Stacie Pettyjohn, director of the defense programs at the Center for a New American Security, agreed that the change in terminology likely reflects the ongoing war in Ukraine, signaling the “urgent, pressing threat” posed by Russia due to its role in launching the conflict.
“But what I don’t like about it is just that it sort of implies to me that it is going to be acute, but that you’re going to move past it quickly. It’s not something chronic,” she said.
The idea of Russia as the “second-place” threat to China was echoed by Rear Adm. John Gumbleton, the deputy assistant Navy secretary for budget, during a budget briefing on Monday.
“This budget gets after a near-peer competitor, of which Russia is not,” he told reporters. “Now, they have nuclear weapons and that’s concerning, but they are not a near-peer competitor.”
Pettyjohn said Russia’s stockpile of nuclear weapons suggests that it should be not be underestimated in US strategy, even as if it continues to decline both militarily and economically — a trajectory that will likely worsen in the future as it tries to recover from its losses during its war with Ukraine and the crippling sanctions that have shut it out from the global market.
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