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Russia reacts to Biden’s remarks on nuclear talks

Samizdat | August 6, 2022

Russia has not received any concrete proposals to resume talks on replacing the landmark New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), despite recent remarks by US President Joe Biden on the matter, a senior Russian diplomat said on Friday. He also signaled that the negotiations should be held without any preconditions.

“Saying that you’re ready doesn’t mean you are,” the deputy head of Moscow’s delegation to the UN Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference, Andrey Belousov, told reporters.

According to the diplomat, a real commitment to resume dialogue with Russia “should be supported by concrete proposals, concrete signals” that Moscow could view as a firm decision on the part of the US to “resume close cooperation with Russia on a wide range of issues of strategic stability.”

“At the moment, we are not receiving such signals, except for these declarative statements, including those coming from the highest level,” he added.

Belousov noted that the timing of the US statements on arms control should also be taken into account.

“It is clear that the timing was chosen on purpose. The statement by the US president was made before the Conference [on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons] intentionally to show that the US is still a state you can cooperate with and which is ready to engage in dialogue,” the Russian representative said.

According to Belousov, Moscow does not think that the US is ready for constructive talks on the New START treaty that would accommodate the interests of all parties, at least not at this stage. He also noted that Russia views the preliminary conditions for the dialogue set by Washington as “unacceptable.”

“The statement by the US president, which, as we believe, reflects a softening of the US stance on resuming dialogue with Russia on a wide range of issues of strategic stability, is linked to some sort of a preliminary condition,” Belousov said, adding that it has not been formulated in black and white, but rather looks like a hint.

The high-ranking diplomat recalled that previous statements on the matter were “more specific and understandable.”

“There were specific conditions under which the United States would agree to resume this dialogue with us,” he said. “But in any case, no matter how these preconditions are phrased, we deem them unacceptable.”

The diplomat echoed comments made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said on Wednesday that the US had not made any “requests on reopening this negotiating process.” The West, he said at the time, “has developed a habit of making announcements on the microphone and then forgetting about them.”

Earlier this month, Biden revealed that Washington was ready to negotiate “a new arms control framework” with Russia that could potentially replace the New START treaty when it expires in 2026. The landmark document, which entered into force in 2011 and was extended in 2021 after Biden’s inauguration, puts caps on the number of strategic nuclear missiles and warheads held by Russia and the US.

August 6, 2022 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Russia Laments Washington’s Failure to Strictly Adhere to New START Treaty Provisions

By Henry Batyaev – Sputnik – 26.05.2021

Russia is calling on the United States to keep their end of the bargain with respect to the New START Treaty after Moscow found that the United States had converted some of its strategic offensive arms, making it impossible to verify whether they can be now used to carry nuclear weapons.

The representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said on Wednesday that Moscow will continue to demand that Washington comply with the terms of the treaty.

She added that Moscow is closely monitoring US efforts to modernise its strategic offensive arms, including through the increase of funding.

According to the New START Treaty, the sides must notify each other on the elimination of treaty‑accountable systems or conversion to non‑nuclear or non‑accountable status.

In February, Russia and the United States agreed to extend the New START treaty for five more years without renegotiating any of its terms. The treaty, now set to expire on February 5, 2026, is the only arms control agreement between two countries that is still in force.

May 27, 2021 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

US must choose: new ICBMs & nightmare of nuclear deterrence OR meaningful disarmament through arms control

By Scott Ritter | RT | February 21, 2021

The US wants Russia and China to rein in their respective strategic nuclear arsenals while it modernizes its own nuclear defenses at the same time. When it comes to strategic nukes, the US can’t have its cake and eat it too.

The US Senate recently passed the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), allocating some $1.5 billion for research and development of a new generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD).

The funding of the GBSD occurred despite pressure to divert some or all of the current allocation to support emergency Covid-19 contingencies. One of the major factors behind the decision was a concerted effort on the part of the US Air Force and the commander of US Strategic Command to convince Congress that a failure to fund the GBSD would be tantamount to unilateral disarmament, given that the current US ICBM force, comprised of Minuteman III missiles, will begin “aging out” as the missiles reach their operational expiration dates.

The proponents of the GBSD, however, have a major policy hurdle before them – namely the desire on the part of President Joe Biden to undertake a review of the current US nuclear posture with the view of breathing new life into strategic arms control negotiations that could potentially reduce the size of the US nuclear arsenal.

