The tension between the former Cold War adversaries continues to thicken as Russia recently suspended the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty or New START. Shortly afterward, a Russian military journal article surfaced, suggesting that now is the time for the Kremlin to create a new military strategy built around nuclear weapons. Further stressing its significance in defense against a “possible US aggression.”
Use of Nuclear Weapons as Self-Defense
According to Reuters, the military journal included in its report Thursday that Washington had shown palpable worries of losing its global dominance, therefore, “apparently” preparing a plan to strike Moscow to neutralize such a threat.
In response, some Russian specialists began “actively developing a promising form of the strategic use of the Russian armed forces – an operation of strategic deterrence forces,” RIA news agency states, published via Voennaya Mysl (Military Thought) magazine on March 2.
It continued: “… presupposes the use of modern strategic offensive and defensive, nuclear and non-nuclear weapons, taking into account the latest military technologies.”
Moreover, the RIA article underlined that Moscow should find a way to demonstrate its strength to Washington and how the latter could not “cripple” the former’s nuclear missile systems. Additionally, any retaliatory strike against its powerful arsenals would be impossible to fend off.
Weeks after Russia launched its “special military operation” on Ukraine a year ago, the threat of nuclear war has become a recurring theme. What seems to be a thing of the past was brought to the present day when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the country’s nuclear forces onto high alert.
While Putin did not publicly mention the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, this has otherwise invoked fears among the global community, particularly the West. Nonetheless, he later said in a September 21 message that the West was plotting “to weaken, divide, and eventually destroy our country,” accusing its adversaries of “nuclear blackmail.” Thus, he deemed it appropriate to respond on how Russia would use “all available means,” including its lethal arsenal, to protect his country and people.
The Kremlin leader has maintained this narrative since it remains vague on what an “attack” means for the country to warrant a nuclear response.
Suspending the New START Pact
Just days before the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Putin accused the West’s ill intention of inflicting the Kremlin with a “strategic defeat,” highlighting how these hostile nations are trying to claim its nuclear facilities. Therefore, it deemed appropriate “to state that Russia is suspending its participation in the strategic offensive arms treaty.”
Putin further argued the irony of the Treaty, considering that NATO allies had been sending Ukraine tons of nuclear-capable drones to be used against Russia while the United States has insisted on keeping Moscow’s nuclear facilities in check.
“The drones used for it were equipped and modernized with NATO’s expert assistance,” Putin said. “And now they want to inspect our defense facilities? In the conditions of today’s confrontation, it sounds like sheer nonsense.” (via CBS News)
He, however, clarified that Russia is suspending its involvement in New START and not entirely withdrawing… yet.
The announcement immediately drew criticisms, including one from Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who called the move “deeply unfortunate and irresponsible.”
Blinken added that the US would indeed “be watching carefully” and, if needed, would take the necessary steps to ensure the country’s and its allies’ security.
To recap: the New START treaty was first signed in 2010 between US President Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev, capping each superpower’s deployable nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550, as well as 700 missiles and 800 bombers. The pact also includes on-site inspections to ensure compliance.
Read Next: Russia Warns US Against Sending More Arms to Ukraine
As the Treaty’s expiration drew to a close on February 2021, both Washington and Moscow agreed to extend the pact for five more years, with the inspections on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions.
But as the world healed and moved on from the pandemic, Russia hasn’t allowed its resumption, leading to uncertainty on the pact’s future. It also postponed any treaty consultations indefinitely, raising suspicions and, later, accusations of Moscow’s noncompliance with the deal from Washington.
With Russia’s recent announcement of stepping back from the pact and recent nuclear strategy suggestions from Russian specialists, tensions between the two nations remain as high as ever.
Ironically Pointing Fingers at the US
A day before the publication of the military journal, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, echoing the Kremlin Chief’s previous statement, that Russia would be prepared to respond “adequately” if Washington decided to conduct nuclear tests.
“The situation around the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is causing more and more concern [due to US actions]. The responsibility for the fact that the Treaty has not entered into force for more than a quarter of a century of its existence lies, in fact, with the United States, which defiantly refused to ratify it and are showing an obvious inclination to resume testing,” Ryabkov said.
“We cannot remain indifferent to what is happening,” the Deputy Minister added. “If the United States nevertheless decides to take such a step and be the first to conduct nuclear tests, we will be forced to respond adequately. No one should have dangerous illusions that global strategic parity can be destroyed.”
Meanwhile, the US remains quite optimistic about being able to save its deteriorating relationship with Russia, according to an Arms Control official.
Mallory Stewart, the assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance, highlighted Washington’s willingness to sit down and discuss matters with Moscow—considering the pact benefits both nations in terms of avoiding another costly nuclear arms race.
Stewart also pointed out that Russia’s accusation of US noncompliance with the Treaty is invalid because having to sweep through “Engels air base under the treaty” would not provide Washington with any information about Moscow’s conflict with Kyiv. She further clarified:
“Contrary to Russian assertions, there is nothing preventing Russian inspectors from traveling to the United States and conducting inspections. Since the summer of 2022, we have made crystal clear to Russia that we are prepared to honor our obligation to host Russian inspectors.” (via Air & Space Force Magazine)
Stewart goes on to affirm the willingness of the US to resume the inspections, urging Russia to take advantage of the granted authority to check the permitted facilities and see for themselves that we are honoring the Treaty.
“We’re encouraging them to do so to confirm that we can demonstrate … [that our weapons] cannot be used for purposes that [are] prohibited,” she said, adding, “It’s really a Catch-22, in the sense that they’re accusing us of being in violation, and yet they’re not taking advantage of the right to confirm that we’re doing the right thing.”
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