Written by Steve Cannon for USSA News.
Russia has issued a stark warning to the United States that the end of nuclear arms control could be imminent without a replacement. The country has accused the US of trying to inflict “strategic defeat” on Russia in Ukraine, which may ultimately scupper the final major post-Cold War bilateral arms control treaty with Russia.
The current arms control treaty, the 2011 New START Treaty, is due to expire in 2026 and is the last remaining pillar of bilateral nuclear arms control. The future of the treaty is unclear, but Washington has indicated its intention to reach a follow-on agreement with Russia. However, the possibility of there being no treaty in place after 2026 is a very real one, according to Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov.
In recent years, the United States has ignored Russia’s interests and dismantled most of the architecture of arms control, says Ryabkov, who is Russia’s top arms control diplomat. He has warned that the New START Treaty may fall victim to this situation and that Russia is ready for such a scenario.
“The entire situation in the sphere of security, including arms control, has been held hostage by the US line of inflicting strategic defeat on Russia,” Ryabkov said. “We will resist this in the strongest possible way using all the methods and means at our disposal.”
U.S.-Russia talks on resuming inspections under the New START treaty were called off at the last minute in November 2022 and a time frame for new talks has not been agreed. The United States has supplied more than $27 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded the country in February 2014.
Both Russia and the United States still have vast arsenals of nuclear weapons and together account for about 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads. The New START Treaty limits both sides to 1,550 warheads on deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine ballistic missiles and heavy bombers. Both sides met the central limits by 2018.
The United States has said that Russia is expanding and modernizing its nuclear forces and that it will pursue an approach based on arms control to head off costly arms races. However, the expiration of the treaty without a follow-on agreement would leave Russia free to expand its strategic nuclear forces, which are currently constrained, as well as new intercontinental-range and regional systems that are not currently limited by the treaty.
“Russia is pursuing several novel nuclear-capable systems designed to hold the US homeland or Allies and partners at risk, some of which are also not accountable under New START,” according to the US Nuclear Posture Review.
The future of nuclear arms control hangs in the balance as tensions between Russia and the United States reach breaking point. With the New START Treaty due to expire in 2026, the world waits with bated breath to see what the future holds for global security and stability.