Reinforcing global strategic stability

Friday, 2021-01-29 09:39:31
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Russia's Borei-class nuclear-powered submarine K-535 Yuri Dolgoruky launches an RSM-56 Bulava ballistic missile in the Barents Sea. (Photo: TASS)
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NDO - Right from their first phone call, US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin reached a high consensus on extending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). This decision has been hailed as a major step in the efforts to reinforce global security and strategic stability, while marking a new start to US-Russia cooperation across fields.

Entering into force in 2011, New START is a legally binding treaty on strategic arms control between Russia and the US. The pact limits each party to 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), 1,550 nuclear warheads on deployed ICBMs, and 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers. It also envisions a rigorous inspection regime to verify compliance, with terms stipulating that the parties must inform each other on their plans to produce, deploy or move missiles, warheads or bombers, and have the right to request inspection of each other’s weapon deployment sites, in addition to intelligence gathered by reconnaissance satellites or other surveillance operations.

With such specific regulations on quantity and technical details, New START is truly an effective tool for the US and Russia to monitor each other’s strategic arsenals. To the world, New START is not only a legal document between the US and Russia, but it is also considered a “cornerstone” helping to maintain global strategic stability. The extension of this treaty becomes more urgent after a series of international security agreements were deleted due to the unilateral US withdrawal, such as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and the Treaty on Open Skies (OST), making New START the only remaining pact on global strategic arms control.

In that context, the US and Russia agreeing to extend New START for five years right before the treaty expires (February 5), without any prerequisites or adding new terms, is a significant progress. Immediately after the two leaders reached an agreement, both houses of the Russian Federal Assembly – the State Duma and the Federation Council – adopted a bill on New START extension, paving the way for the treaty’s continued implementation.

According to the Russian parliament, the extension of the pact meets Russia's national interests, allows the maintenance of transparency and predictability of nuclear arsenals between Russia and the US, and contributes to maintaining security and stability in the world, thereby reaffirming Russia’s commitment to the international obligations regarding non-proliferation and disarmament of nuclear weapons.

For the US, new President Joe Biden took office in the context of a divided and unstable country. Therefore, the priority task of the new US administration is to restore stability and remove disagreements to cope with challenges. Some objections raised against New START in the US claim that the treaty is outdated and fails to update the status quo of new US and Russian weapons, nor does it reflect the current nuclear power of other countries. The former US administration once demanded renegotiation of the pact and bringing in more nuclear powers. However, this requires a lot of diplomatic effort and time, while New START is very close to its expiry date. Given that fact, the decision of President Joe Biden to extend New Start with Russia is considered a suitable step in the current context, which will at least help the US to avoid unpredictable risks in the nuclear issue, while opening opportunities for dialogue to remove disagreements and improve relations between the two countries.

World public opinion welcomed such an important step forward by Russia and the US. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the New START extension agreement between the two powers that currently hold around 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons will contribute to promoting international peace and stability. The German Foreign Ministry emphasised that in the pivotal moment of the global disarmament and arms control process, the renewed US-Russia treaty will continue to help strengthen security in Europe.

The New START extension deal is expected to initiate a new process of dialogue between Russia and the US on arms reduction towards nuclear disarmament. At the same time, it promotes multilateral dialogue and the formation of a new broader mechanism in efforts to control arms and consolidate global strategic stability.