The United States joined Russia, Britain, France, and China in a joint statement condemning the use of nuclear weapons, stating that no one will win in the case of nuclear war. The five countries, all permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, currently amass 96 percent of nuclear warheads in nuclear-armed states, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The Kremlin published the joint statement last week despite recent Cold War-Esque tensions between the United States and Russia.
The joint statement declares the avoidance of war and reduction of strategic risks to be their foremost responsibilities. Rather, nuclear weapons should “serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war.” As members of the UN Security Council, the countries reiterated the importance of working with all countries to create an atmosphere of security in the international community. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu said the statement serves to increase mutual trust and “replace competition… with coordination and cooperation.” France reiterated the combined determination of the dubbed “P5” in nuclear arms control and disarmament as they continue bilateral and multilateral approaches.
While the joint statement attempts to convey a sense of unity among five of the most powerful countries in the world, recent actions of these individual states indicate otherwise. In November, the Pentagon sharply raised its estimate of projected Chinese nuclear warheads, saying China could have 1,000 warheads by 2030. The projections are still significantly smaller than the U.S. nuclear stockpile of around 5,550 warheads. In line with the purposes of nuclear warheads outlined in the joint statement, China has a “no first use” policy, according to state news agency Xinhua.
As China seems to increase its nuclear capability, bilateral relations between the U.S. and Russia appear to be close to an all-time low. At the turn of the new year, President Joe Biden warned President Vladimir Putin of increased U.S. presence in Europe if Russia continues its aggressive actions towards Ukraine. Biden told reporters in Delaware that Putin would have a heavy price to pay if he makes any more moves. With nuclear insecurities and geopolitical tensions raging between many of the countries in the joint statement, the U.S. continues to urge China to join a new arms control treaty with Washington and Moscow.
A major nuclear treaty conference was set to begin last week but has been postponed until August due to escalating conditions in the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, other countries have come to the forefront of nuclear worries for western countries. According to an Israeli intelligence report shared with the U.S., Iran has been taking technical steps to enrich uranium to 90% — the required level for developing a nuclear weapon. Proposals to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action halted as Iran continued to deliver unrealistic nuclear proposals, indicative of apprehension of countries to listen to superpowers who hold 90 percent of nuclear warheads between the U.S. and Russia.
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