Britain’s top national security adviser warns of nuclear war ‘miscalculation’

The world is now closer to “calculating” its path to nuclear conflict than it was during the Cold War, because the global superpowers understood each other decades ago in a way that they simply don’t understand today.

This is a chilling warning from Britain’s chief national security adviser, who singled out Russia and China and the “terrifying prospect” of more and more types of nuclear weapons.

“We are entering a dangerous new era of proliferation,” Sir Stephen Lovegrove told the think tank at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC.

Remarks fall on the time when Moscow has often made dark threats about its nuclear arsenal as the war rages in Ukraine.

“What is happening in Ukraine is a manifestation of a much broader struggle that has unfolded around the successor to the international order since the end of the Cold War,” Sir Stephen said.

“This will decide whether we live in a world in which regionally aggressive powers such as China and Russia can follow the “power is a right” agenda unhindered, or in a world in which all states can ensure their sovereignty, competition is not escalates into conflict. “.

Sir Stephen said that in the face of increasing aggression from Moscow and Beijing, the West needs to think about a “new security order” based on arms control as well as deterrence.

He also highlighted Australia’s role in keeping the peace through the AUKUS agreement.

“Miscalculating our path to nuclear war”

During the Cold War, when the ideologically opposed West and Soviet Union looked down on each other, a British adviser said the superpowers continued to negotiate.

“During the Cold War, we benefited from a series of negotiations and dialogues that improved our understanding of Soviet doctrine and capabilities – and vice versa.

“It gave us both a higher level of confidence that we would not miscalculate on the path to nuclear war,” he said.

“Moreover, the two monolithic blocs of the Cold War, the USSR and NATO, although not without disturbing blows, were able to come to a common understanding of (military) doctrine that does not exist today.

“The doctrine is opaque in Moscow and Beijing, not to mention Pyongyang or Tehran.”

Sir Stephen said there was a “frightening prospect” for China to modernize its nuclear arsenal, including their size and capabilities.

In addition, there were many other long-standing arms agreements that “fell apart as a result of Russian violations.”

He mentioned a phrase often attributed to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill that “jaw, jaw is better than war, war”.

But “jaws, jaws” – dialogue and understanding of the position of each nation – was now not enough.

Sir Stephen noted that Russia’s constant assurances that it has no plans to invade Ukraine are useless.

“Confidence and trust grow when states speak openly about their military capabilities and plans.

“That’s why governments can report to the UN annually on their national military spending, as well as recent arms transfers.

“I’m afraid, is there a more striking example of the collapse of these mechanisms than the invasion of Ukraine?”

“Strategic stability,” he said, “needs to be restored in order to prevent the ‘development into uncontrolled conflict’.”

“No immediate prospect of a unification of the major powers”

Arms control, which can only be achieved through further dialogue, was key.

“Creating a binding legal framework should remain our long-term goal.

“But there is no immediate prospect of all the major powers coming together to conclude new agreements.”

Thus, the current goal should be “strategic risk reduction”.

‘Confidence-building measures’ to ‘reduce instances of mistrust’ were also key.

Sir Stephen said the UK strongly supports US President Joe Biden’s talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Thursday.

Tensions over Taiwan, an independent, democratic state over which Beijing claims sovereignty, were expected to be on the agenda, with the US making increasingly direct statements of defense.

Australia’s deterrent role

But it was important to reinforce the dialogue with deterrence.

“In an era of revanchist aggressive powers committed to the concept of spheres of influence, we must ensure that the vulnerable have the opportunity to defend themselves, thereby deterring aggression in the first place.”

Sir Stephen also highlighted Australia’s role in AUCUS Agreement signed with Britain and the US under the Morrison government, which should result in Canberra getting a fleet of nuclear submarines. This would be a first for a country that does not itself possess nuclear weapons.

“Comprehensive containment also means government and society as a whole work more together.

“This means working more closely with our allies and partners – through NATO, as well as through new groupings like AUKUS, and strengthening our relationships with partners in the Euro-Atlantic, Indo-Pacific and around the world.”

According to him, after the Second World War, the world did not have a template “for managing the destructive power of the atomic bomb.”

“So we created a new framework. It took years. But it was possible. And it was done. And it was possible, despite the beginning of the Cold War.”

Originally published as U.K. chief national security adviser’s dire warning about nuclear war