Once the current systemic crisis arrives at its still vague yet inevitable end, a new world order will emerge, and as analysts ponder it, most of them agree that nation states will further grow in power in relation to other international actors. Strictly speaking, this strengthening is already going full throttle. How stable is this trend and what consequences could it have for the future world order?
Memories of the Future?
States are on the offensive on two fronts at once. On the one hand, the crisis has laid bare the obvious weakness and vulnerability of non-state actors in global politics: both the private sector and civil society have proved incapable of positioning themselves as major centres of influence and active participants in making crucial foreign policy decisions. On the other hand, the crisis has shown how ineffective and even fragile multilateral intergovernmental institutions and international organizations are, including such different bodies as the UN, the European Union, the EAEU, G20, G7, the WTO, the WHO, etc. So, both sub-state and supra-state bodies have failed the historical casting process for the part of effective crisis manager.
The conclusion begs to be drawn that, by the late 2010s, the world had become ripe for the long-awaited full restoration of the Westphalia world order that emerged in Europe following the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1646). Let us recap: the Westphalia system enshrined the unconditional priority of nation states and state interests in the European international order; it proclaimed the principle of national sovereignty as the state’s integral right to the power monopoly on its territory and to independent foreign policy. As for foreign policy itself, the Westphalia system clearly separated it from domestic policy; sovereign states were equal to each other in their formal rights irrespective of their size, form of government or state religion.
Nearly 400 years have elapsed since the end of the epic Thirty Years’ War, but the Westphalia system’s overall rules of the game are still relevant. In any case, they are quite congenial to many of today’s popular visions of the post-crisis world. The ideas of polycentrism, of national sovereignty and states’ sovereign equality, of non-interference in one another’s domestic affairs, of a balance of forces and interests, and of religious (and also political, ideological, sociopolitical and any other) pluralism in international society are highly appealing to many societies and particularly to the national elites that are tired of the endless postmodernity of recent decades. Seeing the events that are unfolding in today’s world, nearly defeated “statists” are now triumphant, while “liberals” who were triumphant only recently have been thrown into confusion. Has history gone full circle back to the time of Westphalia?
Naturally, the crisis is significantly changing the customary balance of social and political forces. To a certain extent, it is taking the world back to the old traditional hierarchies of the 20th century and even of earlier periods in history. Officials, the military, the defence complex, special services and, to some degree, the traditional “manufacturing” middle class are universally bolstering their standing. Postmodernity’s hero incubators and role models, such as the new creative class, the private financial sector, cosmopolitan-minded political elites, liberal media and comprador intellectuals are losing their status and influence. In other words, the world is going back to modernity and, in some ways, even collapsing into archaic modes of existence.
The pandemic and the new economic recession have generated public demand for paternalist strategies in domestic policy and for nationalism in foreign policy. In the last few decades, this demand has never been stronger. State leaders have gained unprecedented additional opportunities for manipulating public sentiments, fears and expectations, and have learned to exploit new sources of their legitimacy. Many of those leaders have succeeded in providing for the explosive growth of their popularity simply by demonstrating a “hard-line” approach to combating the coronavirus, by generously injecting money into the national economy, by applying protectionism in foreign trade, and by declaratory isolationism.
These developments bring to mind the golden age of populist absolutism that was simultaneously the golden age of Westphalian European politics. Not by chance do people find French President Emmanuel Macron’s “Jupiter-like” style reminiscent not so much of Napoleon Bonaparte as of the “Sun King” Louis XIV. By inaugurating an era of interaction between European nation states, the Thirty Years’ War famously buried the French and Spanish Hapsburgs’ hopes of establishing a “unipolar world” in Europe. Maybe the last thirty years that finally buried Washington’s claim to creating a global “unipolar world” are coming to an end with a new, revised and enlarged edition of the Westphalian world order?
Yet, after the pandemic and the structural global economic crisis, the “return to Westphalia” concept needs at least some major qualifications.
Are Nation States Really That Strong?
First, the strengthening of nation states is far from ubiquitous. As a rule, states bolster their standing if they were strong prior to the current cataclysms. Hardly anyone will earnestly discuss a “Westphalian renaissance” in the Middle Eastern Mashriq or the African Sahel. On the contrary, when a crisis hits, weak state institutions in fragile states become weaker and lose the remnants of their legitimacy, which is precarious as is. Quite frequently, such states’ social functions are assumed by non-governmental bodies, including religious organizations, fringe political movements, tribal alliances, and even organized crime (such as the drug cartels in Latin America). A deepening crisis of a national and government identity is opening the way for alternative group identities such as tribal, ethnic, denominational, regional and many others.
Second, public consolidation around the state cannot be seen as a universal pattern even in the developed countries of the global North. Yes, this consolidation has occurred in many European states. Even so, polls conducted in the United States did not show a sharp upsurge in Donald Trump’s popularity even during the crisis. Both “Trumpists” and “anti-Trumpists” remain steadfast in their political views. If there is a consolidation taking place in the U.S., it is that of the Democratic party supporters, which puts a question mark over the current president’s re-election prospects in November. Most societies of the global North remain economically, socially and politically divided, which certainly severely restricts the processes of nation state strengthening. For “every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matthew 12:25).
