The Biden administration is willing to enter into unconditional talks with Russia to establish a new nuclear arms control framework, including taking countermeasure steps in response to the Kremlin’s decision to suspend the latest arms control treaty between the two countries, according to the White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
Russia suspends the Nuclear Arms Control Treaty.
In February, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the suspension of Russia‘s cooperation with the provisions of the New START Treaty, which dealt with inspections of nuclear warheads and missiles.
This move was taken amid worsening tensions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, Russia assured that it would respect the limits established in the treaty in relation to nuclear weapons.
US Seeks New Gun Control Framework
At the Arms Control Association annual meeting, Jake Sullivan said the United States is committed to following the treaty if Russia does as well. In addition, the US administration seeks to engage in dialogue on a new framework to manage nuclear risks once the treaty expires in February 2026.
The challenge of China and the complication in the definition of the post-2026 framework
China’s growing nuclear power and US-Russia tensions make it difficult to work out the details of a post-2026 arms control framework. According to a study by the Federation of American Scientists, China currently possesses about 410 nuclear warheads, but it is estimated that this number could increase to 1,000 by the end of the decade and to 1,500 by around 2035.
China’s stance and willingness to engage in deep dialogue will influence Washington’s ability to reach a deal with Russia.
Tense relations between the United States and China
Relations between the United States and China have been strained on various fronts, including the downing of a Chinese spy balloon on US soil, disputes over the status of Taiwan, and export controls to limit China’s advanced semiconductor equipment, among other issues. The White House hopes that China will separate the strategic issues from the broader ones in the bilateral relationship.
The White House push to Moscow on nuclear arms control comes a day after the administration announced new steps in response to suspending Russia’s participation in the treaty.
The Biden administration is willing to talk to Russia without conditions on a future nuclear arms control framework, including taking countermeasures in response to the Kremlin’s decision to suspend the last nuclear arms control treaty between the two countries.
Russia announced in February the suspension of cooperation with the provisions of the New START Treaty on inspections of nuclear warheads and missiles in response to the tensions generated by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. However, Russia affirms that it will respect the limits of the Treaty regarding nuclear weapons.
The United States commits to join the treaty if Russia does, too and wants to open dialogue on a new framework for managing nuclear risks once the current treaty expires in February 2026.
The growth of China’s nuclear arsenal and its willingness to engage in substantive dialogue will affect the future position of the United States and its ability to reach a deal with Russia. However, according to administration officials, a separation of China’s strategic stability from other issues of the bilateral relationship has yet to be seen.