Follow us on social

Screen-shot-2023-06-02-at-10.39.10-am-e1685719155160

US ready for nuclear talks with Russia and China ‘without preconditions’: White House

Experts praised the statement but questioned the Biden administration’s long-term vision for arms control.

Reporting | Military Industrial Complex

The United States is ready to engage in bilateral nuclear talks with Russia and China “without preconditions,” according to National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

“Rather than waiting to resolve all of our bilateral differences, the United States is ready to engage Russia now to manage nuclear risks and develop a post-2026 arms control framework,” Sullivan said in a wide-ranging speech at the Arms Control Association’s annual meeting on Friday. 

“We're also ready to engage China without preconditions, helping ensure that competition is managed, and that competition does not veer into conflict,” he added, noting that talks with Moscow will “be impacted by the size and scale of China’s nuclear buildup.”

The comments came just a day after the Biden administration announced that it would pause compliance with certain aspects of the New START Treaty — the sole remaining agreement that caps the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, which is set to expire in 2026 — in reaction to Russian violations of the deal. Among other changes, Washington will no longer share detailed updates on the locations of missiles and launchers with Moscow.

Bill Hartung of the Quincy Institute welcomed Sullivan’s speech as a positive sign at a time when “lowering the temperature on the nuclear issue is imperative.”

“This could not be more important in light of nuclear tensions arising from the war in Ukraine, including threats of nuclear use by Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials,” Hartung told RS.

Bilateral talks with Russia have been limited since the Kremlin invaded Ukraine last year, and Moscow suspended its own compliance with the treaty back in February. But each country continues to observe the deal’s top-level limits of 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear weapons, according to Sullivan, who added that the White House has no intention of changing that.

“Today, we have the number and type of capabilities that we need,” he said, noting that the U.S. was seeking to establish “comprehensive” deterrence with a mix of nuclear and conventional elements.

When asked how he would entice Moscow to come to the table, Sullivan noted that the Soviet Union “engaged in all kinds of military aggression” during the Cold War but was able to compartmentalize nuclear talks from other touchy issues in its relationship with the United States.

“There is a track record of our two countries being capable of engaging in these kinds of discussions in a way that serves our respective national interests and the broader common interest,” he said.

When it comes to China, Sullivan lamented that “the PRC has thus far opted not to come to the table for substantive dialogue.”

“Simply put, we have not yet seen a willingness from the PRC to compartmentalize strategic stability from broader issues in the relationship,” he argued.

But, Sullivan said, the United States is “available for crisis communication, and we're available for strategic discussions, about everything from space to cyberspace to nuclear stability.” The official did not directly address recent news that China declined a meeting with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin due to U.S. sanctions on Beijing’s own defense minister.

He did, however, note that he had a “candid discussion” about improving communication with Beijing at a meeting with China’s top foreign policy official in Vienna, Austria, earlier this year.

At a subsequent panel, experts welcomed Sullivan’s commitment to talks without preconditions but worried that the administration’s plans seemed overly focused on short-term issues. The speech “had a lot of question marks for what happens after 2026,” argued Lynn Rusten of the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

Jon Wolfsthal of Global Zero added that any discussion of nuclear talks with China should take into account the fact that Beijing’s arsenal is far smaller than that of Moscow or Washington. “We’re still at a 10-to-one advantage,” Wolfsthal argued.

The U.S. also needs to develop a deeper understanding of why China is pursuing a build-up of its nuclear forces, according to Tong Zhao of Princeton University.

“Both fear and ambition are driving China’s nuclear buildup,” argued Zhao. “China’s current political leadership appears to have convinced itself that the US has a much more aggressive and hostile strategic approach and intention towards China, and they don’t think this can be resolved through reasoning and persuasion.”

“They think that only by building up and demonstrating a much greater strategic capability, that will change the American understanding of the balance of power and make the United States treat China more equally,” he said.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan addresses the annual meeting of the Arms Control Association on June 1, 2023. (Screengrab via armscontrol.org)
Reporting | Military Industrial Complex
What Washington got wrong about Niger and Russia

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Jonathan Braga, U.S. Army Special Operations commander, meets with Brig. Gen. Moussa Barmou, Niger Special Operations Forces commander, to discuss anti-terrorism policy and tactics throughout the region, at Air Base 101, Niger, June 12, 2023. U.S. Department of Defense agencies partner with the Nigerien Army and Special Operators to bolster anti-violent extremist organization action throughout northwest Africa.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amy Younger)

What Washington got wrong about Niger and Russia

Africa

On March 17 Niger’s National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) suspended its military agreement with the United States after a visit by senior U.S. officials to the capital, Niamey. A CNSP spokesman said the decision was made after the U.S. delegation warned the military regime against partnering with Russia and Iran. Niger, which hosts around 1,000 U.S. troops and a drone base, has been an important partner in Washington’s counterterrorism operations in the region. But relations have deteriorated considerably since July 2023, when Niger’s presidential guard removed democratically elected Mohamed Bozoum and installed General Abdourahamane Tchiani.

Russian influence looms large in Western discourse on the Sahel, and now informs U.S. policy and decision-making in places like Niger. This is a mistake. Outsized focus on Russia misunderstands the scale and scope of Moscow’s presence. More importantly, it ignores longstanding patterns of governance and denies the role of Africans in emerging pro-sovereignty movements and political blocs.Neither the U.S. nor Russia are in a position to force Africans to choose sides, efforts to do so will only result in rebuke.

keep readingShow less
DOD budget reform panel's elephant in the room: Bad strategy

Andrew Angelov via shutterstock.com

DOD budget reform panel's elephant in the room: Bad strategy

Military Industrial Complex

A Pentagon reform panel almost entirely comprised of industry insiders has suggested that the department scrap its budgeting system.

In its place, the group unsurprisingly proposed that the Defense Department implement a new system that the panel considers better suited to “embrace changes” so that the Pentagon can “respond effectively to emerging threats” and leverage technological advancements.

keep readingShow less
South Korean president faces setback in elections

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol casts his early vote for 22nd parliamentary election, in Busan, South Korea, April 5, 2024. Yonhap via REUTERS

South Korean president faces setback in elections

QiOSK

Today, South Korea held its quadrennial parliamentary election, which ended in the opposition liberal party’s landslide victory. The liberal camp, combining the main opposition liberal party and its two sister parties, won enough seats (180 or more) to unilaterally fast-track bills and end filibusters. The ruling conservative party’s defeat comes as no surprise since many South Koreans entered the election highly dissatisfied with the Yoon Suk-yeol administration and determined to keep the government in check.

What does this mean for South Korea’s foreign policy for the remaining three years of the Yoon administration? Traditionally, parliamentary elections have tended to have little effect on the incumbent government’s foreign policy. However, today’s election may create legitimate domestic constraints on the Yoon administration’s foreign policy primarily by shrinking Yoon’s political capital and legitimacy to implement his foreign policy agenda.

keep readingShow less

Israel-Gaza Crisis

Latest