Third, it is far from obvious that both the nationalist fad and the current trend of state strengthening will hold up in the medium-term, to say nothing of the long-term. Today’s generations are far less patient and less constant in their attachments than their remote 17th century ancestors. When it comes to today’s voters, there is but a thin line between their love and their hate. Many experts believe that, should there be no success in combating the pandemic and the recession, public support for national leaders will decline sharply in the very near future. And this applies not only to individual leaders but to the ideology of national egoism in general. It is also evident that the defeated social and political forces have not conceded their historical defeat and are energetically preparing to get their own back. Some people even predict that, already in 2021, liberal internationalists and multilaterality enthusiasts will launch an energetic counter-offensive under the banner of the newly elected U.S. President Joe Biden.
Fourth, the strengthening of nation states does not necessarily mean that the interaction between such states will automatically produce a Westphalia-like system. The Westphalian system was relatively homogeneous in its political, cultural, economic and other dimensions, and it had a very limited number of participants. Today’s world is far larger and far more diverse than Western Europe of the 17th century. At the same time, today’s world is characterized by a far greater degree of coherence and interdependence than the Westphalian world. This means that restoring the Westphalian system is an excessively complicated enterprise that is, most likely, utterly impossible. The same appears to obtain for possible attempts to reconstruct the 19th century Concert of Europe.
Fifth, it is highly doubtful that the current crisis of international organizations and multilateral institutions (ranging from the UN and NATO to the European Union and the WTO) is an indicator of nation states getting stronger. Indeed, none of these organizations has been able to act as a leader channelling the efforts of international actors into restoring the governability of the international system. Yet is it fair to contrast states with multilateral international institutions? Only a strong and responsible state is capable of acting as an energetic and reliable participant in a multilateral body. Only a strong and responsible state is ready to delegate some of its sovereignty to an international organization. Let us not forget that the UN was created by strong international actors, not weak ones. Strong states made the European Union possible. A conclusion begs to be drawn: a crisis affecting the multilateral system does not reflect a strengthening of states; it reflects a weakening of states that cannot afford to have strong international institutions even though no one doubts that such institutions are needed today.
Concerning the multilaterality crisis: if the hypothesis of the revival of Westphalia, of the triumph of national egoism, and the low effectiveness of multilaterality were true, the U.S. under Donald Trump should have been able to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic far better than the European Union. In reality, however, as of early August, the U.S. had over three times as many coronavirus cases (4.7 million cases in the U.S. vs. 1.5 million cases in the EU). Already in summer, unemployment in the U.S. reached 13% vs. 6.7% on average in the EU. It is even more surprising that the differences in the strategies for combating the pandemic are, on the whole, far greater between individual U.S. states than between EU member states’ national strategies. With the exception of the special case of Sweden, the EU states approached the epidemiological crisis in ways that were far more similar to one another than the approaches of California and New York, Massachusetts and Arizona, New Jersey and Florida, Vermont and Texas.
Finally, it is possible that the supposed strengthening of states will be accompanied by shifts in their current priority systems in favour of their domestic problems. Accordingly, the post-crisis world will see a more isolationist China, India, U.S. and Russia, and a more inward-looking European Union. The consequences of this priority shift for the international system are yet unclear. Great powers’ isolationism will not necessarily deliver a fatal blow to global or regional stability. Yet it is far from obvious that the isolationist world will prove more stable and reliable: the power vacuum left in many regions by the great powers’ withdrawal could be filled by irresponsible actors, including non-state ones.
Owing to the systemic crisis, the traditional non-state globalization drivers, such as universities, independent think tanks, liberal media, civil society institutions, and the globally-orientated private sector have found themselves temporarily relegated to the background of global politics. All these actors face increasing difficulties as they attempt futilely to preserve the global political status they have gained in the last two or three decades.
Sooner or later, though, nation states willing to pursue an effective foreign policy in the extremely complicated and rapidly changing global environment of the 21st century will need all these actors (who were, incidentally, mostly absent from the classical Westphalian world of the 17th–18th centuries). In today’s world, societies cannot interact through the bottleneck of intergovernmental relations. So a new re-energizing of non-state actors in international relations is only a matter of time.
From our partner RIAC
Freedom of religion in the African Human Rights System
Apart from the Mainstream religious beliefs such as Islam and Christianity, Africa is also the home of different indigenous religious beliefs most of which are considered regressive. For scholars like Lauric Henneton, colonization in the early modern period was as much about religious missions, about ‘the harvest of souls’, as it was about expanding territorial boundaries and economic resources. In post-colonial Africa, the primary goal of the Organization of African Union(OAU) was defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its member states rather than promoting and protecting the individual rights of the people of Africa. The latter becomes a matter of priority when the African Commission established by the African Charter on Human and peoples’ Right (the Banjul Charter) in 1981. Article 8 of the Charter provides that: “Freedom of conscience, the profession and free practice of religion shall be guaranteed. No one may, subject to law and order, be submitted to measures restricting the exercise of these freedoms.”This provision does not explicitly mention the word “belief” despite the fact that the right to hold a particular belief is generally considered to be an absolute one. Furthermore, this provision fails to guarantee the right to change one’s religion. However, probably the most problematic part of Article 8 of the charter is its inclusion of ‘the claw-back clause’ – “…subject to law and order…”. Such formulation allows member states to limit the right to freedom of religion ‘to the maximum extent permitted by domestic law’. In other words, they can enact laws which could potentially violate the right to freedom of religion and negate the regional human right protection system. Even though it has never been the primary subject of contention, the issue of freedom of religion has dealt with by the African Commission and Court of Human and peoples’ rights as an auxiliary matter in several cases. In this blog post, I will present four different cases related to freedom of religion decided by the ACHPR and the ACtHPR in their chronological order.
