Russia: Minimal chance of extending last major nuclear pact with US

New START treaty

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New START treaty
New START treaty

In News:

  • Russia has noted that there are minimal chances of extending the New START treaty with the United States – their last major nuclear arms pact – as it does not accept conditions set out by the US.
  • The New START treaty, which limits the number of US and Russian nuclear warheads , was signed by the U.S. and Russian Presidents in Prague in 2010.
  • The treaty will expire in 2021.

News Summary:

  • The New Start treaty is set to expire in February, 2021, unless there is a new agreement to extend it.
  • Recently, the US administration said that Moscow (Russian government) must accept a joint agreement with Washington (US government) on extending the treaty before the U.S. presidential election in November.
  • If it does not happen by November, the US officials noted that any deal after the Presidential elections place might involve tougher terms for Russia.
  • Moscow did not like the ultimatum set out by Washington, and as a result, said the chances of extending the New START treaty with the United States are now minimal.
Significance:
  • Failure to extend New Start would remove the treaty maintaining the balance of nuclear arms between the two countries.
  • Russian President Putin, as well as other observers, said the potential implications of letting New START treaty expire would be huge, suggesting it could lead to a nuclear arms race.

About: START Treaties

START I:

  • START I (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) was a bilateral treaty between the US and the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or Soviet, in short) on the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms.
  • The treaty barred its signatories from deploying more than 6,000 nuclear warheads atop a total of 1,600 inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and bombers.
  • It had a duration of 15 years. Reductions mandated by the treaty were to be completed no later than 7 years after its entry into force, and parties were then obligated to maintain those limits during the next 8 years.
  • START includes an intrusive verification regime consisting of a detailed data exchange, extensive notifications, 12 types of on-site inspection, and continuous monitoring activities designed to help verify that signatories are complying with their treaty obligations.
  • It was signed in 1991, and entered into force in 1994 (delay in enforcement was due to break up of the Soviet Union).
Significance:
  • Start-I played an indispensable role in ensuring the predictability and stability of the strategic balance and serving as a framework for even deeper reductions.
  • By the time of the treaty’s expiration, the US and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals were significantly below those stipulated in the treaty.
Issues:
  • START I proved to be excessively complicated, cumbersome and expensive to continue, which eventually led the United States and Russia to replace it with a new treaty in 2010.

New START:

  • The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) was signed in 2010 in Prague and entered into force in 2011.
  • The treaty capped deployed strategic nuclear warheads and bombs at 1,550 while the deployed missiles and heavy bombers assigned to nuclear missions were limited to 700. 
  • Both Russia and the United States announced that they met New START limitations by 2018, meeting the due date set by the treaty.
  • New START does not limit the number of non-deployed ICBMs and SLBMs, but it does monitor them and provide for continuous information on their locations and on-site inspections to confirm that they are not added to the deployed force.
  • Non-deployed missiles must be located at specified facilities away from deployment sites and labeled with “unique identifiers” to reduce concerns about hidden missile stocks.
  • New START’s verification regime includes relevant parts of START I as well as new provisions to cover items not previously monitored.
  • The treaty’s duration is ten years from entry into force (2021) unless it is superseded by a subsequent agreement and can be extended for an additional five years.

US is looking to include  China in the deal:

  • The U.S. side is looking for a framework political accord on extending New START.
  • This framework would stipulate that a successor to New START must be multilateral and include China.
  • Meanwhile, Russia said that it does not intend to take any steps to bring China into these talks.
  • The Russian officials said that China’s decision on whether to take part in the talks was exclusively Beijing’s to make.

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