US President Donald Trump recently told his aides that he is willing to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin ahead of the presidential election which takes place this November.
A trusted source revealed that one of the main topics discussed in the upcoming event is the expansion of the nuclear arms control treaty or New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty).
The meeting is expected to be held next month in New York.
Brief Overview of the New START Treaty
On July 31, 1991, the US and Russia (formerly known as the Soviet Union) signed an agreement that reduced nuclear arsenal possession that can harm human civilization. In the same year, the Soviet Union split and left only four independent states with nuclear weapons; Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and Kazakhstan.
In 1993, then-US President George H.W Bush and then-Russian leader Boris Yeltsin signed the START-II, which slashed 3,000-3,500 warheads. After the treaty’s ratification by the U.S. Congress in 1996, then-President Bill Clinton and Yeltsin extended the treaty deadline until 2007, and start negotiation on the START-III for further reduction.
The New START is the only arms control treaty left after the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF). The US dumped the INF after accusing Russia of violating it.
Based on the New START—signed in 2010—the US and Russia agreed to halve the numbers of strategic nuclear missiles and limit the quantities of strategic nuclear warheads deployed to 1,550. The deal expires in February 2021.
Will Trump Target China?
The meeting between Trump and Putin seems to target China, given Trump wants to include Beijing in the extended New START.
China currently has world’s second highest defense spending according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The country spent $ 261 billion last year. The increase in China’s military expenditure represents around 5.1 percent growth, SIPRI estimated.
SIPRI recorded that Russia is the country with the highest numbers of nuclear warheads with 6,735—1,570 on standby position. The US came second with around 5,800 nuclear warheads with 1,750 on standby position.
China has 320, up 30 from 290 in 2019, followed by India with 150 (up from 130-140) and Pakistan (160), and Israel (90). However, Washington believes that Beijing possesses more warheads that the official record shows.
“Trump also has several considerations and calculations based on the intelligence analysis on China’s nuclear warhead. Even though the U.K. and France have warheads more than China, Trump believes the intelligence data revealed China possesses warheads more than the official figures. Therefore, Trump wants to involve China in the treaty,” Indonesian international affairs expert Yusran told Insideover.
China is planning to deploy its DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile, which will carry three to six multiple reentry vehicles, as the Hill reported.
Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said China would likely double its nuclear stockpile over the next decade. China is planning to produce 100 DF-41missiles, each equipped with six warheads.
China is Willing to Join the New START — With One Big Condition
A senior Chinese diplomat expressed Beijing’s willingness to participate in a trilateral arms control treaty with Washington and Moscow.
However, China will join the treaty if the US is ready to reduce its nuclear weapons to China’s level, which seems unlikely for Washington.
“I can assure you, if the US says that they are ready to come down to the Chinese level, China would be happy to participate the next day. But actually, we know that’s not going to happen,” Fu Cong, head of the arms control department of Chinese foreign ministry, told journalists in July.
Will Russia Invite China to the New START?
Trump may hope that Russia will bring China to the negotiating table. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to happen as Russia and China share something in common; to contain Washington’s influence.
Despite competing to be one of the global superpowers, China and Russia will support each other from Washington’s hostility. Last June, Russia stated that it would not push China to join the trilateral arms control treaty as the numbers of China’s warheads are relatively small compared to those of the US, Russia, France, and the UK
Moscow will prioritize France and the U.K. as both are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and possess nuclear arsenals too.
“As an essential element of our position on the future of nuclear arms control, we insist that the United States’ closest NATO allies possessing nuclear weapons should join these hypothetical talks. They are France and the United Kingdom,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told TASS News Agency.