Anxiety over China, Russia reduces the possibility of US nuclear weapons change

Washington (AP) — Joe Biden’s arrival at the White House almost a year ago seemed like a foretell. A historic shift towards less reliance on US nuclear weapons And perhaps a decrease in their number. Even the US “no first use” pledge, the promise of never using nuclear weapons first, seemed possible.

Then China happened — a revelation about that. Expansion of nuclear force When The story of a potential war with Taiwan.

And Russia happened — Signs that it may be preparing to invade Ukraine.

Currently, the major changes in US nuclear weapons policy seem to be much less, and Biden may insist on certain adjustments, Trump administration policy It seems that it has stalled.

The outlook becomes clearer once the Biden administration completes the so-called Nuclear Posture Review. An internal review of policies that control the number, type, purpose, and potential use of nuclear weapons. Results may be published as early as January.

The biggest unknown is how powerful Biden will tackle these questions, based on the White House’s calculation of political risk. Biden talked about new directions for nuclear policy for several years as Vice President. But growing concerns about China and Russia will seem to improve the political influence of Republicans seeking to portray such changes as a gift to their nuclear adversaries.

Russia has focused more urgently on Biden’s attention after President Vladimir Putin has sent an estimated 100,000 troops to positions near the Ukrainian border in recent weeks, demanding US security. Biden and Putin talked over the phone on Thursday about Ukraine, High-ranking US and Russian officials will follow up on a more detailed meeting in Geneva from January 9th to 10th.

Tom Z. Collina, policymaker for the Prowshares Foundation, an advocate of nuclear disarmament, said the issue of China and Russia has complicated the politics of Biden’s nuclear review, but will act to reduce the risk of nuclear weapons. It states that things should not be stopped.

“Neither country wants a new arms race, and the only way to prevent it is diplomacy,” Collina said. “We need to remember the main lessons we learned from the Cold War with Russia. The only way to win an arms race is to not run.”

Called by the White House in March Provisional National Security GuidanceBiden said China and Russia have changed the “distribution of power around the world.”

“Both Beijing and Moscow have made significant investments in efforts aimed at checking the strengths of the United States and preventing us from protecting our interests and allies around the world,” Guidance said. Said. Biden has promised to strengthen the United States domestically, restore alliances abroad, and counter actions to enhance the role of diplomacy. The nuclear weapons were briefly mentioned.

“We will take steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy,” the guidance said without providing details, while at the same time ensuring a safe and reliable US nuclear force and an opportunity for arms control. I’m looking for it.

Since then, I’m worried China and Russia have only increased.Civilian satellite images revealed last summer that China is building a number of new underground silos for nuclear missiles.And in November, a Pentagon report said China could quadruple the size of its nuclear stockpile by 2030.

“What China has done has changed the face of this review significantly,” said Robert Suffer, the Pentagon’s premier nuclear policy officer and leader of the 2018 nuclear review during the Trump administration. increase.

“Rather than a review that considers reducing the role of nuclear weapons and even eliminating the legs of triads, they are now basically obliged to maintain the course and decide how to fine-tune it with margins.”

In June, even before the latest Russian military buildup near Ukraine, Pentagon policymaker Colin Kahl said that the outlook for US nuclear policy is not just China’s nuclear ambitions. “Real anxiety” among US allies in Europe over Russia’s defense and nuclear policy.

“Therefore, obviously Russia is the wolf closest to the hut in relation to the nuclear issue, but just behind it is China’s desire to increase its nuclear weapons, both quantitatively and qualitatively,” Karl said. He said at the Nuclear Policy Conference held on June 23. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Karl did not preview the results of the policy review, but said it was intended to fit into the broader defense strategy to be announced in early 2022.

The Pentagon has not publicly discussed the details of the nuclear review, but the government maintains the existing outline of nuclear force, the traditional “triad” of sea, air, and land weapons that critics call overkill. It seems likely to do. It may also embrace the over $ 1 trillion modernization of its army, initiated by the Obama administration and continued by Trump.

It is unclear whether Biden will approve a major change in the so-called “declarative policy” that states the purpose of nuclear weapons and their use.

The Obama administration, with Biden as Vice President, announced in 2010 “Consider only the use of nuclear weapons in extreme situations to protect the grave interests of the United States or its allies and partners.” It did not define an “extreme situation”.

8 years later The Trump administration has rephrased Obama’s policy, but it has become more specific. “Extreme situations can include serious non-nuclear strategic attacks. Significant non-nuclear strategic attacks include attacks on the civilian or infrastructure of the United States, allies, or partners, or the nuclear power of the United States or allies. , Includes, but is not limited to, attacks on its command and control, or warning and attack assessment features. “

Some believed that Biden, as president, would go in the other direction, following his own advice on a “no first use” pledge. In his January 2017 speech, he said: “Given our non-nuclear capabilities and the nature of today’s threats, it’s hard to imagine a plausible scenario where the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States is necessary or makes sense.”

But some argue that this year’s China and Russia have changed the “threat of the day” and perhaps keep Biden on a cautious path.