US to adjust nuclear policy stance to put pressure on Russia and China

Washington is reportedly set to change its stance after Moscow and Beijing supposedly rebuffed non-proliferation overtures

The US is set to announce changes to its nuclear weapons policy on Friday, a senior government official has told the Semafor news outlet.

Washington is set to adopt a “more competitive approach,” supposedly after Russia and China ignored its calls for talks on non-proliferation and arms controls, the source said. Washington wants to show to Moscow and Beijing that they “will face a diminished security environment if they continue to refuse to engage.”

The official revealed few details about the changes, only stating that the development of a new version of a nuclear gravity bomb was part of the US strategy. Washington also wants to have better long-range strike capabilities and surveillance abilities.

Some of the planning is being made in the expectation that US President Joe Biden will win a second term in office, and will have to deal with the expiration in 2026 of the New START treaty, the last bilateral binding agreement limiting American and Russian nuclear stockpiles. Last year, Russia formally suspended its participation in New START citing hostile US policies, but vowed to observe its core terms that put a cap on nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

The official announcement will be made by Pranay Vaddi of the National Security Council, according to the report.

Semafor is a media company launched in 2022 by former New York Times media columnist Ben Smith and former Bloomberg Media Chief Executive Officer Justin Smith.

Moscow has accused the US of deliberately undermining the Soviet-era system of treaties on strategic arms control and reduction. The process started under President George W Bush, who in 2002 scrapped a ban on developing national anti-ballistic missile systems. His administration claimed that the 1972 ABM Treaty prevented the US from defending against “rogue states.”

Tensions are set to rise further once a US-backed plan to arm Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets is implemented. The US-developed platform is capable of deploying American nuclear gravity bombs. Washington keeps some of these weapons in non-nuclear NATO nations, including Belgium, which has pledged to contribute some of the jets to Kiev. Russian officials have argued that every F-16 operated by Ukraine should be considered as potentially nuclear-armed.

Amid the Ukraine conflict, Moscow has launched a scheme similar to NATO’s nuclear-sharing mechanism by moving some of its nuclear arsenal to ally and neighbor Belarus. Last month, both nations announced military drills aimed at confirming their respective militaries’ ability to deploy non-strategic nuclear arms.