By Finian Cunningham
June 23, 2020 "Information
Clearing House" - Most people would
like to see a world freed from the shadow of
nuclear destruction. It might seem odd therefore
to agree with China’s insistence on not joining
in arms control talks with the United States.
This week saw the US and Russia resuming
long-overdue discussions on arms control. The
Trump administration has repeatedly called on
Beijing to join the talks to hammer out a
trilateral deal for disarmament. American envoy
Marshall Billingslea castigated China for “no
show” during the two-day summit in Vienna.
China is right, however, when it refuses
American entreaties to limit its nuclear
arsenal. At this stage.
That’s because the obligation is very much on
the US and Russia to vastly scale back their
arsenals first. Both these powers account for
over 90 per cent of the world’s total number of
nuclear weapons, possessing approximately 6,000
China has an estimated total of 320 nuclear
to the Federation of American Scientists.
That is roughly 20 times less the stockpiles of
both the US and Russia.
As Chinese officials have pointed out, it is
up to the US and Russia to dismantle their huge
arsenals to levels comparable to China’s before
the latter can participate in further
disarmament. Moscow has said it respects the
Under the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),
signatory nations are mandated to seek
comprehensive nuclear disarmament. While the
total number of warheads possessed by the US and
Russia have significantly decreased from the
height of the Cold War years, both powers have
still a long way to go towards ridding their
The Trump administration says it wants to
include China in talks with Russia to form a new
trilateral arms control treaty. It claims that
bilateral accords with Moscow are out of date
with today’s global configuration.
The Trump White House walked away from the
Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty
with Russia last year. The only one remaining
between Washington and Moscow is the New START
accord governing long-range strategic missiles.
The talks this week in Vienna are an effort to
extend the New START which is due to expire in
Washington has strongly hinted that extending
New START with Russia is conditional on China
being brought into the fold of arms control. If
no agreement can be found with Moscow, then
there is a real danger of a new arms race being
unleashed. In other words, the Trump
administration is using the fear of global
insecurity as a bargaining chip to entice China
This is a reprehensible approach by the
Americans. Washington should first honor its
bilateral agreements with Moscow. Given their
inordinately destructive firepower, the US and
Russia have a special duty to oversee
disarmament between themselves as a top
Eventually, all nuclear powers should be
disarmed. In addition to the US and Russia that
includes China, France, Britain, India,
Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.
But first let’s see Washington and Moscow
lead by example, by massively paring back their
Out of the two super powers, Russia seems to
understand its global obligations for
disarmament. It has repeatedly urged the US
side to resume earnest negotiations on arms
control. Washington appears to have adopted
a policy of procrastination to sow doubts
about its intentions with regard to the New
Having quit the nuclear accord with Iran, and
the INF treaty with Russia, plus the Open Skies
Treaty last month, Washington appears to be
deliberately aggravating tensions and conditions
of nuclear blackmail. The purpose seems to be to
coerce both Russia and China into a new
trilateral arrangement that benefits
Washington’s geopolitical agenda of rivalry with
Moscow and Beijing.
Given the record of backsliding by the Trump
administration on international agreements,
its entreaties to China regarding arms control
should be viewed with deep skepticism.
Moreover, given the recent toxic campaign of
vilification against China by the Trump White
House, who could possibly believe a word said by
Washington purporting to seek an agreement with
Chinese commentators are correct to dismiss Washington’s
arms control propositions as a “trap”.
US envoy on nuclear talks Marshall
Billingslea tried to shame China for “not
showing up” in Vienna this week for talks. The
real shame is on the US for the nuclear shadow
it continues to cast over the rest of the world.
If Uncle Sam gets serious about disarmament then
he might have some credibility. Until then, it’s
all just smoke and mirrors to conceal
Washington’s ambitions for hegemony.