There’s nothing that anyone can argue about in principle concerning the spirit behind Trump’s arms proposal, but peel back a few strategic layers and it becomes clear that it’s really all about the Space Race and weakening the Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership.
Trump’s arms proposal is making waves all across the world after officials in his administration told the media that “he thinks that arms control should include Russia and China and should include all the weapons, all the warheads, all the missiles”, suggesting a comprehensive global military pact that could in theory change the course of International Relations in the 21st century. On the surface, there’s nothing that anyone can argue about in principle concerning the spirit behind this idea, but peel back a few strategic layers and it becomes clear that it’s really all about the Space Race and weakening the Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership.
The US evidently believes that its much-touted “Space Force” gives it a noticeable edge over its competitors and will eventually neutralize Earth-based weapons platforms, something that Russia already suspects is the case after First Deputy Chief of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operations Department Lt. Gen.Viktor Poznikhir told the Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS) earlier this week that “the US had developed a concept of pre-launch interception and planned to destroy intercontinental ballistic missiles of Russia, China and other countries while they are still in launchers”, strongly hinting at its strategic adversary’s impressive space-based military capabilities.
It’s likely for this reason why Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov cautiously welcomed this proposal but qualified his country’s support for it by saying that “further steps towards nuclear disarmament will require creating a number of prerequisites and taking into account many factors that have a direct impact on strategic stability – from the emergence of a missile defense system and the possibility of weapons deployment in space to fundamental changes in the sphere of conventional weapons, the emergence of cyber weapons and many other factors.” Evidently, Russia senses a trap, and not without good reason.
Trump knows that his proposal is misleading but will probably generate a lot of positive coverage in the global press, which not only boosts his re-election prospects next year but also improves the US’ international image to an extent. In addition, his strategists are aware that the proposal is more attractive to Russia than it is to China, which experts interviewed by CNN about this noted when they described the People’s Republic as not “even in the same ballpark” with those other two Great Powers and “not even playing the same game” when it comes to the weapons that Washington wants to limit.
Knowing that his proposal will probably flounder, Trump likely intends to use it for short-term soft power purposes and to exploit its likely failure as the long-term pretext for doubling down on the US’ military-industrial complex and specifically its missile defense and space-based component that will greatly offset the strategic stability that relatively stabilized International Relations up until this point. In the event that Russia plays along with the US for appearance’s sake in entering into some degree of negotiations about this topic while China predictably stays away, then Washington might seek to exploit this divergence between its two Great Power rivals in order to divide them further.
That, however, will probably only be as successful as Trump’s arms proposal (which is to say, that it’ll likely also fail) because President Putin just proudly proclaimed that Russia and China’s supercontinental integrational projects of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) will begin the process of merging into a multipolar megastructure during the speech that he gave at the ongoing BRI Forum in Beijing. Despite the occasional differences between these two strategic partners and their underwhelming real-sector economic cooperation so far, neither of them wants the US to get its way in dividing and ruling Eurasia at their expense.
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