Many in Russia and the United States agree with this formulation of the question, and this is one of the points of contact between the two sides in the problem of reducing nuclear weapons. If we compare the strategic nuclear forces (SNF) of Russia and the United States, limited under the new START Treaty and presented by them for data exchange, and the aggregate nuclear arsenals of other countries (according to average estimates, for example, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and the Federation of American scientists), the ratio for the warheads looks like 1,6: 1,8: 1,1 (specifically - 1570, 1790 and 1055 warheads), respectively. Nevertheless, the generally correct political attitude does not relieve scientific analysis, but, on the contrary, presupposes it based on a systemic and maximum objective basis.
On this basis, it is necessary to explain why now is the time for other countries to join the process of nuclear disarmament. Which countries should connect, in what order and in which negotiation format?
On what conceptual basis (parity, stability, fixation of the status quo, distribution of quotas) and on what rules of offsetting are such agreements possible? Finally, what are the possibilities for exchanging relevant military technical information and controlling the limitation of armaments of third nuclear states?
To the appeals of the main two nuclear powers to join nuclear disarmament, the remaining members of the “nuclear club” consistently and standardly answer that for this the big two must first reduce their arsenals to a level closer to the armaments of other countries. At the same time, everyone appeals to Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear weapons (NPT) with the commitment of the parties to the Treaty "in good faith to negotiate on effective measures to end the nuclear arms race in the near future and nuclear disarmament."
The more insistent, than on the part of the United States, Russia's demand for the transfer of nuclear disarmament into a multilateral format has good reasons. After all, the Russian territory is within the reach of the carriers of nuclear weapons (NW) not only of the United States, but of all the other seven nuclear states (plus the most likely eighth candidate in Iran). Moreover, none of them is a formal military-political ally of the Russian Federation. In contrast, only two powers can deliver a nuclear strike on the territory of the United States: Russia and China. All the other six nuclear states are allies of the USA (Great Britain, France) or do not have sufficiently long-range nuclear carriers. At the same time, a number of them are also in partnership with the United States (Israel has long been, in recent years, more and more - India, as well as, albeit with growing reservations, Pakistan).
Russia's relations with Britain and France as NATO members in this area are determined by the interaction of the Russian Federation with the United States. The two European nuclear powers are completely open with respect to nuclear forces, have significantly reduced them and are planning further reductions in the future. These states do not represent a serious independent or additional nuclear threat to the Russian Federation, as well as a large impact on the projected military balance — at least as long as the strategic nuclear forces of Russia and the United States exceed the level of 1 thousand units. The independent role of the nuclear potential of European countries may become even smaller if Russia implements the planned program of aerospace defense (WKO) in full.
India is a traditional close ally, and Israel is a relatively recent partner of Russia. Our relations with them, apparently, will remain very stable, and their nuclear potential is not directed against Russia and does not threaten us, although technically it is within the reach of our territory.
Relations with Pakistan and the DPRK, which can be drastically destabilized in the event of a radical change in the internal situation and foreign policy of these countries, should cause the greatest concern to Russia. Iran is highly unpredictable: if it crosses the nuclear threshold, it could provoke a war in the region and (or) a chain reaction of further nuclear and missile proliferation near the Russian borders.
By no means, putting China on the same footing with them - the new superpower of the 21st century, with which Russia is developing strategic partnerships, in its domestic and foreign policy, too, we can’t exclude sharp turns. In combination with its growing military-economic potential and nuclear missile potential, this may in the foreseeable future directly affect the security interests of the Russian Federation.
Therefore, limiting the nuclear weapons of China and Pakistan, and even better the nuclear disarmament of Pakistan and the DPRK, preventing Iran from acquiring such weapons is Russia's most important security interest. This, in principle, coincides with the priorities of the United States, although this circumstance has not yet become the object of social and political attention of the two powers.
In general, the most convenient option for the two superpowers is to consolidate the existing balance of forces, highlighting the remaining six countries (except DPRK) for a total ceiling of about 1 thousand warheads and giving them the opportunity to divide national quotas among themselves. However, the most convenient option, however, is the least achievable and almost impossible. Each nuclear state binds its own security interests with these weapons (deterrence of attacks using nuclear or conventional forces, status and prestige, a bargaining chip). These interests often do not correlate with the nuclear forces of the two superpowers and most other countries - owners of nuclear weapons. Therefore, they will not agree either on the total ceiling, or on individual quotas in a fixed ratio among themselves.
