Adm. Charles Richard, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, said Wednesday that the current conflict with Russia in Ukraine "is just the warm-up" for potentially larger conflicts in the future.
"The big one is coming, and it isn't going to be very long before we're going to get tested in ways that we haven't been tested a long time," The Independent reported Richard saying during a speech at the Naval Submarine League's 2022 Annual Symposium and Industry Update in Arlington, Virginia.
He said that deterring China is getting less effective as they build up capabilities "in the field" faster than the United States.
"As those curves keep going, it isn't going to matter how good our [operating plan] is or how good our commanders are, or how good our horses are — we're not going to have enough of them," he said. "And that is a very near-term problem. Maybe the [U.S. submarine force is] the only true asymmetric advantage we still have against our opponents."
According to the report, the Navy has been forced to close bases and its naval shipyards due to defense budget cuts, moving more responsibility to private sector companies.
Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, said in August that a "limited" industrial capacity is the largest barrier in increasing that branch's capabilities, the report said.
An October report on the nation's military readiness by the Heritage Foundation found the U.S. was "weaker" in 2022 than it was the year before.
"The 2023 Index concludes that the current U.S. military force is at significant risk of not being able to meet the demands of a single major regional conflict while also attending to various presence and engagement activities," the report read. "It most likely would not be able to do more and is certainly ill-equipped to handle two nearly simultaneous 'major regional contingencies.'"
The report considered the current global environment including Asia, Europe and the Middle East in its assessment, noting that the "security threats" in Latin America and Africa do not rise to the level of directly threatening "vital" U.S. interests.
"This does not mean that we view Latin America and Africa as unimportant. It means only that the security challenges within these regions do not currently rise to the level of direct threats to America's vital interests as we have defined them," the report read.
While considering the possibility unlikely, the report noted Russia's large nuclear arsenal, and said it gives those weapons in the U.S. and NATO "relevance."
"[Russia] still maintains the world's largest nuclear arsenal, and although a strike on the U.S. is highly unlikely, the latent potential for such a strike still gives these weapons enough strategic value vis-à-vis America's NATO allies and interests in Europe to ensure their continued relevance," the report read.
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