In this case, the complaints described numerous serious violations that took place in different parts of Sudan, primarily between 1989 and 1993. The cases were submitted by four different Non-Governmental organizations alleging that the Sudanese government involved in extrajudicial and summary execution, torture and discrimination on the basis of religion. Though the case involves a number of issues, for the purpose of this blog I will only focus on the ruling of the commission regarding freedom of religion. It was alleged that Christians and other non-Muslims were subjected to expulsion, arbitrary arrests and detention. Their churches were closed, and religious leaders were prevented from getting food with the aim of converting them to Islam. In addition to this, the domestic court of Sudan entertained their case based on Shari’a law which is not subscribed by those victims. The government, on the other hand, alleged that Sudan has guaranteed the right to freedom of faith and worship in its constitution.
The commission founds violation of Article 8 and Article 2 of the African charter stating that
“There is no controversy as to Shari’a being based upon the interpretation of the Muslim religion’, but when applying Shari’a the tribunals in Sudan must do so in accordance with the other obligations undertaken by the State of Sudan. Trials must always accord with international fair-trial standards”
The commission has also emphasized that “Shari’a law, being based on a religious belief, should not be applied to those who do not adhere to the religion of Islam” Accordingly, tribunals that apply only Shari’a law are not competent to judge non-Muslims, and everyone should have the right to be tried by a secular court if they wish.” Concerning other claims related oppression of religious leaders and expulsion of missionaries from the country, since the government of Sudan fails to ‘provides evidence or justifications that would rebut the allegations” the commission concluded that there has been a violation of Article 8 of the Charter.
This case started following the eviction of thousands Endorses tribe members by the then Kenyan government to create a game reserve for tourism. The area from which the community was evicted, according to the complainant had been considered as “the spiritual home of all Endorois”. Their eviction, thus, prevented them from practicing their religion in the appropriate place. After exhausting all the domestic remedies, in 2003 the Centre for Minority Rights Development and Minority Rights Group International brought the communication to the African Commission on behalf of the Endoroi community. Before the commission, the government argued that even though the eviction had actually happened, it was justified and “subject to administrative procedures” The commission found infringement of freedom of religion of the community reasoning that the action of the government was neither necessary nor backed by sound justifications. The commission asserted that “allowing the Endorois community to use the land to practice their religion would not detract from the goal of conservation or developing the area for economic purposes”. Most importantly, in a way which could remedy the shortcoming of Article 8 of the Charter, the commission underscored that “states cannot take recourse to the limitation clauses of the African Charter in order to violate the express provisions of the charter and its underlying principles”(Para. 173)
The case started following Mr. Garreth Anver Prince’s denial of access to the bar in South Africa due to his religious use of cannabis (he was a member of the Rastafari). His claim was that the prohibition of cannabis usage for ritual purposes amounted to a disproportionate infringement on his right to freedom of religion. In addition to his freedom of religion, Mr. Prince alleged that the prohibition of the use of marijuana is an affront to his dignity. The Constitutional court of South Africa decided against Mr. Prince underscoring the qualified or non-absolute nature of the right to freedom of religion. The court specifically ascertained that “While members of a religious community may not determine for themselves which laws they will obey and which they will not, the state should, where it is reasonably possible, seek to avoid putting the believers to a choice between their faith and respect for the law.” Following his unsuccessful appeal, Mr. Prince brought his case before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Right claiming that South Africa had violated, inter alia, his freedom of religion. The commission affirm the decision of South African constitutional court emphasizing that while the right to hold religious beliefs is an absolute one, the right to act according to the belief is not. As such, “the right to practice one’s religion must yield to the interests of society in some circumstances” (para 41). In legitimizing the limitation imposes by South Africa, the commission made reference to Article 27 of the African Charter which provides the necessity of considering the rights of others in allowing the exercise of any right guaranteed therein.
The African commission V. Kenya is the latest decision rendered by the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights related to the right to freedom of religion. Unlike the rulings of the commission which are merely recommendations, the court’s decision has binding effects. Nevertheless, the court’s mandatory jurisdiction is shrinking. Within the past six months, Tanzania, Benin and Ivory Coast have revoked the right of individuals and NGOs to sue them before the ACtHPR. Consequently, out of 54 member states of AU, the court has binding jurisdiction only over five countries. The facts of this case are similar to the second case discussed in this paper. Following the eviction of members of the Ogiek community from their ancestral land, non-governmental organizations that represent the interest of the community brought an action before the Commission alleging that the action of the Kenyan government had violated different rights of the ogiek tribe members which are enshrined in the African charter. One of which was the right to freedom of religion. The government, on the other hand, argued that the “applicant has failed to adduce evidence to show the exact places where the alleged ceremonies for the religious sites of the Ogieks are located”. The respondent state has also contended that members of the community have already changed their religion to Christianity and therefore the forest has no relevance to exercise their religion.
