Contract for two - peace for all | Latest news The Moscow Post
04 August 2021

Contract for two - peace for all

The inevitability of START-3 was understood by everyone except Trump.

Imagine the road after an icy rain. It's getting dark, and the wind is blowing snow. Two pedestrians on the road are carefully moving their feet, clasping hands. The fall of one is guaranteed to cause the fall of the other. This can be called "strategic stability". You have guessed who these travelers are and why they hold each other tightly. Their conditional coupling is nuclear arsenals and, in particular, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, START-3. This document is intended to help ensure "strategic stability" and reduce the risks of an arms race.

The history of agreements with the United States on the limitation and reduction of strategic weapons goes back to the depths of the Cold War and the early post-Soviet period.

The START-1 Treaty was signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and George H. W. Bush on July 31, 1991, entered into force on December 5, 1994, and remained in effect until December 5, 2009. The document was supposed to ensure the parity of the strategic nuclear forces of the USSR and the United States at levels 30 percent lower than the then existing ones. After the collapse of the USSR, the Lisbon Protocol of 1992 updated the agreement.

The 1993 START 2 Treaty included a Memorandum on heavy bombers, heavy missiles in silos, and inspections. START-2 was to enter into force immediately after the exchange of instruments of ratification, but not before the entry into force of the START-1 Treaty. In 2002, an additional START Reduction Treaty was concluded, limiting the number of operationally deployed nuclear warheads for each of the parties to 1.7-2.2 thousand units by December 2012. After the US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2002, Russia announced the termination of its obligations under the START-2 Treaty, and in 2005 proposed a new agreement.

The START-3 Treaty for a period of 10 years was signed by Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama in 2010 in Prague and entered into force in February 2011. It stipulated that each side would reduce and limit its strategic offensive arms within seven years to no more than 700 units for deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and heavy bombers, as well as up to 1,550 units for warheads on them. A limit of 800 units was set for deployed and non-deployed launchers of the three above-mentioned categories.

The Treaty prohibited the deployment of START outside the national territory, but left technical issues unresolved. In particular, the concern was that the missile launchers of the Trident II submarines and B-52N bombers could technically be converted, but with the hidden possibility of restoring their initial configuration. Not only technical details came to the fore, but also issues of mutual trust.

In the first place was the problem of the so-called pre-emptive "first strike" and "first strike means", namely, nuclear and non-nuclear weapons that can perform strategic tasks, as well as missile defense systems. There were "grey areas" that the agreement did not cover. For Russia, it was a question not only of nuclear weapons, but also of conventional weapons of the United States, stationed in Europe and Japan and threatening the territory of Russia. For the American side, it was important to assess and limit the Russian stocks of tactical nuclear weapons that could be used in Europe.

There were talks in Washington that the concept of a pre-emptive nuclear strike should not be abandoned, since this makes the decision-making process more difficult for a potential enemy. This was stated at a hearing in the Senate by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces, Joseph Dunford. Moreover, the Pentagon has begun to develop low-power nuclear weapons, which, according to analysts, can lower the threshold for their use.

The Russian doctrine excludes the scenario of aggression. Its essence is reduced to "active defense" in the event of a nuclear attack or a large-scale attack. In particular, it was formulated as the right to "counter-strike". Such a difference in approaches undermines the very foundations of trust, and it is good that Russia has ceased to be in the role of catching up and has created such strike weapons systems that the United States does not have. This has become a kind of "peace enforcement" tool.

The second issue is the political climate in which the START-3 Treaty operates, the content and wording of official military doctrines. Russia has already been labeled "the main enemy" in documents not only by the Pentagon, but also in speeches by officials and American politicians. "Nuclear weapons are considered as a means of forcing a potential enemy to refuse to unleash aggression against our country," the Chief of the Russian General Staff said.

But the atmosphere of political dialogue, as never before, was permeated with sanctions, information fakes, and NATO provocations in areas geographically close to the borders of Russia. The mini-states of the post-Soviet space, having found themselves in NATO, as well as Poland and Ukraine, began to claim the right to vote in resolving issues of European and global stability. As they say, here we are…

We should not expect that the extension of the START-3 Treaty will be followed by a detente or reset, especially taking into account the support of Washington and NATO for these exalted players opposed to Moscow. According to Sergey Ryabkov, in the future it should be possible to conclude both legally binding agreements and political commitments. Here, as they say, "the devil is in the details", and common sense is in the heads. But the West is really in trouble with this!

Here is also the question of Moscow's long-term trust in Washington in connection with the withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, the IRNFT Treaty in 2019 and the Treaty on Open Skies in 2020. And it should be noted that the United States does not formally abandon the use of nuclear weapons first. Russia allows the use of such weapons only in two cases: if an attack is committed with the use of weapons of mass destruction or in the case of aggression that threatens the existence of the State.

In third place are the quantitative and qualitative indicators of the balance of power. START-3 is not capable of stopping a high-quality arms race. Russia and the United States are competing and will continue to compete in creating new generations of weapons, improving the invulnerability and accuracy of weapons delivery, reducing approach time, and using autonomous missile defense systems and technologies. The United States, in particular, uses the factor of the geographical location of its allies. For example, the MK-41 ground system, deployed in Poland and Romania, is adapted for the use of not only anti-missiles, but also medium-range cruise missiles.

"Guaranteed deterrence of a potential enemy from aggression against the Russian Federation and (or) its allies is among the highest state priorities," the document "Fundamentals of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the field of nuclear Deterrence" says. Deterrence will take place at the expense of the entire military power of the country, including nuclear weapons.

This document notes that the main military dangers, which, depending on changes in the military-political and strategic situation, can develop into military threats to the Russian Federation (threats of aggression) and for which nuclear deterrence is carried out, are:

a) build-up by a potential enemy in the territories adjacent to the Russian Federation and its allies and in the adjacent sea areas of groups of general-purpose forces, which include means of delivering nuclear weapons;

b) the deployment of anti-missile defense systems and means, cruise and ballistic missiles of medium and shorter range, high-precision non-nuclear and hypersonic weapons, strike unmanned aerial vehicles, directed energy weapons by states that consider the Russian Federation as a potential enemy.

To the question that "if a hypersonic gun is hanging on the wall...", Putin replied: "It will shoot if it is hung only on one stage. And if there is a similar gun hanging on the next stage, it is unlikely that the one who has it hanging next to him will allow himself to use it. This is the situation called strategic stability and balance of power." "We are not going to fight with anyone, but we are creating such a situation in the field of defense that no one would think of fighting with us," Putin said.

What remains? The extension of the START-3 Treaty will help to preserve the technical infrastructure of nuclear arms control, will facilitate contacts of verifiers and mutual inspections, and therefore greater transparency and predictability. Perhaps this will help to develop (with the participation of China) norms of conduct in outer space in the interests of its peaceful use, find approaches to confidence-building measures in cyberspace, strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and prepare the ground for a meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

At least the hands of the so-called Doomsday clock in 2021 were left in the same place as a year ago, they show 100 seconds before nuclear midnight, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reported. In the meantime, two pedestrians, bound by invisible bonds, continue their uncertain path along the icy road in search of "strategic stability". Dusk is falling, snow is falling, but the quiet exchange of opinions is revived. The wind carries snatches of the phrase that there can be no winners in a nuclear war.

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