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Negotiations of the USA and Russia in Vienna on nuclear weapons: no clarity
The future of arms control remains in question, experts in the United States say
Russia and the United States, after a long pause, have resumed dialogue on arms control issues. Negotiations on the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START-3 for short), known in NATO countries as NEW START, were held on June 22 and 23 in Vienna. The treaty, which was signed in 2010, cuts the arsenal of deployed strategic nuclear weapons by the United States and Russia, but expires next February.
While Moscow calls for an extension of the current agreement, Washington continues to insist on the inclusion of new types of weapons, including the latest Russian weapons, as well as those produced in China. The latter, however, has repeatedly stated that he is not interested in joining the treaty and declined the invitation to Vienna..
Nevertheless, the United States hopes for international pressure on the Chinese authorities so that official Beijing changes its position. The Kremlin noted that they do not object to the inclusion of China in the treaty, but they will not, for their part, put pressure on it. At the same time, Moscow believes that Britain and France, which have – albeit to a much lesser extent – nuclear arsenal, should also become part of the new treaty..
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US Special Representative Marshall Billingsley and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who led the negotiating delegations, following the meeting announced the creation of special technical groups for further consultations and a new round of negotiations in late July and early August. Despite this, the future – both of the new arms control treaty and the extension of the current one – remains unclear..
Expert of the Arms Control Association Kingston reef (Kingston Reif, Arms Control Association) notes that the resumption of dialogue between the parties is a positive step. However, the expert does not believe that the parties will be able to reach a new agreement before the end of the current START-3..
“There is simply not enough time to make significant progress on a new arms control agreement between the United States and Russia, as START 3 expires in February 2021. Not to mention bringing China into the process, which has made it clear that it is currently not ready to participate in trilateral arms control negotiations, ”Kingston Reef says..
The US administration is pushing for the new agreement to include all types of nuclear weapons, not just deployed strategic nuclear weapons, which are currently limited by START III. In particular, the United States wants to include in the agreement new weapons being developed by Russia. The Kremlin may be ready to discuss expanding the treaty to new types of weapons, but is interested, in turn, for the United States to include its missile defense systems, including advanced offensive capabilities, in the treaty. Reaching an agreement on these issues will take time, so the most appropriate option today is primarily to extend the current START treaty, says Kingston Reef..
“But unfortunately, the Trump administration continues to criticize this treaty and has not made a decision on whether to renew it,” he adds..
The expert also expresses fears that the US administration is generally skeptical about arms control issues, and is not disposed to achieve real progress on this issue. “The administration’s approach to arms control today is consistent with the tactics of not having enough time to conclude a START III treaty and an attempt to blame China and Russia for it, rather than a serious attempt to make significant progress.”.
Senior Director of the University of Pennsylvania Biden Center Michael Carpenter (Michael Carpenter, Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, University of Pennsylvania), a former senior Pentagon official, shares a similar view.
“I’m not sure the Trump administration is negotiating in good faith. We have seen that the current administration has an antipathy to any arms control agreement, be it the INF Treaty, the Open Skies Treaty, or START III, ”says Michael Carpenter.
The expert also emphasizes that, first of all, it is necessary to extend the current agreement: “Of course, it would be nice to have a new treaty that would include other types of weapons, including non-strategic nuclear weapons. But, given the fact that the START-3 treaty expires in February next year, it makes sense to first extend the existing treaty, and then, on its basis, try to proceed to the second step. “.
Michael Carpenter also criticizes the US approach to involving China, which has repeatedly stated that it does not plan to participate in the negotiations: “The Chinese have about one tenth of the total number of strategic weapons of Russia or the United States. Why would they be involved in arms control negotiations? It doesn’t make sense to them. “.
“I am somewhat disappointed with the theatrical performances of the US delegation and Special Representative Marshall Billingsley,” adds Michael Carpenter of the latter posting on his Twitter account a photo from the Vienna talks showing Chinese flags at the empty tables of the invited Chinese delegation. “This is some kind of trick to make everything look like China did not appear, while everyone knew from the very beginning of these negotiations that the Chinese are not interested in participating in the negotiations.”.
“Therefore, I think that the United States, in fact, does not take this issue seriously,” the expert concludes..
Franklin Miller (Franklin C. Miller), former special assistant to President George W. Bush and one of the directors of the Washington-based consulting firm Scowcroft Group, believes that Moscow is ready to extend the current START-3 treaty, primarily in order to limit the US nuclear forces … At the same time, Russia continues to improve its military capabilities, including nuclear.
“President Putin began modernizing his nuclear forces about 10 years ago. Its modernization program is almost complete. And he is worried that perhaps in a year or so, the US, which has talked about modernizing its nuclear forces, will finally do it. The funds have already been spent on the manufacture of new bombers and new missiles, as well as the release of new submarines. So, Putin and his administration are very concerned about the need to preserve the current treaty in order to maintain restrictions on America’s nuclear forces, – said Franklin Miller in an interview with the Georgian service of the Voice of America “.
“On the American side, there are fears that since 2010, Putin has changed the strategic landscape. Since 2010, in addition to creating the intercontinental forces covered by the treaty, Putin has created a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons that threaten our allies in Europe. The treaty does not apply to him, and this poses a danger to world peace. Another thing that Putin has done is to develop exotic nuclear weapons such as an underwater torpedo (Poseidon torpedo system – VE) that can cross the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean. Such weapons are also not covered by the NEW START agreement. Thus, from the American point of view, the new START-3 treaty no longer limits the threat to us or our allies, “the expert notes..
“In addition, American strategists are concerned about the growth [potential] of Chinese nuclear weapons. And they believe that China’s nuclear weapons should also be limited, ”adds Franklin Miller, who is not worried that the current START III could expire without new agreements..
“Putin has no serious incentives to further build up his nuclear forces. In addition, with oil at $ 20 a barrel, he has no money for that, “says a former aide to George W. Bush, adding that, with the withdrawal from the agreement, the United States may continue to build up its nuclear arsenal..
“So I’m not worried in the short term. I think in the medium term, the next administration, be it the Trump or Biden administration, will resume arms control. But I think that we should no longer give the Russians carte blanche, saying: you can threaten our NATO allies, and we will simply impose restrictions on intercontinental forces, “concludes Franklin Miller..
The START-3 Treaty, we recall, provides for the reduction of nuclear warheads to 1,550 units, and intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and heavy bombers – to 700 units. It also includes verification methods to ensure that both parties comply with the terms of the contract. By mutual agreement of the parties, the START-3 Treaty can be extended for 5 years.
Journalist «Voices of America». Prior to that, she worked for international non-governmental organizations in Washington and London, in the Russian-language version of the Estonian daily newspaper “Postimees” and as a spokesman for the Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Interests – international relations, politics, economics
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