The court decided that there was a violation of Article 8 of the African charter reasoning that “the communities’ religious practices were inextricably linked with the land and the environment and that interference with their connection to the land placed severe constraints on their ability to practice religious rituals.” (para 166 and 167)
 Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Malawi, and Rep. of Tunisia
Triangularity of Nuclear Arms Control
In December 2019, the United States officially invited China to enter intoa strategic security dialogue. The White House said it hoped Beijing’s consent to this proposal might become the first step towards an international agreement encompassing all nuclear weapons of the United States, Russia, and China.As expected, this proposal was rejected. China said its nuclear arsenal was much smaller than those of the United States and Russia, and it would be able to participate in such talks only when their nuclear potentials were brought to parity with its own.
In March 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump once again declared his intention to ask Russia and China to hold such talks with the aim of avoiding a costly arms race (Reuters.com, 2020).The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s response followed virtually in no time. Its spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that China had no intention of taking part in the so-called China-U.S.-Russia trilateral arms control negotiations, and that its position on this issue was very clear (ECNC.cn., 2020). He called upon the United States to extend the New START and to go ahead with the policy of U.S-Russian nuclear arms reduction, thus creating prerequisites for other countries to join the nuclear disarmament process. There is nothing new about China’s stance. A year earlier Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang, while speaking at a news conference in May 2019, made a similar statement. China refused to participate in a trilateral arms control agreement (Fmprc.gov.2019).
It is noteworthy that while advising the United States and Russia to downgrade their nuclear potentials to its level, China does not say what exactly this level is. One of the rare official statements (if not the sole one) on that score was the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s statement, published on April 27, 2004,that China’s nuclear arsenal was the smallest of all (Fact Sheet China, 2004). Even in that case the Chinese Foreign Ministry did not specify if it was referring to the quintet of the UN Security Council’s permanent members. If so, China’s nuclear arsenal, according to official statistics, consisted of no more than 190 warheads (Britain’s level that year). Such(understated according to most analysts)estimates, have also been mentioned by a number of experts. For example, Harvard researcher Hui Zhang says China in 2011 had 166 nuclear warheads. There are other, higher estimates. For instance, Professor Phillip Karber of Georgetown University believes that China has 3,000 warheads at its disposal (Karber, 2011), while many other researchers call this in question.
The estimate offered by H. Kristensen and M. Korda of the Federation of American Scientists, who issue annual world surveys of nuclear arms potentials, is shared by most researchers and draws no objections from political circles in various countries, including the United States. According to their calculations as for April 2020,the United States had 3,800 deployed and non-deployed nuclear warheads, and Russia, 4,312 warheads. As for China, the same survey says it has 320 non-deployed nuclear warheads (Kristensen and Korda, 2020).
While underscoring the importance of nuclear arms cuts by the United States and Russia to China’s level, Beijing does not specify if this idea applies only to strategic or all nuclear weapons. In the former case, if China’s approach is to be accepted, Russia and the United States would have to slash their nuclear arsenals by 65%-75% (from 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads in compliance with the rules of the still effective New START). But if the total number of nuclear warheads on either side is to be counted, each country’s nuclear potential would shrink by no less than 90%. Only after this will China be prepared to consider in earnest its participation in nuclear arms control talks.
The United States and Russia can hardly find this suitable. At the same time, these countries have not yet officially formulated their specific approaches to and basic provisions of hypothetical trilateral talks and a future agreement on this issue. For the time being, these issues are in the focus of experts’ attention in a number of countries, and theyhave over the past few years offered a variety of possible formats and parameters of a future “multilateral” treaty. In most cases, experts delve into certain aspects of a future agreement that might be attractive to China. Very few think of what China might lose the moment it enters into nuclear arms control talks or what military-political consequences might follow if China eventually changed its mind regarding participation in such negotiations.
In my opinion, China’s demand for achieving the “comparability” of nuclear potentials as a precondition for beginning a trilateral dialogue stems precisely from its evaluation of the consequences of its participation in the negotiations. This stance is neither far-fetched nor propagandistic, contrary to what some experts and politicians claim, but rests upon major political, military and strategic cornerstones. Disregard for China’s arguments actually reduces to nothing all efforts, above all those taken by Washington, to engage Beijing in nuclear arms talks.
As far as the United States is concerned, the motives behind its attempts to persuade China to join nuclear arms talks are not quite clear. There may be several possible considerations that the United States is guided by in its policy on the issue. One is that Washington may be looking for a way to obtain necessary information about the current state of China’s nuclear potential and plans for its development in the future in order to be able to adjust its own modernization programs accordingly. Another explanation is that the United States may be reluctant to go ahead with the nuclear disarmament policy and hopes to use China’s unequivocal refusal to participate in negotiations as a chance to blame it for the disruption of this process and for dismantling the nuclear arms control system as such. I believe both explanations may be true, but their analysis lies beyond the scope of this article.
Options Of Engaging China In Nuclear Arms Control Talks
“Americans performed three very different policies on the People’s Republic: From a total negation (and the Mao-time mutual annihilation assurances), to Nixon’s sudden cohabitation. Finally, a Copernican-turn: the US spotted no real ideological differences between them and the post-Deng China. This signalled a ‘new opening’: West imagined China’s coastal areas as its own industrial suburbia. Soon after, both countries easily agreed on interdependence (in this marriage of convenience): Americans pleased their corporate (machine and tech) sector and unrestrained its greed, while Chinese in return offered a cheap labour, no environmental considerations and submissiveness in imitation.
