ANALYSIS – New START Treaty Extension Can Pave Way For Further US, Russia Arms Control Discussions
Faizan Hashmi 3 days ago Tue 26th January 2021 | 12:50 AM
MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik – 26th January, 2021) The extension of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the only remaining legally binding agreement on nuclear arms control between Russia and the United States, may pave a way to further Moscow-Washington discussions on arms control, experts told Sputnik.
The New START treaty, which limits the US and Russia‘s nuclear arsenal to 700 intercontinental ballistic missiles, 1,550 nuclear warheads and 800 launchers, is set to expire on February 5. Russia has offered Washington to extend the treaty for five years without preconditions while the then-US President Donald Trump rejected the proposal and called for shorter arms control deal that would include China in the future. In the end, the negotiations ended in deadlock.
The new US administration led by President Joe Biden on Friday announced that it would seek a five-year extension of the nuclear arms reduction treaty, and Russia welcomed Washington‘s move. Earlier on Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that a practical work at the level of experts on the treaty’s extension has begun.
IF THERE IS A WISH, THERE IS A WAY
“I do believe that given both countries want to extend the treaty for five years, they will find a way to do so,” Miles Pomper, a senior fellow at the Washington DC office of the Middlebury Institute’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told Sputnik.
Pomper added that Biden recognized the importance of bringing Beijing into the arms control process but never “indicated an intention to require China‘s participation” before the extension of New START.
“Yes, I do believe that agreeing on this extension will lay the groundwork for future arms control discussions. However, this is likely to be a process that will take a long time,” Pomper added.
“I think it’s a 90 percent probability, even more, that New START will be extended. The only potential stumbling stone is that Russia needs to ratify the extension in the legislature, which will take time, but can enact a provisional extension that will be in effect until legislative action. If US accepts that procedure, there will be no problem at all,” Sokov told Sputnik.
The expert also said that the US’ interest in including China in the nuclear arms control treaty will continue but not at the same level as during the Trump administration. According to the expert, calls to include China in the deal may prompt Russia to raise the issue of the participation of France and the United Kingdom in nuclear arms control.
“I am certain they [US and Russia] will hold consultations, probably in the summer (the new administration will need time to shape its position). Whether these consultations will lead to full-scale negotiations is less certain. Much will depend on whether the parties will agree on the scope,” Sokov said.
“I am not optimistic: in my view, agreement on the scope is unlikely (i.e., we will see a repetition of [former President Barack] Obama years) and in any event will take a long time. Even if the two parties eventually succeed, there will simply be not enough time to complete negotiations until the expiration of New START (2026) – even under the best circumstances and truly cooperative attitude the issues on the agenda will be difficult,” Sokov said.
UNCONDITIONAL EXTENSION OR END OF THE DEAL
Joshua Pollack, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California, told Sputnik that there was no alternative to an unconditional extension of New START “as there simply is no time for any other approach, short of allowing the treaty to lapse.”
“Since both sides have said they would prefer to extend for the full five years allowed under the treaty, I’m confident they will do so. An extension will provide time to negotiate a successor agreement without any lapse in agreed limits or verification practices,” Pollack told Sputnik.
“Whether Russia and the US can make real headway is unclear. A modest agreement with similar verification measures, slightly lower numerical ceilings, and explicit inclusion of intercontinental-range boost-glide missiles is probably within reach, but to go further probably would require serious concessions that many in the US Senate would oppose. In particular, we’ll have to see how the Biden Administration approaches the question of limiting missile defenses,” Pollack said.
John Carlson, who is a member of the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, also believes that Moscow and Washington will extend New START for five years as there is a will from both sides.
“With the change of Administration in the US, now both the US and Russia want to extend New START for five years, so I have no doubt it will happen. This will help establish a more constructive atmosphere between the two countries, which I expect will lead to engagement on a range of strategic issues,” Carlson said.
Carlson added that both sides “see the importance” of including Beijing in arms control discussions but “it never made sense” to do it via New START.
Biden’s wish to renew New START gives hope that other treaties with Russia may be also renewed, Madelyn Hoffman, a longtime environmental and social justice activist, who was the Green Party candidate for the US Senate election which was held in November, told Sputnik.
“All accounts indicate that the Biden administration will act to renew the New START Treaty for another five years. That gives hope that the other Treaties will be renewed as well,” Hoffman said when asked about the possibility of extending of other deals with Russia.
No statement has been made from Biden on the future of the other two major military agreements with Russia � the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) and the Open Skies treaties. Meanwhile, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov has recently stated that Moscow was ready to work with Biden on the issue. The Trump administration previously announced its plans to leave the INF Treaty in 2018 and formally pulled out in 2019.
“Since Lockheed Martin was granted a big contract to develop a mid-range missile that would have been prohibited under the INF Treaty, reinstating it might face a more difficult challenge. If nothing else, having people named to fill many government roles in the incoming administration, provides a modicum of hope that some of these issues might be worked out,” Hoffman added.
In summer 2019, Lockheed Martin won more than $400 million to deliver parts and equipment for intermediate-range missile tests. The announcement came less than a week after the US withdrew from the INF.
Meanwhile, Hoffman expressed fears that the Biden administration might become “more aggressive” than the Trump administration.
“The Democrats have been pushing the story about the Russians influencing U.S. elections since the day of the last presidential election in 2016 when Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton,” Hoffman said.
“But fear is that it will not. Biden pushed Trump to be more aggressive against China over the past year, so my fear is that the U.S. military-industrial-complex wants and needs to create two “enemies” — China and Russia — in order to continue to justify its huge military budget of over $740 billion,” she concluded.
Speaking about the work Biden is about to do in the first 100 days of his presidency, Hoffman admitted that “at best” he is likely to bring the country back to where it was during Barack Obama‘s time.
“This would mean re-entering or renewing agreements made with Russia prior to the beginning of the Trump administration. However, I do not have much hope for the Democrats in this country to go beyond the “status quo” from 2016 and actually bring the world closer to peace,” she said.
In her recent opinion piece dubbed “The Chickens Come Home to Roost” written together with Rose Roby, also a member of the Green Party, Hoffman mentioned that Biden has “a 40-year history of promoting violent U.S. domination” and mentioned Gulf wars and the Iraq war.