All news

Prolonging New START won’t thaw Russian-US tensions, say experts

On January 26, Moscow and Washington exchanged notes on reaching an agreement on the prolongation of New START, which was stalled by the administration of former US President Donald Trump.

MOSCOW, January 28. /TASS/. Provisions of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) do not need to be expanded on, experts quizzed by TASS on Wednesday note. According to them, a new treaty will be needed to establish control over weapons developed after its signing.

On January 26, Moscow and Washington exchanged notes on reaching an agreement on the prolongation of New START, which was stalled by the administration of former US President Donald Trump. Although the initiative of the soonest prolongation of the treaty without preconditions came from US President Joe Biden, experts do not expect a thaw in Russian-US relations anytime soon.

No time for a discussion

The previous US administration put forward preconditions for the prolongation of New START, including the expansion of the treaty’s provisions to include China. "Overall, it was determined that no treaty is needed," Research Director of the Valdai Discussion Club Fyodor Lukyanov told TASS. "Meanwhile, since the very start, Democrats <…> said on this issue that they consider this treaty important: it was signed, concluded and ratified under the Obama administration, which Biden was a part of," the expert explained.

"During the talks <…> both the American and the Russian sides agreed that discussing all these issues only stalls the matter, as the treaty expires on February 5 already," Director of the Institute for US and Canada Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences Valery Garbuzov added.

On the whole, Washington’s approach won’t change, experts note. "Yes, the US wants to involve China, because they still consider China a military adversary," Dmitry Suslov, deputy head of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies of the Higher School of Economics National Research University, told TASS. However, Chairman of International Valdai Discussion Club’s Foundation Board Andrey Bystritsky points out that the problem of arms control is a global one, so "it is unclear whether China will or won’t join [the treaty], however, this opportunity should not be ruled out on the whole." "This will depend a lot on the context in which the US, China, and Russia will continue to coexist," the expert said.

An outline of a new treaty

According to Valery Garbuzov, New START "does not cover new types of weapons, it does not cover the types of weapons that are beginning to be developed right now." He noted that a new treaty is required to include those weapons, however, the time has not come for his deal yet.

Meanwhile, Dmitry Suslov points out that an outline of a new treaty has already appeared. "Russia’s stance boils down to the fact that the new agreement or a package of agreements and regimes should include all factors affecting strategic stability," the expert said. "[It should include] both missile defense, non-nuclear high-precision weapons, cyber weapons, and weapons placed in space."

What matters most to the US are strategic nuclear weapons, Yevgeny Buzhinsky, former chief of the Russian defense ministry’s department of international agreements and now chief of the Center for Military Political Studies at the Moscow State University’s world politics department, told TASS. According to him, "this matter is so complex that five years [until the expiration of New START] may not be enough to reach the agreements."

"By 2026 (when the prolonged New START expires - TASS), we will probably be able to agree on some package <…> of rules that would cover not only nuclear weapons," Suslov concluded. "In any case, it won’t be just one treaty," the expert said.

Relations unlikely to thaw

"Let’s be honest, the prolongation of New START will be good both for Russia and the US," former chief-of-staff of the Russian strategic missile forces, Viktor Yesin, told TASS. "This lowers the risk of certain problems that can follow an arms race."

However, experts suggest that the decision of the US to prolong New START should not be overestimated. "Generally, this doesn’t mean anything," Fyodor Lukyanov said. "This will be an absolutely isolated act - yes, a positive one, but there will be no further development of relations in other spheres as a follow-up."

Buzhinsky expressed the same opinion. "There is a mutual interest. However, I do not see any bright prospects - deterrence remains the basis of American politics," he concluded.