Carnegie

About: ISCS has been awarded a second grant by the Carnegie Corporation of New York to continue its study of U.S. nuclear policy toward China.  China’s modernization and expansion of its strategic nuclear and conventional forces create an array of new questions and difficult policy challenges for the United States.  The ISCS project identifies the key emerging nuclear issues, and the related set of conventional strategy issues, and analyzes them fully.

During the first phase of the ISCS study, project members explored an array of central issues, including: how Chinese analysts view the threat that U.S. forces pose to their nuclear retaliatory capability; whether the United States should pursue a damage limitation capability against China’s nuclear forces; how Chinese analysts view the threat that U.S. forces pose to their conventional capabilities; whether the United States will be able to retain its ability to project power into Northeast Asia; the changing requirements for the United States to extend deterrence to its Northeast Asian allies and the related challenge of preserving U.S. alliances as China rises; and whether U.S. conventional military operations are likely to generate pressures for nuclear escalation.  A set of policy briefs that summarizes the results of this study is availablehere. The briefs summarize research articles written as part of the project, a number of which have been published or are forthcoming in the journal International Security and are available here.

The second phase of the ISCS study will address a variety of issues that follow naturally from its earlier work, including: the reasons that Chinese strategists are optimistic that nuclear weapons would not be used in a conventional war between the United States and China; the nuclear doctrine the United States should adopt for extended deterrence to its Northeast Asian allies; the factors that will determine the outcome of modern naval warfare between great powers; Japanese perspectives on the requirements for stability as China continues to modernize its nuclear forces; possible solutions to the escalatory dangers created by U.S. conventional operations; and the domestic political constraints that might influence U.S. military policies for responding to China’s rise.

Charles Glaser will lead the second project. Other ISCS affiliated faculty members participating in the project are Stephen Biddle, Alexander Downes, Mike Mochizuki, Elizabeth Saunders, and Caitlin Talmadge.

As China modernizes its strategic nuclear force and the U.S.-China relationship evolves, the United States faces a series of essentially new questions about its nuclear strategy. This conference presents the findings of a two-year Institute for Security and Conflict Studies (Elliott School, GW) research project funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.  The project frames U.S. nuclear policy broadly because China’s nuclear modernization has significant implications for U.S. conventional force requirements and its alliance commitments in Northeast Asia.  The project lays the foundation for these analyses by examining China’s view of the threat that U.S. forces pose to its nuclear and conventional capabilities.  Interactions between conventional and nuclear strategies are explored further by addressing the escalatory pressures created by U.S. responses to China’s force modernization. The project offers policy recommendations for future U.S. nuclear and conventional strategy.

 

Panel I: Nuclear Security
Alexander Downes, Associate Professor of Political Science, Elliott School of International Affairs, GW
Fiona Cunningham, Ph.D. Candidate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Charles Glaser, Director Institute for Security and Conflict Studies, Elliott School of International Affairs, GW
Steve Fetter, Professor of Public Policy, University of Maryland

 

Link to video

 

Panel III: Conventional Strategy and Nuclear Escalation
Charles Glaser, Director, Institute for Security and Conflict Studies, Elliott School of International Affairs, GW
Stephen Biddle, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, Elliott School of International Affairs, GW
Caitlin Talmadge, Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, Elliott School of International Affairs, GW
Ivan Oelrich,Senior Fellow, Strategic Security Program, Federation of American Scientists

 

Link to video

 

The articles presented below are the findings of a two-year Institute for Security & Conflict Studies (Elliott School, GW) research project funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The project frames U.S. nuclear policy broadly because China’s nuclear modernization has significant implications for U.S. conventional force requirements and its alliance commitments in Northeast Asia.  The project lays the foundation for these analyses by examining China’s view of the threat that U.S. forces pose to its nuclear and conventional capabilities.  Interactions between conventional and nuclear strategies are explored further by addressing the escalatory pressures created by U.S. responses to China’s force modernization.

