The extension of the treaty on the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms (START III) by Russia and the United States at the moment may prevent the creation of a broader agreement involving China. This opinion was voiced by the deputy head of the Pentagon, John Rood.
“If the United States agreed to extend the agreement now, this could reduce the likelihood that we will be able to convince Russia and China to begin negotiations on a broader agreement,” he said.
The official explained that the parties still have time for negotiations, since the START III expires in February 2021.
“And under the terms of the contract, it can be extended by mutual agreement of the parties. New negotiations on the elements of the agreement are not required, it is enough to agree on a term - from zero to five years - for an extension by mutual agreement, ”Rud said.
As former NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller said earlier at a hearing on the Foreign Affairs Committee in the lower house of the US Congress, the alliance, together with US allies in the Asian region, is in favor of extending START III.
“The NATO allies, as well as our allies in Asia, support the extension of the START Treaty,” she said, adding that the extension of the agreement is important from the perspective of US national security.
- Rose Gottemoeller
- © Ints Kalnins / Reuters
A similar opinion is shared by the former chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen. He said that extending START III for five years would allow both Moscow and Washington to maintain mutual advantages and stability.
Speaking at the hearing, the admiral noted that the idea of connecting new participants to the contract may have a better chance of success if the base in the form of a treaty between the US and Russia remains valid.
“It is vital to engage in a dialogue on strategic stability with China ... and lay the foundation for future arms control measures, but it would be an unconditional mistake to sacrifice the advantages that mutual security offers with Russia for the sake of the unlikely in the near future agreement on control over arms with China, ”Mullen emphasized.
This is not the first call to extend the agreement made by American politicians. At the end of October, the head of the House’s Foreign Relations Committee, Eliot Engel, and Senator Robert Menendez (both representing the Democratic Party) sent US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo calling for efforts to maintain the treaty.
“We urge the administration ... to make every effort to ensure that it extends over the 16 months remaining until the expiration of the current treaty (START-III.— RT ), thereby guaranteeing further strategic stability in relations between the US and Russia” - was said in their appeal.
Now the United States and Russia are parties to the START III treaty signed by Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama. Countries have committed to reduce the number of nuclear warheads to 1,550 over the course of seven years, and the total number of deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine ballistic missiles and strategic missile-carrying bombers to 700. At the same time, the unexploded sides have the ability to store another 100 carriers.
The contract expires in 2021. According to its terms, the parties may extend the agreement for another five years. To this end, Moscow and Washington should now begin negotiations, but the American administration is hesitating. As stated at the beginning of 2019 in the White House, the States are “committed” to the current START III treaty, but have not yet decided to extend it.
- Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev after signing START III
White House head Donald Trump insists on including China as a new participant in the treaty, despite the fact that Beijing is skeptical about this idea.
Commenting on the start of START III at the beginning of November, Trump said Washington would like to conclude an agreement with Moscow, Beijing, and possibly other countries.
“We are dealing with arms control right now. We work with China, with Russia. And, in my opinion, both Beijing and Moscow are interested in this work - especially with regard to nuclear weapons. This is something like a major agreement in the field of arms control with the participation of Russia, China and, possibly, not only them, ”he said at a briefing on November 4.
- Army of China
- © Wang Ye / Xinhua
However, the PRC authorities do not intend to participate in such an agreement. According to the head of the Department of Arms Control and Disarmament of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China, Phu Tsun, in November 2019, Beijing is not shying away from responsibility and is ready to reduce its nuclear arsenals, but to “honest levels”.
“If other countries reduce their arsenals to the level of China, we are ready to join the process. However, it is unrealistic to expect China to join the so-called trilateral talks, ”the Chinese diplomat said at the IV Moscow Conference on Non-Proliferation.
Recall that today the “nuclear club” officially includes Russia, the USA, China, India, Pakistan, France and the United Kingdom. In addition, in the expert community there is an opinion that Israel has nuclear weapons, and the DPRK authorities themselves openly announced the creation of an atomic bomb.
According to the Stockholm Peace Research Institute, the United States and Russia account for 90% of all nuclear arsenals. The remaining members of the nuclear club are noticeably behind Moscow and Washington - the UK has 120 deployed warheads, and France - 280.
Experts do not have accurate data on the number of nuclear warheads in service with China and rely on rough estimates. It is estimated that today the Chinese military may have around 290 nuclear warheads at their disposal.
According to Vasily Kashin, a senior fellow at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics at the Higher School of Economics, China now has small nuclear forces, but is building them up.
“Beijing has already made great strides in creating new nuclear weapons delivery vehicles. Against this background, the Americans want to engage him in dialogue. But the Chinese are not profitable, because at the moment their nuclear arsenals are much smaller than the US and Russian. Most likely, the United States, putting forward such a demand, actually does not want to keep this agreement and is only looking for a reason to bury it, ”the expert suggested in an interview with RT.
“Do not want to lose an advantage”
Moscow offers Washington not to delay negotiations on the extension of START III. As Russian President Vladimir Putin noted on December 5, Russia is ready to extend the agreement by the end of this year.
“All our proposals are on the table to extend this agreement. So far, we have not received any reaction from partners. In this regard, I want to reiterate Russia's position: Russia is ready to immediately, as soon as possible, right before the end of this year, without any preconditions, extend the START III agreement, ”Putin said at a meeting on the development of the Russian Navy.
According to experts, it would be more logical to engage in negotiations with France and the United Kingdom, whose nuclear arsenals, in fact, complement the US, since these countries are members of NATO.
“The arsenals of Britain and France, in fact, are an addition to American nuclear capabilities. There is much more reason to include these European countries, not China, in the negotiations, but the Americans do not want to lose such an advantage, ”Kashin said.
According to him, if the START treaty is not extended, it will open up prospects for an “unpredictable arms race,” which NATO is not interested in.
“But the development of the situation now depends only on the United States,” the expert noted.
A similar point of view is shared by an expert at the International Institute for Humanitarian and Political Studies Vladimir Bruter.
“The prospect of abandoning strategic offensive arms worries everyone, but it is unlikely that significant progress in the negotiations should be expected now. During the election campaign, such a dialogue is disadvantageous to Trump. He will continue to set deliberately impracticable conditions, such as joining the PRC agreement, ”the expert concluded in an interview with RT.