Literally on the second day after taking office, the 46th US President Joe (Joseph) Biden makes a statement about his readiness to extend the Treaty on Further Reduction of Offensive Arms (START / START-3). What Russian President Vladimir Putin had almost begged his predecessor Donald Trump for in recent years was resolved in an instant. Suddenly? We can say that it is predictable. And the main question: to whom is it more beneficial?
It would be a stretch to call Biden a “friend of Russia”. Like any American president, he sees our country as a serious rival and a strong potential enemy. This is mutual – Putin thinks exactly the same about the United States, and therefore keeps his “deterrent potential” on alert and constantly improves it. The “rocket race” cannot lead to anything good, and both sides are well aware of this. Back in 1979, when the nuclear confrontation between the United States and the USSR was at its highest, Biden came to Moscow (then the young American senator was 36 years old) and contributed to the signing of the SALT-2 treaty (limiting strategic arms). That is, even then he understood that the containment of threats can be achieved by mutual restrictions, implying his own benefit in this process.
Unlike Trump the businessman, Baydan is more of an experienced politician and strategist. And he did not go to the current decision on the readiness to extend START-3 out of peace-loving motives. In his opinion, limitations in strategic arms should first of all play into the hands of the United States, which has lately lagged behind Russia in nuclear weapons. Not in terms of quantity – in terms of quality and efficiency. The Americans still have nothing to oppose to the Russian Sarmat-class ICBMs and the Avangard hypersonic glider with an extraordinary flight range and powerful weapons. And the extension of START-3 is a pause for five years (permitted by the terms of the treaty), which gives time to develop new agreements, and at the same time to develop new technologies in the field of weapons.
Here you can quote the press secretary of the White House for understanding. Jen Psaki: “The extension of the document is even more important in view of the fact that relations with Russia are currently hostile. The Treaty is the only remaining document limiting Russian nuclear forces, and it is a pillar of strategic stability between our two countries. ” The key words are specifically about the restrictions for Russia, there is no need to harbor illusions here. However, the extension of the contract is beneficial for us as well. Here, the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, says: “We are ready, without delay, to enter into contact through the foreign ministries of Russia and the United States for the earliest possible execution of an agreement on the extension of strategic offensive arms for five years.”
The START Treaty expires on February 5, 2021, and it seemed he was actually “buried”. At the same time, both Russia and the United States, the parties to this treaty, periodically spoke in favor of its preservation, but it was not possible to reach a consensus. And the main problem is that both sides simply do not trust each other and do not believe in the effectiveness of control over disarmament. Recall that back in August 2019, Donald Trump, at a meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, spoke in support of the extension of the Treaty, but in practice, no work in this direction was carried out, except for accusations from the American side of violations of agreements by Moscow, the Kremlin responded with similar claims … The United States tried to derive its own benefit from the procedure for extending START-3 itself – if you want to extend the Treaty, destroy the missiles. Putin traditionally answered something like: “Yes, and to hell with you, we will live without a contract.”
Putin, of course, was somewhat cunning, portraying indifference to the extension of the DNCV with the United States. On October 16, 2020, he proposed extending the Agreement for at least a year without additional conditions. That is, to freeze it in its current state, with the prospect of “conducting meaningful negotiations on all parameters of the problems that are regulated by agreements of this kind.” Putin is interested in maintaining strategic stability. Trump was equally interested in this. Moreover, each of them has his own view of the disarmament problem. What unites is a lack of trust in each other. What if the companion cheats?
It is the topic of control over the limitation of nuclear weapons and their disposal that have always been the main subject of mistrust between the United States and the USSR, and then Russia. It was really very difficult to check – not everything was shown, and Moscow has always been more open and truthful, but it also tried to have its own rocket “stash”. The problem was also taking into account the nuclear charges on ballistic missiles. Their number varied – during the tests there was one number, when taking up combat duty, the number of warheads increased. Again, there was the problem of the so-called “reentrant potential” warheads, when the missile planned for “cutting” was destroyed, and the warheads were already placed on a new carrier and did not seem to be registered.
If you recall, then the START I and START II agreements on the reduction of strategic offensive weapons provided for a control system for their implementation. And, as military experts and missilemen themselves, for example, the former chief of the main headquarters of the Strategic Missile Forces, Colonel General Viktor Yesin, note, the level of openness in Soviet and near post-Soviet times was even slightly higher than later. Monitoring the fulfillment of treaty obligations included conducting inspections to verify the data provided, inspections to verify the destruction of missiles, launchers and related equipment, inspections of enterprises, inspections of visual observation of launch platforms for direct counting of warheads, verification of the technical characteristics of ICBMs, SLBMs and strategic bombers. … A complete control mechanism appears to be a complex and expensive system. Each side uses its own technical means and intelligence gathering to verify the implementation of agreements.
Inspection activity, in addition to the exchange of telemetric data obtained during missile test launches (no more than five times a year), is considered the main tool for mutual control over the observance of the START III treaty. Each of the parties is trying to use the maximum number of specialists, which is stipulated in 300 people, to participate in inspections. The presented data and visual “picture” is limited by the possibilities presented for observation. Inspectors can, for example, obtain the credibility of reported amounts of deployed strategic offensive weapons. Figuratively speaking, count on fingers, but at a distance. It also presents an opportunity to confirm the reliability of data on undeployed, converted or eliminated weapons. There is an opportunity to be present at the places where ballistic missiles are loaded, stored and repaired, as well as at test sites and at places where missile calculations are taught.
An experienced specialist can learn a lot during such inspections, but not everything. Only from the agreed list, which does not give guaranteed 100% data. And it is on the basis of these data that reports are drawn up both on the number of missiles and other strategic offensive weapons, and on their combat potential. But the secrets remain in any case. And the declared 4000 thousand nuclear warheads from the United States and slightly more than 3000 from Russia, may differ somewhat according to the confirmed data of expert inspections.
Another question arises in connection with the current decision of the United States to extend START III – the time frame. There is not much time left until February 5, the count goes literally for hours, experts from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs previously argued that such a procedure could take at least six months. How will Russia and the United States have time to extend the Treaty?
-The problem of extending START-3 can initially be resolved within the framework of a bilateral advisory commission, – political scientist Alexander Zimovsky believes. – As the Treaty itself interprets, “to facilitate the implementation of the goals and provisions of this Treaty, the Parties hereby establish a Bilateral Consultative Commission, the powers and procedures of which are set out in Chapter Six of the Protocol to this Treaty.” Here the question is only in the desire of the parties to establish such a commission as soon as possible and in the presence of fundamental differences. And if there are no fundamental disagreements on amendments to the terms of the Agreement, the re-signing procedure can take place in a fairly short time. It is also necessary to take into account the fact that the preparatory work on the extension of START-3 was carried out earlier, everything depended only on the political will of the leaders. There were no delays on the Russian side, the process was slowed down in the United States, and since now Biden has given the go-ahead to his State Department, it is quite possible to meet the deadline before February 5.