Vladimir Dvorkin

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, August 23, 2016, p. 3

Proposal of the US Administration to prolong the Prague START treaty of 2010 between Russia and the US for five years may be considered as a reserve plan in case of absence of a new treaty. Such a possibility is embodied into the text of this treaty.


Proposal of the US Administration to prolong the Prague START treaty of 2010 between Russia and the US for five years may be considered as a reserve plan in case of absence of a new treaty. Such a possibility is embodied into the text of this treaty.

In accordance with the START treaty, by 2021 Russia and the US are obliged to limit their strategic armament to a level of not more than 700 deployed carriers and 1,550 combat charge son them. In Berlin in June of 2013, US President Barack Obama proposed Russia to sign a new treaty reducing strategic armament of the parties approximately by one-third. In this case Russian and American strategic offensive weapons could be limited according to the quantity of combat charges to 1,000 units and deployed carriers could be limited to 600 units.

A new proposal of Washington about new reductions of strategic arms was made in January of 2016, which could quite be caused by address to leaders of the two countries by politicians and scientists well known in the world as a result of a joint conference of the international Luxembourg forum for prevention of nuclear catastrophe and nuclear threat reduction initiative (NTI) in Washington at the beginning of December of 2015. Moscow provided a fairly harsh response to this proposal. Speaking about the reasons for impossibility to conduct negotiations with the US Russia named, first of all, a need to organize multilateral agreement with other nuclear powers, second, continuation of deployment of the European and global American antimissile defense, third, existence of a potential threat of a disarming blow by strategic non-nuclear precision-guided means at Russian nuclear forces and fourth, remaining threat of militarization of outer space. The West headed by the US also pursues a frankly hostile sanction policy towards Russia with regard to the situation in Ukraine.

If we do not go deep into substantiation of statements about influence of the first three factors on the nuclear balance of Russia and the US and admit that negotiations between the two counties are impossible in the near future, prolongation of the START treaty looks more than expedient. It is necessary to say that the main circumstance is that absence of such treaty moves condition and development of strategic offensive arms of the parties outside of the limits of the legal field that enables the countries to control observance of contractual obligations reliably for a few decades with regard to condition of strategic arms, their types and composition, characteristics of the basic areas, quantity of deployed carriers and combat charges on them and quantity of on-deployed carriers and to see the nearest prospect. In accordance with terms of the START, up to 18 mutual inspections are conducted annually at ground, maritime and air bases of nuclear triads of the parties and up to 42 notifications about dynamic of objects of strategic nuclear forces are transferred to each other.

It is known that absence of information about condition of the armed forces of conflicting parties in general most often leads to exaggeration of quantitative and qualitative parameters of the opponent and increase of your own capabilities to a condition that guarantees adequate counteraction. This is a direct path to an uncontrolled arms race. This is especially dangerous with regard to strategic nuclear arms because this will lead to undermining of strategic stability in its initial understanding. Expediency of prolongation of the START treaty for five years until 2026 may be exactly in this.

Along with this, signing of a new treaty between Russia and the US on limitation of strategic offensive arms to the levels mentioned above until 2021 would be the best option. When we consider obstacles on this path, it I expedient to take into account a number of circumstances.

First, on the path of multilateral negotiations on limitation of nuclear arms there exist practically unsurpassable difficulties because all other nuclear states besides the UK have both strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons. However, the entire accumulated experience of control over strategic weapons is absolutely unfit for non-strategic nuclear weapons because of impossibility to ensure control over its observance because carriers of non-strategic nuclear weapons have dual purpose, diverse types and big quantity of basic areas.

Along with this, gradual movement towards consultations about measures for limitation and transparency of nuclear weapons seems to be possible.

In the form of the first step on this path it would be expedient to propose the UK and France to use a limited part of the transparency system similar to the system that exists between Russia and the US in the framework of the START treaty. To them may belong periodical notifications about composition, quantity and types of nuclear weapons, about planned changes in composition, quantity and types of nuclear arms, about the planned changes in composition and quantity of deployed nuclear weapons, about places of location of objects for production of nuclear weapons, about beginning and completion of production of nuclear weapons, about putting of nuclear weapons in service and their removal from service and other notifications from the practice of treaty relations of Russia and the US. It is possible that there will be involvement of China into such agreements. Meanwhile, condition of nuclear arms of China is the most non-transparent now among the five official members of the nuclear club.

The aforementioned measures seem to be the maximum that may be done in the field of multilateral control over nuclear arms. However, for organization of any consultations about multilateral nuclear control an initiative on the part of Russia and the US is needed and it cannot be efficient in conditions of stagnation of bilateral relations in this field.

Second, according to the words of Vladimir Putin said at Army-2015 forum in September of 2015, Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles can penetrate through the most technically perfect antimissile defense system and military specialists confirm impossibility of unpunished disarming strike by non-nuclear strategic precision-guided weapons at Russian nuclear objects. In other words, these two factors should not hinder new negotiations on strategic offensive arms.

Mutual recognition of the past wrong actions and demands done by Washington and Moscow would be expedient for a certain rapprochement of positions. For Washington this is non-observance of the declaration of 2002 they required cooperation with regard to antimissile defense. For Moscow this is a demand of unrealistic guarantees that American antimissile defense will not be aimed against Russian strategic nuclear forces.