At a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2024 budget request, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley said that in order for there to be peace between the US, China, and Russia, America must stay the most influential nation in the world. 

The United States faces two nuclear powers with vital interests opposing the American nation. Russia and China could potentially harm US national security.

“But war with either is neither inevitable nor imminent.”

The China-Russia alliance is a growing threat to US security. The two countries have become increasingly close in recent years, signing a “no limits” partnership accord in early 2022 and deepening their ties through joint military exercises. This alliance has the potential to challenge US power and influence in the region and diminish the reach of democratic values.

The Chinese-Russian alliance has already had an impact on global politics. For example, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been supported by China, which has thrown its military might behind Moscow’s actions. Moreover, this kind of strategic cooperation between the two countries could be used to counter US interests in other parts of the world, such as in the South China Sea or even in Europe.

Though analysts recommend US to take action to address this growing threat from China and Russia, the Biden administration is set to work with European partners to develop a unified strategy for countering Chinese aggression and Russian expansionism. It should also (supposedly) strengthen its alliances with countries like Japan and South Korea, threatened by Beijing’s ambitions.

“Strategic competition between the United States and its allies, China, and Russia over what kind of world will emerge makes the next few years critical to determining who and what will shape the narrative perhaps most immediately in the context of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, which threaten to escalate into a broader conflict between Russia and the West,” according to the US Intelligence Committee.

Meanwhile, Milley stated that having a level of preparedness and modern weaponry will discourage hostilities. In addition, the proposed budget of $842 billion for the fiscal year 2024 will ensure that the joint force will remain the most effective and capable military power on the planet.

“There is nothing more expensive than fighting a war. And preparing for war is also very expensive, but fighting a war is the most expensive. Preparing for war will deter that war,” he said. 

“The United States military has developed multiple options for our national leadership to consider if or when Iran decides to develop a nuclear weapon,” he said.

As for deterring Russia, he said that it is in the best interest of the nation’s security support for Ukraine to go on.

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General Milley added that Iran, if so chose, could manufacture the sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon in less than two weeks. Additionally, it would only take a few more months to construct an actual nuclear weapon.

“From the time of an Iranian decision, Iran could produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon in less than two weeks. And it would only take several more months to produce an actual nuclear weapon,” Milley said. 

“The United States military has developed multiple options for our national leadership to consider if or when Iran decides to develop a nuclear weapon,” he said. 

As for other potential threats, he emphasized that it is a policy of the United States to ensure that Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon. In addition, they’re also monitoring North Korea’s ballistic missile trials and nuclear weapons growth continue to be a menace to the United States, its allies, and associates.

“We stand shoulder to shoulder with the Republic of Korea to continue to deter North Korea aggression,” he said. 

Apart from South Korea, the United States has formed bilateral alliances with countries like Japan, Australia, Thailand, the Philippines, and other partner nations to enhance security in response to China’s aggressive behavior.

Moreover, General Milley pointed out that around a quarter of a million soldiers are assigned to various locations worldwide, including Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and South America, to participate in the fight against terrorism and collaborate with allied nations and associated parties.

“Operational readiness rates are higher now than they’ve been in many years. Currently, 60% of our active force is at the highest state of readiness and could deploy to combat in less than 30 days, well exceeding the minimum of the one-third standard that we’ve always had. Ten percent of our force could deploy in less than 96 hours. The United States military is ready,” he said. 

On the other hand, Lloyd J. Austin III, the Secretary of Defense, testified that the necessity of promptly passing the budget was formulated based on a strategic approach.

The proposed budget, he said, is designed to not only meet the readiness and modernization needs but also to support servicemembers and their families.

Austin declared that the most beneficial action this committee can take to assist the department and its remarkable troops is to guarantee they receive a suitable appropriation on schedule and for the entire year.

“We are probably not going to be able to do anything to stop, slow down, disrupt, interdict, or destroy the Chinese nuclear development program that they have projected out over the next 10 to 20 years,” Milley said. “They’re going to do that in accordance with their own plan. And there’s very little leverage, I think, that we can do externally to prevent that from happening.”