dialogue on nuclear disarmament on hold

► Where are the agreements on nuclear disarmament?

Despite the war in Ukraine, the “strategic dialogue” between Washington and Moscow has not completely broken. The two sides still regularly exchange information about their strategic weapons.

The latest bilateral strategic disarmament treaty between the world’s two main nuclear powers, the New Start Treaty, concluded in 2010 between the US and Russia, limits the two countries’ arsenals to a maximum of 1,550 warheads deployed on both sides. That’s a nearly 30% reduction from the previous limit set in 2002. It also limits the number of launch platforms (intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and bombers) to 700 each. The treaty was extended in January 2021 by five years.

Washington says today it wants to negotiate a new disarmament framework to replace the treaty after it expires on February 4, 2026, but there is little time left before the 2024 US presidential election. A meeting of the bilateral treaty commission scheduled in Cairo, from November 29 to December 6 has been postponed indefinitely, at the initiative of Moscow.

In early August, Russia announced it was suspending planned U.S. inspections of its military sites under the treaty, claiming to be acting in response to U.S. obstruction of similar Russian inspections in the United States.

► Will Americans and Russians negotiate a new treaty?

In the US, hawks like Franklin Miller, a former adviser to George W. Bush, believe America should increase its arsenal to 3,000-3,500 deployed strategic warheads, if possible under a negotiated treaty, or, failing that, unilaterally. Others, like Rose Gottemoeller, former under secretary of state for disarmament affairs, believe the US and Russia have an interest in negotiating a new treaty.

Especially Moscow, as Washington upgrades its nuclear triad with the B-21 bomber, new Columbia-class submarines and a new intercontinental ballistic missile system.

► What characterizes China’s progress in nuclear power?

For its part, China’s nuclear arsenal is expected to more than triple by 2035, with a land-sea-air triad similar to that of Russia and the United States, notes the annual report on Chinese military power, published in late November by the Pentagon. After having a nuclear arsenal of a few hundred warheads for many years, Beijing should have at least 1,000 by the end of this decade. Beijing conducted more than 135 ballistic missile tests capable of carrying these warheads in 2021 as well as a hypersonic missile test in July 2021.

“In the 2030s, for the first time in its history, the United States will face two major nuclear powers as strategic competitors and potential adversaries.emphasizes the American Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), published at the end of October. This will create new constraints on stability and new challenges for deterrence, security, arms control and risk reduction. »

► What about negotiations with China?

In its nuclear review, the US says it is ready to engage in discussions with China on confidence-building measures, information sharing, risk reduction and approaches to nuclear disarmament. But at the moment, China doesn’t seem to be interested.

In response to the Pentagon report, Beijing condemned a ” usual tactics by Washington to find a pretext for the expansion of its nuclear arsenal. The United States must create the conditions for complete and strict nuclear disarmament” reduces” significantly their nuclear arsenal, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said. Beijing will not discuss borders until Washington and Moscow bring their arsenals down to Chinese levels.

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