However, for both countries this was far more than economy, it was a policy – Washington read it as interdependence for transformative containment and Beijing sow it as interdependence for a (global) penetration. In the meantime, Chinese acquired more sophisticated technology, and the American Big tech sophisticated itself in digital authoritarianism – ‘technological monoculture’ met the political one.
But now with a tidal wave of Covid-19, the honeymoon is over” – recently wrote professor Anis H. Bajrektarevic on a strategic decoupling between the biggest manufacturer of American goods, China and its consumer, the US.
Indeed, Washington has not formulated in detail its official stance on engaging China in negotiations yet. Disarmament experts consider a number of options that may be proposed in principle. These options may be grouped into three main categories. The first one is putting pressure on China with the aim of making it change its mind regarding arms control. The second one is the search for proposals China may find lucrative enough, which the Chinese leadership might agree to study in earnest. And the third one is a combination of these two approaches.
As far as pressure on China is concerned, the United States is already exerting it along several lines. For one, China is criticized for the condition and development prospects of its nuclear arsenal. Specifically, it is blamed on being the only nuclear power in the Permanent Big Five that has not reduced its nuclear potential. Moreover, as follows from a statement made in May 2019 byRobert Ashley, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, “over the next decade, China is likely to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile in the course of implementing the most rapid expansion and diversification of its nuclear arsenal in China’s history”(Adamczyk,2019). Both officials and many experts have been quoting this postulate asan established fact requiring no proof.
China is also accused of the lack of transparency, that is, refusal to disclose the size and structure of its nuclear forces, programs for their upgrade, and other nuclear policy aspects. The U.S. leadership argues that this state of affairs by no means promotes strategic stability and international security. Some experts believe that China’s involvement in negotiations would help avoid some adverse effects, for example, another nuclear arms race under a Cold War scenario (Zhao, 2020). Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security in the Barack Obama administration, believes it may be possible to “make a case for the Chinese to come to the table early on intermediate-range constraints of ground-launched missiles, because they are staring at the possibility of a deployment of very capable U.S. missiles of this kind” (Mehta, 2020).
Apparently, the United States had counted on Russia’s support in such matters, especially as the Russian leadership said more than once that the New START, signed in 2010,was to become the last bilateral nuclear arms reduction treaty and time was ripe for other nuclear states to join the nuclear disarmament process. However, in late 2019 Russia made a U-turn in its stance on China’s participation in negotiations. Speaking at a conference entitled “Foreign Policy Priorities of the Russian Federation in Arms Control and Nonproliferation in the Context of Changes in the Global Security Architecture,” held on November 8, 2019 in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia respected China’s position concerning its refusal to participate in the talks. Moreover, he stated that declaring China’s consent to participate in the negotiating process as a precondition looked “openly provocative.”Thus Russia made it clear that it had no intention of putting pressure on China regarding the issue, but at the same time it would have nothing against the Chinese leadership eventually making a decision to join the United States and Russia in nuclear disarmament talks. Russia is unlikely to alter its position even under pressure from the United States, which has long harbored plans for using the prolongation of the New START as a factor for getting China involved in the talks in some way, or even securing its consent to become a signatory to the treaty. Specifically, the U.S. president’s National Security Advisor Robert O’Brian made an unequivocal statement on that score (Riechmann, 2020). Also, in May 2020, the United States came up with an ultimatum that it would not extend the New START until China agreed to participate in it. Moreover, the newly appointed special U.S. presidential representative for arms control, Marshall Billingslea, actually demanded that Russia “bring the Chinese to the negotiating table.”
The United States may exert (or is already exerting) pressure on China “indirectly, ”for example by using such levers as the U.S.-Chinese trade war and China’s alleged “responsibility” for the spread of the coronavirus (which the United States regards as proven). Such pressures may be largely exerted covertly.
Some military and political experts believe that it is worth exploring compromise options of China’s participation in nuclear arms control. Such optionsmay accommodate the interests of all partakers and match the specific structure and quantitative parameters of weapons subject to control. Establishing transparency in the given sphere would be one of the “simple” ways of involving China in the strategic dialogue. In other words, such transparency would imply mutual disclosure of information about the number of missiles and deployed warheads, their basic parameters, including range, and also specific locations and deployment sites (Tosaki, 2019). It must be noted that this seemingly “least painful” and easy-to-accomplish solution for making China join the international arms control dialogue is in fact least acceptable to it.
The long list of other proposals includes various options of a “mixed” approach to the control of missile systems. For instance, reaching an agreement on a common ceilingfor intermediate-range ground-based and air-launched missiles or a similar restriction on any strategic missiles regardless of the type of deployment (ground, sea, or air launched), as well as the intermediate-range missiles of three nuclear powers―China, the United States, and Russia. The proponents of this approach believe that this may provide an approximately equitable basis for talks among the aforesaid states (Zhao, 2020).
All of the aforementioned recommendations―and a number of other ideas―for plugging China into bilateral or multilateral nuclear arms control talks are based on the past experience of negotiations on the issue. In the meantime, the specifics of China’s nuclear policy are left unnoticed or intentionally ignored. It is generally believed that inviting China to participate in negotiations is tantamount to official recognition of its status as a great power responsible, like the United States and Russia, not only for its own security but also for global security. This recognition is often considered a reason enough to expect China to consent to participate in such negotiations and the main problem is seen in the formulation of concrete proposals for discussion. In the meantime, such an approach looks erroneous.