Many arms control advocates believe that the logical choice for any significant reduction in the US strategic nuclear arsenal would be to do away with ICBMs altogether, eliminating the need for the GBSD. The supporters of the GBSD believe such a move would put the US in danger by increasing the risk of a nuclear attack by limiting the number of targets any potential nuclear foe would need to strike in an effort to preemptively neutralize the US nuclear deterrent.

There is an urgency in this debate driven by two hard-wired calendar dates. The first is the expiration of the recently extended New START treaty.

While the US and Russia agreed to extend this treaty by five years, the fact is this treaty will expire for good come February 2026, leaving the two nations a scant five years to negotiate a follow-on agreement. The other hard date is in 2030, when the Minuteman III ICBM force will begin aging out.

The current GBSD funding authorization envisions the deployment of a fully operational replacement missile by 2029, but this is contingent upon continued funding at ever-increasing levels in the years to come. If a commitment is made to continue fully funding the GBSD with an eye on operational deployment by 2029, it will handicap US arms control negotiators who will have zero flexibility when it comes to devising a negotiating strategy capable of convincing their Russian, and possibly Chinese, counterparts to agree to meaningful cuts in their respective nuclear arsenals.

ICBMs role as ‘warhead sponge’

Land-based ICBMs have been a critical part of the nuclear Triad that has underpinned the US nuclear deterrence posture since the 1960s (the other two components being manned bombers and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, SLBMs.)

Today the US maintains a force of 450 hardened missile silos containing 400 Minuteman III ICBMs scattered across Montana, North Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming. This force has been designed to respond on short notice to any nuclear attack. But its most important characteristic today is its role as a warhead “sponge”. Any potential nuclear-armed foe would need to allocate at least two nuclear warheads to each silo to have any chance of destroying the Minuteman III force. The only nation capable of carrying out such an attack today is Russia, which would have to allocate 900 of its 1,600 deployed warheads to have any chance of taking out the US ICBM leg of the nuclear Triad.

Supporters of the current nuclear Triad contend that without the land-based ICBM “sponge”, any potential foe would only need to focus on attacking five targets in the US—three strategic bomber bases, and two submarine bases. These same experts note that the pressure on the most survivable and lethal component of the Triad – the SLBM – will increase as force restructuring limits the number of submarines that are on patrol at any given time, and as new possible technologies emerge that can detect submarines more easily, increasing the chances that some or all of the deployed SLBM-carrying submarines could be preemptively targeted. Only by retaining the land-based ICBM, these experts argue, can the US guarantee a high degree of certainty that any nuclear attack against the US or its allies would result in a massive retaliation that no aggressor could hope to survive.

The Minuteman III missile has been in service for more than 50 years, despite being designed to last ten. It has achieved this level of longevity through a series of service life extension programs (SLEP) which, in their aggregate, have resulted in a missile very different from the one originally deployed, possessing upgraded booster rockets, new avionics and guidance systems, and more modern nuclear warheads. But the current fleet of Minuteman III ICBMs will begin to expire beginning in 2029, when many of the upgraded rocket boosters expire, followed by the guidance systems, which will begin to expire in 2031. If nothing is done to extend the life of the Minuteman III missiles, the arsenal of operational missiles will be reduced to 350 by 2033, and less than 100 by 2037.

All-or-nothing approach

Proponents of the GBSD argue that the fifty-year lifecycle costs associated with fielding a new ICBM, estimated at $159.2 billion, are actually cheaper than the fifty-year lifecycle cost of a new Minuteman III SLEP, with a baseline cost of $160.3 billion. They also point out that the GBSD costs go beyond simply putting a new missile in the ground, but also incorporate silo refurbishment and other ground infrastructure improvements, including a new nuclear command and control system designed to survive in a modern environment where cyber attacks are a real possibility. The new GBSD also incorporates a modular design that allows for rapid-retargeting, and flexibility when it comes to the payload carried, allowing for the introduction of new, improved delivery systems.

The scenario painted by the supporters of the GBSD is based upon an all-or-nothing approach—either spend the money of a new ICBM or lose the ground-based leg of the nuclear Triad forever. This logic mitigates both against the loss of ICBMs, and for a newer, more capable missile (the GBSD.) But it also ties the hands of arms control negotiators trying to come up with a formula that would result in the reduction of Russian and Chinese nuclear arsenals. By keeping the US nuclear Triad intact, and by deploying a new, more capable ICBM in the form of the GBSD, the US would eliminate any incentive on the part of either Russia or China to reduce the size and capability of their respective nuclear arsenals. Indeed, the exact opposite would happen—Russia would continue its current nuclear modernization programs, and China would have every reason to invest in enlarging their own ICBM force.

