Many say the corona pandemic was foreseeable. In fact, it was crazy how relaxed Americans and Europeans lived until March, while the Corona crisis raged in China. As if viruses were keeping their limits.
It is very similar with epidemic nuclear armament. Almost every day there are small messages about new weapon systems and the impending end of disarmament contracts. A week ago Donald Trump announced the withdrawal from another arms control treaty. The Russian foreign minister has now threatened countermeasures. But we are too busy with the Corona crisis and are losing sensitivity to the simultaneous dangers, whether climate warming or the armament that is getting out of control.
The US president wants to withdraw from the Open Skies agreement. This contract has enabled NATO countries and Russia to carry out joint reconnaissance flights across European, American and Russian territory since 2002. Today you can do that with satellites if you have them. But the real value of the agreement is somewhere else. It creates trust. When Russian, European and American soldiers inspect the territory of their counterparts together, you get to know each other, see the same thing, let the facts speak together. Unfortunately, Russia has impermissibly limited the range of these flights over its territory.
Both major nuclear powers underestimate the deal. This is dangerous: Because there are too few points of contact between NATO soldiers and Russian soldiers.
No one should be surprised that Trump Straight is using the lever there. In the past few years, the US President has attacked or destroyed all treaties that build or build on trust: the Iran nuclear deal, the INF treaty to ban medium-range weapons, the UN treaty on arms trafficking. Trump doesn't work with trust, but with unpredictability, mistrust and fear.
Russia remains unaffected by agreements
His next blow could hit the US-Russia New Start agreement on the limitation of nuclear ICBMs. If it is not renewed, it will expire in February 2021. The agreement was approved by predecessor Barack Obama, which speaks against Trump's view of New Start.
Russia uses a different tactic to undermine disarmament contracts. The Russians are undisturbed in violating agreements, but firmly claim the opposite. Under the Open Skies Agreement, they don't let the planes fly low enough in the border regions. They broke the INF treaty for years by building medium-range missiles capable of nuclear power and placing them in the European part of Russia. Of course not, without stubbornly denying it. But the Russians know that they are not rich enough for a large-scale arms race with the United States.
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There are enough diplomats and military personnel from NATO and Russia to see the dangers, and they are currently working flat out to maintain the Open Skies Agreement and to remedy violations of it. Some also want to renew the new launch missile contract. They recognize the value of arms control, but don't get through to Trump in the White House.
The US president now wants to bring China to disarm ICBMs, but China has only a fraction of these bullets compared to the U.S. and Russia. There is much to suggest that China’s Trump’s entry into the New Start Agreement is a diversion. He knows that it will not be possible to force China into a Russian-American contract. But then he would have a new excuse to tip New Start. Trump follows the same course in rocket armament as in all treaties: the United States should not let anything and anyone be tied up. But this nationalist ego trip threatens the very basics of arms control.
Mutual control and limitation, verification and trust are the pillars on which disarmament and peace rest. All of this is now up for grabs.