By Jason Sibert
The United States and Russia just extended the New START arms control agreement.
The agreement, the last arms control agreement between the two countries, will be good for another five years. The treaty limits deployed nuclear weapons to 1,550 per country. Politico's editorial staff struck a dim tone in a recent story titled "Why New Start Extension Could Be the End of Arms Control as We Know It." Despite the tensions between our country and Russia (in its Soviet and Post-Soviet forms), a certain form of productive arms control has defined our relations - bilateral, treaty based, and verifiable. The Politico story stated that this is coming to an end. If the story produces truth in the future, this is not a good thing because there are weapons in our future that will be far more destabilizing that nuclear weapons.
America's polarized politics might prove to be a stopping point in future arms control deals. New START was renewed by executive agreement according to the treaty's provisions. Any new treaty would have to gain approval in the Senate of two-thirds of the Senators in the chamber. Getting 17 Republicans to approve any new treaty with Russia will be a challenge, and all Democrats might not support a new treaty.
In addition, the Russian violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Treaty will be a sticky point in any future negotiations. Russian security personnel have used Novichok, a banned nerve agent, in two known assassination attempts in recent yearsagainst Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in 2020 and former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in 2018. Both uses have been confirmed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. As with its violation of the INF Treaty, Russia has also denied these reports. These controversies will have to be resolved before any administration could win Senate approval for a new arms control treaty.
More important, the existing arms control framework does nothing to limit the new and more dangerous weapons that can be used in our geopolitical conflict with the Russians. Both sides are pursing long-range conventional weapons and cyber and artificial intelligence capabilities. Then there is the issue of the militarization of space. The answer to our problems is arms control.
With the challenges we face in the future, our country must have a plan. The U.S. should refrain from placing land-based missiles in Europe that could reach deep into Russia, even though it could do so after the demise of the INF Treaty, as stated in the Politico story. This would produce an arms buildup on the part of Russia. If the Russian leadership will listen, we should move forward on a more aggressive arms control regime that will push the geopolitical conflict out of the military sphere. The five-year extension of New START could be the start of a something new if we start an extensive dialog with our adversary. What is the end of this story? I guess the two countries will write an end in time.
Jason Sibert is Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project.
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