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Western sanctions undermine New START nuclear arms control treaty

Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, Barack Obama, Russian

Opinion

Western sanctions undermine New START nuclear arms control treaty

One unintended consequence of the belligerent approach by the political West is the undermining of the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), otherwise known as SNV-3 in Russia. Writes Drago Bosnic

On February 24, after Russia launched its counteroffensive against NATO aggression in Europe, the political West imposed on Russia what many believe to be the most comprehensive sanctions in modern history. The US and the EU expected the sanctions to cause an economic and political collapse in Russia. However, this approach didn’t only fail, but it also backfired and it’s causing a cascading effect of instability all across the political West and elsewhere around the world. With approximately half a dozen Western governments already falling or about to fall, the US and NATO are also faced with a political crisis, in addition to an economic one.

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And yet, there is one more consequence of the sanctions, oftentimes overlooked, but vitally important – the international security architecture, particularly its strategic aspect. One unintended consequence of the belligerent approach by the political West is the undermining of the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), otherwise known as SNV-3 in Russia. The treaty is the last remaining nuclear arms control agreement between the two military superpowers, Russia and the United States. Signed in 2011, the treaty was brokered by then-presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama, creating an international legal framework for Russia and the US to limit the deployment of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and strategic bombers/missile carriers.

Part of the treaty also includes regular inspections each side is conducting in the other country. The inspections were conducted regularly, without any issues, until Washington DC ordered its NATO (and other) vassals to close their airspace for Russian flights, effectively imposing the ban on any Russian aircraft, including the Russian government inspection teams. On Monday, the Russian government informed the US that it will “temporarily suspend” the implementation of inspections. The official statement of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the situation with the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Weapons (START) said:

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“On August 8, 2022, the Russian Federation officially notified the United States of America through diplomatic channels that our country is temporarily closing to the public its facilities subject to inspections under the above agreement. This exemption also applies to locations which can host inspection teams, as previously provided for in the agreement. Such actions are provided for in chapter 5, and paragraph 5, of the START treaty. The Russian Federation is now forced to resort to this measure as a result of Washington’s persistent desire to implicitly achieve restarting inspection activities under conditions that do not take into account the current situation on the ground, creating unilateral advantages for the United States and effectively depriving the Russian Federation of the right to conduct inspections on American territory. Our goal is to eliminate this unacceptable situation and ensure the functioning of all START mechanisms in strict accordance with the principles of parity and equality of the parties, as it was implied when the agreement entered into force. Thus, as a result of the anti-Russian unilateral restrictive measures taken at the suggestion of Washington, normal air traffic between Russia and the USA was interrupted, and the airspace of countries that are allies and partners of the United States was closed to Russian aircraft. It is not possible to transport Russian inspection teams to locations on American territory, and for this reason the agreement is suspended until further [notice].”

The Russian Foreign Ministry added that “the exemptions would be immediately canceled in case of a resolution of the existing problems and issues regarding the resumption of inspection activities under the treaty.” The full statement said:

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“We would like to emphasize that the measures we have taken are temporary. Russia is fully committed to complying with all the provisions of the START Treaty, which in our eyes is the most important instrument for maintaining international security and stability.”

The first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, START I, was signed in 1991 between the Soviet Union and the United States at a time when there were as many as 60,000 nuclear warheads, which was reduced to approximately 40,000 after the treaty went into effect in 1994. In 2010, Obama and Medvedev brokered the aforementioned New START, a successor agreement, which set a limit of no more than 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 missiles, including mutual inspections to verify compliance with the treaty. Mere days before it was set to expire on February 5, 2021, the two superpowers came to an agreement to extend it for another five years, which presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden signed, extending the successor treaty to 2026.

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Early last week, on August 1, US President Joe Biden stated that “the United States is ready to continue arms control negotiations with Russia”. The apparent offer was to resume talks on a possible replacement for the New START. However, the Russian side was unconvinced, as this is very likely just one of many regular diplomatic decorum statements the US leadership is so used to giving, without any real substance behind such announcements and offers.

Former president of Russia Dmitry Medvedev dismissed Biden’s statement, adding that it was “out of place in a changed world.” The incumbent Deputy Head of Russia’s Security Council said he had repeatedly warned Washington DC that major issues such as the framework to replace the New START treaty could never be done without Russian involvement.  However, the belligerent thalassocracy kept ignoring repeated warnings by the Russian leadership.

Drago Bosnic, independent geopolitical and military analyst.

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