Miscalculations and Beijing’s ‘disregard’ for arms control could lead to global conflict, says UK national security adviser
Western powers and China risk descending into nuclear war because of a miscalculation, Britain’s national security adviser warned on Wednesday.
Speaking at a virtual event organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC, Stephen Lovegrove noted that during the Cold War, the West and the United States had benefited from a series of negotiations with the Soviet Union, which meant that both sides could understand each other relatively well, reducing the risk of a direct confrontation.
“It gave both of us a higher level of confidence that we wouldn’t miscalculate on our way to nuclear war. Today, we do not have the same bases with others who could threaten us in the future – notably with China,Lovegrove said, adding that for this reason the UK welcomes the planned talks between US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
However, the UK’s national security adviser has expressed concern over China’s expansion and modernization of its nuclear and conventional arsenals, as Beijing has demonstrated”contemptto conclude any arms control agreement.
“Let’s be honest – strategic stability is under threat,he reiterated. “We have to start thinking about the new security order.”
Meanwhile, Beijing has repeatedly accused the UK, along with the US and Australia, of interfering in its internal affairs, particularly in Hong Kong. In 2019, in particular, then UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called for a “fully independent investigationin the protests that rocked Hong Kong at the time.
“China solemnly demands that the British side immediately cease all actions that meddle in Hong Kong affairs and interfere in China’s internal affairs,China’s foreign ministry said at the time, adding that Britain is “stir up trouble” in the city.
Speaking of the conflict in Ukraine, Lovegrove also noted that it had become a symptom of a much wider global competition with serious consequences. This stalemate, he said, would decide whether the West would see the world in which “regionally aggressive powers such as China and Russia may pursue “might is right” agendasor a world where all states are guaranteed to remain sovereign.
The UK, however, is no bystander in the Ukraine conflict and has provided Kyiv with a large amount of military equipment to help fight the Moscow offensive. At the end of June, military support stood at £2.3 billion ($2.8 billion) this year.
Russia has repeatedly warned the West against sending weapons to kyiv, saying it will only prolong the conflict, increase the number of casualties and lead to long-term consequences.
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To avert catastrophe, according to Lovegrove, the West should strengthen confidence-building measures to “reduce or even eliminate the causes of mistrust, fear, tension and hostility.“Another step in the right direction, he argued, would be to renew deterrence and arms control”,take a broader and more integrated approach.”
Britain’s national security adviser issued the warning of a possible nuclear standoff after the RAND Corporation, the Pentagon’s top think tank, said on Tuesday that the US and NATO should take action to avoid a direct conflict with Russia over Ukraine. RAND also noted that if the West deploys long-range strike capabilities in the Baltic States, Poland and Romania, it could lead to the “plausible» the use of nuclear weapons, since Moscow could be threatened by such a development.