Trump: China vi­tal to Rus­sian nuke pact

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

China’s sta­tus as a ris­ing global power has ren­dered Cold War-era mis­sile pacts be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Moscow ob­so­lete, and Pres­i­dent Trump sig­naled that the only way such agree­ments can be pre­served is if Bei­jing is will­ing to limit its bur­geon­ing mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties as well.

Arms con­trol an­a­lysts said a rel­a­tively brief pas­sage in Mr. Trump’s State of the Union speech last week jus­ti­fy­ing his with­drawal from the Cold War-era In­ter­me­di­ate-Range Nu­clear Forces Treaty with Rus­sia was a nod to a vastly com­pli­cated topic — how to re-en­gi­neer nu­clear pacts ne­go­ti­ated with the long-gone Soviet Union for a vastly dif­fer­ent strate­gic land­scape.

Mr. Trump said he was ready — in the­ory — to re­place a decades-old U.S.Rus­sian mis­sile treaty that the White House scrapped.

An­a­lysts say that de­ci­sion — and the pres­i­dent’s im­pli­ca­tion that any agree­ment with­out China is es­sen­tially use­less — was smart, but they cau­tion that Bei­jing has lit­tle in­cen­tive to co­op­er­ate as it builds its own mis­sile pro­gram, ex­pands its in­flu­ence in East Asia and chal­lenges the U.S. as the world’s lead­ing su­per­power.

As Mr. Trump put it to law­mak­ers: “Per­haps we can ne­go­ti­ate a dif­fer­ent agree­ment — adding China and oth­ers — or per­haps we can’t.”

If no new deal is reached, he said, then “we will out­spend and out-in­no­vate all oth­ers by far.”

The early signs of a broader nu­clear ne­go­ti­at­ing um­brella to avoid a global arms on Bei­jing,” the paper’s ed­i­to­rial board wrote. “Bei­jing will never ac­cept the treaty be­com­ing a mul­ti­lat­eral agree­ment. It must re­ject any re­quest from the U.S. on the is­sue. In­stead of re­ly­ing too much on land-based mis­siles for na­tional se­cu­rity, China must di­ver­sify its strate­gic nu­clear de­ter­rence. It’s an ur­gent task.”

In­deed, an­a­lysts say that Bei­jing faces lit­tle pres­sure to come to the ta­ble. While the White House could try to use a mis­sile pact as a bar­gain­ing chip in other ne­go­ti­a­tions with China — such as on­go­ing talks on a ma­jor trade agree­ment or the Amer­i­can prose­cu­tion of a top of­fi­cial with China’s telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions gi­ant Huawei — Bei­jing may be count­ing on a new ap­proach from the next ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Rus­sia also may wait to see whether a po­ten­tial Demo­cratic pres­i­dent in 2021 tries to re­in­state the INF, said James Carafano, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for For­eign Pol­icy Stud­ies at the con­ser­va­tive Her­itage Foun­da­tion.

“I would bet ev­ery nickel I own that the first thing the Rus­sians and the Chi­nese are go­ing to do is wait to see if Trump is go­ing to get re-elected. There’s no rea­son to rush into a ne­go­ti­a­tion process now,” he said.

Fur­ther­more, re­gional an­a­lysts ar­gue, the prospect of a U.S.-Rus­sian arms race has re­duced the chance that Bei­jing would take part in a ne­go­ti­a­tion.

Said Mr. Kim­ball, “What the Chi­nese have ba­si­cally said to suc­ces­sive ad­min­is­tra­tions, Re­pub­li­can and Demo­crat, is, ‘ Look, we have a rel­a­tively mod­est­sized arse­nal. You have sev­eral thou­sand nu­clear weapons. When you and Rus­sia have nu­clear ar­se­nals closer to the size of ours, come back and talk to us.”

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