The National Security Adviser at the White House, Jake Sullivan revealed the details of the US strategy on nuclear weapons on Friday.
Sullivan said, “We’re entering a new era that requires new strategies,” while stressing the desire for dialogue with Russia and China.
Sullivan said that the United States is ready to abide by the limits on the number of nuclear warheads stipulated in the New START agreement to limit the spread of nuclear weapons that it signed with Moscow as long as Russia does the same.
Russia has suspended its participation in this treaty, which is the last bilateral agreement of its kind linking the two former rivals in the Cold War, and it expires in 2026, but the United States has expressed its willingness to discuss with Russia what will happen after that date.
Jake Sullivan said any discussion of nuclear non-proliferation commitments after New START expires must take into account China’s arsenal development.
He stressed that despite the great tension between the two superpowers, the US administration is ready to discuss limiting nuclear proliferation without preconditions with China, noting, however, that Beijing hasn’t shown a will to do so yet.
He repeated the Biden administration’s mantra on relations with China that rivalry shouldn’t escalate into conflict.
China recently rejected the US invitation to hold a meeting between the defense ministers of the two countries.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) estimates that China has an arsenal of 350 nuclear warheads – Russia has 4,477 and the US 3,708.
Washington expects Beijing to have 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035.
Sullivan asserted that China hasn’t yet indicated a willingness to communicate with the United States regarding the size of its nuclear arsenal or its policy in this regard.
However, he said, Washington doesn’t intend to initiate an arms race.
He said the United States is working to modernize its nuclear arsenal, but doesn’t need to increase it, and its goal isn’t to exceed the number of warheads that its competitors have.
On nuclear deterrence, Jake Sullivan said Washington’s strategy is not to have more, but better.
He also called for deepening multilateral dialogue among the five nuclear powers, who are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: the United States, China, France, Britain and Russia.
He said, for example, that it would be logical to adopt a system of mutual warning within this group about missile launches.
“It’s a small step that will reduce the risk of misinterpretation in times of crisis,” he said.
Jake Sullivan also discussed the threats posed by North Korea and the Iranian nuclear program.
In January 2022, in a rare unanimity, the five permanent members signed a joint statement declaring that a nuclear war cannot be won, something Moscow and Washington had repeatedly emphasized during the Cold War.
Soon after, Russia invaded Ukraine and later raised the possibility of using nuclear weapons in that conflict.