Conflict control is not a comrade | Latest news The Moscow Post
01 December 2023

Conflict control is not a comrade

Vladimir Soloviev and Sergey Ryabkov disagreed.

The state of the relative and fragile balance of security interests of Russia and the West is again violated by the conflict between Russia and NATO in the territory of the former Ukraine. The mechanisms of containing contradictions and mistrust are weak and destroyed. Emotions that affect the zones of strict discipline surrounding nuclear weapons are being replaced.

While Vladimir Solovyov, according to RIA FAN on the night, talked about the need to threaten the West with these weapons during the conflict in Ukraine, Elena Chernenko asked Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov about the problems of strategic stability.

From comparing the radical views of a well-known journalist and the cautious assessments of an experienced diplomat on relations between Russia and the West in the field of nuclear confrontation, the "files" are dispersed. The question arises: Are we for control over nuclear weapons, or are we ready to threaten them, maybe even use them? Or is it a psychological warfare technique? And what about control?

In the words of Deputy Minister Ryabkov, too, not everything is clear. The central line of his conversation with the correspondent of the Kommersant newspaper boiled down to the problem of the resilience of the strategic arms control regime in a conflict. The main question asked was: "If the START Treaty falls apart before 2026 or expires without replacement," then what will be the relations between the Russian Federation and the United States without arms control?

The diplomat laughed off: "Let's wait - we'll see," he said.

Time will show

It was about the Treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on measures to further reduce and limit strategic offensive arms (START 2010), signed in Prague on 8 April 2010. The agreement entered into force on February 5, 2011.

Upon ratification, the parties made a number of reservations. The US Congress resolution noted that "the new treaty does not impose restrictions on the deployment of missile defense systems, including in Europe." Russia reserved the right to withdraw from the treaty if US missile defense reaches the stage of development when it becomes a threat to the Russian Federation. It was indicated that the provisions of the preamble, which spells out the relationship between START and missile defense, are legally binding and should be fully taken into account by the parties.

START was extended for five years in 2021, almost immediately after Joe Biden came to power.

"The extension of the agreement meets the national interests of the Russian Federation, allows maintaining transparency and predictability of strategic relations between Russia and the United States, and maintaining strategic stability in the world," the Kremlin noted then.

"We have long offered this to our American partners. It is nice to note that the new administration has fulfilled its campaign promises on this score. We welcome this decision, "Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with permanent members of the Security Council.

Where subtly...

The conflict in Ukraine and everything that preceded it, including Moscow's proposals made to the West in December 2021, force a new look at the problem of strategic stability. In particular, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev criticized attempts in the West to explain the supply of weapons to Kyiv by allegedly preventing world war.

"Firstly, the protection of Ukraine, which is not necessary for anyone in Europe, will not save the thinning Old World from retribution, if something happens. Secondly, if the third world war begins, then, alas, it will not be on tanks or even on fighters. Then for sure - everything is in ruins, "Medvedev wrote on Saturday in his Telegram channel.

So the deputy chairman of the Security Council commented on the words of Italian Defense Minister Guido Crozetto, who blurted out that the weapons sent to Ukraine are intended to stop the escalation, that the third world war would begin if Russian tanks appeared in Kyiv and "on the borders of Europe." In the same row, Medvedev also put the calls of London to provide Kyiv with all the weapons that NATO has at its disposal.

… there and Ukraine

Is arms control in the new conditions in the national interests of Russia? If the answer is, how should this system be built or remade? Arms control has become a hostage to the general deep degradation of our bilateral relations, said Sergei Ryabkov, answering questions from a Kommersant newspaper correspondent. At the same time, he referred to the "harmful military-political development of the post-Soviet space" and the transformation of Ukraine into an anti-Russian outpost.

The West effectively rejected the principle of security indivisibility, Ryabkov said, and added that Russia has "a sovereign right to" red lines "and a reliable external security circuit." He noted that the West is making "efforts to discredit Russia in the international arena," that Washington is "irresponsibly politicizing" arms control and has relied on Russia's "strategic defeat" in an unleashed total hybrid war.

He added that "arms control cannot exist in isolation from military-political and geostrategic realities," which requires an understanding of the parameters and principles of coexistence with the West, which would ensure the minimization of conflict potential.