At the political level, the expansion of the participants in the process should not be allowed to deprive Russia of its current unique position as the main US partner in nuclear arms reduction. The noted special political role of nuclear weapons for the position of Russia in the world would have been steadily eroding both the further proliferation of nuclear weapons and the sweeping expansion of the circle of participants in the negotiations on limiting this class of weapons.
The third nuclear powers fundamentally disagree to unite in one or two groups for comparison with the nuclear forces of each of the two superpowers. But for the convenience of assessments of the military balance, it is still advisable to schematically break the “nuclear nine” into at least three groups. Firstly, these are the two leading powers: Russia and the United States, and secondly, the “troika” of the remaining nuclear states - members of the NPT Non-Proliferation Treaty and the permanent members of the UN Security Council: the United Kingdom, France, China. Thirdly, the Quartet of NPT outsiders: Israel, India, Pakistan and the DPRK.
At the same time, objectivity implies a comparison of states that are comparable in class of nuclear weapons. So, if you combine all the nuclear equipment of the troika and the Quartet by the number of warheads (of which only the United Kingdom and France openly publish information about their nuclear forces), then not only strategic forces should be compared with them, but all nuclear arsenals of Russia and United States, including pre-strategic (operational-tactical) weapons, as quickly deployed, and in storage in different modes of technical condition.
Then the ratio of the nuclear warheads of Russia, the United States, the total number of arsenals of the "troika" and "two" looks, according to the average data of SIPRI and the Federation of American Scientists, respectively, as 11: 8,5: 0,8: 0,3 (specifically - 11 000, 8500, 770 and 290), that is, very asymmetrically in favor of the Russian Federation and the United States. Non-strategic nuclear weapons of all countries, as well as their stocks in storage, are kept secret and are evaluated only by independent experts. In addition, there is great uncertainty about the assessment of China’s nuclear forces, since it remains without explaining the purpose of the grandiose protected underground tunnels being built by the 2-m artillery corps of the PRC (similar to the Russian strategic missile forces). If they deploy mobile missiles of medium and intercontinental range, then their number can reach many hundreds of units, hidden in tunnel structures with a length of approximately 5 thousand km.
Since most often only the strategic forces of the "big two" are compared with the nuclear weapons of third countries, so far it is correct to isolate the weapons of the Troika and Quartet falling under the category of strategic weapons that are the object of the New START Treaty. Then the ratio of the RF, USA, “three” and “four” is, according to the above data, 1,6: 1,8: 0,4: 0, respectively (specifically - 1570, 1790, 390, 0).
Sometimes, medium-range and shorter-range missiles, which the United States and the USSR eliminated under the INF Treaty from the 1987 of the Year, are cited as the subject of expanding the format of negotiations. If we combine the strategic nuclear forces and systems falling under the INF Treaty, and compare the arsenals of the Russian Federation, the United States, the troika and the four, the ratio still turns out to be in favor of the two nuclear superpowers: 1,6: 1,8: 0,6: 0,5, respectively (specifically 1570,1790 , 640 and 530).
Thus, with all the desirability of limiting and reducing nuclear weapons of third countries as such, in the military balance in comparable categories (and even after the implementation of the New START Treaty), Russia and the United States will retain a multiple advantage over the nuclear forces of other states. And this is true for all third countries in the aggregate, not to mention each separately. The uncertainty of the estimates is aggravated by the factor of the tunnel structures of the PRC and its large military-industrial potential of building up missiles and nuclear warheads.
MILITARY STRATEGIC RELATIONS
An even more important point is that serious negotiations and agreements on arms limitation are not symbols, but the most important element of the military-strategic relations of states. Therefore, agreements on the limitation of armaments require the presence of well-defined strategic relations of the parties, for example, mutual nuclear deterrence, as between the US and Russia (and before - with the Soviet Union). Then one state (or states) can limit its armed forces and military programs in exchange for the fact that they are limited by another (other countries) in an agreed ratio, order and on contractual terms.
In this regard, the idea of expanding the circle of participants in the negotiations immediately raises significant issues.
The United Kingdom and France are nuclear powers and are within the reach of nuclear weapons to each other, but there is no mutual nuclear deterrence between them. They concluded an agreement on cooperation in this area and, apparently, will go this way very far, but they do not have a subject for negotiations on the mutual limitation of nuclear forces. The same is true in principle for the relations of these two powers with the United States: they are all NATO allies.
