*Editor’s note: On March 4, Russia enacted a law that criminalizes public opposition to, or independent news reporting about, the war in Ukraine. The law makes it a crime to call the war a “war” rather than a “special military operation” on social media or in a news article or broadcast. The law is understood to penalize any language that “discredits” Russia’s use of its military in Ukraine, calls for sanctions or protests Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It punishes anyone found to spread “false information” about the invasion with up to 15 years in prison.
Political analyst Alexander Vedrussov – on how the U.S. is testing the waters to revive dialogue with Russia.
There can be no winners in a nuclear war. That’s a hard fact. A conflict between the U.S. and Russia involving nuclear weapons would mean mutual guaranteed destruction, along with the rest of the world. I don’t know what anyone else thinks about this, but I personally see it as sufficient reason to keep communication lines open between nuclear weapon states and to continue our dialogue on strategic stability under any circumstance.
The U.S.-Russian dialogue at the dawn of Joe Biden’s presidential term started precisely with the extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the two countries. We also shouldn’t forget that the Trump administration demanded to include China in the treaty, and planned to disrupt the document’s extension. However, the new head of the White House made the only possible correct decision last year and put a stop to the dismantling of international arms control agreements and the sabotaging of the confidence-building process between the U.S. and Russia, which had been endorsed by his Republican predecessor.
In 2002, George W. Bush unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. In 2020, the U.S. officially withdrew from the Treaty on Open Skies. New START was set to expire on Feb. 4, 2021. There was little time to discuss new agreement terms presented by the U.S. As a result, on Jan. 26 of the last year, the treaty was extended by the new U.S. administration on Russian terms, that is, without changes.
However, further actualization of New START is still on the agenda. As we can see, the Americans continue trying to “haggle” not only for the inclusion of China in the treaty, but also for the inclusion of modern strategic arms and tactical nuclear weapons, as well as the introduction of additional verification mechanisms.
The negotiations won’t be easy, especially considering the overall deterioration of relations between the two countries. That’s why the terms of a new treaty, which should replace New START in 2026, should be discussed well in advance.
Russia’s main negotiating point at the current stage is to embody the fundamental principle of equal and indivisible security for all members of the international community. In other words, we insist that the realities of a multipolar world should be legally preserved. The Trump administration falsely claimed that New START was, first and foremost, more beneficial to Russia than to the U.S. All three treaties on strategic offensive arms were signed under the U.S. global hegemony. New START, perhaps to a greater extent, reflected the national interests of post-Yeltsin Russia than the agreements of the 1990s, signed with the Americans. But no more than that.
The logic and the context of a potential new treaty that comes after New START will be fundamentally new. Russia will try to link the new terms of nuclear deterrence to the security of its European and Asian borders. One way or another, the military infrastructure of the U.S. and NATO should be pushed away from the aforementioned borders. The security guarantees proposed by Russia in December remain valid and are a part of Moscow’s negotiation positions in its dialogue with Washington. It’s important to understand and remember that agreements with the U.S. are not even worth the paper they’re written on. There isn’t and never was any “goodwill” from the U.S. side -– especially toward our country. Our long-term experience shows that Washington can break any agreement on a whim, as soon as it goes against its opportunistic interests.
Does this mean that all agreements with the U.S. are impossible? Not at all. It simply means that the terms of any agreement with the U.S. should be backed by the appropriate capacity and willingness to enforce them in practice. Then they may well prove viable.
Of course, in the next few years, U.S.-Russian relations will remain predominantly confrontational — hostile, even. Moscow and Washington will remain on opposing sides regarding the majority of key global problems. However, under any possible conditions — even the most hostile ones — the U.S. and Russia simply have to keep in contact regarding the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and arms control. It’s our mutual responsibility before the world, which should under no circumstances slide into a nuclear standoff.