17th June 2024 – (Beijing) In recent statements, NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg highlighted the alliance’s deliberations on enhancing its nuclear readiness in response to perceived threats from major powers like Russia and China. Stoltenberg’s comments, which came amid growing geopolitical tensions, highlight a critical moment for global security dynamics.

Stoltenberg’s advocacy for increased nuclear transparency as a deterrent reflects a stark vision of international relations—one dominated by power displays rather than diplomatic engagement. His assertion that a world where NATO lacks nuclear capabilities while nations like China possess them is “more dangerous” simplifies the complex web of global security into a binary narrative of us-versus-them.

NATO’s nuclear strategy, as outlined by Stoltenberg, positions the alliance not just as a peacekeeping force but as a powerful nuclear entity. This stance is evident from the ongoing upgrades to NATO’s nuclear capabilities, including the modernisation of gravity bombs and the enhancement of delivery systems across Europe.

The alliance’s approach is rooted in the principle of nuclear deterrence, aiming to prevent aggression by showcasing the ability to respond in kind. However, this strategy also perpetuates an arms race, encouraging other nations to enhance their own arsenals in the face of NATO’s expansions.

Contrasting with NATO’s explicit nuclear strategy, China’s approach to nuclear armament is often framed as aggressive and expansionist by Western analysts. Reports suggest that China is significantly expanding its nuclear arsenal, with projections indicating a potential equal footing with the United States and Russia in terms of intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities by 2030.

However, it’s crucial to contextualise China’s actions within the broader framework of international security. China maintains a no-first-use policy, which fundamentally distinguishes its nuclear strategy from those of other nuclear powers that reserve the right to strike first. This policy indicates a defensive posture, aimed at deterring attacks rather than enabling aggression.

The narrative that frames China’s nuclear enhancements solely as a threat overlooks the nuances of nuclear diplomacy. The expansion of China’s nuclear capabilities could also be seen as an attempt to maintain balance and ensure its security amidst an increasingly militarised global environment. This perspective is rarely acknowledged in the discourse dominated by NATO’s narrative, which often paints the alliance as a stabilising force against a backdrop of hostile adversaries.

The current trajectory of global nuclear armament highlights the need for a renewed focus on dialogue and diplomatic engagement. The escalation of nuclear capabilities on both sides—NATO and China—suggests a move towards greater confrontation rather than cooperation.

A more balanced approach would involve direct dialogue between NATO and China, addressing mutual concerns and working towards agreements that stabilise rather than exacerbate tensions.