DISPATCHES FROM MOON OF ALABAMA, BY "B"
This article is part of an ongoing series of dispatches from Moon of Alabama
Talks between Russia and the United States about the renewal of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty began today. The New START treaty limits the number of nuclear capable platforms each side can deploy.
The U.S. says it wants to bring China into the negotiations. We explained at length why that does not make sense and why it is thereby not going to happen:
Russia and the U.S. both have some 6,000+ nuclear warheads. The New START Treaty between the U.S. and Russia limits the numbers of platforms - missiles, bombers and submarines - that each side can use to launch strategic nuclear weapons to some 1,400. China has less than 300 nuclear warheads and even fewer platforms from which those could be launched. The U.S. claims that China will double the number of its warheads and platforms during the next ten years but there is again zero evidence to support that claim.
Why should China, with less nuclear capabilities than France and Britain, join a treaty that would limit is meager capabilities when the U.S. and Russia both have more than twenty times its numbers. That makes no sense at all.
Marshall Billingslea, the current nominee to be Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, is leading the U.S. delegation at today's meeting in Vienna. The man is a kind of loose cannon:
Billingslea is by the way a dangerous nutter. During the Bush administration he was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict and the civilian responsible for the war on terror and torture regime conducted by U.S. special operation forces.
If he believes that torture can help to fight terrorism, or that nuclear tests can further arms control negotiations, he might also believe that unrealistic threats of an arms race can push China into a treaty it does not want. In reality neither will work.
Today Billingslea staged this dumb act:
The U.S. delegation brought Chinese flags to the conference room in Vienna and Billingslea posted a picture of them. U.S. and Russian flags can be seen in the background. The Russian side protested (in Russian) against the nonsense. China is not part of the negotiations and its national symbols should not be there. The U.S. delegation then removed all flags, including the U.S. and Russian ones, from the conference room.
At the start fo the meeting the Russian Ambassador to Austria Dmitry Lyubinsky posted this picture which shows that all flags were removed.
China's permanent mission in Vienna tweeted a picture of Billinglea's tweet and added some snark:
Permanent Mission of China in Vienna @ChinaMissionVie - 10:41 UTC · Jun 22, 2020
US' performance art?
@mission_rf @usunvie @ArmsControlNow @globaltimesnews
The China Daily bureau chief in Europe also responded:
Chen Weihua （陈卫华）@chenweihua - 8:23 UTC · Jun 22, 2020
Replying to @USArmsControl
1. US has kept quitting treaties, so it has left with no credibility. Go back to JCPOA and Paris accord before you make such argument. 2. China has 300 nukes in contrast to 6,000 by US and Russia. So unless you agree to come down to 300 or even 500, you’re not making sense.
And that is the core of the issue. The U.S. has no credibility left and is not making sense at all. Its diplomacy has been reduced to rediculous behavior.
This is not just a problem under President Trump. In 2009 then President Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton busted into a meeting the Chinese president held with other heads of governments:
President Barack Obama burst into a meeting of Chinese, Indian and Brazilian leaders to try and reach a climate agreement in late Friday negotiations in Copenhagen.
Chinese protocol officials objected to Obama's presence in the meeting, according to a senior administration official, who said that the president didn't want the leaders negotiating in secret.
In her memoir Hillary Clinton described the embarrassing incident as a great success but in fact the U.S. efforts failed as the Copenhagen conference ended only with empty promises and a nonbinding accord.
The New START negotiations will likely likewise fail. The Russian side is already expecting this:
Russia's lead envoy in the talks has told NBC News that the Kremlin does not currently believe the United States will extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, ratified by President Barack Obama in 2011 and due to expire in February.
[Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei] Ryabkov also said that Russia would be unable to force China to join the negotiations and was unwilling to try. He added that if Washington had concerns about Beijing’s nuclear activities, then it was up to American officials to bring the Chinese on board.
“The U.S. administration currently is so obsessed with China,” he said, that it makes progress impossible. “The Chinese idea overshadows, in my view, everything else.”
The obsession with China will cost the U.S. the insights into Russia's strategic weapons that the inspection regime under New START currently allows it to have. Its own insecurity will thus only grow.
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Posted by b on June 22, 2020 at 17:25 UTC | Permalink
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