The Fundamental Principles Of China’s Nuclear Policy
China’s policy concerning nuclear arms and their role in maintaining national security has remained unchanged for more than 55 years, starting from its accession to the “nuclear club” in 1964. Central to that policy is China’s pledge not to be the first to use nuclear weapons or threaten to use them against non-nuclear countries and countries in nuclear free zones. It is believed that Mao Zedong made that decision personally in 1964 (Fravel, 2019).
In accordance with this pledge, China, as it reiterates, maintains its nuclear deterrence weapons at a required minimum by declaring its readiness for retaliation against an aggressor in the event of a hypothetical nuclear attack. China vows it does not participate in a nuclear arms race against any country. These provisions have remained unchanged for many years and can be found in many Chinese fundamental military and strategic planning documents, available from open sources (The State Council, 2019), and are repeatedly quoted by the Chinese mass media (Xinhuaneet.com., 2019).
In contrast to the classical nuclear deterrence formula China does not demonstrate its retaliatory strike capabilities; on the contrary, it conceals them for various reasons. Enhancing the survivability of retaliatory strike systems is one. Such “existential” means of deterrence enables the country possessing a relatively small nuclear potential to keep a potential aggressor in a state of strategic uncertainty as it cannot be certain that its first strike would “disarm” the defending opponent by eliminating all of its nuclear weapons with a surprise counterforce strike.
To confirm its adherence to the no-fist use principle, China declares that it limits its nuclear potential to the “minimum” defense requirements, while all upgrade programs are geared mostly to ensuring the survivability and reliability of retaliatory strike systems. China’s nuclear forces have become more survivable due to the creation and deployment of mobile ICBMs, and measures to shelter a considerable part of its nuclear potential, including mobile ICBMs and shorter-range missiles in a network of underground tunnels―the Underground Great Wall of China. Also, other means of hiding nuclear weapons are used, such as mock ICBM silos and shelters for nuclear submarines inside coastal rocks.
As the information about the condition, development prospects and size of China’s nuclear potential remains scarce, its nuclear policy issues are in the focus of attention of many specialists and think tanks in the United States and other countries. Most of them (but far from all) believe that China’s declared policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons and estimates of its nuclear potential (around 300 warheads) agree with reality (Pifer, 2019). But other researchers maintain that under certain circumstances China may revise its attitude to the no-first-use principle and abandon the minimum deterrence concept in favor of gaining opportunities for conducting limited nuclear war. Such conclusions are made on the basis of data showing the growth of qualitative parameters of China’s nuclear forces―greater accuracy of nuclear warheads, the deployment of MIRVs on ICBMs, forecasts for a considerable increase in the overall number of nuclear weapons at the country’s disposal, etc. (Giacomdetti, 2014; Yoshihara and Bianchi, 2019; Schneider, 2019).
It should be acknowledged that the lack of official information about the condition and development prospects of China’s nuclear arsenal and implementation of programs in the strategic field (creation of a heavy ICBM, research and development of a missile attack warning system, deployment of a missile defense, and others)afford ground for a variety of speculations over China’s compliance with the professed principles regarding nuclear weapons.In the meantime, this by no means contradicts the fundamental principle of China’s nuclear policy―no-first-use of nuclear weapons―which will remain unchanged in the foreseeable future. Even if one assumes that China does participate in the nuclear arms race (which is also a subject of speculations), it is by no means its instigator.
Certain changes are possible, though. China may acquire real capabilities for a limited response to a limited nuclear attack. In other words, the country’s military-political leadership, empowered to make a decision to use nuclear weapons, will acquire extra opportunities and options for retaliation other than a massive nuclear strike against the enemy’s major unprotected targets, such as cities and industrial centers. At the same time there is no reason to say that the improvement of parameters of China’s strategic nuclear forces increases the risk of a first counterforce strike against a would-be aggressor just because the nuclear potentials of China and the two leading nuclear powers are incomparable. In this case size does matter.
Effects Of Arms Control On China’s Nuclear Strategy And Policy
Should China agree to participate in negotiations or draft an agreement on control of its nuclear weapons, its nuclear strategy and policy will most likely undergo the most serious changes. And these changes, in the author’s opinion, may be far from positive. They will result not from possible restrictions imposed on China’s nuclear forces or disadvantageous terms of a future treaty forced upon China, but the very fact of concluding such an international treaty.
A close look at Soviet-U.S. and Russian-U.S. nuclear arms control agreements reveals how the parties’ approaches to solving the problems of national security and strengthening strategic stability have been changing. At early stages the two sides managed to come to terms regarding the overall number of ground-based launchers of strategic ballistic missiles, SLBM capable submarines and SLBM launchers. Later, the class of strategic weapons was expanded to incorporate heavy bombers armed with long-range cruise missiles and gravity nuclear bombs. Some types of nuclear weapons, for instance, strategic air-launched ballistic missiles were banned. Next, there followed restrictions on nuclear warheads deployed on delivery vehicles and then their reductions. A total ban was applied to ground-based intermediate- and shorter-range cruise missiles. An attempt was made to outlaw ICBMs with multiple warheads. Each clause of the concluded treaties was scrutinized by the expert community and drew worldwide interest.
