Global Insights: Common Fears, Different Approaches to U.S. BMD for Russia, China

Global Insights: Common Fears, Different Approaches to U.S. BMD for Russia, China

Although Russia and China are the only countries that have the capability to conduct a large-scale ballistic missile attack on the U.S. homeland, neither one is the focus of U.S. ballistic missile defense efforts, due to the unlikelihood of such an attack. Nevertheless, both Moscow and Beijing have repeatedly expressed their concerns that U.S. missile defenses will negatively impact their own strategic capabilities and interests.

While China shares some of Russia’s concerns and responses regarding U.S. missile defenses, Beijing’s objections also differ in certain respects.

Both countries fear that U.S. BMD systems threaten to weaken their nuclear deterrents and undermine one of their main tools for constraining U.S. foreign policy by shielding the United States from potential retaliation. America’s strong offensive capabilities, both nuclear and conventional, exacerbate these concerns, since they increase the potential for a successful U.S. pre-emptive strike against Russian and Chinese nuclear missiles. Although U.S. BMD systems would have difficulty coping with a full-scale Russian and Chinese nuclear strike, the task would be easier if Moscow and Beijing’s nuclear retaliatory capacity were severely weakened by a U.S. first strike that had destroyed many missiles in their silos and disrupted strategic command-and-control systems.

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