Moreover, there is virtually no chance that the US would unilaterally disarm its ICBM force by allowing the Minuteman III ICBM to age out without a replacement. The solution to this quandary is how to best manage the US ICBM force in a manner that retains the potential for viable force retention while keeping the door open for the possibility of elimination through new arms control agreements. In this light, the GBSD is the least favorable option, as its funding cycle calls for the production of some 650 new missiles sustained over the course of fifty years. Once this production level is funded and underway, it will be virtually impossible to stop it from reaching completion.

However, the US could seek to extend the life of the existing Minuteman III ICBM force, and then use arms control negotiations as a way to leverage their continued existence as a means of getting the Russians to agree to meaningful reductions in their own arsenal—the heavy Sarmat ICBM comes to mind.

Similar trade-offs could be negotiated with the Chinese, with a reduction/elimination of the US ICBM arsenal offered up in exchange for China agreeing not to field any new generation ICBMs. These negotiations, if they are to have any chance of success, must be concluded in the next five years—a very short time frame when it comes to arms control negotiations. The flexibility afforded by a Minuteman III SLEP would enable and enhance these negotiations, while an irreversible commitment to fund and deploy the GBSD would guarantee their failure. Seen in this light, there really isn’t much of a debate. The key question is who will prevail in the future internal US debate over nuclear force posture—the advocates for a continuation of the nightmare of nuclear deterrence predicated on mutually assured destruction (a self-fulfilling prophecy if there ever was one), or the proponents of meaningful nuclear disarmament through viable and verifiable arms control agreements.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer and author of ‘SCORPION KING: America’s Suicidal Embrace of Nuclear Weapons from FDR to Trump.’ He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector. Follow him on Twitter @RealScottRitter

February 20, 2021 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

Russia Rejects US Proposals on New START Verification, Ryabkov Says

By Irina Acheeva – Sputnik – 27.10.2020

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested extending the last arms control agreement between the United States and Russia for another year without any conditions, stressing that a world without the New START would be worryingly vulnerable.

Moscow maintains active dialogue on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), but will not make any other concessions, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said.

Ryabkov further elaborated that Moscow does not accept the US proposal for verification within the framework of the New START.

“We have the full impression that the Americans do not need any agreements, they only need verification. And verification, in the way proposed by them, is, basically, to establish external control over the most sensitive elements of ensuring the entire systems of our national security. This is unacceptable for us”, the deputy minister said.

According to Ryabkov, Russia “cannot agree to such a proposal for higher reasons”.

“We said and continue to say that any agreement in this area is possible only where both interests are balanced, as a certain compromise. We are ready for this but see no indication that the US side is prepared to compromise. Therefore we conclude that attaining basic agreement in the present segment is, to put it mildly, doubtful”, the diplomat noted.

He added that Moscow is disappointed by the signs it sees from the US regarding an extension of the New START.

“We are having vigorous talks with the US on these issues. The signs we are getting from them disappoint us. The Americans do not seem to understand that we cannot implement proposals, when the US, rather than making requests, keeps piling on demand after demand”, Ryabkov said.

The statement comes after Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said that Russia is urging the US to stop trying to bargain for benefits in the last days of the New START. Antonov also pointed out that Washington has bluntly rejected to prolong the treaty as it was signed without any conditions.

On 22 October, Russian President Vladimir Putin said “nothing bad will happen” if the New START gets extended for one year, as it would provide both sides with more time to find a compromise. US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien has commented on Putin’s proposal calling it a “non-starter“.

The United States had previously suggested prolonging the treaty for one year if Moscow and Washington froze the number of their nuclear warheads during that period.

The New START that is set to expire in February 2021, is the last arms control agreement between the United States and Russia.

October 27, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

In refusing to extend New START, the US puts the world on the path of collective suicide

By Scott Ritter | RT | September 21, 2020

Statements by the US chief arms control envoy make it clear the US is committed to a nuclear arms race free of the encumbrance of the New START treaty. However, it’s a race the US cannot win, and the world will not survive.

In a fable attributed to the Ancient Greek fabulist and storyteller Aesop, a scorpion and a frog meet at the bank of a river. The scorpion asks the frog to take him to the other side. The frog turns down the scorpion’s request, noting that the scorpion will sting him halfway across and kill him. The scorpion replies that to do so would mean both would die, and, as such, that would be illogical. The frog agrees to take the scorpion across. As he feared, the scorpion stings him, sending them both to their death. Before he goes under, the frog asks the scorpion why he did so, to which the scorpion replies, “It’s in my nature.”

