Stopping The START
It is seemingly difficult to win a diplomatic battle against Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. Immediately after US President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr‘s surprise visit to Ukraine on February 20, 2023 (for the first time since the beginning of full-scale war between Russia and Ukraine on February 22, 2022), Putin freezed the Nuclear Deal (the New START Treaty or Treaty on Reduction of Strategic Offensive Arms) with Washington DC. It is to be noted that START is the last major remaining bilateral nuclear arms control treaty that aims at limiting the nuclear weapons of the two Super Powers.
A section of military observers believes that President Putin’s decision to freeze the New START Treaty on strategic nuclear arms reduction has fuelled the possibility of a Nuclear War. Moscow and Washington DC had signed the New START Treaty in the Czech capital of Prague on April 8, 2010 (during the Presidency of Barack Obama). The Treaty was due to expire in February 2021. Before the expiry, Antony John Blinken, the US Secretary of State, announced that the Biden Administration decided to extend the term of the Treaty for another five years (till February 4, 2026). However, President Putin has announced to suspend the agreement unilaterally.
The Russian President stressed that the position of the Western World, including the US, on the Ukraine War prompted him to make the decision. “They want to inflict a strategic defeat on us and claim our nuclear facilities,” he said. President Putin strongly criticised the West for escalating the conflict, making it clear that Russia would keep fighting to “systematically” achieve its aims. He also blasted Western Powers for wanting “to be done with us once and for all”. At the same time, he insisted that increasingly stringent sanctions on Russia “will not succeed”. Yet again, the President stated: “Russia does not want war. Western Powers imposed war. They are planning to launch an attack on Crimea.”
Incidentally, Russia had refused to sign the UN-controlled Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in a similar fashion after the beginning of the War against Ukraine in February 2022. Igor Vishnevetsky, the Russian Representative to the UN, had reportedly said: “There is no equality in the wording of that agreement. Our main objection is to some parts of the text of the agreement, which is highly political.”
Ronald Wilson Reagan (February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004), the 40th President of the US, and Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev (March 2, 1931 – August 30, 2022), the eighth and final leader of the erstwhile Soviet Union, had signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) on December 8, 1987. On the basis of the INF Treaty, the two nations banned their land-based ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and missile launchers with ranges of 500-1,000KM (short medium-range) and 1,000-5,500km (intermediate-range). However, the Treaty did not apply to air- or sea-launched missiles. By May 1991, the two Super Powers had eliminated a total of 2,692 missiles. Now, President Putin has stopped this nuclear disarmament process.
Soon after the Russian President freezed the New START Treaty, his US counterpart Biden softened his stand on Moscow, saying that the Western Powers were not plotting to attack Russia. Upon his arrival in the Polish capital of Warsaw from Kiev, President Biden stressed: “Millions of Russian citizens, who only want to live in peace with their neighbours, are not the enemy.“
For his part, US Secretary of State Blinken said: “We’ll be watching carefully to see what Russia actually does. We’ll, of course, make sure that in any event we are postured appropriately for the security of our own country and that of our allies.” He hinted that Washington DC was still ready to hold talks with Moscow, stating: “I think it matters that we continue to act responsibly in this area. It’s also something the rest of the world expects of us. But this decision, as I said, is both really unfortunate and very irresponsible.”
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