On the eve of the first anniversary of invading its neighbors Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin proposed suspending participation in further discussion and negotiation for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START). It was swiftly supported the next day by the Federation Council and the State Duma. According to reports, Russia is not withdrawing from the treaty and is ready to resume participation if the nuclear potential of France and the UK is taken into account. The parties have tried to resolve these contradictions within the treaty.
The White House, even before Putin closed his two-hour traditional annual address to the federal assembly, U.S. President Joe Biden had described the move as a tremendous mistake. As expected, all the prominent global media carried his two-worded reaction across the world. “Big mistake,” the White House quoted Biden as saying when asked about his opinion of Moscow’s move, abruptly suspending its participation in New START.
In a follow-up new developments to Joe Biden, Russian reporters in smartly link-up with Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, she told them that the United States was prepared for talks on New START with Russia. During the conversation, held via a video linkup, Nuland was asked to comment on the most pressing issues on the bilateral and international agenda, including Russia’s suspension of the New START treaty, the sabotage of Nord Stream pipelines and ways to settle the crisis in Ukraine.
“We’re ready to do it tomorrow if the Russian Federation is ready. And we’re also ready to allow inspections. The US has been ready to go back to the table to ensure implementation of New START from the very beginning” the diplomat said. Nuland once again stated that the US views the treaty’s suspension as an irresponsible move. “The US and Moscow have responsibilities to the world to keep our nuclear arsenal safe and secure, and we should do our jobs,” Nuland said.
According to Nuland, Washington has “no intention or need” to resume testing. “We would like to get back into mutual inspections. We would like to get back to a place where we can sit at a table and talk about implementation [of the treaty],” she said. Nuland also assured that the US is not interested in rebuilding its nuclear weapons.
The top State Department official said the US was trying to understand what Russia’s decision on suspending its participation in New START would mean in practical terms. These developments have made investors and the entire business community nervous. Moscow suspended its participation in the treaty has triggered negative reactions from investors.
Writing under the article titled “Gap in the New START: New START does not address hypersonic missiles,” Waqas Jan, a graduate of National Defense University Pakistan, argues that Russia (ex-Soviet Union) and the United States have been locked in an intense geopolitical and military competition, resulting in various new technological and military developments over the last seven decades.
The United States was the first to acquire atomic weapons, followed by the Soviet Union. This new realization in the White House and Pentagon that their former ally in world war II has become their most significant threat resulted in a nuclear arms race between them. The era which started with the nuclearization of the Soviet Union, since its ultimate demise, is known as the Cold War era.
The Cold War era is a unique combination of conflict and cooperation. But the first decade of the nuclear rivalry between the two sides saw some of the most ferocious nuclear strategies from both sides as the United States, with its massive retaliation strategy, threaten to annihilate the Soviet Union. Russia is now in the advanced stages of deploying these weapons.
This decision added to the mistrust between Russia and the United States, as Moscow accused the US of the double game on the nuclear issue. At the same time, the United States, on the other hand, rejected the Russian stance. It highlighted new challenges such as the Iranian growing ballistic missile program and the threat from North Korea to the US and its allies, which prompted this US withdrawal from the ABM treaty.
The Russian arsenal of hypersonic missiles is threatening to introduce a new strategic instability among the two leading nuclear powers; with a treaty like New START in place, there is a need to incorporate these weapons into the Treaty, and as the only surviving atomic arms treaty between the two nuclear powers. Both US and Russia can plug the gap on this costly arms race, which will bring a huge instability in the current deterrence equation between the two countries adding to the nuclear miscalculation.
The United States needs to adopt a coherent approach towards limiting the spread of hypersonic missiles; the missiles are still perceived as a mirage in the strategic community. According to most experts, the missile efficiency is falsely exacerbated to create a hype of hypersonic missiles. There are substantial proliferation concerns of these missiles; even in conventional terms, any future proliferation will have grave implications for US national security. Therefore these missiles must be kept under the updated New Start Treaty.
The recent economic sanctions can be used as leverage in this case. Russia, desperately waiting for an olive branch, can give the United States what it wants and bring the loss of arms control into this world, according to the article titled “Trump Fixates on China as Nuclear Arms Pact Nears Expiration.” by the Foreign Policy magazine.
Guy Faulconbridge from Reuters, on January 16, 2017 wrote an article ‘Trump’s Offer to Russia: An End to Sanctions for Nuclear Arms Cut” that Trump’s highly radical approach was contrary to proliferation concerns as he was entirely fixated on China in this regard.
Decades of arms control engagement between the two countries helped both sides to assess and verify each other’s intent in the face of readily available capability. The gravest risks of a surprise nuclear attack is now a thing of the past, as credibility shown by the Russian strategic forces in the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Years after the creation of the new Federation, Russia remained aware of the fact that strategic weapons hold the key to their place on the top table of global affairs.
Thus the United States, with a series of high-level summitry engagements, can start a negotiation process on the inclusion of hypersonic weapons into the New Start Treaty. The negotiation process needs no new blueprints as the treaty is already in place; it needs only a consultation process on all the levels of the military, diplomatic and economic levels to assure a much-needed entry of the hypersonic missiles in the New Start Treaty.
New START, formally known as the Treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on measures for the further reduction and limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, was signed by the Obama administration in 2010 and entered into force in February 2011 as a 10 year agreement. The treaty required both Russia and the US to commit to regular communications on the status of their nuclear arsenals, allow regular on-site inspections, and comply with limits on the number of deployed and undeployed warheads each would maintain.
Since New START was signed, Russia and the US have allowed each other’s compliance teams to conduct 328 on-site inspections of their reserves, and more importantly, the two nations have provided data exchanges and 25, 311 notifications about the status of their programs. Putin’s announcement and the subsequent clarification from the Foreign Ministry seemed to indicate that the inspections are permanently suspended, but they did not make it clear whether data sharing and notifications will continue.
However, things would be cleared up long before March 1, 2023, the day both sides are supposed to exchange data on the total number of their nuclear forces. The United States and Russia have also been exchanging daily messages about movements and exercises, which has helped keep both nuclear powers clear about each other’s actions.
Notifications have been received every day. So if the information sharing stops, both sides would start to lose data so they can track exactly how many strategic weapons they have, and whether or not they’re in the place they’re supposed to be, and whether or not they’re acting the way they’re supposed to.
Inspections of US and Russian military sites under New START were paused by both sides in March 2020 due to the spread of the coronavirus. The US-Russia commission overseeing the treaty’s implementation last met in October 2021, but then Russia unilaterally suspended its cooperation with the treaty’s inspection provisions in August 2022 to protest US support for Ukraine.
Both the US and Russia have cautiously planned their respective nuclear modernization programs based on the assumption that neither country will exceed the force levels currently dictated by New START. Without a deal after 2026, that assumption immediately goes away; both sides are likely to default to mutual mistrust amid fewer verifiable data points, which would result in the discourse being dominated by worst-case thinking about how both countries’ arsenals would grow in the future.
Many experts have called for the United States and Russia back to the negotiation table rather than threats which creates an atmosphere of uncertainties around the world. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty has chances to be reinstated as it was, but that depends on how the US will act regarding Russia, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said this February 22 at a joint meeting of Federation Council’s Committee on International Affairs and its Committee on Defense and Security.
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