The fate of the treaty is still in the balance
In Russia and the United States, they believe that the START Treaty can still be saved, but they have different ideas about who should take what steps in the first place to reach a compromise.
As a reminder, US Special Representative Marshall Billingsley at the arms control talks said on Tuesday that it was now Russia’s turn to respond to the US conditions for the extension of the Strategic Arms Reduction Agreement..
“Russia understands our position, and … it remains to be seen … whether there is political will in Moscow for this agreement to be implemented,” said Marshall Billingsley.
“Now the ball is on the Russian side,” he added..
Billingsley made his statement during a telephone briefing held at the end of the next round of talks, at which the Russian side was represented by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
Bilateral treaty limiting the number of deployed long-range nuclear warheads for each side expires in February.
The US would like the new agreement to address Russian short-range missiles that are outside the scope of the previous treaty.
In addition, Washington calls for an improved system for verifying compliance with the agreement..
The United States also demands that China be involved in any treaty designed to replace the previous one..
This time, Billingsley used a slightly softer wording, saying that joint efforts would develop a framework into which China could be included at the right time..
The two previous rounds of negotiations between the United States and Russia did not bring visible results regarding the extension of the START treaty.
According to Sergei Ryabkov, the chances of prolongation of the document are “small, but they have not dried up yet” (quoted by Interfax).
Independent military analyst Alexander Golts, in an interview with the Russian service of the Voice of America, noted that the negotiations in Vienna indicate that reason has triumphed after all. In his opinion, even two months ago there were no hopes and prospects for extending the START Treaty. At the same time, it seems to him that “the ball is on the American side.”.
“It seems that the US is no longer categorically insisting on the demand for China to join the negotiations,” he added. – Then (for the prolongation of the START Treaty) only the US demand to somehow include in the document non-strategic (in Russia it is called tactical) nuclear weapons remains of the serious obstacles. And this is the hardest problem. “.
It is “unthinkable” to solve it in the months remaining before the expiration of the contract, says Alexander Golts. According to him, it will take years to solve this problem..
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“Today it is not even clear how to solve it,” he said. – The problem of strategic weapons was solved by limiting delivery vehicles. And when we talk about non-strategic nuclear weapons, most of the aviation and missile weapons of both sides are their carriers. Here we need completely different confidence-building measures, much more significant than those used in the verification of the START treaty “.
However, the military observer admitted that in the final document they might write that the parties in the foreseeable future will undertake to start negotiations on non-strategic weapons. But in order to remove all the questions, you need to spend a lot of time and puzzle over how to write new Russian weapons into the START treaty – the Sarmat missile, the Avangard planning blocks and others, summed up Alexander Golts.
In turn, Andrei Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), believes that the success of the Vienna talks depends on the flexibility that the parties will show in them. At the same time, he recalled that Russia proposed simply to extend the agreement without any additional conditions, and then return to resolving the issue next year, if clarifications or additional procedures are required..
“In general, it all depends on whether Washington really wants to make progress (in the negotiations),” he says in a commentary to the Voice of America. – Probably, the answer to this question depends on whether Trump can or cannot “sell” the treaty to the American public on the eve of the election as his outstanding foreign policy victory. If he has an idea that he succeeded, then I think the agreement may well be prolonged. And if he has the feeling that without Chinese participation the extension of this treaty will be regarded in the United States as a defeat, then most likely the treaty will not be extended. “.
If not a single letter is changed in the agreement, then the approval of the Congress will not be required, it will be enough just to send a notification to the legislators about the prolongation of the document, Andrei Kortunov believes. But there is very little time left for reflection, he concluded..