Based on the same logic, there are no grounds for negotiations on the mutual limitation of China’s nuclear weapons with Britain and France: they are beyond the reach of their weapons to each other and have no nuclear deterrence (although Paris has recently made certain assumptions on this matter). For the same reason, there are no reasons for the direct connection of the three named powers to the negotiations between Russia and the United States.
In the Republic of Korea, people are seriously afraid of the nuclear threat from the DPRK.
Mutual nuclear deterrence for political or military-technical reasons is also absent in relations between the United States, France, and the United Kingdom — with Israel, India, Pakistan, and the DPRK. Such relations are not visible in the strategic relations between Russia and India, while in the relations of the Russian Federation with Israel, Pakistan and the DPRK the issue is not clear. Although nuclear deterrence may be present behind the scenes, it hardly creates a tangible subject of mutual arms limitation negotiations.
China has no interaction with the model of nuclear deterrence with Israel, Pakistan and the DPRK.
The strategic relations of Great Britain and France with Russia are based on mutual nuclear deterrence. True, in recent years, these two countries are targeting part of their nuclear weapons also to rogue countries. Nevertheless, there is a strategic basis for negotiations, although it is not easy to find it in practice.
Of course, mutual nuclear deterrence is present in relations between the United States and China, and also behind the scenes between Russia and China. However, this triangle is by no means an isosceles in terms of the level of forces or the political remoteness of the powers from each other. It is highly doubtful that such negotiations and agreements are possible in a trilateral format.
By the same logic, negotiations are possible and necessary in the future between India and Pakistan, as well as between India and the PRC, although the viability of the tripartite format is far from obvious.
Finally, two unwritten and unrecognized nuclear states on the opposite margins of Eurasia - Israel and the DPRK, respectively - can hardly become formal participants in disarmament negotiations with anyone. If their nuclear assets are once the subject of agreements, it is most likely within the framework of solving security problems, limiting conventional armed forces, resolving political, economic, territorial and domestic issues. This implies the regional format and context of strengthening the NPT regimes, rather than the traditional model of agreements on the limitation of nuclear weapons.
In addition, given the relatively small number and less high quality characteristics of third-party nuclear weapons, the issues of their sufficiency and the possibility of limiting in the future will be further complicated by the influence on the military balance of intensively developed regional and global missile defense systems, high-precision conventional long-range weapons orbital hypersonic systems (the latter most of all refers to military relations in the framework of the PRC - Taiwan - USA).
In accordance with the methodology of definitions, restrictions and control regimes tested by OSV / START, the NPT Three would add all 390 carriers and warheads, while the Quartet outsiders do not have the appropriate weapons at all. If we add systems that fall under the INF Treaty on 1987, then we could additionally cover the 250 of the Troika and the 530 of the Quartet missiles, and only if you include DPRK 280 missiles with a range over 500 km that are not yet equipped with nuclear warheads ( averaged figures are based on estimates of SIPRI and the Federation of American Scientists).
However, according to reports, a significant part or all of the missiles of third countries (except Great Britain and France) in peacetime are maintained in a reduced combat readiness mode, and nuclear warheads are stored separately from missiles. Especially this applies to their short-range and strike missiles. aviation, including strategic strike aircraft of France, which make up a significant or predominant part of the nuclear carriers of France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan. Russia and the United States classify these nuclear weapons as operational tactical or tactical nuclear weapons (TNW).
As is known, Moscow rejects the proposals of the United States and NATO to begin negotiations on tactical nuclear weapons until American tactical nuclear bombs are withdrawn from Europe. There are neither agreed definitions of such systems, nor rules of counting, nor methods for controlling their restriction and elimination. It is unclear whether such negotiations will begin and when this will happen. However, it is obvious that without the elaboration of these by those great powers, third countries will not agree to discuss the limitation of this class of weapons even theoretically.
But even having received such an example, third countries will not agree to join the negotiations and agreements between Russia and the United States on START, INF or TNW on the basis of some aggregate ceiling, proportion or quota — either together or separately.
