Eric Thompson

O’Brien Advocates for U.S. Nuclear Tests, Full Marine Deployment to Counter China

Robert O’Brien, former national security adviser under President Donald Trump, has recently called for the resumption of U.S. nuclear weapons tests and advocated for the deployment of the entire U.S. Marine Corps to the Pacific region. This comes as a response to perceived escalating threats from China, which O’Brien argues necessitates a robust and assertive military strategy.

O’Brien’s call to action marks a significant shift from the United States’ long-standing moratorium on nuclear testing, which has been in place since 1992. He suggests that resuming tests is essential to maintain a credible deterrent and ensure the reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, O’Brien emphasized the need for the U.S. to stay ahead in the technological race and prevent adversaries like China from gaining a strategic edge.

This stance contrasts sharply with policies during the Obama administration, which emphasized nuclear non-proliferation and the reduction of nuclear weapons’ role in national security. The Trump administration, however, took a different approach, emphasizing modernization and diversification of the nuclear stockpile to adapt to emerging threats.

In addition to advocating for nuclear tests, O’Brien proposed sending the entire U.S. Marine Corps to the Pacific. This move aims to counter China’s aggressive posturing and military buildup in the region. The Daily Mail reports that O’Brien views China’s activities, such as the militarization of the South China Sea and increasing pressure on Taiwan, as immediate threats that require a decisive American response.

According to The Daily Mail:

If Donald Trump wins reelection he should restart nuclear testing after a 30-year-pause, decouple the economy entirely from China and deploy the entire U.S. Marine Corps to the Pacific to counter the threat from Beijing.

That is the advice of his last national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, who lays out a possible blueprint for a second Trump term in a 5000-word essay.

If you want peace, prepare for war, is the theme of his message, particularly when it comes to heading off China, which has doubled the size of its nuclear stockpile since 2020.

‘The United States has to maintain technical and numerical superiority to the combined Chinese and Russian nuclear stockpiles,’ he writes for Foreign Affairs.

‘To do so, Washington must test new nuclear weapons for reliability and safety in the real world for the first time since 1992—not just by using computer models.’

Much of its focus is on China. The word ‘China’ appears 37 times and ‘Beijing’ 12 times.

Donald Trump’s former national security adviser says he should resume U.S. nuclear testing if he returns to the White House. Robert O’Brien laid out the idea in an essay for Foreign Affairs

‘As China seeks to undermine American economic and military strength, Washington should return the favor—just as it did during the Cold War, when it worked to weaken the Soviet economy,’ he writes.

His recommendation is to completely decouple the U.S. from the Chinese economy.

And he says the U.S. military should look away from the Middle East, and focus on the Indo-Pacific region, increasing the size of its navy from fewer than 300 vessels to 355 (a target from Trump’s time in office), as well as refurbishing ships to supply to the Philippines.

‘The navy should also move one of its aircraft carriers from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and the Pentagon should consider deploying the entire Marine Corps to the Pacific, relieving it in particular of missions in the Middle East and North Africa,’ he writes.

A recent test of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile

‘U.S. bases in the Pacific often lack adequate missile defenses and fighter jet protection—a scandalous deficiency that the Defense Department should fix by quickly shifting resources from elsewhere.’

Congress should also help strengthen the armed forces of Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam by offering the kinds of support, loans and weapons transfers ‘that the United States has long offered Israel.’

Washington should make sure that its European allies understand that the continued American defense of Europe is contingent on Europe doing its part—including in Ukraine,’ writes O’Brien.

‘If Europe wants to show that it is serious about defending Ukraine, it should admit the country to the European Union immediately, waiving the usual bureaucratic accession protocol.

Xi Xinping has increased his nation’s nuclear stockpile from 410 to 500 in a single year (File image)

‘Such a move would send a strong message to Putin that the West will not cede Ukraine to Moscow. It would also give hope to the Ukrainian people that better days lie ahead.’

‘Let us be very specific here: unless a message is coming directly from President Trump or an authorized member of his campaign team, no aspect of future presidential staffing or policy announcements should be deemed official,’ said top advisers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, in a statement to Bloomberg News.

O’Brien’s strategy aligns with a broader shift in U.S. defense policy focusing on the Indo-Pacific region. This pivot seeks to reinforce alliances and enhance deterrence capabilities in response to China’s growing military capabilities and regional ambitions.

O’Brien’s proposals are seen as necessary steps to protect U.S. interests and maintain global stability. The argument is that a strong military presence and credible nuclear deterrence are vital to counterbalance China’s ambitions and ensure peace through strength.

Critics, however, might argue that resuming nuclear tests could escalate tensions and spark a new arms race. They caution against actions that could undermine global non-proliferation efforts and destabilize international security. Nonetheless, proponents believe that the risks of inaction far outweigh the potential consequences, emphasizing the need for a robust and proactive defense strategy.

Deploying the U.S. Marine Corps to the Pacific would significantly bolster American presence and capability in the region. This move is seen as a direct response to China’s growing influence and military activities. It also signals to U.S. allies and partners that America is committed to regional security and stability.

O’Brien’s call for renewed nuclear tests and a substantial military buildup in the Pacific underscores the urgency felt within conservative circles regarding the threat posed by China. The belief is that only a strong and unequivocal demonstration of military might can effectively deter Chinese aggression and preserve the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific.

O’Brien’s stance serves as a reminder of the critical importance of maintaining a strong and credible deterrent in an increasingly uncertain world. Whether these proposals will be adopted remains to be seen, but they undoubtedly contribute to the ongoing dialogue about America’s strategic priorities and the measures needed to safeguard its interests.


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