On the instability of a tripolar world
There is not a single member of the blob who will ever accept anything besides complete and utter American hegemony. We are run a bunch of small minded petty war profiteers. We spend billions on the most worthless fighting force the world has ever seen. Within minutes of any serious war breaking out between major powers ever single one of our aircraft carries will be a "hunk of metal at the bottom of the sea." https://alexkrainer.substack.com/p/why-hypersonic-weapons-change-everything
Everything. Every single decision on what to spend and how to train has been based on the assumption that we will have overwhelming dominance.
Never in the history of mankind has so much been said about so little to so many.
Let me make this simple: Advocating for an increase in nuclear poles from 3 won't end up at 4. Two can play this game, so you'll have Nork and/or Pakistan handing out nuclear tech willy-nilly. First stop, Iran, then Turkey then South Africa etc.
So that's 5mins of my time I'm never getting back.
I agree with your conclusion and main message. Not so much with the reasoning though.
Playing a bit the Devil's advocate:
1. What is the source info from which one could reasonably extrapolate to reach the assertion of the 2nd sentence? ("By no later than 2030, China will acquire strategic parity with the United States.") – By most accounts, the Chinese nuclear arsenal seems to increase linearly and not exponentially. By 2030 they could have something in the range of 7-800 warheads of various yields, still only about a fifth of the current US stockpile.
2. Moreover, why should we think that China considers nuclear parity a necessary condition for effective deterrence against the US or for compellence regarding Taiwan? – According to more recent ONI reports, China does already possess a credible second strike capability. Taiwan needs to be annexed, not annihilated.
To generalize: deterrence is context-specific and the context is missing here. Plus, nuclear deterrence cannot be blended with conventional one. The clausewitzian frame breaks down in the nuclear dimension and I would argue this goes for deterrence, too.
But more importantly, I think the real problems necessitating a significant pivot in US foreign policy are all self-made and hubristic. Like most diminishing empires, the US is also rotting from within. You are but scratching the surface with this post. The outermost layer of makeup, so to speak. And to be frank, so far I am not seeing the slightest forces being effective in countering the otherwise preprogrammed further decline. Btw, even a full foreign policy reset would not halt this. But the chances for such a turn in Foggy Bottom are slim to none anyway.
At some point in the imminent future, insofar they haven't done already, US allies will need to ask themselves the question, what is the bigger threat to them: (1) the anger of the poked and woken Russian bear clawing at others wanting to put up fences before its den, (2) the ambition of the Chinese dragon trying to grow its third head, spitting smoke in the process or (3) the rancor of the tumbling, tired US eagle, still clenching to a bunch of bloody arrows and a rotten olive branch?
The initial point is essential.
Regarding the follow-up analysis - doesn't this text essentially advocate a strategy of NATO increasing its total strike ability, to match the combined total of China and its allies (as this inevitably grows)? What is the benefit compared to US simply doing the same itself, ie without the political complications of a strategically independent Europe?
More fundamentally -- Isn't the volume of one's strike capability less important, compared to whether the size of the other side's which survives, is enough to kill one's homeland just once?
Has anything changed in the late-cold-war conclusion, that under current technology, the problem reduces to a submarine-building contest, until the MAD condition is reached?
If this has not changed, the rest is moot, in my opinion. Sure there is a nagging possibility of US in some cases being unsure whom to retaliate against in an isolated nuclear strike against, say, a "terrorist attack" on a naval asset. The US has managed to make so many enemies with nuclear capability, both great and medium sized that this might be plausible. Likewise US, via proxies, engages in "mysterious terrorist attacks" directly against adversaries - counting on them not to escalate for now. But on the whole, China and Russia face much less uncertainty of this type - they have one meaningful adversary. So the three-way complication doesn't change the essence of the story.
Regarding "what is the goal of US China policy"? The answer is known. It is (1) to extend US hegemony as long as possible, and (2) to secure more territory when the time comes again for a bipolar world.
Arming Europeans to superpower levels goes against the second goal. In fact, European geopolitical power is being reduced dramatically. Under current trend, they are destined for a similar role to Latin America.
"Top American policymakers need to explicitly articulate the goal of US China policy. What is the desired end-state here? ”. Delenda est Carthago.
As for " as long as we enjoy nuclear superiority, China can be deterred from going to war with us because we enjoy escalation dominance—we can threaten to escalate to a counterforce exchange but they cannot”.
China can destroy every American base in 23 minutes and every US city in 48 minutes. We have no effective defense against their ICBMs, which are bigger, faster and more powerful than ours.
They are also much better prepared to defend their cities against missiles, with their S-400 batteries being just the tip of the iceberg.
More importantly, our society would fall apart under such an attack, while theirs would pull together, as we saw with Covid-19. Their survival advantage would be the same as it was for Covid: 100:1.
Offload strategic defence to Europe? Heh.
Let's consider the "truel" scenario in game theory (luckily, I just read a book about it:). A truel is a duel of three, and Kilgour&Brams did the first extensive analysis of it; it is indeed unstable, in the sense that optimal play is very sensitive to even a slight change in circumstances. But one of the most robust lessons is that the strongest participant is always in the weakest position, since it will be an early target for the other two.
However, in nature, balanced tripolar orders exist and are surprisingly stable - check out e.g. the curious case of California side-blotched lizard. Also, consider a rock-paper-scissors game where one participant commits to always throwing rock: then no one can win and peace ensues.
But back to Europe. Why is Europe allied with the US now? 2 main reasons: 1) transatlantic trade and 2) essential military occupation by the US.
But a strategically independent Europe? It will certainly defect in almost every scenario - which is NOT NECESSARILY bad for the US (see above on strongest participant/early target), but necessarily bad for US hegemony.
The hope that adding the 4th participant will turn the "truel" into a "double duel" is wishful thinking. Russia will not attack Europe, and Europe will not attack Russia (however, if China fights the US over Taiwan, Russia will have its back, as Europe will have the US's).
In a peacetime scenario, if China+Russia are stronger than the US, is there any chance at all an independent Europe would choose an exclusive trade&military alliance with a weaker and poorer America against a stronger and richer Eurasian behemoth next door?
Not unless China-Russia pose a clear and explicit military threat. In peacetime, an independent Europe will trade with everybody, and try to balance out any side that becomes too strong militarily. Actually, Russia would defect and join Europe against China if China becomes too domineering.
All that said, with constantly changing circumstances, a "quadruel" is just as unstable as a "truel" - and with a rising India, neither is a good approximation of the modern world.
Rearming the EU to nuclear parity with Russia risks another partition of Eastern Europe and a risk of transatlantic conflict. You achieve similar results by offloading the geostrategic competition with China onto India. Everything you say above would just be transposed onto India and not Europe.