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No quick fix: Expert doubts renewing New START will improve soured Russian-US ties

Washington could 'get tough on' Russia in other areas, the political commentator opined

MOSCOW, January 27. /TASS/. The extension of New START (New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is unlikely to become a cure-all for Russian-US ties, and Washington could 'get tough on' Russia in other areas, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov told TASS on Wednesday.

According to the expert, it’s wrong to describe the treaty’s extension as a chance to iron out the current crisis in Russian-US relations. "There is an illusion that the treaty could somehow overcome the current negative trends in bilateral relations. I believe that this is not going to happen and most likely, the opposite will occur - [US President Joe Biden] will try to compensate for this agreement by embarking on a ‘get tough on Russia’ policy in other areas,"Kortunov insisted.

The political commentator explained that US pressure could target human rights, Ukraine and other issues, which Washington earlier used to justify its unilateral sanctions.

Besides, according to the analyst, New START’s extension for five years cannot by any means stop the arms race between the two countries, which is in full swing. "Now, this race will shift from a quantitative dimension to a qualitative one, and will concern not only the deployment of more warheads but a technological breakthrough. This could involve space, cyber weapons, lethal autonomous weapon systems and artificial intelligence. And here certainly competition will continue," Kortunov pointed out. According to the political commentator, the key problem will be the lack of understanding on how to fit this rivalry into a certain framework.

Another unsolved issue is how to engage other nuclear powers in the system of arms control and disarmament. However, Russia and the US agreed when signing New START that the new deal in this field would be multilateral.

On the other hand, Kortunov welcomed New START’s extension as a major political achievement for both sides and also noted that it enables preserving the infrastructure in the field of arms control and the mechanisms of checks and verifications. "They are important for both sides since they increase stability, predictability, reliability and reduce any risks of accidentally triggering a nuclear war and an undeliberate escalation," the analyst noted.

New system

The move to renew the deal allowed the parties to buy time in order to preserve old mechanisms, and gear up to shape a new model of arms control, which is inevitable. "This timeframe is needed not to build a new world by leveling the old one to the ground, but to draw up a smooth and as painless as possible transition from the 20th century model of a bipolar world to a new model," he explained.

However, this effort will be challenging since no one knows yet what the new model will look like. "Will there be multilateral mechanisms? How would a qualitative arms race be regulated and controlled? Should the agreements be signed and submitted for ratification by the legislative branch or will there be any other formats? These and other issues should be answered during these five years that we have now," the political scientist deliberated.

The first ideas could be outlined at a future summit of the UN Security Council’s permanent members, he pointed out. "However, five years is not a lot [of time]. As President [Vladimir] Putin said, there is no time for getting started. This effort needs to begin now, at least at an expert level and at least various options should be worked out and a new strategic culture should be formed. This will also require significant efforts of both sides," Kortunov elaborated.

Russia and the United States signed New START in 2010. The document stipulates that seven years after its entry into effect each party should have no more than a total of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and strategic bombers, as well as no more than 1,550 warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and strategic bombers, and a total of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers and strategic bombers.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin submitted to the State Duma (lower house) a bill on ratifying the agreement on extending New START for five years - until February 5, 2026. Putin and US President Joe Biden held a phone conversation, expressing satisfaction over exchanging notes between the two countries on extending the document.