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April 29, 2021

Inhofe Questions Top Intelligence Officials About 'No First Use' Nuclear Policy, Chinese Presence in Africa

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), lead Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), today questioned witnesses at a SASC hearing on worldwide threats.

Witnesses included: the Honorable Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence, and Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, Director, Defense Intelligence Agency.

Inhofe: Thank you, Chairman. As I said in my opening statement, we have been repeatedly warned in this committee about what Russia and China are doing in terms of their nuclear modernization, and frankly what we haven't been doing over the last many years. Last week, the STRATCM commander talked about over 80 percent of the nuclear force that Russia has, has actually excelled, and China has reached what they call the “inflection point.” So General Berrier, recent report by the Independent Institute for Defense Analyses concluded that neither China, Russia, nor North Korea would view the United States’ adoption of a “No First Use” policy on nuclear weapons as credible — they just wouldn't believe us. And as a result, United States’ adoption of “No First Use” nuclear policy would likely have little or no impact on their nuclear ambitions or policy, but what it would do is significantly undermine the confidence of our allies in the United States’ security guarantees. So I'd ask you, General Berrier or — first of all, do you agree with this assessment? And then, do you know of any organization, any intelligence assessment that you're aware of that would contradict these conclusions?

Berrier: Senator Inhofe, I am not aware of any current intelligence that has been produced lately that discusses that topic. I believe that the Russians and Chinese evaluate their own deterrent capabilities, and they look at threats broadly across the globe and make decisions about their nuclear force just the same way we do it.

Inhofe: In your personal opinion.

Berrier: My opinion is that any statement we make probably would not have a significant impact on how they view their nuclear force.

Inhofe: Thank you very much. Now, on — the committee heard last week from AFRICOM, General Townsend, that China views Africa as a key power projection platform for its military, and I believe that's true. China's built for the first — up until just about two or three years ago, China didn't do anything outside of its own limits. But now, of course, they got busy down in Djibouti. I've been down there. I’ve flown over that area. I know what they're doing down there. It's aggressively pursuing a naval base on the west coast of Africa that would give China an enduring military presence in the Atlantic. General Townsend called this his “number one global power competition concern.” General Berrier, do you agree with General Townsend that China views Africa as a key power projection platform for its military?

Berrier: Senator, I believe the Chinese, in order to safeguard their Belt-Road Initiative, will in place military forces where they see they need that kind of capability. Africa is certainly one of those places where they have done that. The interesting thing about the way they look at Africa is sort of this long-term developmental approach, which will allow them over a long period to put more forces there. So I do agree with General Townsend, but in the extent that Africa is one area where strategic competition will play out. It will also play out in Latin America and South America and wherever they extend their markets you will find that activity.

Inhofe: That activity — the same with Africa. We're talking about East and West Africa, their activities. This is something that is not — it’s something that's fairly new, and I would agree with your comments on that as well as General Townsend. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


Click here to watch Sen. Inhofe’s opening remarks.

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