The new Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley said recently that Russia is the only country that can destroy the U.S.
That was a lie.
What was his motive? I would have to guess scaring the American people into not cutting the Army budget.
Russia reportedly has something like 4,000 to 7,000 nuclear warheads. The size of each is not known. Nor do we know how many delivery vehicles they have. A warhead in Russia is no danger to us unless they have a way to get it to the U.S. without being shot down enroute.
I don’t think we can shoot down ICBMs, but those are expensive—more expensive than warheads—and Russia probably does not have enough ICBMs to deliver all those missiles to the U.S.
They can’t fire them all at us
But wait a minute. Russia cannot fire ALL their warheads at us. That would leave them with none and our NATO allies, who are supposed to come to our defense, France and UK, would still have warheads. So would China. So Russia could only fire about half their warheads at us if they had enough delivery vehicles. They also need delivery vehicles to deter NATO and China.
Russia is more vulnerable to nukes than we are
Furthermore, they cannot eliminate our ability to fire back. Our nukes are located all over the US and the world including in the air and on and below the surface of the sea. So our second strike would hammer them.
We might be able to kill a higher percentage of their people than they could kill of ours. We have more than twice as many people as they do.
Believe it or not, nukes are not that destructive
But the main aspect of the lie is just arithmetic. Probably the Russian warheads are about 400 KT in size on average. A much bigger one megaton warhead destroys about a six square mile area when it explodes. If Russia fired, say, 3,000 warhead at us, and all were unlikely one-megatons in size, that would destroy 3,000 x 6 = 18000 square mile which is 18,000 ÷ 3,800,000 square miles or one half of one percent of the U.S.
Warning would reduce the number of dead
Our population is concentrated in metro areas. But if we had any notice, people could go on vacation, visit their second home, go abroad, so if they targeted people and we got no notice, they could kill a higher percentage of our people. ICBMs from Russia take a half hour or so to hit the US. We have the third largest country in the world so, with some warning, we can easily go to the 99.5% of it that would not be destroyed by nukes.
Here are some figures I worked out. It is the number of the much bigger-than-average one-megaton nukes it would take to devastate three cities: New York City, 53 warheads; Chicago, 41; LA, 88. That’s 182 warhead right there and that’s without damaging the suburbs—just city limits.
In short, nukes are, indeed, bigger bombs than conventional bombs. But they are still finite—like six mile destruction radius rather than one mile for the biggest conventional weapons. The radius is geometrically bigger, but in a negative way. That is, a 20KT bomb destroys more than a 10KT bomb, but less than twice as much. And the U.S. is really big.
Russia would come out worse than we would
If Russia did that, the main result would be Russia would rank lower in every category of human endeavor including nuclear weapons than it does now. And Russia being currently the 60th ranked country in the world in terms of per capita GDP has less infrastructure to destroy than the U.S. In other words, we could destroy a much higher percentage of what’s worth attacking there than they could here with the same megatonnage of warheads.
Post attack, the U.S. would be hurt, but Russia would probably fall to something like 120th in per capita GDP and instead of being the 7th largest population (about the same as Japan), they would probably be down around 30th (Kenya). Putin is trying to restore some mythological Russian empire that never existed. If he attacked the US with nukes, those hopes would be destroyed forever. The surviving population of Russia would not be able to defend that country’s borders against even conventional attack after losing so many people.
The true statement is that Russia could theoretically do more damage to us than any other country could, but it would make absolutely no sense for Russia to do that and even if they fired every single weapon at us, it would fall far short of “destroying the U.S.”