The Air Force general in charge of America's nuclear arsenal provided a rare glimpse into what he would do if Russia launched two nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles at the United States.
His take might be surprising to some.
Gen. John Hyten told lawmakers this week that the U.S. should not retaliate until incoming missiles had reached their targets or were destroyed in-flight by defense systems.
"If we do have to respond, we want to respond in kind and not further escalate the conflict out of control," Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
He added that the window for detecting the missiles is "a very short period of time."
"From detection to the creation of the explosion is less than 30 minutes," the four-star general said.
Hyten noted that if the missiles did not pose an existential threat, then the U.S. would not then have to respond with an existential threat. "That's what I would recommend if I saw that coming against the United States," he said.
While Hyten recommended a measured response in such a scenario, he urged lawmakers to consider the Pentagon's request to add new nuclear weapons to its arsenal.
"I strongly agree with the need for a low-yield nuclear weapon," Hyten said in regard to submarine-launched warheads. "That capability is a deterrence weapon to respond to the threat that Russia, in particular, is portraying."