The clock is ticking: the New Start Treaty will expire in less than 20 months, a deadline which presents the administration with tough choices.
What Is New Start?
New Start is a nuclear arms control agreement between the United States and Russia, which came into force on February 5, 2011. It limits both countries to a maximum of 1,550 deployed warheads, which are to be carried by no more than 700 deployed strategic delivery systems—intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched missiles, and heavy bombers. It also puts in place an inspection regime, which enables each side to check the other is abiding by the deal. The treaty runs for one decade, until 2021, with a provision that allows it to be extended once, for a further five years.
Very soon, the Trump administration will need to choose one of three paths: it can let the deal die, negotiate a more ambitious and comprehensive arms control agreement, or extend the U.S.-Russia Treaty for another five years.
Realistically, that choice needs to be made in the coming weeks or, at most, months—to postpone a decision is to foreclose some of the options and would be a choice in itself.
1) Let the deal die.
From their 2014 illegal annexation of Crimea to the use of chemical weapons abroad, Russia has breached more than eight international treaties over the past decade. One of the country’s most serious violations relates directly to nuclear arms control: their violation and abandonment of the landmark 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement.
As Russia experiments with new strategic capabilities, such as nuclear-driven cruise missiles and fields novel devices, such as very low yield warheads, the underlying threat perception, which inspired the New Start Treaty and set out in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, has been proven false: it didn’t account for Putin’s mendacious turn.
For the moment, it appears that New Start is one of the few treaties Russia still adheres to. This is not so much out of respect for the deal but because the treaty remains in Russia’s interests, since it allows Moscow to keep its defense costs in check. (end of excerpt)
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