to its national security.
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