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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 7/9/21

Starting a New Discussion

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Message Jason Sibert

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The discussion on security has been dominated by the United States' geopolitical conflicts with China and Russia and how much money we spend on our military, Republicans say President Joe Biden isn't spending enough with the administration saying the opposite.

However, there's little discussion on the pushes and pulls that are making our world less safe and how to use arms control to dampen those tensions. In addition, there's little discussion of the history of diplomacy and the various times the world was plunged into war and how many lives were lost. A true debate on security just does not seem to enter the media or the consciousness of citizens anywhere.

Admiral Charles Richard, head of U.S. Strategic Command, warned early this year: "there is a real possibility that a regional crisis with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons, if they perceived a conventional loss would threaten the regime or state." The tensions between our country and China will continue to grow as some members of Congress and the nuclear weapons establishment are hyping China's ongoing nuclear modernization program as a major threat.

As writer Daryl Kimball stated in this story "Engage China on Arms Control? Yes, and Here's How," U.S. policymakers should take steps to avoid stimulating nuclear competition with China and pursue serious talks designed to prevent miscalculation and reduce the risk of conflict. The United States also needs to develop a realistic strategy for involving China and the other major nuclear-armed states in the nuclear disarmament process.

According to our own government's projections, China could increase the size of its arsenal. It is deploying new solid-fueled missiles that can be launched more quickly than its older liquid-fueled missiles, increasing the number of its long-range missiles that are armed with multiple warheads, putting more of its intercontinental ballistic missiles on mobile trucks, and continuing to improve its sea-based force. Although this is alarming, it does not justify the alarmism coming from certain circles. China is not seeking to match U.S. capabilities, as it's seeking to build a deterrent that can withstand an attack.

There is some room for hope, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has vowed that the Biden administration will "pursue arms control to reduce the dangers from China's modern and growing nuclear arsenal." However, we've received no real details. China has its own thoughts. Its leaders say it supports nondiscriminatory disarmament and minimum deterrence, but China says it will engage in arms control efforts only when the U.S. and China cut their arsenals. The U.S. and Russia should take the lead and do more to cut their bloated arsenals.

The Donald Trump administration demanded that China join arms control talks with Russia and the U.S. and it did not happen, making the approach a failure. As stated by Kimball, Biden should work toward a bilateral nuclear security with China that takes Chinese concerns into account. The president should enter a nuclear security dialog that's designed to clarify both of our nuclear postures and establish better lines of communication that could reduce a miscalculation in case there's a crisis.

The U.S. State Department should invite Chinese diplomats to join in developing a plan to fortifying the existing dialog on nuclear weapons policy and risk reduction amongst the five nuclear weapons states: China, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, and the U.S. For instance, these states could consider joint arms control verification exercises based on the U.S.-Russian experience and negotiate a common system for reporting on their respective nuclear weapons holdings.

Kimball said an even more ambitious approach would be for the Washington and Moscow to propose that China, France, and the U.K. freeze the size of their nuclear stockpiles so long as the U.S. and Russia continue to achieve deeper verifiable reductions in their arsenals. Biden should also resist calls for new U.S. weapons deployments, including land-based, intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Asia, that would compound nuclear tensions with China. This would give Beijing an excuse to expand its arsenal.

These are steps that seem doable. However, a real discussion will not take place without leadership, perhaps from Blinken. Somehow speech like this seems to never enter consciousness or is quickly dismissed. The money that infects our politics also warps our view of security. ICBM contractors gave Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) $645,545 and $102,360, respectively, as Romney and Tester are the two biggest recipients of ICBM money.

Someone, or a group of citizens working collectively, must take on how money influences politics. Economist John Paul Galbraith talked about the countervailing power, or an economic power that confronts another economic power; perhaps a union that confronts a company. There needs to be a group of citizens that acts as a countervailing power in our view of security.

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Jason Sibert worked for the Suburban Journals in the St. Louis area as a staff writer for a decade. His work has been published in a variety of publications since then and he is currently the executive director of the Peace Economy Project.
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