I use this fable in the introduction of my book ‘Scorpion King: America’s Suicidal Embrace of Nuclear Weapons from FDR to Trump’. It was published this past spring, when there was still hope the current administration might embrace reason and agree to a five-year extension of the last remaining arms control treaty in force, New START, that constrained the nuclear ambitions of the United States and Russia.

Recent statements made by Marshall Billingslea, the US special presidential envoy for arms control in an interview with the Russian newspaper Kommersant have made it clear that the Trump administration has no intention of seeking an extension to New START, which is set to expire in February 2021.

First off, Billingslea stated that the US isn’t looking for the automatic five-year extension provided for under the treaty, but rather a “memorandum of intent” of less than five years duration that presents the Russians with a “take it or leave it” proposition: accept a deal that has no constraints on NATO nuclear weapons, or the US will go forward with a nuclear modernization program unconstrained by arms control agreements. Moreover, Russia has until the US presidential election in November to accept the deal or, as Billingslea threatened, “after Trump is re-elected, the ‘entrance fee,’ as we say in the United States, will increase.”

Not surprisingly, the US ultimatum was rejected outright by Russia, with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Rybakov declaring “We [Russia] cannot talk in this manner,” and noting that the US position constituted little more than an ultimatum which ultimately lowered any chance of the two nations reaching any agreement on extending New START.

In addition to setting unacceptable conditions regarding NATO’s nuclear arsenal, the US insistence on trilateral negotiations was likewise seen as a non-starter by both Russia and China. The effort to turn the bilateral New START treaty into a trilateral agreement has all but killed the prospects of a New START extension, opening the door to the prospect of a renewed arms race at a time when both the US and Russia are pursuing advanced strategic nuclear weapons. This reality did not appear to faze Billingslea, who noted that “Russia has largely completed its modernization of its nuclear arsenal.”

“We’re just starting ours. And we will be extremely happy to continue it without the START restrictions,” he added.

There is near-unanimous consent among most arms control experts that an extension of the New START treaty is an essential step toward engendering a modicum of stability when it comes to the strategic nuclear postures of both the US and Russia, especially at a time when relations between those two nations have worsened across the board. The decision by the Trump administration to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in August 2019 further complicated the US-Russian strategic balance. By eliminating intermediate-range weapons from Europe that could strike Moscow within minutes of being launched, the INF treaty helped lower the threshold for a full-scale nuclear conflict between the US and Russia.

The New START treaty is the last remaining constraint on US and Russian strategic nuclear weapons, both in terms of numbers and capability. If it were to expire, both the US and Russia would move forward with the deployment of advanced new systems, inclusive of new hypersonic nuclear delivery vehicles, that would only further exacerbate nuclear postures on the part of both nations that are already operating at near hair-trigger alert status.

History may very well show that the tipping point regarding the viability of the American democratic experiment came when it attempted to bankroll an unnecessary nuclear arms race at a time when the US economy and society, weakened by years of neglect, and further fractured by the stresses imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, was already teetering on the verge of collapse. Already, the Trump administration has been compelled to pare back defense spending for 2021, due to the demands placed on the overall budget by the pandemic. Billingslea’s cavalier attitude toward funding the coming arms race – “we can afford it” – isn’t reflective of reality.

The US economy is undergoing a fundamental realignment, both in terms of how it operates internally and how it interfaces with the rest of the world. The social demands created by an economy that can only function through massive infusions of government stimulus, and a healthcare system that, for many Americans, exists in name only, cannot be funded by endless borrowing, especially when one of the largest consumers of American debt, China, is engaged in a trade war in which dumping US debt is very much on the table.

In the very near future, US politicians will be confronted with the kind of existential crisis that all empires in decline eventually face, where, regardless of the decision taken, there is nothing that can be done to recover from the mess they themselves have made. The idea that the US Congress will continue to fund a new generation of strategic nuclear weapons under these conditions is absurd. This doesn’t mean, however, that the crisis has been averted – far from it.

As I write in the conclusion of ‘Scorpion King’:

The world labors on the misguided belief that the United States is a rational actor, and therefore not prone to the kind of irrational actions which would lead to a world-ending general nuclear exchange. But the available facts do not support such a conclusion. The casual manner in which the United States has shed itself of the encumbrance of binding nuclear arms control treaties and agreements while simultaneously engaging in a nuclear arms race where the weapons being procured are seen as a viable component of American military power projection suggests that the United States was custom cast as Aesop’s scorpion.

Having embraced the notion that American security is predicated on a new generation of nuclear weaponry unconstrained by the limitations imposed by arms control agreements, having the ability to procure these weapons due to social and financial collapse only exacerbates the threat these weapons were supposed to deter. It doesn’t matter that no such threat exists; perception makes its own reality, and the perception of those, like Marshal Billingsley, who advocate for new nuclear weapons is that such a threat exists.

