DISPATCHES FROM MOON OF ALABAMA, BY "B"
This article is part of an ongoing series of dispatches from Moon of Alabama
The Trump administration wants to abandon all nuclear arms treaties with Russia. It has already left the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that restricted some classes of shorter range nuclear weapons. It left the Open Sky treaty which allowed for verification flights. It is now letting the New-START treaty with Russia run out.
New-START limits the number of deployed strategic weapons and nuclear warheads that can be used for intercontinental attacks. These include long range bombers, silo based nuclear missiles and the number of submarine launched nuclear missiles. The treaty does not limit the number of short range nuclear weapons or the number of nuclear warheads which are not deployed but held in reserve.
The current treaty will end on February 5 2021 unless Russia and the U.S. agree to extend it for up to 5 years as the treaty foresees. The Trump administration has said that it wants a new agreement before the upcoming election. There are now only two weeks left to negotiate an extension.
While the Trump administration wants to abandon New-Start it does not want to take the blame for doing so. It first tried to include China, which has far fewer weapons than the U.S, and Russia, into the treaty. China did not want to be part of the treaty even as the U.S. practiced childish diplomacy theatre to 'shame' China into negotiations.
The talks were going nowhere as the U.S. rejected the five year extension Russia wanted and demanded that other Russian arms, not covered by the current treaty, should also be included. On October 16 Russia's President Putin held a meeting with his national security cabinet. They discussed the treaty negotiations:
President of Russia Vladimir Putin:
Before we get to the main item on today’s agenda, I would like to ask Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov whether there has been any progress in the dialogue with the United States to extend one of the central documents in terms of international security and arms control. I am referring to the New START, the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms.
Where are we in the talks with the Americans?
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: Mr President,
In keeping with your instructions, we remain quite proactive in our contacts with our American colleagues on strategic stability matters in all their aspects, including by emphasising our initiative to take a decision without delay to extend the New START, set to expire in February 2021, for a new five-year term without any preconditions. This initiative remains on the table.
Vladimir Putin: It would be extremely sad, if this Treaty ceased to exist and was not replaced by another fundamental document of this kind. During all the previous years, the New START worked and worked properly, performing its fundamental role as a constraint curtailing the arms race and a tool of arms control. It is clear that we have new weapons systems that the American side lacks, at least for the time being. But we are not refusing to discuss this aspect of the matter as well.
In this regard, I have a proposal, namely, to extend the Treaty now in effect unconditionally for at least a year in order to have a chance to hold substantive talks on all the parameters of problems that are regulated by treaties of this kind, lest we leave our countries and all nations of the world with a vested interest in maintaining strategic stability without such a fundamental document as the Strategic Offensive Arms Limitation Treaty.
Please, formulate our position to the US partners and try to obtain at least some comprehensible reply from them as soon as possible.
Sergei Lavrov: We will do it as soon as we can, Mr President.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
The U.S. rejected the offer:
Russia on Friday proposed extending a soon-to-expire nuclear arms treaty for one year without any changes, a move seen in Washington as a tactic to delay action on the treaty until after the American presidential election.
The offer drew a cool reception in Washington. Within hours, the Trump administration issued a statement from Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser, rejecting the offer from the Russian president.
“President Putin’s response today to extend New Start without freezing nuclear warheads is a non-starter,” Mr. O’Brien said. “The United States is serious about arms control that will keep the entire world safe. We hope that Russia will reevaluate its position before a costly arms race ensues.”
Mr. O’Brien repeated the administration’s proposal to extend New Start for one year, "in exchange for Russia and the United States capping all nuclear warheads during that period.”
The proposal to cap all nuclear warheads would expand New Start beyond strategic weapons, its current focus, to also cover tactical nuclear warheads.
The big issue with the U.S. proposal is that there is no agreement or even the infrastructure that would allow to verify the number of all nuclear warheads. How would those be counted and how would dismantling or renovation of such warheads be handled. Would there be Russian inspectors in U.S. nuclear warhead depots and manufacturing facilities and U.S. inspectors in Russian ones? Negotiating the required processes to allow for that would likely take years. The Pentagon and the Senate would certainly oppose any inspection scheme.
But Putin is serious with wanting to keep the treaty. Today he took another step towards the U.S. position:
Moscow is ready to offer Washington a mutual one-year freeze on both sides’ nuclear arsenals, if New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is prolonged for the same period of time, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated.
"Russia offers to prolong New START for one year, and it is ready to take on the political obligation along with the USA to freeze the amount of its nuclear warheads for that period. This position can be implemented strictly on the understanding that the freezing of the warheads will not be accompanied by any additional demands from the side of the US," the ministry noted.
That offer is for an unverifiable gentlemen's agreement to freeze the number of nuclear warheads. Any verification scheme would be too complicated to negotiate within the few weeks left to the treaty.
(((James Acton))) @james_acton32 - 14:52 UTC · Oct 20, 2020
Important question. Totally different. New START doesn’t limit nondeployed warheads.
Graham W. Jenkins @grahamwjenkins
Replying to @james_acton32
How would monitoring and verification differ from the current New START regime?
Daryl G Kimball @DarylGKimball
Replying to @james_acton32
Nor does New START limit deployed or nondeployed nonstrategic warheads. Thus agreement on a verifiable "freeze" on total stockpiles would require agreement on counting rules, stockpile size and composition, and monitoring/verification methods. These are not small details.
The U.S. responded quickly to the new Russian offer by issuing additional demands:
We appreciate the Russian Federation’s willingness to make progress on the issue of nuclear arms control.
The United States is prepared to meet immediately to finalize a verifiable agreement. We expect Russia to empower its diplomats to do the same.
It is impossible to negotiate a 'verifiable agreement' about a freeze of the number of all nuclear warheads - strategic and tactical, deployed and nondeployed - within 14 days:
(((James Acton))) @james_acton32 - 14:47 UTC · Oct 20, 2020
A deal is possible but it’s unclear whether it’s close. A disagreement over whether verification is needed is pretty significant. If the US wants a deal before the election then either (i) US will have to back down and accept no verification; or (1/n)
Or (ii) the US will have to accept a Russian promise to negotiate verification arrangements since it’s not possible to do so in 2 weeks. Both are possibilities; both are far from assured. (2/2)
It would take years to verify each sides numbers of warheads in the first place.
The U.S. position to get a "verifiable agreement" within two weeks is nonsensical. It is simply a ploy to blame Russia when the time for extending the treaty runs out.
The negotiation process again proves that the U.S. is no longer 'agreement capable'.
Posted by b on October 20, 2020 at 17:00 UTC | Permalink
^5000The arch-hypocritical corporate media are our worst enemies.
They shamelessly block truth, peace, equality, and true democracy.
They are shills for those who murder the environment with impunity.
It's time you embrace YOUR media, the citizens' press.
Be sure to support the Greanville Post. If not you, who will?
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.