Washington’s Arms Control Delusions and Bluffs (excerpt)
(Source: Defense One; posted Sept. 28, 2020)
The clock for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty runs out on February 5. The Trump administration has not taken up Russia’s offer to extend the treaty, believing it has leverage to get something more from the Kremlin, and it has even threatened an arms race.

This is delusion and bluff. If the administration does not change course, New START will lapse and, for the first time in decades, U.S. and Russian nuclear forces will be under no constraints.

The terms of New START permit its extension for up to five years. Keeping Russian strategic forces limited and maintaining the current flow of information about those forces are very much in the U.S. interest. The Kremlin is ready to extend. Yet the Trump administration has laid down conditions, apparently believing that Moscow is desperate to continue the agreement.

The first condition is expanding the scope of the agreement. President Trump’s arms control envoy, Marshall Billingslea, has said that Russia must agree to new negotiations that cover all U.S. and Russian nuclear arms. This is not an unreasonable goal; it was proposed by the Obama administration in 2010. But Moscow has already responded by saying that any new negotiations would have to address questions of interest to Russia, starting with missile defense — and Mr. Billingslea has made clear that limits on missile defense are not on offer.

The second condition is improved verification. Mr. Billingslea claims that New START’s monitoring measures have significant shortcomings. However, the U.S. military and intelligence community deemed those measures sufficient in 2010, when the treaty was signed, and that remains the case today. Indeed, the State Department certified last spring that Russia was in compliance with New START. (end of excerpt)

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