START continues to ensure the predictability and restraint of the parties in the nuclear missile sector, Ryabkov continued. "We proceed from the fact that the agreement objectively continues to meet the interests of both countries, that if and when the conditions for the resumption of strategic dialogue with the United States ripen, the topic of the post-INF Treaty (intermediate and shorter-range missiles), of course, should become one of the components of the security equation to be jointly developed," he said in an interview.

Stable imbalance

During the interview, Sergei Ryabkov several times used the phrase "strategic stability" and "bilateral stratidialog." The dialogue between Moscow and Washington on strategic weapons has been going on for several decades. Its meaning is to refrain from mutual suspicions that may prompt one of the parties to "shoot first."

As Ryabkov said, the DNSV provides "predictability and restraint of the parties in the nuclear missile sphere." In fact, we are talking about the parties to the contract perceiving the intentions of the opposite party. And here the painful state of "Western minds" and the lightness of expressions cannot but disturb. This, firstly.

Secondly, for more than thirty years of the "stratidialogue," some types of non-nuclear precision weapons with a negligible "approach time" have actually been included in the category of strategic weapons.

Thirdly, since the beginning of the "stratidialogue," the nuclear forces of the US allies have been removed from the brackets. Great Britain and France are part of the NATO nuclear bloc, Ryabkov said. Already at least this was a concession from Moscow, which did not insist on their accounting. In the context of SVO, this factor has become a source of vulnerability. Remember at least the "push-button enthusiasm" of a London lady named Truss.

Fourth, geography was not taken into account in 1991. The recent strikes of "Ukrainian" drones "with the direct military-technical and intelligence-information participation of the United States" on strategic aviation bases also showed this source of vulnerability to Russia.

Ryabkov recalled this when he spoke about the desire of the Americans to resume inspection activities at strategic facilities. And he said directly: "What exactly do the Americans intend to check there? The consequences of these attacks?. " Finally, about the "US bet on Russia's" strategic defeat "in the unleashed total hybrid war." These are also Ryabkov's words!

But opinions vary. Even in the context of global and regional tensions, "real prospects remain for progress in solving pressing arms control problems," Gennady Gatilov said a week ago, speaking at a session of the Conference on Disarmament.

Gatilov is the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN headquarters in Geneva.

Maybe the interview of the deputy minister was an attempt to somehow correct the statements of a colleague that... " the parties to the Treaty - the owners of the largest nuclear arsenals, share an understanding of the risks arising from a situation of strategic uncertainty and unpredictability "?

Understanding Risks and Feeling Trusted

Can we be sure that Washington and Moscow "share an understanding of risks" and equally interpret the concept of "strategic stability," especially in the context of the conflict in Ukraine? Historically, this term - "strategic stability" - is associated with the USSR-US dialogue on limiting nuclear weapons. It was used in the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (1987) and in the Treaty of SNV-1 (1991).

In the understanding of one of the American experts, "strategic stability means stability in an arms race in which neither side has an incentive to seek or establish superiority (or breakthrough potential), regardless of technological advances." It is also crisis resilience when neither side has an incentive to escalate the crisis.

According to Americanist Andrei Kokoshin, "strategic stability" is "a state that is provided by reserves of stability that allow compensating for the influence of external and internal disturbing factors."

Both definitions do not include a factor such as respect for treaties that oblige parties to maintain this very "strategic stability."

As you know, Russia did not "fall apart" such agreements, Washington did this and the root of the problem may be Washington's contractual unreliability: "Today they say one thing - tomorrow they sign another, the documents are signed - tomorrow they refuse them, what they want, then they do. There is no stability at all, "Vladimir Putin said during the plenary session of the XIX meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club.

As a result, the risks multiply and, as Ryabkov said, "we are able to be interested in such hypothetical agreements with the United States on arms control, which would be organically and vitally inscribed in a more" healthy "than now, general political and military-strategic context." We add - and which will be observed by the contracting parties. As it is customary to say, hope dies last, but "we will live - we will see"!

Moreover, on August 1, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin, welcoming the participants and guests of the X Review Conference on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), reiterated that "there can be no winners in nuclear war and it should never be unleashed, and we stand for equal and indivisible security for all members of the world community."

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