Like Aesop’s frog, the rest of the world will more than likely seek to help the United States navigate the troubled times ahead. And like Aesop’s scorpion, the United States will very likely reward this kindness by embarking on irresponsible military-based policies designed to offset its own social and economic failings, and trigger a nuclear conflict that destroys it and the rest of the world.

Because it is our nature.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer and author of ‘SCORPION KING: America’s Suicidal Embrace of Nuclear Weapons from FDR to Trump.’ He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector. Follow him on Twitter @RealScottRitter

September 23, 2020 Posted by | Book Review, Economics, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

The US’ Nuclear START Ultimatum To Russia Risks Provoking The Unthinkable

By Andrew Korybko | OneWorld | September 22, 2020

What Could Be Worse Than The Cuban Missile Crisis?

The Cuban Missile Crisis is universally considered to have been the most dangerous moment in the history of mankind after it prompted the US and Russia to engage in nuclear brinkmanship with one another. The end of the Old Cold War was thought by many to have made the return to such a dark scenario an utter impossibility, but the previously thinkable might be about to repeat itself very soon following the US’ START ultimatum to Russia earlier this week. That acronym refers to the latest Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty which limited the number of nuclear warheads on each side and restricted some of their delivery systems. It was agreed to by Presidents Obama and Medvedev but expires early next year. Failing to renew the agreement would unquestionably spark an uncontrollable nuclear and other arms race between these Great Powers and therefore greatly destabilize the world. Unfortunately, this might be inevitable.

The American Ultimatum To Russia

US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea told the Russian daily Kommersant on Sunday that the New START might be extended for less than five years through a memorandum of intent but only on the condition that China joins the deal and NATO doesn’t scale back any of its nuclear weapons from Europe during this period like Moscow requested. Russia obviously can’t compel China to do anything so the US is clearly trying to drive a wedge between the two by pressuring Moscow to lean on Beijing in this manner, which would further complicate their relations if it was even attempted. Secondly, the NATO buildup in Europe is alarming to Russia since it poses a direct threat to its national security interests. Agreeing to formalize the recent status quo which violates the Russia-NATO Founding Act and is greatly shaped by the US’ recent withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty would set a disturbing precedent too.

Russia’s Hypersonic Missiles To The Rescue

For all intents and purposes, the US isn’t negotiating in good faith but decided to present Russia with an ultimatum that it knew it would refuse, and not only that, but is powerless to comply with even if it wanted to considering its inability to force China to join the New START. It’s for this reason that Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told Sputnik on Monday that his country “will find efficient ways to protect ourselves” if the New START isn’t extended. He was likely referring to Russia’s hypersonic missile achievements of the past few years that President Putin compared to the scale of the USSR’s nuclear project just last week according to TASS. The outlet also reported him as saying that “We had to create these weapons in response to the US deploying strategic missile defense system, which in the future would be able to actually neutralize, nullify our entire nuclear potential.”

Who Stole Whose Hypersonic Missile Secrets?

Around the same time as the Russian leader’s statement, Trump accused his country of stealing hypersonic missile technology from the US during the Obama era, though one of the scientists involved in this project refuted him by pointing out that such experiments “began in the Soviet times, when Obama was still a teenager.” It should also be pointed out that a Russian scientist was arrested in summer 2018 on suspicion of passing off related secrets to what many believe was the American intelligence services. Seeing as how President Putin publicly unveiled this technology earlier that spring, the sequence of events suggests that the US truly is behind Russia in this respect and is struggling to catch up, ergo the spy games. Had Russian really stolen this technology like Trump claimed, then the US wouldn’t need to steal it back from Russia in order to win the hypersonic missile race since it would have presumably still been in possession of these same secrets.

The Poor Sport Wants To Spoil Strategic Stability Because It Lost

The US simply cannot accept that Russia –which the American government and its surrogates routinely allege is backwards, dysfunctional, and on the brink of bankruptcy — beat it in developing hypersonic missiles, which it did in order to protect its nuclear potential after Bush withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and set the trajectory for the contemporary era of nuclear competition between Great Powers. Russia had to ensure that its second-strike capability wasn’t neutralized by the US’ global missile defense plans, hence its interest in accelerating development of hypersonic missiles for piercing through those systems. In other words, Russia foiled the US’ multi-billion-dollar plans to impose its nuclear hegemony upon the world, which explains the furious response of the American government to President Putin’s spring 2018 announcement. Instead of accepting the return of strategic parity, however, the US wants to provoke a nuclear arms race with Russia.

