On June 5, the leaders of Russia and China, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, adopted a joint statement on strengthening global strategic stability. This document outlines various factors that undermine global stability and international security.
In particular, the two leaders attached much attention to showing restraint in the sphere of nuclear and missile weapons by all states that have this kind of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The parties in particular noted that nuclear powers should give up the mindset of the Cold War and zero-sum games, reduce the role of nuclear weapons in their national security strategies and to "really reduce the threat of a nuclear war."
Why was it the need of reducing "the threat of a nuclear war" that the Russia and Chinese leaders highlighted?
It was done because such a threat has really and considerably grown over the past 15 years. This happened during Barack Obama's presidency, and the trend has become even more visible under Donald Trump, who assumed office in January 2017.
A comparative analysis of the strategies that justify the use of nuclear weapons, for example, in the USA and Russia shows a quite dangerous dynamics of their potential use by Washington.
Should Barack Obama's nuclear strategy approved in 2010 have had 6 reasons for using nuclear weapons, their number grew to 14 in Donald Trump's relevant strategy approved in 2018. On the other hand, there are just two provisions in the section dedicated to the possible use of nuclear weapons in current Russia's military strategy approved in 2014. They are the use against Russia of WMD, as well as conventional arms provided that this poses a threat to the existence of the Russian state. These provisions have almost been unchanged transiting from one edition of the strategy to another.
The current number of reasons for using American nuclear weapons (14) more than twice exceeds the number of similar reasons that were under Barack Obama and seven times exceed the total number of Russia's reasons.
The USA has lowered the threshold of using nuclear weapons, or to put it the other way, has considerably increased the possibilities of its application.
But that is not all. There are other peculiarities of this phenomenon.
The number of provisions on the use of nuclear weapons allowing for free and arbitrary interpretations because of their vague wordings grew in Donald Trump's nuclear strategy. In general, 8 out of 14 these provisions can be interpreted arbitrarily. For example, American nuclear forces may deliver a nuclear strike if a "technological surprise" or "potential challenge" arises. But the 2018 US nuclear strategy deliberately says nothing about what a "technological surprise" or "potential challenge" is.
Another peculiarity of the current American nuclear strategy is that it is qualified as "extended nuclear deterrence" and has a vast range of various strategic sets. This "extended nuclear deterrence" means "a credible nuclear umbrella extended to over thirty allies and partners." This concept of "escalation for de-escalation" means extending possibilities of using nuclear weapons in order to de-escalate conventional conflicts.
The American nuclear strategy is propped by US agreements on "sharing nuclear responsibility" ("nuclear sharing arrangements"), which are Washington's agreements on the deployment of nuclear weapons and on holding exercises with their imaginary use together with NATO member states, including with the ones that don't possess nuclear weapons. Important elements of the US nuclear strategy are the deployment of its tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and the Asian part of Turkey, as well as the 24/7 Baltic Air Policing mission in the skies of the three Baltic states involving dual-purpose planes capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Another peculiarity of lowering the US threshold of applying nuclear weapons is that currently NATO member states are transforming military exercises. Should previously exercises imitating the use of nuclear arsenal and conventional military exercises have been conducted separately, now the conventional military exercises end up as a rule with the imaginary use of nuclear weapons.
A peculiarity of applying the US nuclear strategy is that every American president has a sole right to use nuclear weapons for "a preventive and pre-emptive strike," which means that they have the right to use any kind of nuclear weapons, either tactical or strategic, at their own will without consulting the Congress and without declaring a war on a certain state or a group of states against which such weapons will be used.
The threshold of using American missile and nuclear weapons is also getting lower through Washington's adherence to the very dangerous concept of "launch-on-warning" that provides for using nuclear weapons almost immediately after there is a signal that another state launched an ICMB or SLBM which means that they are used when warheads haven't reached the American territory. But this concept provides for a possibility of the accidental or undeliberate use of nuclear weapons or their application if a conventional missile that isn't targeting the US territory is mistaken for a nuclear one.
Another factor lowering the threshold of using nuclear weapons is that US nuclear forces can use "low-yield" bombs of lower than 5 kilotons, which is approximately three times lower than the nuclear bomb that the Americans delivered on Hiroshima. The American military-political establishment explains the use of such bombs by some "humanitarian" motives, allegedly they will result in smaller contamination compared to the use of "high-yield" bombs. And this looks dreadful.
The USA's possible resumption of nuclear tests at the Nevada test range will clearly add to lowering the threshold of nuclear weapons use. This move is provided in Donald Trump's nuclear strategy that excludes Washington's ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and at the same time points at the possible resumption of underground nuclear tests.
It is extremely disappointing that Washington denied rather simple Moscow's proposal to again repeat a simple and clear statement of the USSR-USA era that a nuclear war cannot be unleashed as there would be no winners. It is also characteristic feature in this context that the USA has categorically refused to undertake the obligation not to be the first to use nuclear weapons or not to use them at all.