Home » What the suspension of the New START treaty means

What the suspension of the New START treaty means

by admin
What the suspension of the New START treaty means

On February 21, Russia announced its decision to suspend its participation in the New START treatythereby jeopardizing the last remaining nuclear arms control agreement between Russia and the United States. Suspension of participation does not amount to withdrawal from the treaty. Moscow also underlined that his decision is reversible.

The confrontation between Moscow and Washington

Even before this announcement, in recent months the United States had repeatedly accused Russia of violating the provisions of the treaty, in particular the inspection regime. The Bilateral Consultative Commission, the treaty’s monitoring body, was scheduled to meet last November to discuss the matter, but Russia refused to participate.

However, Russia has announced that it will keep its nuclear arsenal within the numerical limits foreseen by the treaty and that it will continue the exchange of information with the United States, in particular the notification mechanism with the United States of the launches of land-based and sea-based intercontinental missiles (ICBMs). If Russia keeps these commitments, there is no outright violation of the treaty. It is therefore a politically symbolic move, without immediate practical implications.

At the same time, it is questionable whether Russia’s move is legal since the treaty does not provide for the possibility of evading compliance with any of its obligations. What is clear is that the treaty remains legally binding on Moscow, which has not denounced it and has not invoked the exceptionality requirements of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

On the other hand, Moscow has hinted that it is willing to negotiate an arms control agreement that includes all of NATO’s nuclear forcestherefore also the British and French arsenals, but without specifying how the reductions of these arsenals would be counted and verified.

See also  These are the stock market tips of the week

What is New START?

The New START was signed in Prague in 2010 and entered into force the following year. The treaty is intended as a renewal and/or continuation of the 19911 START I treaty, which expired in 2009, but further reduces the limits set by the latter.

The New START limits to 1,550 nuclear warheads that each of the two countries can deploy and also sets quantitative limits on the number of nuclear-capable ICBMs, bombers and launchers deployed. The New START provides a inspection mechanism (18 short-term inspections per year) and of mutual notificationsas well as regular meetings to discuss the implementation of the treaty.

START I (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) was a bilateral treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union on the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive weapons. The treaty was signed on July 31, 1991 and went into effect on December 5, 1994. The treaty prohibited signatories from deploying more than 6,000 nuclear warheads and a total of 1,600 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and bombers.

From Trump to Biden: the US posture

The Trump administration had criticized the New Start, calling it a “bad deal”. However, the treaty was renewed in 2021 at the urging of the Biden administration. In August last year, the White House also announced that it would negotiate a new treaty with Russia for one more limitation of nuclear arsenals. After the latest Russian move, however, this prospect has become somewhat remote. The fact remains that both countries have so far complied with the quantitative limits established by the Treaty.

See also  Language Aid: thanks to the network, migrants speak to Italy

Moscow has justified the suspension of the inspections with fears that the United States will provide Ukraine with information obtained through the inspections that could allow it to attack Russia’s nuclear arsenals. According to the Kremlin, the US also intends to resume nuclear testsan accusation that finds no confirmation, however.

Putin’s announcement is yet another move to force, through the nuclear threat, the United States and Ukraine to negotiate on his terms. However, the likelihood of Russia using nuclear weapons in this conflict is low. She could only use them if she was in a desperate situation. The question is under what circumstances could Moscow come to consider nuclear energy the only way out in case of new defeats on the ground.

New arms race?

Over the past fifty years, there has always been some form of agreement between Washington and Moscow over nuclear arms control. The end of the New START Treaty would bring about an unprecedented situation. In a couple of years we could find ourselves in a very similar situation to that of the 1950s, with nuclear powers intent on modernizing and upgrading their nuclear arsenals without any control. This scenario would be characterized by a delicate balance between the United States, Russia and China based on mutual nuclear deterrence.

The crisis of the New START should induce the international community to rethinking arms control and reduction processes. Future diplomatic initiatives for arms control should also involve China and also aim to limit its increasingly uncontrollable and dangerous nuclear program.

See also  Households saved gas and electricity in 2022

What will the United States do in the face of Russia’s announcement: will they withdraw from the treaty? Washington could choose this option if it believes that suspending Russia makes the treaty no longer effective. This does not mean that a new arms race between the US and Russia will necessarily beginsince the latter is not actually able to sustain such a financial effort. AND more likely that Russia will continue to comply with the limitations set by the treaty, even if they cannot be verified.

Certainly this development reinforces the idea that only nuclear deterrence can ensure the balance between the great powers. But in the real world not all players are rational and that in critical situations they have all the information necessary to make decisions fraught with consequences.

Cover photo EPA/SERGEI CHIRIKOV

You may also like

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Privacy & Cookies Policy