This research is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York


Assuring Assured Retaliation: China’s Nuclear Posture and U.S.-China Strategic Stability 

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By: Fiona Cunningham and Taylor Fravel

Many analysts worry that recent advances in U.S. military capabilities could cause China to abandon its nuclear strategy of assured retaliation and its no-first-use doctrine. The writings and statements of Chinese nuclear experts, however, suggest that such fears are misplaced

Fiona S. Cunningham and M. Taylor Fravel. “Assuring Assured Retaliation: China’s Nuclear Posture and U.S.-China Strategic Stability.” International Security 40, no. 2 (Fall 2015): 7-50..


Should the United States Reject MAD? Damage Limitation and U.S. Nuclear Strategy Toward China 

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By: Charles Glaser and Steve Fetter

As China invests in its nuclear forces and U.S.-China relations become increasingly strained, questions of U.S. nuclear doctrine require greater attention. The key strategic nuclear question facing the United States is whether to attempt to maintain and enhance its damage-limitation capability against China. The answer is less straightforward than it was during the Cold War because China’s nuclear force is orders of magnitude smaller than the Soviet force was. Part of the answer depends on the military-technical feasibility of the United States achieving a significant damage-limitation capability: What would be the outcome of military competition over the survivability of China’s intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and command and control, and over the effectiveness of U.S. ballistic missile defenses? The answer also depends on the benefits that a damage-limitation capability would provide; these could include contributions to homeland deterrence, extended deterrence, and reassurance of U.S. regional allies. The final piece of the analysis concerns the potential costs of a damage-limitation capability, which could include increased escalatory pressures during crises and growing political tension between the United States and China. A thorough analysis demonstrates that the United States should forgo such a capability because the prospects for preserving a significant damage-limitation capability are poor; the deterrent benefits would be small, and the escalatory and political costs would be relatively large.

Charles Glaser and Steve Fetter. “Should the United States Reject MAD? Damage Limitation and U.S. Nuclear Strategy toward China.” International Security, Vol. 41, No.1 (Summer 2016), pp. 49-98.


Future Warfare in the Western Pacific: Chinese Antiaccess/Area Denial, U.S. AirSea Battle, and Command of the Commons in East Asia 

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By: Stephen Biddle and Ivan Oelrich

Many analysts worry that improvements in Chinese missile, sensor, guidance, and other technologies will enable China to deny the U.S. military access to parts of the Western Pacific that the United States has long controlled. Although these “anti-access, area denial” (A2/AD) capabilities are real, they are a geographically limited long-term threat. As both the United States and China deploy A2/AD capabilities, a new era will emerge in which the U.S. military no longer enjoys today’s command of the global commons, but is still able to deny China military hegemony in the Western Pacific. In this new era, the United States will possess a sphere of influence around allied landmasses; China will maintain a sphere of influence over its own mainland, and a contested battlespace will cover much of the South and East China Seas wherein neither power enjoys wartime freedom of surface or air movement. This, in turn, suggests that the Chinese A2/AD threat to U.S. allies is real but more limited than often supposed. With astute U.S. choices, most U.S. allies in this new system will be imperfectly, but substantially, secure.

Stephen Biddle and Ivan Oelrich. “Future Warfare in the Western Pacific: Chinese Antiaccess/Area Denial, U.S. AirSea Battle, and Command of the Commons in East Asia.” International Security, Vol. 41, No. 1, (Summer 2016), pp. 7-48.

Correspondense Response (pdf)


Chinese Perceptions of and Responses to US Conventional Military Power 

(click title for PDF)

By: Michael S. ChaseCristina L. Garafola & Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafaga

Chinese analysts view the US military not only as a model for emulation but also as a serious threat given its strengths in high-tech weapons and equipment, power projection, and unparalleled ability to conduct information-intensive joint combat operations. Yet they also see many of the capabilities the US military relies upon to execute these operations – most notably forward bases, space capabilities, and computer networks and information technology systems – as potentially vulnerable to disruption. Accordingly, China has developed capabilities designed to deter or counter US military intervention in areas close to China. This poses two interrelated challenges for the United States: maintaining its military advantage in an era of rapid technological change and preserving deterrence against growing Chinese ambitions in Asia.

