The U.S. Strategic Command has suggested its adversaries may consider nuclear use in a bizarre tweet released in the middle of Monday night.
“Posture Statement Preview,” the agency prefaced the tweet which was issued just before midnight E.T. “The spectrum of conflict today is neither linear nor predictable. We must account for the possibility of conflict leading to conditions which could very rapidly drive an adversary to consider nuclear use as their least bad option.”
The strange statement elicited a slew of panicked responses from those on Twitter who were quick to ask for clarification.
“What does this even mean?” one person replied as another added: “That’s a pretty ominous statement.”
#USSTRATCOM Posture Statement Preview: The spectrum of conflict today is neither linear nor predictable. We must account for the possibility of conflict leading to conditions which could very rapidly drive an adversary to consider nuclear use as their least bad option. pic.twitter.com/4Oe7xkl05L
— US Strategic Command (@US_Stratcom) April 20, 2021
“I feel like this isn’t something to spring on us in a tweet,” one woman said. “This is a truly frightening, chilling ‘preview,'” another concurred.
Others voiced their alarm at the phrasing of the statement. “What’s a worse option than nuclear?” one man asked. Others followed suit, questioning: “In what reality is nuclear the least bad option? You mean there is something worse than that?”
Choosing a lighter approach, some resorted to humor in response to the casual tweet regarding nuclear war. “Well, I’ll sleep good tonight after reading that,” one person joked. “What should we raid first? Alcohol or toilet paper?” another quipped.
The U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) is a “global warfighting command” that operates to “deter strategic attack and employ forces, as directed, to guarantee the security of our Nation and our Allies,” a mission statement on its website reads. It also controls any launch of nuclear weapons.
Every year, the agency submits a Posture Statement designed to inform Congress about the current status of the roles, commitments, accomplishments, plans and needs of the agency.
In what reality is nuclear the least bad option? You mean there is something worse than that? pic.twitter.com/Y4T6GFkkC7
— Snow Hawk (@HaakinSnow) April 20, 2021
That's a pretty ominous statement… pic.twitter.com/YYZjwVi8M4
— Christopher Jones (@Jones3d) April 20, 2021
“This tweet was a preview of the posture statement submitted to both the SASC and HASC committee,” a USSTRATCOM spokesperson told Newsweek.
The statement will form part of the testimony set to be received by a subcommittee on a strategic forces hearing scheduled for the afternoon of Wednesday, April 21.
The purpose of the hearing is “to receive testimony in advance of the FY22 budget request in the context of overall posture of United States Strategic Forces and the stand-up of Space Command,” according to the House Armed Services Committee.
STRATCOM Commander Charles Richard set out the Command’s priorities in a 2020 Posture Statement.
“We will provide strategic deterrence for the Nation and assurance of the same to our Allies and partners,” the document reads. “If deterrence fails, we are prepared to deliver a decisive response, decisive in every possible way; and … we will do this with a resilient, equipped, and trained combat-ready force.”
Integral to this approach is what Richard terms a “nuclear triad” involving “a survivable nuclear command” and “a responsive nuclear weapons infrastructure.”
“A powerful, ready triad; a survivable nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3) system; and a responsive nuclear weapons infrastructure are the foundation that enables strategic deterrence and assurance which is fundamental to our survival as a Nation, and deters adversaries from conducting nuclear and non-nuclear strategic attacks against our Nation, our Allies, and our partners,” the statement continues.
“To be clear, nuclear deterrence is the highest priority mission of the Department of Defense – our deterrent underwrites every U.S. military operation around the world and is the foundation and backstop of our national defense.”
In the 2020 statement, Richard notes that the ability of the U.S. to deter threats “is at a critical point,” with the contemporary security environment “the most challenging since the Cold War.”
Suggestions from last year’s Posture Statement include additional investment in and modernization of the U.S. nuclear enterprise.
Attending Wednesday’s hearing will be Melissa Dalton, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense, Strategy, Plans and Capabilities; Admiral Charles Richard, Commander of the United States Strategic Command and General James Dickinson, Commander of the United States Space Command