The US is attempting to create an arms race with China and Russia in order to severely impact their economies. This is in addition to the US also utilizing sanctions to try and weaken China and Russia, while also trying to weaken them from within by backing their opposition. This is why frequent calls by Washington for China to join trilateral negotiations on the extension of New START, the leading nuclear weapons agreement between Russia and the US which is due to expire in February 2021, cannot be trusted. Beijing wants the US to reduce the number of their missiles to the same to what they have, and it is unlikely that the US will in any way meet the Chinese demand.
In Washington’s view, it perceives these agreements as something that hinders their global dominance in the post-Soviet world and this is why they are also attempting to separate China and Russia from cooperating with each other. The US is deliberately creating a narrative that attempts to portray China as responsible for not renewing the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (START 3), just as they blamed Russia for the cancellation of the Open Skies and Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaties.
Washington is well aware of Beijing's position, which does not participate in multilateral agreements because it recognizes that there is a disproportion in the military potential of China compared to the US and Russia. Russia and the US account for 90% of all nuclear weapons. Washington is simply looking for someone to blame to end these treaties in order to make China, and maybe even Russia, guilty. Washington deliberately weakens arms control in the hope of maintaining a US-centric global order and to weaken the rise and resurgence of many opposing states, such as China and Russia.
It is indisputable that the economic development of China will lead to it having a great and powerful military with a huge arsenal of strategic missiles. Although Russia cannot match the economic might of both the US and China, it has continuously proven that it has a powerful military that it is willing to use to protect their interests that are in opposition to American ambitions – as seen in South Ossetia in 2008 and Syria in 2015.
The US and Russia, including when it led the now defunct Soviet Union, have remained the leading actors who possess nuclear weapons, strategic missiles for many purposes and different combat platforms. However, international circumstances changed and over time China appeared. China is not such a military giant compared to these two countries, but it is an economic powerhouse that has all the prerequisites and control over military technologies needed for the production of strategic offensive missiles and the production of modern combat. This is why the US has a public expectation to include China in arms control treaties.
However, Beijing's condition that the US reduces its existing nuclear weapons to China’s level, which are about 20 times smaller than the American one, is something that Washington will reject without a second thought. It is impossible for several reasons. How can the US destroy so many missiles and technology that is extremely expensive and at the same time return to a position from where they would have to compete again with a great economic power on the rise? But it is a game of the biggest strategic players on the world stage, and it is possible that there will be mutual concessions.
What is certain is that the future of these negotiations and agreements depend primarily on the results of the upcoming elections in the US and the next government that will be constituted there. Since Donald Trump’s campaign to become president of the US several years ago, he has taken aim at China as the main reason for his country’s decline in economic and military power. For any serious observer, this is of course preposterous and discounts the US’ perpetual state of war that significantly drains public coffers – and Trump likely knows this too.
There is every chance that if Trump is successful in securing a second term, he may become softer on China as he no longer needs to play the populist card. But until then, he will not ease pressure on China while many within his administration hope to trigger an arms race with both China and Russia to hamper their economic progress under the guise that Beijing and Moscow are responsible for the end of arms control treaties.