Concluding Thoughts

There is nothing more dangerous for global stability than an all-out nuclear arms race between the US and Russia, which will in turn naturally push all the other nuclear-armed states to increase their own arsenals due to the “security dilemma” that this provokes. The US is behaving very irresponsibly in imposing an ultimatum on Russia in exchange for agreeing to the limited extension of the New START. Whether he realizes it or not, Trump is putting the world back on the path of repeating the Cuban Missile Crisis in the worst-case scenario since it might only be a matter of time before the nuclear competition between the US and Russia spirals out of control once again. The whole reason why the New START and its predecessor pacts were inked was to make that an impossibility, but it’s now once again on the forefront of decision makers’ minds. Unless Trump or perhaps even Biden has a change of heart (neither of which is likely), then the world will be in for very rough times.

September 22, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Russia wants to extend ‘New START’ nuclear arms control deal but not at any cost – deputy foreign minister

RT | August 18, 2020

Moscow wishes to prolong the New START Treaty but not if the US demands unreasonable concessions, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has said, adding that the Russian and American positions on the issue remain quite different.

Russia is ready to extend the treaty without any preconditions BUT Washington is still hesitating in agreeing to that, Ryabkov said following another round of nuclear arms talks with the US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea in Vienna.

The high-ranking diplomat hailed some progress in the negotiations by saying that both sides took a more constructive stance and stuck to “intensive, in-depth and business-like discussions,” according to Russia’s permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov.

Yet, Moscow and Washington’s priorities in the talks appear to still “differ significantly,” Ryabkov noted. He said that the US continues to leave the door for talks open but he cannot say that its position has changed in favor of extending the accord.

“They [the US] evade an answer … to the question whether they are ready to prolong the treaty without preconditions,” Ryabkov told journalists, adding that Washington is still very much interested in making China join the talks on strategic stability. Russia, in turn, would very much like the UK and France – US allies and nuclear powers themselves – to sit down at the negotiating table as well.

Billingslea meanwhile told journalists that Washington has informed Moscow about its terms in extending the treaty that expires in February. The US said it would consider prolonging it if Russia’s “build-up” of shorter-range nuclear missiles not covered by the current agreement is addressed.

“Russia understands our position. And what remains to be seen is if there is the political will in Moscow to get this deal done. The ball is now in Russia’s court,” the US official said.The issue of short-range nuclear ballistic missiles was covered by another treaty – the INF – signed by Washington and Moscow back in the 1980s. The accord effectively banned such ground-based missiles altogether. Yet, the Trump administration unilaterally left it in 2019, citing the same alleged Russian build-up, only to later test their own ground-based cruise missile just after the agreement expired.

Moscow’s attempts to save the deal by even allowing the US military inspectors to see the missile they said violated the treaty for themselves were effectively snubbed by the US.
Also on rt.com Russia unveils evidence on missile that US claims violates INF Treaty, Washington snubs briefing

The New START Treaty, which remains the only standing pillar of international nuclear arms control after the expiration of the INF due to America’s exit, came into force in 2011. It limits the number of deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and strategic bombers, of which the US and Russia can have up to 700 each. The number of deployed warheads was capped at 1,550, while the countries pledged to maintain no more than 800 deployed and non-deployed launchers.

The fate of the crucial agreement has been in limbo for a year and a half since no talks were held on its extension despite the nearing expiration date. Hopes resurfaced back in June when Moscow and Washington agreed to hold arms control consultations in Vienna. Yet, according to Ryabkov, the dates of new consultations have not yet been set following the Tuesday meeting since both sides still want to analyze each other’s positions.

August 19, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear confrontation becomes likelier as US races for global domination, Russian FM says

RT – July 10, 2020

“I agree that the nuclear risks have increased substantially in the recent past,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told an audience at the high-profile Primakov Readings forum on Friday.

The reasons for that are “obvious,” the minister clarified. “The US wants to regain global dominance and achieve victory in what they call a great power competition.”

Lavrov said Washington refuses the notion of “strategic stability” and calls it “strategic rivalry” instead. “They want to win,” he added.

We are particularly worried about the US’ biennial refusal to reaffirm a fundamental principle: the premise that there can be no winners in a nuclear war, and, therefore, it should never be unleashed.

Continuing, the Russian FM suggested Washington wants to dismantle the entire arms control mechanism. The Trump administration pulled out last year from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which bans either side from stationing short- and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe.