Based on real military-strategic relations between nuclear states, the only hypothetically possible option is several forums of bilateral format: United Kingdom / France - Russia, USA - China, Russia - China, China - India, India - Pakistan. Some sort of coordination of these negotiations among themselves would be the highest achievement of the diplomacy of Moscow and Washington. In some cases, third countries will have to rely on the technical means of control of Russia and the United States or special international organizations (within the framework of the United Nations or the IAEA).
OPTIONS FOR MULTILATERAL NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT
European powers. All past attempts of the USSR to add the forces of European countries to the US strategic nuclear forces and limit them to a single ceiling were rejected by the West on the grounds that the forces of Britain and France are national, rather than collective deterrence potentials (the first such attempt was made under the SALT-1 Agreement of 1972 years, then at the SALT-2 negotiations at the end of the 70s and in the INF Treaty of 1987). In the future, this position is unlikely to change. The enormous asymmetry of the SNF parties hinders the separate negotiations of Russia with two European countries.
The agreement of Great Britain and France to at least some confidence-building measures, transparency, inspection activities from the “menu” of the New START Treaty (suggested by a respected Russian specialist, Professor Major-General Vladimir Dvorkin) would have great positive significance as a precedent and as an example for other countries first of all China.
In fact, such measures would confirm the correctness of official information about the British and French forces and the programs for their modernization. But the two European powers will hardly agree to interpret this as a legally binding limitation of their nuclear weapons according to unilaterally adopted modernization programs. Even if Russia agreed to assume the same confidence-building measures in the context of relations with these countries (beyond the framework of the New START Treaty), the latter are unlikely to go to the legal legalization of Russian supremacy.
Only strong pressure from the United States and NATO allies and the EU could induce the two European powers to adopt such an approach. The impetus for the United States and other countries could be Russia's agreement to negotiate tactical nuclear weapons and to revive the regime and process of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. Then in a more distant future it would be possible to achieve a transition from measures of confidence to the practical limitation of the nuclear forces of Great Britain and France.
China. Beijing’s official position is that “... the countries with the largest nuclear arsenals ... should further drastically reduce their arsenals in a verifiable, irreversible and legally binding way ... When the appropriate conditions arise, other nuclear states should also join the multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament” (military doctrine of China 2010 of the year).
Nevertheless, China can probably be gradually involved in the process of limiting nuclear weapons, but only on a purely pragmatic basis: if he considers that his concessions in terms of transparency and any limits on armaments are paid off by concessions to the United States (and Russia’s default) those issues that interest Beijing.
The real prerequisites for the consent of the PRC to the phased discovery of their strategic weapons and their restriction (at least through the commitment not to increase quantitatively) may include the obligation of the United States not to increase the missile and ground-based missile defense systems in the Pacific; the transition of the United States and the Russian Federation to negotiations on the next START agreement with a decrease in the ceiling to about 1 thousand warheads; promotion of the limitation of non-strategic nuclear weapons of the United States and Russia, which will allow us to raise the issue of limiting Chinese medium-range systems and the operational-tactical class.
The most likely format of negotiations is a bilateral dialogue between the United States and the People’s Republic of China in parallel with the negotiations on strategic offensive arms between the United States and Russia, along with regular strategic consultations or formal negotiations between Russia and China. The trilateral format, apparently, is possible only on cooperation in the field of missile defense (for example, data exchange by EWAT, confidence-building measures).
South Asia. The approximate equality and uniformity of India and Pakistan on nuclear carriers and warheads, as well as the practice of their separate storage, create strategic and technical prerequisites for classical agreements on the limitation of nuclear weapons and confidence-building measures at least for medium-range and short-range missile systems from the 1987 INF Treaty of the year. The obstacles lie in the acute political relations of the parties (territorial dispute, terrorism), Indian superiority in the forces of general purpose, and in the future - on missile defense. If, with the help of the great powers and the UN, these obstacles are removed, then South Asia can become the first example of a transition of nuclear disarmament to a multilateral format, but not by joining Russia and the United States, but at a separate regional forum.
Since India creates nuclear forces, primarily to deter China, limiting Chinese nuclear weapons to agreements with the United States and, possibly, with the Russian Federation would be an indispensable condition for an agreement between India and Pakistan. A parallel dialogue between Russia and the United States on the following START treaty, cooperation in the field of missile defense, the start of a dialogue on nuclear weapons can significantly contribute to the process in South Asia.
These initiatives could stimulate dialogue in the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula separately on a regional scale and in the context of strengthening the NPT regimes and solving other regional problems.