Strategic Stability and Chinese Gambit

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2022-66-3-5-22
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation.

Received 16.12.2021.

Acknowledgements. The article was prepared within the project “Post-crisis world order: challenges and technologies, competition and cooperation” supported by the grant from Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation program for research projects in priority areas of scientific and technological development (Agreement 075-15-2020-783).

Abstract. During the last three years, the prospects of engaging China in the process of nuclear disarmament has moved to the forefront of the arms control agenda. In 2019–2020, it was made the top issue by the Donald Trump’s administration when it withdrew from the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty) and refused to prolong the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (the New START). As for Beijing, it flatly rejected US demands to join arms control and this position was endorsed by Moscow. Thanks to the Joseph Biden’s administration coming to power in January 2021, the New START was extended by five years in February of the same year. In June, the summit of the presidents of Russia and the United States was held in Geneva, and in July, the official dialogue on strategic stability was launched. However, during the same summer, an unexpected event happened. Independent U. S. experts published information from commercial satellites, which revealed an ongoing construction of three large military bases in central areas of China with hundreds of new silo launchers for intercontinental missiles. Afterwards, the Pentagon confirmed this information and predicted that Chinese missiles buildup may reach the level of about 1000 or more nuclear warheads by the year 2030. This news was neither confirmed nor denied by the official Beijing. However, together with continuing Chinese deployment of strategic ballistic missile nuclear submarines, forthcoming introduction of heavy bombers, expanding early warning satellites and tests of antisatellite systems – these developments imply the fundamental shift in the global and regional strategic balances with profound political consequences. American response to China’s strategic buildup and Russian reaction to the U.S. military innovations may entail a next massive cycle of arms race and would cause a new stagnation at the negotiations of the two nuclear superpowers – all highly detrimental to international security. Nonetheless, there is still a chance of reinvigorated diplomatic effort at the U.S. – Russian and U.S. – Chinese tracks, which might lay the foundation of the future multilateral framework of strategic stability. 

Keywords: nuclear deterrence, arms limitation negotiations, high-precision conventional weapons, intercontinental ballistic missiles, medium-range missiles, sea-based cruise missiles, ballistic missile defense, aircraft carriers, military bases


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For citation:
Arbatov A. Strategic Stability and Chinese Gambit. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2022, vol. 66, no. 3, pp. 5-22.

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