By J C Suresh
TORONTO | WASHINGTON, 21 Feb 2023 (IDN) — The Arms Control Association, an independent, membership-based organization, has strongly criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to suspend implementation of the last remaining treaty limiting the world's two largest nuclear arsenals, the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). [2023-02-21]
In a statement, Arms Control Association (ACA) Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball was referring to remarks in Putin's State of the Nation address, which he says is "a rambling attempt to justify Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine" one year ago.
"His comments suggest Russia will not engage in talks to resume New START’s on-site inspections, participate in meetings of the treaty's Bilateral Consultative Commission, nor share data on strategic nuclear stockpiles as required by the treaty."
These actions, says Kimball, represent a major violation of the terms of New START and are not allowed for under the terms of the treaty. "Other senior Russian officials have previously said Russia will maintain under the central limits set by the treaty (1,550 deployed strategic warheads and 700 deployed strategic delivery vehicles)."
While this does not mark the end of New START, which is scheduled to expire on 5 February 2026, Putin's announcement makes it far more likely that, after New START expires, there will be no agreement limiting U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972, warns Kimball.
In fact, Putin's "suspension" of New START harms Russia's own security interests. "Absent full implementation of treaty provisions, Moscow (and Washington) gains less insight and information regarding the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal."
The ACA Executive Director adds: the New START suspension undermines Russia's obligations as a party to the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires the nuclear-weapon states to "pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament…"
The statement continues:
"In contrast, U.S. President Joe Biden has made it clear that his administration stands ready to expeditiously negotiate a new nuclear arms control framework with Russia to supersede New START–but that Russia must first work in good faith to resume New START inspections. This is a more than reasonable request.
"If New START expires in 2026 with no successor arrangement, Washington and Moscow could each double the number of their deployed strategic nuclear warheads in short order. Such a course of action would produce an arms race that no one can win and that increases the dangers of nuclear weapons for everyone.
"We strongly support the Biden administration's announcement today that the United States "remains ready to talk about strategic arms limitations at any time with Russia irrespective of anything else going on in the world or in our relationship."
"We reiterate our call upon Russia to comply with its obligations to allow for on-site inspections to verify compliance with New START and to engage in further nuclear disarmament diplomacy with the United States.
"We also urge all states-parties to the NPT, no matter their position on Russia's war on Ukraine, to urge the Kremlin to meet its nuclear disarmament responsibilities by complying with New START and by agreeing to negotiate new—and ideally lower—limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals, as doing so would enhance global security and support the long-term viability of the NPT system." [IDN-InDepthNews]
Image: Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow, Russia, 21 February 2023. /CFP