The deepening cooperation between china and russia threatens to undo decades of international stability in nuclear arms control, according to a senior adviser to US President Joe Biden.
To avoid miscalculations, nuclear weapon states must address existing and potential threats, from Iran’s atomic ambitions to the use of artificial intelligence for decision-making during a crisis, Pranay Vaddi, a senior director, said in an interview. of arms control of the National Security Council.
“We are entering a different period,” Vaddi said after a series of talks at the International Atomic Energy Agency. “It requires a bit of experimentation.”
The evaluations of that China is expanding its nuclear arsenal, along with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its rejection of arms control agreements, add to concerns about an era fraught with new dangers.
Why is the new nuclear age worrying?
Unlike the Cold War, when the United States and the Soviet Union maintained atomic parity and agreed to limit certain types of weapons, today more nations are developing the technologies and the materials needed for weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, Washington’s efforts to keep the lines of communication open with China, its biggest emerging competitor, are faltering.
“If we go back to the early days of the US-Soviet arms control relationship, it is clear that there was an emphasis on risk reduction measures, including crisis communication measures,” Vaddi stated. “That is not a conversation that we have received interest in from Beijing.”
That has also raised questions about “how Russia and China would approach anything with Iran,” he said, such as going back to the 2015 deal limiting the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, or something similar.
China and Russia have deepened nuclear cooperation on key weapons technologies, and both countries are intensifying their relationship with Iran. Trade delegations have moved between the capitals of the three countries, and their navies held joint exercises in March. The Islamic Republic is also supplying combat drones for the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.
“That obviously has an impact on how we would approach diplomacy with Iran,” Vaddi said.
However, there are areas where the United States can continue to engage with China and Russia on nuclear stability issues, he said, pointing to the Biden Administration’s February statement on how artificial intelligence should be used in military conflicts.
“States must maintain human control and participation in all critical actions to inform and execute sovereign decisions related to the use of nuclear weapons,” the document states.
The White House sent Vaddi to Vienna in an effort to boost IAEA talks on nuclear security, based on a new US proposal to protect radioactive material from terrorists. Growing global interest in a new generation of small reactors means that the number of nuclear sites in need of protection could multiply in the coming years.
“Our hope is that the app will pay dividends in the future for physical security,” Vaddi said.