by Mikhail Moshkin
translated by Eugenia
Donald Trump, having believed the rumors about the Russian deployment of cruise missiles in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty (INF Treaty), promised to touch upon revision of the previous agreements in the upcoming talks with Putin. His intention “to make America great” in nuclear weapons could start another round of the arms race. Anyway, only four years are left until the Strategic Arms Treaty-III (START-III) expires, which is exactly the period of “the turbulent Trump presidency”.
Russia is vehemently against any possibility of denunciation of START-III, which has been in effect since 2011. This was stated to RIA “Novosti” (News) by the head of the Defense and Security Committee of the Federation Council Viktor Ozerov.
That was the Senator’s comment on the statements made recently by Donald Trump. The US President said that he was unhappy with START-III. The same news reports suggest that Trump also wants to discuss with Putin the issue of another treaty – the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty (INF Treaty). According to Reuters, Trump intends to discuss alleged violations of that treaty by Russia.
In his interview with Reuters, Trump alleged that Russia deployed cruise missiles in violation of INF Treaty. Thus, the US president believed the rumors spread last week by the US media and Senator John McCain. The assertion that “ a combat-ready unit of cruise missiles” has been deployed turned out to groundless, as the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs previously pointed out to Washington.
The same Reuters earlier reported, citing leaks from the White House: Trump believes that START-III was ‘signed to benefit Russia” and was “one of several bad deals of the Obama administration”.
Let us remind the reader that START-III, which was signed by Barak Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in 2010 and came into force in 2011, includes cutting strategic missiles to 700, with no more than 1550 nuclear warheads. The treaty is in effect until 2021. The INF Treaty was signed in 1998 and does not have the expiration date. That Treaty contains an obligation not to manufacture, test, or deploy land-based ballistic and cruise missiles with intermediate (1,000 to 5,500 kilometers) and short (500 to 1,000 kilometers) range.
“Exactly for the period of the turbulent Trump presidency”
As Ozerov stressed, START-III is “the cornerstone of the world security”. The treaty was negotiated in a way to ensure that neither side is the loser, and that is why Russia will insist on its prolongation.
In addition, said the Senator, the denunciation of the Treaty would create a bad precedent for other countries trying to acquire nukes. “If the US ignores START-III, it would open the floodgates for North Korea and several other countries” – warned Ozerov.
The outrageous Trump’s statements are uncalled for, said Ozerov’s deputy Franz Klintzevich. “Looks like the most pessimistic predictions are coming true. I don’t think that Donald Trump has any special knowledge of the strategic offensive weapons. This means that someone, possibly Herbert McMaster, a recently appointed President’s National Security Advisor, managed to express to Trump his viewpoint regarding this very complex issue in the Russian-American relations, and, apparently, convinced him”, – as Klintzevich is cited at the United Russia portal.
“This looks weird. It creates an impression that Trump still remains a hostage to his pre-election rhetoric making shocking statements, which are entirely inappropriate in his current position”, – said the Senator. He stressed that START-III is a very complex matter, and “making hasty conclusions in this area is, at the very least, unprofessional”.
In his turn, the Head of another Federation Council Committee, on International Affairs, Konstantin Kosachev, said that START-III does not have a mechanism of automatic renewal. Thus, he explained, it is necessary to start the Russian-American consultations regarding its future fate as soon as possible. “Not much time is left (until 2021 – publisher’s note). Less than four years, exactly the period of the already turbulent Trump presidency” – said Kosachev.
Kosachev reminded that START-III is based on the absolute parity of the Russian and US nuclear forces, and its objective is to preclude a “nuclear superiority” of either side. The Trump’s election motto “Make America great again”, if it implies superiority in the nuclear area, would return the world to the worst times of the arms race of 1950-60s, when each side tried to assure its national security by achieving military superiority over the adversary”, – cautioned the Senator.
The Americans started the revision of the treaties concluded between the USSR and the USA long before Trump. As the Associate Professor of the Department of Politology and Sociology at the Plekhanov Economic University Alexander Perenjiev commented to “Glance” (“Vzglyad”, the name of the portal – translator’s note), “the US have already done one, to put it mildly, bad thing, by denouncing in 2001-2002 the 1992 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty)”. Let us remind that this happened under George Bush the Junior.
As far as START is concerned, it was Barak Obama who took a hand in undermining it. As the Russian Defense Ministry explained, the deployment of the the American launch systems MK-41 and the anti-missile complexes Aegis Ashore in the Eastern Europe was a violation. This launch and anti-missile systems are already deployed in Romania and are planned to be deployed in Poland, and, again, that decision was made before Trump.
Preparing for the deal
“If Trump intends to denounce START-III, which clearly sets the rules of the nuclear parity, it would seriously undermine nuclear security” says Perenjiev. The experts believe that a new arms race would force Moscow to quickly increase its nuclear arsenal, modernize nuclear weapons and delivery systems.
As noted a former Joint Chief of Staffs four-star General Yury Baluevsky, Russia would respond if the US starts increasing its nuclear forces. “We will seek an asymmetric answer, including in the nuclear area”, – RT cites Baluevsky. The General said that Russia will have as many nukes as needed for the guaranteed containment.
On the other hand, the fact that Trump criticized START-III does not necessarily mean that the revision of that treaty will become the reality. “It is unknown how real are the Trump’s intentions – the thing looks like an information game”, – notes Perenjiev.
He says that it is reasonable to believe that Trump”s statement is the beginning of the bargaining to renegotiate START-III on conditions more favorable to the US. “Trump, being a businessman, looks at treaties as bargains, and, before concluding a beneficial bargain, creates its “informational cover”, – says Perenjiev.
It is cheaper to agree on a new treaty
A former Head of the 4th Research Institute of the Defense Ministry (researches ways to develop the Russian strategic arms and air and space forces) one-star General Vladimir Dvorkin believes that the US are unlikely to denounce START-III. In his interview to Interfax news agency, he expressed hope that Trump “will be brought to his senses”. “Both Republicans and Democrats approved of START-III at the time, and they are unlikely to back its denouncement. Trump can say anything, but he will not be able to do it”, – predicts Dvorkin.
According to him, it would make more sense not to renew START-III, but to agree upon START-IV and cut down warheads and delivery missiles to 1,000 and 500, respectively. The expert explains: “The current treaty allows us to have 700 delivery systems, whereas we have only 508”. If we conclude SAT-IV, Russia won’t need to increase anything, so – “it is cheap and beneficial for us”. According to all existing treaties, the US have to cut their weapons down, whereas on our side everything happens naturally – we are behind in replacing our aging weapons”.
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