Joe Pilat – A World Without the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Redux?
START-3: the prospects for the extension of the treaty are becoming more vague
Washington rejected Moscow’s proposal to extend the document for a year without preconditions or accompanying conditions
On October 16, a critical moment came in contacts between the United States and Russia on the extension of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-3): the White House rejected the Kremlin’s proposal to extend the agreement for one year without preconditions, which expires in February.
US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, on the official Twitter page of the National Security Council, called the proposal of Russian President Vladimir Putin “unsuccessful”:
“The United States has offered to extend the new START-3 treaty for one year in exchange for Russia and the United States limiting all nuclear warheads during this period. It would be a victory for both sides, and we thought the Russians were ready to accept this offer when I met with my colleague in Geneva. Putin’s today’s proposal to extend START-3 without freezing nuclear warheads is unsuccessful “.
“We hope Russia will reconsider its position before the costly arms race breaks out,” added Robert O’Brien..
Earlier on Friday, Putin said at a meeting of the Russian Security Council that Russia is ready to “extend the current Treaty without any conditions for at least a year so that it can conduct meaningful negotiations on all parameters of the problems that are governed by such treaties.” The Russian leader instructed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “to get at least some intelligible answer as soon as possible” from the US administration – and this answer followed on the same day.
Earlier this week, US Special Representative for Arms Control Marshall Billingsley said that Washington agrees to temporarily extend START III on condition that Moscow limits or freezes its nuclear arsenal, arguing that Washington is ready to do the same..
Billingsley’s partner in the negotiations on the START-3 extension, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov rejected this proposal, as well as the American diplomat’s optimistic forecasts regarding a close agreement, saying: “Washington is wishful thinking.”.
The Russian side has recently expressed pessimism about the extension of START III, which Lavrov and Ryabkov never tired of talking about. Perhaps that is why Vladimir Putin made Donald Trump an offer close to the original wishes of the American side. This assumption was expressed in an interview with the Russian service of the Voice of America by a military expert at the Hudson Institute in Washington. Richard Weitz (Richard Weitz): “From President Putin’s statement, we can infer that he at least accepts the US idea of a limited extension of START III, together with further discussions about what worries the United States – in particular, about new strategic weapons in Russia. It is not yet clear what it is about China and other nuclear powers, or whether it is about improving inspections or what worries Moscow – for example, the strategic offensive capabilities of the United States. But it is clear that Putin is ready to extend the agreement even for a short time in order to start solving these problems as well “.
At the same time, Richard Weitz does not believe that the Kremlin’s gesture was only in favor of Donald Trump: “Extending the agreement for a short period is what the current administration called for, so President Trump will like such proposals. But it also satisfies people from other political circles, including the Democrats, who, as we know, also proposed extending START III – so they will welcome this opportunity. I think that this will not have much influence on the political life of the United States now: we are now at the stage when people are already voting or will vote based on their opinions about the coronavirus pandemic, assessments of the state of the economy and leadership qualities. So, if the proposals were a political gesture, then there will be no consequences for such a gesture. “.
O’Brien’s response to the Kremlin’s proposal was immediately criticized by some arms control experts. In particular, the Executive Director of the Arms Control Association Daryl Kimball (Daryl Kimball) wrote in a comment on the tweet of the US National Security Adviser to the President: “This threat from the US National Security Council to abandon START III and engage in a costly, unrestricted arms race is a clear foreign policy oversight. The extension of START III, ideally for five years, in combination with subsequent negotiations on a long-term agreement on the limitation of all types of nuclear weapons is clearly in our national interests. “.
What were the motives of Vladimir Putin, who proposed a short-term extension of the agreement? This is how Russian experts answer this question..
Independent military analyst Alexander Golts In an interview with the Russian service of the Voice of America, he noted that the treaty is extremely beneficial to Russia: “If it is not extended, the prospect of a resumption of the arms race will open, in which Russia will definitely lag behind at first – for the reason that the United States has the opportunity to rapidly increase the number of nuclear weapons “.
Another component of Putin’s initiative is to demonstrate that it is Russia, along with the United States, that is responsible for the security of the planet, says Alexander Golts: “It is not at all superfluous for the Russian president to present himself as an irreplaceable negotiator on this issue, who is in an extremely difficult situation today.”.
General Director of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov I agree that the Kremlin certainly has a desire to save START-3. In an interview with Voice of America, he says that despite all the refusal to agree to Washington’s terms, Moscow showed that the door to the agreements was left open: “The American position suggests that, in addition to the extension of START III, the parties must take on a number of obligations that do not suit Moscow … However, the Kremlin also wants to demonstrate that the deterioration of Russian-American relations still has some limits, and regardless of the outcome of the presidential election, Moscow is determined to cooperate with the United States, at least in several areas of control, including, of course and arms control “.
Andrei Kortunov, like Richard Weitz, believes that Moscow’s proposal, if accepted, would hardly change the situation in the US election campaign..
Less than four months remain until the full expiration of START-3 – the treaty will expire on February 5, 2021, if not renewed.
Reporter for the Russian Service «Voices of America» in Moscow. Collaborates with «Voice of America» since 2012. For a long time he worked as a correspondent and presenter of programs in the Russian service of the BBC and «Radio Liberty». Specialization – international relations, politics and legislation, human rights.
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