Britain’s national security adviser has warned that a breakdown in dialogue among rival powers is raising the risk of nuclear war, with fewer safeguards now than during the Cold War.
Western nations had a greater “understanding of the Soviet doctrine and capabilities — and vice versa” at the time because they kept more negotiation channels open, Stephen Lovegrovesaid at an event in Washington on Wednesday.
“This gave us both a higher level of confidence that we would not miscalculate our way into nuclear war,” he said. “Today, we do not have the same foundations with others who may threaten us in the future — particularly with China.”
As such, he said, Britain strongly supports President Biden’s talking with Beijing.
Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke Thursday at a time of heightened friction, in part over a plan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to visit Taiwan and Biden’s comments that the U.S. military would defend the island — which the White House later downplayed. Beijing is warning against a Pelosi trip to the self-governing island that it claims as part of its territory.
The tensions have added to differences over trade, security and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Stockholm-based institute said that it saw a “very worrying trend,” with all nuclear-armed states upgrading their stockpiles and what appeared to be the end of the era of declining nuclear arsenals.
At Wednesday’s event organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Lovegrove called on policymakers to focus on deterrence and arms control. He accused Moscow of worsening already growing “pathways to escalation” and China of showing “disdain” for engaging with arms control deals.
“The question is … finding a balance amongst unprecedented complexity so there can be no collapse into uncontrolled conflict.”
War in Ukraine: What you need to know
The latest: Grain shipments from Ukraine are gathering pace under the agreement hammered out by Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations in July. Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports had sent food prices soaring and raised fears of more hunger in the Middle East and Africa. At least 18 ships, including loads of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, have departed.
The fight: The conflict on the ground grinds on as Russia uses its advantage in heavy artillery to pummel Ukrainian forces, which have sometimes been able to put up stiff resistance. In the south, Ukrainian hopes rest on liberating the Russia-occupied Kherson region, and ultimately Crimea, seized by Russia in 2014. Fears of a disaster at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station remain as both sides accuse each other of shelling it.