London warns of sleepwalking into war with China — Analysis
Miscalculation and Beijing’s “disdain” for arms control may lead to a global conflict, the UK’s national security adviser said
Western powers and China are at risk of sleepwalking into nuclear war due to a miscalculation, the UK’s national security adviser warned on Wednesday.
Stephen Lovegrove spoke at the virtual Washington DC event of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He noted that both the US and West benefited from negotiations with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. This allowed them to understand one another better, thereby reducing the likelihood of direct conflict.
“We both felt more confident that our decisions would be correct and we wouldn’t end up in nuclear war. Today, we do not have the same foundations with others who may threaten us in the future – particularly with China,” Lovegrove said, adding that for this reason the UK welcomes the planned talks between US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
However, the UK’s national security adviser voiced concerns over China expanding and modernizing its nuclear and conventional arsenals, as Beijing has demonstrated “Despair” for concluding any arms control agreements.
“We should be honest – strategic stability is at risk,” he reiterated. “The new security order must be considered.”
Beijing, Australia and the US have been accused of repeatedly interfering with its internal affairs, particularly in Hong Kong. In 2019, in particular, Dominic Raab, the UK’s then-Foreign Secretary, called for a “Completely independent investigation” into the protests that rocked Hong Kong at the time.
“China solemnly demands that the British side immediately stop all actions that meddle in Hong Kong affairs and interfere in China’s internal affairs,” said the Chinese Foreign Ministry at the time, adding that Britain is “Stimulating trouble” in the city.
Lovegrove said that the Ukraine conflict was a sign of an even larger global dispute with grave consequences. This stand-off, he said, would decide whether the West would see the world in which “regionally-aggressive powers such as China and Russia can pursue ‘might is right’ agendas”, or a world where all states have guaranties that they will remain sovereign.
The UK, however, is not a bystander in the Ukraine conflict, and has supplied Kiev with a large amount of military equipment to help it fight off Moscow’s offensive. As of late June, military support amounted to £2.3 billion ($2.8 billion) this year.
Russia repeatedly warns West not to send weapons to Kiev. It says it prolongs conflict and increases casualties. This will have long-lasting consequences.
Germany approves $1.7 billion arms deal for Kiev – media
To avoid a disaster, according to Lovegrove, the West should strengthen confidence-building measures to “Reduce, or eliminate, the root causes of hostility, mistrust, fear and tension.” Another step in the right direction, he argued, would be to renew deterrence and arms control, “Both should be approached in a holistic and more comprehensive manner..”
The UK’s national security adviser issued the warning about a potential nuclear stand-off after the RAND Corporation, the Pentagon’s foremost think-tank, said on Tuesday that the US and NATO should take steps to avoid a direct conflict with Russia over Ukraine. RAND also noted that if the West deploys long-range strike capabilities in the Baltic States, Poland, and Romania, that it might lead to the “plausible” use of nuclear weapons, given that Moscow could be threatened by such a development.