(NEXSTAR) – Nuclear safety experts have sounded the alarm over China and Russia’s growing nuclear programs.
At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, they warned that without new investment, the U.S. may be ill-prepared.
Experts urged Congress to quickly address what they called the growing threat from both countries.
“The Doomsday Clock tool is now set to 100 seconds to midnight — compared to 17 minutes to midnight at the end of the Cold War,” said Madeleine Creeden, a research professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. ” .
The panel warned senators that both China and Russia have substantially increased their nuclear capabilities.
“The world is very different now,” said Franklin Miller, a foreign policy and nuclear security expert at Scowcroft Group. Miller, who also served as a special assistant to former President George W. Bush, said that as Russia and China continue to pursue a more aggressive global strategy, the United States must actively prepare for how the two countries will respond if they join forces.
“Our goal must be safe and effective deterrence,” Miller said.
Experts stressed that building such a deterrent would require the United States to modernize its technology, recruit more talent and sign updated treaties with both countries.
“It’s urgently needed,” said Rose Gottemoeller, NATO’s deputy secretary general from 2016 to 2019. “Going forward, I think we should look at all the different tools.”
Sen. Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan, said he also worries about what would happen if China or Russia developed autonomous nuclear weapons.
“Because it’s obviously coming — it’s not if, it’s when,” Peters said. “If we go down this path, we have to make sure we can respond.”
Sen. Jim Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, said a bipartisan group of lawmakers is now working together to ensure the country’s defenses don’t fall behind.
“It was clear that we were not prepared for this reality,” Inhofe said.