In addition, efforts were made to develop a mechanism to verify compliance with the assumed commitments. The first Soviet-U.S. agreements SALT-1 (1972) and SALT-2 (1979) assigned the control function to “national technical means of verification”―intelligence satellites. The contracting parties pledged to refrain from creating impediments to their operation. Also, the signatories undertook “not to use deliberate concealment measures which impede verification by national technical means of compliance.” In the next agreements―the INF Treaty (of 1987) and, particularly, START-1 (1991)―a comprehensive system of control and verification was developed and adopted. It envisaged exchanges of data (including the geographical coordinates of each ICBM silo) and various notifications and on-site inspections, which made it totally impossible to conceal even the slightest violations of these agreements. This system of verification functions within the framework of the still effective Russian-U.S. New START, concluded in 2010.
It is hard to imagine a hypothetical agreement with China not including compliance verification procedures. And it is very unlikely that the system of verification in such an agreement will be“soft,” as was the case with the one established under the earlier SALT-1 and SALT-2 treaties. On the contrary, as follows from statements by U.S. officials, the United States is determined to pay the closest attention to the verification and control of compliance with all future agreements. U.S. Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Christopher Ford has made an explicit statement on this score.
Even if such an agreement does not impose any obligations on China, requiring reduction of its nuclear potential, Beijing will be expected to provide exhaustive information about its nuclear weapons and deployment sites. Also, China will have to give up measures to conceal its nuclear forces, change the locations of mobile missile systems and allow foreign inspectors to visit classified facilities (including the Underground Great Wall of China) in order to confirm that the provided information is correct and proper action has been taken under assumed commitments. Besides, China will have to notify other signatories of the commissioning of new nuclear weapons and withdrawal from operational duty or elimination of older systems, the redeployment of weapons, etc. All these measures will make it possible to keep under full control China’s nuclear potential and nuclear arms delivery vehicles.
These measures, understandable from the standpoint of an arms control treaty, may have truly disastrous effects on China’s entire official nuclear policy. Information disclosure and control measures would make China’s nuclear arsenal totally vulnerable to a first nuclear strike and partially – to a non-nuclear strike. A potential aggressor, possessing a considerable advantage in nuclear weapons and full information about the deployment sites, will have a guaranteed capability to destroy the adversary’s entire nuclear potential. Theoretically, it would spend far more nuclear weapons than the victim of the aggression (in this particular case, China) would lose, but still retain an enormous attack potential. In a situation like this, there will be no weapons available to deliver a retaliatory strike. All this will mean that China’s declared no-first-use policy will lose credibility. In other words, it will turn into a propaganda slogan, with no real resources to rely on to implement this policy in practice.
Apparently, it is precisely these considerations that are behind China’s refusal to participate in nuclear arms control talks, and they will remain in place at least until the strategic situation in this field undergoes fundamental change. One of the most important conditions for China to enter into such negotiations (it says so openly) is further reduction of nuclear arsenals by Russia and the United States to levels comparable with China’s potential. As it has been already stated, this condition, described as a political one, has fundamental strategic, military and technical grounds.
Likely Consequences Of China’s Participation In A Nuclear Arms Control Treaty
As has been said above, China’s consent to enter into nuclear arms control negotiations and conclusion of a corresponding agreement will be unlikely in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, it is worth pondering on what decisions in the military and political field the Chinese leadership may adopt if it has to give in to U.S. pressure. One of the most important decisions is, to my mind, the possibility of China remaining committed to the no-first-use principle.
Currently, this principle is ensured not so much by the quantitative parameters of China’s nuclear arsenal, but as its stealthy deployment, concealment measures, and refusal to provide relevant information. In order to retain a retaliatory strike potential in a situation where the information about the deployment sites of China’s nuclear forces has been disclosed while the amount of nuclear arms available remains considerably inferior to those of the “partner” or “partners,” China will have to exert major efforts to ensure the invulnerability of at least some of them. Doing this will be impossible without a major buildup of the nuclear potential, above all, of the least vulnerable strategic systems (mobile ICBMs and SLBMs). All of this will require considerable expenses and time. Even if the work on a new treaty takes two or three, or even five years, one can hardly expect any considerable changes in the quantitative and qualitative structure of China’s nuclear forces by the moment this work is finalized.
The problem of strategic nuclear forces’ vulnerability may theoretically be resolved (at least to a certain extent) by developing and deploying missile defenses around deployment sites. But this would entail heavy spending, too. Also, such a program can hardly be implemented within tight deadlines. The problem of greater vulnerability of China’s strategic nuclear forces can also be resolved by adopting the “launch-under-attack” concept or “launch on warning” concept. Their adoption might be considered, although with great reservations, to conform to the no-first-use principle, but in this case it will be essential to build a warning system based on early warning satellites and radars. However, still there will be no guarantees that such a system will be able to issue a timely notification to the military and political leadership of a missile attack against China, if such a strike is carried out with U.S.S LBM shaving short flight-in time and counterforce capability. Under such a scenario China’s strategic forces will have to remain on high alert all the time. This means that China will be forced to give up keeping missile warheads in store separately and to deploy them on strategic delivery vehicles, thus demonstrating its readiness for instant retaliation in case of an attack warning.
The above arguments prompt the conclusion that China, if it agrees to the drafting and signing a nuclear arms control treaty, will certainly have to depart from the principle of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, with all the ensuing negative consequences. This may also trigger an enhanced arms race and induce China to adopt more aggressive nuclear arms concepts.
