The White House will renew its efforts to include China in discussions about entering into arms control talks, President Biden’s national security adviser said Friday, and will seek to broker a global agreement specifying that artificial intelligence programs should never be used to allow the use of weapons. nuclear weapons without a human in the decision loop.
Jake Sullivan’s speech, the consultant, was the first to describe with some specificity Mr Biden’s plans to deal with a world in which, he said, “the cracks in our post-Cold War nuclear base are significant ”. But the solutions he pointed to focused largely on maintaining nuclear deterrence by supplementing the U.S. arsenal of 1,550 weapons with new technologies — from precision conventional weapons to technological updates to the existing nuclear complex — rather than engaging in renewed arms races.
For the first time, Mr. Sullivan has been explicit about the US response to China’s rapid military buildup, which the Pentagon says could lead to the deployment of up to 1,500 nuclear weapons by 2035, a fivefold increase over the “minimum deterrence” it had in place for nearly 60 years. If Beijing reaches that number, America’s two biggest nuclear adversaries would have a combined force of more than 3,000 strategic weapons capable of reaching the United States.
But Mr. Sullivan argued that the US arsenal need not “surpass the combined total of our competitors” to remain an effective deterrent.
“It is important to recognize that when it comes to the issue of the growing nuclear capability of both Russia and China, that deterrence must be comprehensive,” Mr Sullivan said. “We believe in the current context, we have the number and type of capabilities we need today.”
However, his efforts to involve China in arms control talks are unlikely to meet with success. So far, Chinese officials have refused to even talk about agreements limiting their work on nuclear weapons. And tensions between the United States and China have remained high after months of rancor and frozen high-level contacts. While Beijing has come back to the table on some issues, it has taken an even tougher stance on others, complicating the “thaw” in US-China relations that Biden predicted in May. China has questioned Washington’s sincerity in saying it wants a warmer relationship.
Mr Sullivan said the government would seek to revive arms control discussions among the nuclear-armed members of the United Nations Security Council, including China, and push them to embrace agreements on fundamental issues that could prevent unintentional conflict , such as pre-notification of missile tests. The United States made such agreements with the Soviet Union and renewed them with Russia, but there is no parallel agreement with China.
Mr Sullivan’s speech at the annual meeting of the Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan group advocating nuclear non-proliferation agreements, came at a time when the nuclear order established during the Cold War is under more strain than ever since the Cuban war in 1962. Missile crisis.
China’s buildup comes as North Korea boasts of major advances in shrinking its nuclear warheads, theoretically enabling it to deploy them on cruise missiles and other weapons. Mr. Sullivan noted that Iran has built up a large stockpile of fuel almost fit for weapons — a direct consequence, he claimed, of former President Donald J. Trump’s decision to abandon a 2015 deal that would have destroyed its nuclear activities limited.
And Russian officials have made more frequent, if mostly vague, threats to use tactical nuclear weapons.
“We have no illusions that it will be easy to achieve risk reduction and arms control measures,” said Mr Sullivan. “But we do believe it is possible.”
Mr Sullivan said Russia’s decision to suspend the provisions of the New START treaty – which expires in early 2026 – and cancel other international pacts has eroded the foundations of arms control efforts.
Russia largely walked away from the New START treaty earlier this year, and on Thursday the United States announced it would take reciprocal action, halt inspections of nuclear sites, stop providing information about the movement of weapons or launchers, and no longer provide telemetry data for ballistic missile testing.
But Mr Sullivan noted that Russia would stick to the core of the treaty and limit its strategic warheads to 1,550. After the treaty expires, both parties will have to decide whether to extend the limits.
Mr Sullivan said a new arms control effort could begin by expanding reports of ballistic missile test launches to major nuclear powers. Russia has agreements with the United States and China to notify them of ballistic missile test launches, but no such agreement exists between China and the US. Mr Sullivan said an agreement that China would inform the United States and other permanent members of the Security Council. could be possible.
While such a pact is fairly basic, it could lead to other agreements between the nuclear powers, including crisis communication channels and limiting the use of artificial intelligence. Mr Sullivan didn’t give much detail about the kind of limits the government would pursue, but said one measure could manage nuclear risk by “putting a human being in charge of the command, control and deployment of nuclear weapons”.
Artificial intelligence already plays a role in some missile defense systems, such as the Patriot, which can be set up to automatically intercept incoming missiles. US policymakers are increasingly concerned about the temptation of many states to use artificial intelligence to determine whether and how soon to launch nuclear weapons. While that prospect has inspired movie plots for decades, the real-world challenge has become more complex in recent years.
Artificial intelligence can help detect incoming attacks. But by speeding up decision-making, many experts have noted, it can also reduce decision times. The president could discover too late that an incoming attack warning was based on bad data, faulty sensors or disinformation.
Nevertheless, some countries see artificial intelligence as a potential deterrent. If an initial attack decapitates a country’s leadership, that country’s computers can still counterattack. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia often brags about the Poseidon nuclear-armed torpedo, which can reach across the Pacific even if the Russian leadership has already been wiped out.
“I can’t speak to every context and contingency we have going forward, but as things stand, we believe we have what we need,” said Mr. Sullivan.