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The New START Likely Moving Towards a Swift End


The New START Likely Moving Towards a Swift End

RS-28 Sarmat, one of the weapons the US wants to be prohibited under an extended New START. Click to see full-size image

On August 21st, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said that “all the modern weapons that Russia seeks to receive” need to be included in the event of an extension of the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty).

He said that Russia is “trying to expand its strategic nuclear arsenal to deal with the United States.”

“Therefore, as people talk about a new strategic nuclear arms reduction treaty, we say: ‘Listen, if there will be an extension of the START treaty, we must ensure that it includes all the new weapons that Russia wants to get,’ Esper said.

The weapons Esper refers to are the hypersonic weapons that Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on March 1st, 2018.

They include the Sarmat new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Kinzhal hypersonic missile, the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile and the drone submarine that can be armed with both conventional and nuclear charges, as well as the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle.

New START is a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the US and Russia signed on 8 April, 2010.

In July, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the New START would expire at the beginning of 2021. He noted that Moscow still does not see Washington’s readiness to discuss the extension of the New START or the development of a new agreement.

On August 2nd, the United States formally withdrew from the INF Treaty.

The INF was a 1987 treaty with Soviet Union, which prohibited ground-launched nuclear, ballistic and cruise missiles which range from 500 to 5,000 kilometers.

On the day of the withdrawal from the INF Treaty, Esper spoke to reporters and answered questions regarding the New START.

Q:  New START. There’s also been a lot of discussion about whether or not that treaty, which would expire in another year or so, whether or not that should be ended as well. What’s your view on that?

SEC. ESPER:  Well, my view is, we need to take a serious look at the treaty, making sure it’s still within our interests. I think the key thing, and I answered this in my, I think, advanced policy questions for Congress, we need to look at a few things that have changed. So, for example, Russia has added some strategic weapons, since the START was ratified, we would need to look at including them into the treaty.

Number two, we should look at multi-lateralizing it with other countries, nuclear powers that should be captured by this. If we really want to go after avoiding an arms race, and capture these systems, we should multi-lateralize it. And then third, I think we should look beyond the strategic base of New START, and really engage the Russians on nonstrategic nuclear weapons.  They have thousands of these weapons, as I recall. And I think it will be important to strategic stability to make sure we address them as well.

So those are some things out there we need to consider. State obviously has the lead on this one, and we’ll be working with them as time goes by here in the coming months.”

On August 18th, the US conducted its first test of a missile previously banned under the INF, it was a land-based variant of the conventionally armed Tomahawk missile, which also has a nuclear charge. It was launched using a MK-41 launcher, the same one that is used for the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system, deployed in Romania and Poland.

During a visit to Finland, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö had a joint press conference, with a question being asked regarding the missile test.

“As far as I understand, the US declared it has no plans to deploy this technology in Europe. Certainly, it is a problem that currently we find ourselves in a situation when agreements that worked in the past no longer work. I think that the problem is felt most acutely in Europe. For this reason, it is important to launch new arms control talks and ensure that they have a positive outcome,” the Finnish president said.

Putin had more to say:

“I can say we are disappointed with what we see. Obviously, testing a ground-based medium-range missile violates the INF Treaty and aggravates the situation in the word in general and in Europe in particular. I will explain what I mean.

First of all, the Americans tested this missile too fast, too soon after they announced their withdrawal from the treaty. In this sense, we have grounds to believe that the work on this missile (on the ‘landing’, as this is a sea missile) had begun long before they started searching for a pretext to withdraw from the treaty. To tell the truth, I have not heard the Americans saying they do not plan to deploy these missiles in Europe. If they did say so, that would be good, of course.

We have talked about this; I have said this many times, and two days ago, I said this in Marseilles. I can repeat it here in Helsinki: Russia will not deploy missiles – although, of course, we will be working on short-range and medium-range systems like this – unless corresponding missile systems produced in the US are deployed in a given region. We have not received any response from our American or European partners so far.

I am concerned that the tested missile, according to the Pentagon, is a Tomahawk, or a sea-based missile. It was reconfigured to be land-based. These missiles can be launched from existing launchers in Romania or ones that will soon be located in Poland. It only requires a change of software. I am not sure that our American friends will even inform their European partners about the software they use in these systems. For us this means a new threat appearing that we must respond to.

I agree with the President of Finland that, of course, we need a dialogue on these issues. We have no such dialogue so far. We will take reciprocal steps regarding these actions. We made proposals on such a dialogue some time ago, but we will stick to our point of view: we are ready to discuss this with the Europeans and the Americans, but we will provide for Russia’s security.”

In conclusion, it is quite obvious that the US is aimed at also terminating the New START, the chance of Russia agreeing to include its new and upcoming weapons in the treaty is negligible.

Earlier, US National Security Adviser John Bolton alleged that Russia had stolen all of its hypersonic technology from the United States. If that were true, why would there be a need to prohibit weapons that the US itself allegedly is capable of producing, and possibly better, after all the technology was stolen from it, right?




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