A Summit of UN Security Council Leaders: Is It Possible?

At the moment, holding a summit of the leaders of the permanent members of the UN Security Council seems rather unrealistic. The only two topics worthy of such a summit are related to nuclear weapons issues. For Russia, this is the preservation of the current model of nuclear arms reduction and limitation (New START, which may cease to exist next year). For the United States, it’s forcing China to participate in international efforts to control and limit the number of nuclear weapons.

In order for the five world leaders to come together, fundamental changes must occur in their policies. We will name just two:

1) Russia should stop its “turn to the East” and begin to build “constructive relations” with Washington again. In practice, this means the Kremlin’s willingness to join the United States in pressing China to “internationalise” its top-secret, but clearly large-scale programme to deploy nuclear forces. So far, China categorically refuses to discuss its nuclear programme with anyone, and Moscow just as vocally rejects the idea of ​​pressuring China to put it on the negotiating table. If Russia’s course changes, the United States will positively assess such an “anti-Chinese turn” in Russia’s foreign policy and may begin to lift sanctions against the Russian economy;

2) China should abandon its policy of non-participation in international negotiations when they concern the limitation and reduction of nuclear weapons, publish official data on its nuclear programme, and begin negotiations on limiting its own nuclear forces.

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Expert Opinions

The great powers of our era have many opportunities to interact, including at the UN Security Council and the G20. The format for direct dialogue between the five official nuclear powers of the planet can only be activated in order to start discussing nuclear weapons issues on a multilateral basis.

Today a “window of opportunity” appears, within which standard models of “national interests” can be interpreted less rigidly than in ordinary times. 2020 is election year in the USA, and Donald Trump urgently needs notable successes in his obviously-failed foreign policy. Just a few days ago, Russia began a transit from its current super-presidential republic to some new, yet-unknown model. China also decided to break the practice of regularly rotating its ruling elite (once every ten years), keeping Xi Jinping and his team at the helm of the state for an unlimited period. When internal political processes begin to dominate the foreign policy issues of the three major nuclear powers of the planet, opportunities for a wide variety of initiatives open up, including the project to create a five-sided (US, China, Russia, Britain, France) nuclear control system.

Properly, these issues could dominate the agenda of the first summit of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. China is likely to agree to attend such a meeting. Beijing has recently shown its weakness by agreeing in mid-January to the American terms of Phase 1 of the trade agreement, and now it will be easier for it to make another concession. Russia proceeds from the fact that in 2020-2021, for a short moment, the prospect will arise of dismantling the sanctions policy and building relations with the US and the EU on a new basis due to a change (or re-election) of leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. If by the middle of 2021 no changes in relations with the West occur, Russia will have another 4-5 years of sanctions and slight economic growth, and Russia will not be able to maintain a leading position in the world. There is no doubt that France and Britain will support the idea of ​​negotiations of the G5. Only the United States has not yet expressed its attitude to this problem. But I’ll make a forecast – the United States will support this initiative, and the first such meeting can be held in May 2020 in Moscow as part of the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Russia’s role in the allied victory in World War Two. Such a meeting would be a “trial”, practically without any results. But it would clarify the situation regarding the prospect of creating an international system for limiting nuclear weapons. And if China agrees to participate in these negotiations, then the improvement of US-Russian relations will not take long! However, it is completely unclear whether this improvement will be sustainable and long-term.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.