China in the Way of Nuclear Treaty

China in the Way of Nuclear Treaty

Cold War-era missile treaties between the US and Russia haven’t completely gone according to plan. Russia has violated missile testing treaties for years and the US finally backed out of a deal the Russians would never agree to. As a result, many of these treaties have gone belly up — except for one: The New START treaty.

Set to expire in 2021, the New START is the last primary arms control agreement that exists between Russia and America. Officials believe this particular agreement may be worth extending if it’s just the US and Russia signing up. However, China is standing in the way of refreshing the treaty and may cause the outright demise of New START when the current agreement expires.

Why Keep New START?

As the last major arms treaty between two world superpowers, the New START has limited the proliferation of nuclear weapons for decades. Without it, there are few, if any, realistic limitations placed on the US and Russia to terms of the size of their nuclear stockpiles. Although nuclear proliferation is a form of deterrence, some foreign policy experts believe there are other ways to deal with a potential nuclear war.

Additionally, the effects of this treaty’s demise would be global. It could encourage countries like North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Iran to continue developing their nuclear armaments. These nations are already doing so, but the end of New START would provide them with even more drive and motivation to keep up with bigger world superpowers.

China’s Role

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper stated that he believes “multi-lateralizing” the agreement would aid in preventing a ramped up nuclear arms race. This would include bringing China into the fold of this treaty, which is a source of debate within the White House. At the moment, China doesn’t match the US or Russia in terms of nuclear capability.

However, the Asian nation is set to double its nuclear stockpiles over the next decade. Sam Nunn, co-chair of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, commented on the situation by claiming that it’s better to wait on bringing China into a refreshed New START agreement.

China doesn’t have anything like the number of warheads the U.S. and Russia possess. We will at some point have to have China in the equation but that won’t happen now. Common sense would be to at least extend a treaty that already exists and work from there.

-Sam Nunn

Beijing has openly denied any willingness to participate in this nuclear treaty. China wants to bolster its own nuclear stockpile before considering any form of restrictions. This is a clear power grab and an unwillingness to compromise.

Russia’s Take

Russia, on the other hand, wants to leave China out of the agreement. Its reasoning is that it takes long enough to extend an existing treaty, let alone bringing another entity into the mix. Supposedly, it would take well over a year to negotiate a new treaty with an additional third party.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution in sight that keeps China in check and Russia continuing to play ball with the US.

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