Author Archives: jwcham

Strategic Arms Control in a Trilateral World

The website warontherocks.com looks at how the US might use strategic arms control negotiations, such as the new Start treaty wth Russia, to affect the overall relationship between the US, Russia and China.  It thinks the negotiations with Russia might tend to weaken Russia-China ties and give the US more leverage with both of the other parties.  It says:

The United States and the Soviet Union both used arms control to, among other objectives, drive a wedge in adversarial coalitions. The Limited Test Ban Treaty exploited Sino-Soviet differences in terms of the nuclear balance, and SALT I emphasized different Chinese and American policies toward the Soviet Union. In both cases, the wedge drivers achieved some limited success. Washington aggravated the Sino-Soviet split beyond repair. Moscow delayed and dampened encirclement by the United States and China for six years, from Nixon’s visit to China in 1972 to the normalization of Sino-American relations in 1978. The success of these wedge strategies turned upon different strategic circumstances. The test ban treaty capitalized on an already disintegrating alliance, while SALT I countervailed anti-Soviet convergence by conciliating the United States on key issues.

Risk of India-China Nuclear War

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has published an article, “After the Border Clash, Will China-India Competition Go Nuclear?” evaluating the possibility of nuclear war between India and China.  It concludes there is low probability of the conflict turning nuclear.

China’s nuclear capabilities are far in advance of India’s.  The conflict in the mountainous region of their border does not lend itself to nuclear warfare.  Neither country sees the other’s nuclear capabilities as a significant factor in the current faceoff.

China perceives the likelihood of an India-Pakistan nuclear conflict as more likely, and as something that could draw in China on Pakistan’s side.  Even that possibility, however, seems remote.

So, the Carnegie Endowment’s conclusion as to whether the conflict might go nuclear seems to be no.

Outer Space Arms Control

The Hill newspaper published an article on “How to avoid a space arms race” by several authors, including Bill Courtney, with whom I used to work at the State Department.

The article reports that Putin has proposed an agreement to prohibit the stationing of weapons in space and the threat or use of force against space objects, but that there is nothing new in Putin’s proposal  Despite the Outer Space Treaty, which bans stationing weapons of mass destruction in orbit, Russia, China, and the US are all concerned about the possibility of warfare in space.  They all use space assets for gathering intelligence, for communications, for GPS location services, for monitoring weather, land use, etc.  These assets are potentially threatened by activities that are on their face peaceful, such as servicing old satellites.  If you can maneuver close to a satellite, you can probably destroy it.

A new space arms control agreement will be difficult, but the increasing importance of space for commercial and military purposes makes it more desirable as time goes on.