What is the fate of the New START Treaty?

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Jun 19, 2019
To date, the fate of the INF Treaty seems to be finally decided. The US withdrawal from the Treaty led to such a disappointing outcome. However, this is not the only document controlling the nuclear weapons of the two countries. In this regard, the New START is of particular relevance.

The Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Restriction of Strategic Offensive Arms was signed by Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama in Prague and entered into force in February 2011. It is designed for 10 years (until 2021), with a possible extension by mutual agreement for 5 years.

Despite the fact that Moscow has repeatedly urged Washington not to delay the issue of the possibility of extending the treaty, the US is not in a hurry to extend this document. At the end of October 2018, a White House representative warned that the administration would hardly agree to the extension of the New START.

The New START Treaty was one of the key topics at the Osaka Summit. At the end of the summit, the presidents of Russia and the United States instructed the foreign ministries of the two countries to begin consultations on New START, but it is too early to talk about any agreements.

Moreover, apparently, the Trump administration simply has no one to deal with this issue. Thus, according to data provided by The Guardian, over the past two years, the number of personnel of the Office of Strategic Stability and Deterrence of the US State Department has decreased by 70% - from 14 to four people. It is this agency that is responsible for conducting diplomatic negotiations, ratifying agreements in Congress, implementing and verifying existing and future nuclear arms control agreements. From now on, the main task of the administration is to work on creating the conditions for disarmament, in which the dialogue will be conducted with non-nuclear-weapon countries.

The measures for reducing the staff were undertaken on the initiative of the national security adviser to the President John Bolton, who is an ardent opponent of arms control agreements. It was he who sabotaged the INF Treaty and the current New START, by virtue of the fact that they allegedly restrict US sovereignty.

Considering the steps that the US is taking to contain the current treaty, they show that the New START is waiting for the same as the INF Treaty. The Trump administration has already expressed that Moscow’s demands for extending the New START go beyond Washington’s obligations under the treaty. Indeed, in the opinion of the Russian side, the conversion of bombers and launchers of ballistic missiles of US submarines should exclude their repeated use as carriers of nuclear weapons, with which the States categorically disagree. Furthermore, the hypersonic weapon, which is in service with the Russian Federation, is also, in the opinion of the United States, a weighty reason for the non-renewal of the New START.

Thus, the issue of arms control remains one of the most important and simultaneously problematic topics in relations between Russia and the United States. Considering the policy pursued by Washington in the field of nuclear deterrence, it is possible that the New START Treaty, like the INF Treaty, may not have a continuation. At least for this there are all the prerequisites.