That withdrawal also threw the New START treaty, signed with Russia in 2010, into jeopardy. The milestone agreement saw the US and Russia reduce their warheads to 1,550 each and their launchers to 800. It is set to expire next year but Lavrov said on Friday he was not optimistic that it would be extended.

According to the foreign minister, the US decision not to renew the New START is already a done deal and the fate of the pact “is sealed.”

Washington insists that the renewal of talks be made trilateral, with China joining in on the discussions. Beijing has said it would “be happy” to take part in the negotiations – but only if the US was willing to reduce its nuclear arsenal to China’s level, which is about 20 times smaller.

July 10, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

China says will join arms control talks if US reduces nuclear arsenal

Press TV – July 8, 2020

China says it would be happy to participate in negotiations on arms control with the United States if Washington was willing to reduce its nuclear arsenal to the same level as Beijing.

“I can assure you that if the US says that they are ready to come down to the Chinese [nuclear arsenal] level, China would be happy to participate the next day,” Fu Cong, director general of the Arms Control Department at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said in a news conference in Beijing on Wednesday.

“But actually, we know that that’s not going to happen. We know the US policy. And we are more realistic, frankly speaking,” Fu added.

Approximately 91 percent of all nuclear warheads are owned by the United States and Russia, each having around 4,000 in their military stockpiles.

It is estimated that China has a stockpile of around 320 nuclear warheads.

Fu said Beijing had no interest in joining trilateral negotiations that involve both the US and Russia.

The US has been calling on China to join trilateral negotiations to extend a flagship nuclear arms treaty between Washington and Moscow that is due to expire in February next year.

China has refused to participate in the US-Russia talks but said it would take part in international nuclear disarmament efforts.

The negotiations in question were on the replacement of New START, a nuclear arms treaty between the US and Russia that has nothing to do with China. By inviting China and anticipating its refusal to participate, Washington had been planning to portray the Chinese government as reluctant to take part in any arms control treaty.

Washington itself, meanwhile, has unilaterally withdrawn from treaty after treaty under US President Donald Trump.

July 8, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Flagging U.S. Credibility at Vienna Arms Control Talks

Strategic Culture Foundation | June 26, 2020

A puerile propaganda stunt pulled by U.S. negotiators in Vienna this week ahead of talks with Russian counterparts was both at insult to China and a reprehensible distraction from credible bilateral business with Moscow on the vital issue of strategic security.

Ahead of talks with Russian delegates, the Americans took a stealthy photo of the venue contriving to show Chinese flags sitting atop vacant tables.

U.S. envoy Marshall Billingslea then tried to twitter-shame China by declaring: “Vienna talks about to start. China is a no-show… We will proceed with Russia, notwithstanding.”

China had categorically stated several times over past weeks that it had no intention of attending the talks in Vienna which were designated anyway as bilateral discussions between Washington and Moscow on the future of arms control.

The Russian delegation was evidently blindsided by the PR stunt. Both China and Russia condemned the attempt by the American side to contrive Beijing as somehow derelict. China slammed it as “performance art”. While Russia published a photograph of the American and Russian delegates in discussions without any Chinese flags present.

The fiasco shows that the talks were really aimed at coaxing China into trilateral talks to satisfy Washington’s geopolitical agenda. In the weeks before the Vienna bilateral talks, U.S. envoy Billingslea had repeatedly called on China to attend in a trilateral format. Such wrangling is inappropriate and undermines diplomatic protocol with Moscow.

Beijing has consistently stated that it will not participate in arms control talks with the U.S. and Russia until both nuclear powers first substantially reduce their vastly greater arsenals. China’s stockpile of nuclear weapons is a mere fraction – some 5 per cent – of either the U.S. or Russia’s. Beijing maintains that Washington must proceed with its obligations for disarmament, along with Russia. Moscow has said it respects China’s position.

The Trump administration has let it be known that it wants to include China in arms control talks with Russia. In principle such comprehensive limitations may seem reasonable. Russia has said that other nuclear powers such as France and Britain should also be included. But what the U.S. side is angling for is not a comprehensive accord in principle; rather it is seeking to rope China into limitations for its own geopolitical agenda of rivalry with Beijing. If Washington is serious about finding a comprehensive treaty, then it should, as China points out, prioritize the scaling back of its own inordinate possession of nukes. The U.S. and Russia account for over 90 per cent of the world’s total nuclear arsenal.

What the propaganda stunt with Chinese flags by the U.S. side in Vienna shows is Washington’s petulance from not being able to cajole China into the talks format with Russia.

As it turned out, the U.S. and Russian sides agreed to hold a second round of talks to follow this week’s meeting.