Michael S. Chase, Cristina L. Garafola & Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafaga (2017): Chinese Perceptions of and Responses to US Conventional Military Power, Asian Security. 


Would China Go Nuclear? Assessing the Risk of Chinese Nuclear Escalation in a Conventional War with the United States 

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By: Caitlin Talmadge

Could a conventional war with the United States inadvertently prompt Chinese nuclear escalation? The military-technical threat that such a war would pose to China’s retaliatory capability—combined with wartime perceptual dynamics that might cause China to view this threat in an especially pessimistic light—could lead to reasonable Chinese fears that the United States might be attempting conventional counterforce, or considering or preparing for nuclear counterforce. China might see several forms of limited nuclear escalation as its least-bad response to this sort of threat to its nuclear deterrent, notwithstanding the country’s no-first-use policy. This finding, derived from a more general framework about the military-technical and perceptual drivers of potential nuclear escalation in response to conventional counterforce, has broader ramifications for U.S. policy and military strategy, and it illustrates recurring dilemmas that the United States may face in conventional wars with other nuclear-armed adversaries.

Caitlin Talmadge, “Would China Go Nuclear? Assessing the Risk of Chinese Nuclear Escalation in a Conventional War with the United States,” International Security, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Spring 2017), pp. 50-92.

The set of policy briefs presented below addresses questions that are central to U.S. nuclear and conventional military policy toward China. The policy briefs are the findings of a two-year Institute for Security & Conflict Studies research project funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The project frames U.S. nuclear policy broadly because China’s nuclear modernization has significant implications for U.S. conventional force requirements and its alliance commitments in Northeast Asia.  The project lays the foundation for these analyses by examining China’s view of the threat that U.S. forces pose to its nuclear and conventional capabilities.  Interactions between conventional and nuclear strategies are explored further by addressing the escalatory pressures created by U.S. responses to China’s force modernization. The project is motivated by the expectation that policy choices involving U.S. nuclear forces and the requirements for extending deterrence to America’s East Asian allies will become more important as competition between the United States and China continues, and especially if strains in U.S.-China relations continue to grow.

Click titles to download a PDF copy 

Charles Glaser“The United States Should Forego a Damage-Limitation Capability Against China

Fiona Cunningham and Taylor Fravel“Why China Won’t Abandon Its Nuclear Strategy of Assured Retaliation” 

Mike Mochizuki“How Much is Enough?: U.S. Extended Deterrence in Northeast Asia and China’s Rise”

Alexander Downes and Jasen Castillo, “Why U.S. Alliances in East Asia Will Remain Stable as China Rises” 

Michael Chase“Chinese Perceptions of U.S. Conventional Military Power” 

Stephen Biddle and Ivan Oelrich“Future Warfare in the Western Pacific: From Command of the Commons to Spheres of Influence” 

Caitlin Talmadge“Preventing Nuclear Escalation in U.S.-China Conflict”

This research is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York

 

  • Jasen Castillo, Associate Professor, Bush School of Governement and Public Service, TAMU
  • Michael S. Chase, Senior Political Scientist, RAND
  • Fiona Cunningham, PhD Candidate in Political Science, MIT
  • Alexander Downes, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, Elliott School of International Affairs, GW
  • Steve Fetter, Professor, School of Public Policy, UMD
  • Taylor Fravel, Associate Professor of Political Science, Security Studies Program, MIT
  • Charles Glaser, Director, Institute for Security & Conflict Studies, GW
  • Mike Mochizuki, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, Elliott School of International Affairs, GW
  • Ivan Oelrich, Senior Fellow for the Strategic Security Program, Federation of American Scientists

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