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Future of US-Russian Strategic Nuclear Weapons Reductions
Future of US-Russian Strategic Nuclear Weapons Reductions
As the battle for ratification is starting to rage on Capitol Hill in Washington DC some US and Russian experts have already started to look beyond the limits and horizons of the new START Treaty between Russia and USA.
1. The rollback in arms control sphere and general absenteeism on this agenda during
Professing elimination of nuclear weapons as distant and
2. This is why the opening of the new START talks was met from the beginning with only partly camouflaged skepticism in certain Moscow circles. Many military experts were openly stating that they would not be chagrined if the negotiations collapse. Such attitude was propped by the great alarmism and suspicions regarding Obama’s nuclear disarmament «offensive» — viewed by many Russian military as a ploy to disarm and overcome Russia (despite President Medvedev’s pronouncements in favor of the same nuclear «abolitionist» goal). Some Russian military experts opine that the removal of the risk of a major war fought with nuclear weapons paradoxically makes their «limited» use as battlefield
Deplorably, like in the Cold war era, the
3. Meanwhile, signing of the new START treaty in Prague has become the major event of this year. It is definitely the symbolic success of two innovative Presidents and the telling sign of certain breakthrough in bilateral relations as well as in general situation in global arms control.
The new START based on
It is the fact that treaty that fully responds to Russia’s national interests as it basically caps the status quo in the really existing strategic forces with the prospects of their natural (and hastened) phasing out Russia can easily be under 1550 ceiling in 3–10 years.
So whither new strategic reductions? What are numerical limits? Where to from here?
Most Russian military now agree that the process of strategic arms control has reached a certain plateau level. Both the US and Russian military seem to be reluctant of further cuts. Further deep cuts are possible only if certain basic factors are taken into account or eliminated:
First of all, this regards the new dimensions of strategic stability. If we continue reducing the number of warheads their diminished number can be theoretically knocked out by a first strike, even if they are to be based in mobile or somehow concealed or sheltered mode. Thais eventuality is even more plausible if the sharply reduced numbers are secured by the national ABM systems which guarantee the inefficiency of even highly weakened parameters of a retaliation strike.
Moreover, if the US and Russian potentials are starkly reduced they become comparable with other, especially
Speaking in purely numerical sense, generally the experts agree that the next figure can be somewhere around 1300–1400 warheads then sliding down to 1200 while 1000 is the utmost lowest limit which takes into account the existing potential targets (and threats) worldwide. This is shared by many US specialists. Going lower means to undermine or to redefine the entire concept of deterrence, including extended deterrence. This is a really blocking barrier which could be removed if certain criteria are fulfilled.
First of all,
Therefore, what are the major sticking points when the discussions on further reductions resume? What are the major problems on the path to further reductions, if not to the
To begin with, there are, so to say, philosophical problems.
They include and also presuppose next steps in developing bilateral strategic reductions process and in strengthening strategic stability:
- The general situation of global stability which must be made propitious for nuclear disarmament — meaning the very low level of intensity of international and regional tensions, mitigation of regional conflicts and absence of rivalry, at least between major powers, in sum, something resembling the Golden Era of Eternal Peace or the dreams of great thinkers like I. Kant and others.
In any case, the US and Russia have agreed to begin the discussion of a broader set of topics as it is stated in the recent small joint statement of Obama and Medevedev beginning with 3 major points: new venue for discussions of issues such as transparency; expert discussions of cooperation on early warning; and evaluation of such thorny matters as the future of conventional arms reductions’ process in Europe.
- curbing of regional nuclear (WMD?) proliferation while irreversibly «disarming»
non-officialnuclear weapons actors
- other nuclear states, perhaps starting with UK or France (?) are to join in the process. No doubts, it will be very hard to draw them to the negotiations’ table.
- basic refusal of further attempts to promote global ABM or very distinct limits on national BMDs
This is the major irritant in bilateral relations and major stumbling block on the way to nuclear disarmament. Large suspicions are looming in the Russian military circles regarding it, while many Russian experts are rather skeptical regarding President Obama’s plans to curb further development of strategic ABM defense, or that according to the
For Moscow the link between offensive and defensive potentials in the text of the preamble to the new START, as well as its other relevant clauses e.g. banning the transformation of ABM into offensive weapons, is the key feature of the treaty while for many on the American side it has no practical or legal meaning. There are no hidden commitments/secret deals or attached
Some Russian liberal commentators think that the time has come to proceed from meaningless assessment of emerging missile threats to the designing joint plans of at least regional BMD as Russia had proposed some time ago (2000) and what is now strongly advocated by NATO
- A very delicate and interesting issue —
non-strategicnuclear component of the US and Russian arsenals. While Obama administration is stressing the need to start discussions Russians are at best ambivalent stressing that the US must first withdraw their TNWs to the national territory. This is not feasible, even if NATO new strategy is completed, as it undermines the entire concept of extended deterrence. Russia sticks to importance of TNW as she considers herself dwarfed in comparison with NATO (China) in its conventional capabilities. At least, the initial discussions on transparency measures could be opened.
- Russia is really concerned by US plans to create new strategic conventional component of the new triad along the lines of the US Prompt Global Strike concept. Many Russian military think this can be employed to target Russian command and control or early warning centers forcing Moscow to unleash an
all-outnuclear war. This once again might seem paranoid but this only reflects Russian military feelings of inferiority complex and anxiety that Washington would act from the position of strength dictating to Russia some unbearable conditions. Thus further restraints must be put on these weapons.
Now to the practical issues which could define the outlines of the
- The major issue as all Russians agree is the upload potential or the problem of
non-deployedwarheads. US have historically resisted any limits on its upload capability understandably trying to preserve a kind of hedging for any unpredictable turn of events, say, hypothetic breakout strategic armament leap by China. Russia is still worried that by downloading its missiles and storing the warheads US could then walk out of any future START limitations, like Bush-jr. has done with the ABM Treaty, and thus gain breakout capability acquiring many thousands of new operational warheads. It may be paranoid and totally in the vein of the Cold war logic but this is how it stands. According to some estimations, Americans can have from 1500–2000 to hypothetically 4000–5000 reserve warheads thus securing a considerable edge. It of course is meaningless, unless someone is going to lead protracted nuclear war methodically exchanging nuclear strikes starting with some Schlesingerian «limited options».
To prevent this new treaty must cover warheads
On a later stage, the more
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