It is nakedly clear that China finds it far easier to refuse to hold nuclear arms control talks than address the adverse military and strategic effects its participation in such an international agreement is bound to entail. In this situation the United States should give more thought to its policy of engaging China in nuclear arms control talks and focus on Russian-U.S. strategic relations, including the prolongation of the New START without any linkages and preconditions.
As far as Russia is concerned, its current policy of avoiding pressure on China to make it engage in nuclear arms talks looks reasonable. From the political standpoint―alongside with other considerations―a trilateral agreement would mean that Russia officially regards China, albeit formally, as a “partner” (if not a “potential adversary”), just as the United States, and that strategic relations among such parties are based on the concept of nuclear deterrence, the balance of nuclear forces, and their capabilities to deliver first and retaliatory strikes. Incidentally, China’s participation would have the same implications for Russia. Lending this dimension to bilateral relations hardly meets the interests of the two countries.
Transition of Balance of Power from Unipolar to Multipolar World Order
The international system may be described as a complex system of social, scientific, political, military and technological systems. This dynamic structure is very difficult to evaluate and it is even more difficult to predict its future.
The distribution of power potential in the international system defines the number of major powers and thus the international system’s polarity. The system would be multi-polar if the great powers are more than two; if they are two it would be bipolar and systems with only one great power are called unipolar.
It can be expected in the future multipolar world that the global economy does not settle with a couple of significant nations but rather with multiple nations of varying capabilities. In the limited arena of affairs pertaining to their country, each state with its particular notable qualities will have decisive say. Beyond the US, Japan, China, the EU, and India are capable of economic influence due to their advancements in technology, increasing economy, and large population base. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, African Union countries and Brazil will have an impact, owing to their large energy reserves. Russia should have preferences for both. Because of their geostrategic location such as Pakistan, Central Asia, Ukraine and Turkey, a few nations will have some regional influence because these nations are situated on the energy routes from which energy resources would be on route to other parts of the world.
United States and the Changing World Order
There is a broad bipartisan consensus within US political leadership that the country must remain a global leader / world leading power. This assumption in its re-eminence also comes with the fundamental underpinnings that the United States will lead the world to freedom and liberty. Its third term is resolve to contain China.
It’s troubling to what extent the US continues to pursue China’s containment. The’ democracy alliance’ or the’ pivot to Asia’ are examples of US designs. China too, because of its part, diverted from the usual cautious approach and its proclaimed strategy of’ peaceful progression’ to an unambiguous stance on the South China Sea. Right now, however, the condition does not appear to come to a head-on collision anytime far. Yet the contest could bring a serious and dangerous situation to the fore. The US is not going to communicate directly with its forces on the field. There is a lot of resistance for another war at home. This doesn’t mean the US is ineffective. What we have is a hegemon with a diminishing power and a reluctance to give up his position of leadership. At the other hand, there is no other country capable of replacing it while they frequently seek to question its authority. Chinese occasional deviation from caution, and reluctance on the part of the US to yield, build a dangerous situation.
Decline of the Unipolar System
The U.S. has been the only hegemony since the end of the Cold War, but since the economic crisis of 2008 its world hegemony has been undermined. The gap in power between China and the US is diminishing. In 2011, China’s GDP contributed for around half of the US GDP. If China’s GDP continues to rise at 8.5 per cent and US GDP increases at less than 3.8 per cent, the current gap between the two forces will level out in the decade to come. Meanwhile, the economic gap between these two nations and the other major powers will continue to expand over the next ten years. In the next five years, only the US and China will spend more than $100 billion annually on defense, growing the difference in power between them and the others. Accordingly, the international structure would not be unipolar.
International Players That Can Change the International World Order In 21st Century (Analytical Approach)
Bipolar global structure collapsed by the end of the Cold War. The United States has become the sole superpower and as expressed in the new industrial order of defense, the international structure has become unipolar. The major powers of the global community are China, Russia, Japan and the E.U. Whether the international system can turn into a bipolar or multipolar system depends on developments in many countries and regions in technological, political, economic, and military terms. China, Russia, Japan, the EU and India have the power to change their international structure. In the last twenty-five years, China’s capacities have steadily increased in magnitudes that significantly restructure the international order. Economic prosperity for China goes hand in hand with the advancement of science and technology. It is developing expensive weapons systems that are increasingly capable compared to developed countries ‘ most advanced weapons systems. Another important determinant of the future of the international community is the relative dominance of the U.S. in science, technical, economic and military capacities compared to other major powers.
The position of emerging states, which influence the range and change of the international system, is very difficult to comprehend. The general outlines of what is happening with this phenomenon are becoming more evident, as transition happens under intense internal dynamic conditions and not from external factors. There is a group of candidates that can be considered growing powers, and there are rapid bursts in this phase of transition, but it is longer than expected. Under conditions of changing institutionalization a central component of these changes occurs. Yet there is also a gap in the assumptions regarding the principles of collaboration and conflict. National interests and principles are certainly the most significant in the changing world order, and these can also lead to deeply complex and frustrated bargaining situations that need to be resolved by enhanced collaboration at the state level. Joined societies dissolve, along with the old beliefs. According to different ideas of world system, that countries are not less divided, and they can constantly struggle and communicate with each other at the same time. Therefore, the future multi-polar system would be no different from the other multi-polar moments that history has seen, resulting in more chaos and unpredictability than in the current unipolar world. Nevertheless, multi-polarity does not only carry the risks involved in researching balance of power among great powers for the first time in history.
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