Generals see unholy nuclear trinity in Russia, China, and North Korea

Two retired Air Force generals are issuing a warning about a nuclear blackmail trinity among Russia, China and North Korea. Photo credit Photo by South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images

Two retired U.S. Air Force generals say the United States is now facing a significant security concern with the emergence of a new normal when it comes to the nuclear doctrine – blackmail.

Retired Maj. Gen. Howard “Dallas Thompson and retired Lt. Gen. Dan “Fig” Leaf wrote in a recent piece in Real Clear Defense that they see a nuclear blackmail “trinity” in Russia, China, and North Korea that places the U.S. in an untenable situation that could create significant security risks.

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“We’ve seen increases in partnership between all three countries and all three countries are expanding their nuclear capabilities,” explained Leaf.

Leaf and Thompson wrote their piece soon after China and Russia vetoed sanctions on North Korea in a vote by the United Nations.

“This first-ever rejection of sanctions marks the emergence of an unholy trinity implicitly willing to jeopardize the world order by threatening and perhaps executing a limited nuclear attack,” they noted.

Thompson and Leaf said the new norm is in stark contrast to the notion of Mutually Assured Destruction – where major powers saw an atomic attack as the last resort.

Referring to an article published in Financial Times in April, Leaf and Thompson said in their piece that Russian President Vladimir Putin to the “extent of destruction” rather than lose to Ukraine as the war rages on there.

“Putin first specifically raised the nuclear option to deter outside intervention, and has since hinted at the use of tactical nuclear weapons to force surrender or punish intervention or NATO alliance expansion,” they wrote.

Howard and Leaf didn’t rule out the possibility of China going nuclear as tensions continue between it and Taiwan.

Chinese President Xi Jingping “has left no doubt about his willingness to resort to a military option to retake Taiwan, and it would be naïve to expect the Chinese to refrain from nuclear coercion in such circumstances,” they wrote.

Continued investment in missile defense is more important now than it ever has been as the U.S. contends with this growing threat, argued Leaf and Thomspon.

“We feel that threat is real, it exists and we need to address it,” added Thompson.

Reach Julia LeDoux at