Trump: China vital to Russian nuke pact
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.”