The nuclear threat is higher than during the Cold War, according to British adviser Stephen Lovegrove

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Britain’s national security adviser has warned that a breakdown in dialogue between rival powers increases the risk of nuclear war, with fewer safeguards today than during the Cold War.

Western nations had a better ‘understanding of Soviet doctrine and capabilities – and vice versa’ at the time because they kept more channels of negotiation open, Stephen Lovegrove said at an event in Washington on Wednesday.

“It gave both of us a higher level of confidence that we wouldn’t miscalculate on our way to nuclear war,” he said. “Today, we don’t have the same bases with others who could threaten us in the future, especially with China.”

As such, he said, Britain strongly supports President Biden’s talks with Beijing.

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Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke Thursday at a time of heightened friction, in part over a plan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to visit Taiwan and Biden’s comments that the U.S. military would defend the island – which the White House later downplayed. Beijing is warning against a trip by Pelosi to the self-governing island it claims as part of its territory.

Tensions have added to differences over trade, security and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

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In Lovegrove’s assessment, the conflict in Ukraine is also “a manifestation of a much larger ongoing debate” about what comes after the post-Cold War world order.

“We are entering a dangerous new era,” he added, citing the spread of advanced weapons and cyber warfare.

As war fuels fears of wider confrontations, a weapons research group said last month that the world’s nuclear arsenal is set to increase over the next decade.

The Stockholm-based institute said it had seen a “very worrying trend”, with all nuclear-weapon states upgrading their stockpiles and what appeared to be the end of the era of declining nuclear arsenals.

The world’s nuclear arsenal is expected to increase for the first time since the Cold War

At Wednesday’s event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Lovegrove called on policymakers to focus on deterrence and arms control. He accused Moscow of aggravating already growing “escalation avenues” and China of showing “disdain” to engage in arms control agreements.

“The question is…to find a balance in unprecedented complexity so that there can be no collapse into uncontrolled conflict.”

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