Russia’s foreign ministry stated: “During the Vienna consultations, the sides agreed to conduct a meeting of experts on military doctrines and nuclear strategies, including the issues of use of nuclear weapons.”

The ministry added: “Russia is open to further dialogue on strategic stability, it seeks to build further relation with the U.S. in arms control, strictly on a parity basis and in reliance on the principle of mutual accounting of interests and concerns of the sides.”

The main issue going forward is the future of the New START treaty governing strategic nuclear weapons. That treaty is due to expire in February next year. Moscow has repeatedly called for an extension, but the Trump administration has demurred about its future, suggesting that it is willing to let it expire. After walking away from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty last year, the Trump administration appears to be conducting a policy of creating global instability and playing with fire by unleashing a new arms race.

Again, lurking behind this reckless brinkmanship is the U.S. objective of coercing Russia and China to acquiesce in its agenda of controlling both by turning bilateral agreements with Moscow into trilateral arrangements with Beijing. Russia has said it will not comply with this stealth conduct by Washington.

What the U.S. needs to do is honor its bilateral relations with Russia and get down to genuine mutual negotiations on strategic stability and arms control. The New START treaty is a test case for Washington’s commitment to its obligations for nuclear disarmament as agreed to from historic bilateral negotiations with Moscow.

The cheap stunt with China’s flags and distortion of the bilateral talks in Vienna with Russia does not inspire confidence in U.S. commitments or intentions. At least under the present administration.

It does not bode well for American credibility in pursuing bilateral talks with Russia on extending the New START treaty which expires in eight months. Indeed, it smacks of bad faith. Playing fast and loose with global security is deplorable.

June 26, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 3 Comments

Stop Blaming Russia, China for US Disarmament Failures

By Thomas L. Knapp | The Garrison Center | June 24, 2020

On June 22 and 23, Russian and American diplomats met in Vienna to discuss New START, a nuclear arms reduction treaty which expires next year. The treaty provides for an optional five-year extension. Alternatively, the parties could negotiate a new agreement as has happened several times in the past.

A third possibility involves one or both parties playing silly games like insisting that China be brought into the negotiations despite Beijing’s complete lack of interest in participating. Which is exactly what happened. US negotiator Marshall Billingslea tweeted a photo of empty seats with People’s Republic flag placeholders in Vienna, calling China a “no-show” and accusing it of a “crash nuclear build-up.”

It would take quite a build-up indeed for the Chinese nuclear arsenal to get competitive with that of the US or Russia. The latter two regimes boast thousands of bombs and warheads. Most estimates of China’s collection are in the hundreds.

And, given the US government’s record of treaty violations, why would Beijing’s diplomats be inclined to trust their Washington counterparts anyway?

Negotiations with other nuclear powers — not to mention its attempt to both withdraw from, AND remain recognized as party to, the  “Iran Nuclear Deal” —  aside, the US government continues to flout its obligation under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to “pursue nuclear disarmament aimed at the ultimate elimination of” its arsenal.

Instead of decommissioning and destroying nuclear weapons as should be happening, the Obama and Trump regimes have committed to spending a whopping $1.7 trillion over 30 years (a number anyone familiar with government spending knows will mysteriously multiply) on “modernizing” them.

The purpose of arms control talks is to reduce the likelihood that nuclear weapons will be used. The purpose of “modernizing” those weapons is to make those weapons easier to use. The US government needs to commit to the former goal and renounce the latter possibility.

Even accepting the exceedingly weak case for continuing to possess nuclear weapons as a deterrent to first strikes, the numbers needed for that use would be a fraction of, not a multiple of, China’s or Russia’s arsenals.

A serious approach to arms control would consist of the US government announcing a unilateral and verifiable reduction to an arsenal of, say, no more than 100 nuclear weapons, challenging the Russian and Chinese governments to match that reduction, and committing to complete elimination if, and as, other nuclear powers agree. Anything less is just potentially deadly politicking.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org).

June 24, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | | 1 Comment

US uses arms control summit with Russia for China-bashing, derails talks needed to prevent new arms race

By Scott Ritter | RT | June 22, 2020

While promoting the possibility of bilateral agreements with Russia, the US was only interested in staging a cheap propaganda photo-op attacking China, making the prospects for New START look bleak.

Hope sprang eternal when, less than two weeks ago, the United States and Russia agreed to engage in much-needed arms control negotiations to be held in Vienna, Austria on June 22. Senior delegations of the two countries were led by Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. Two issues pertinent to global security were anticipated to be on the agenda—stability in Europe in a post-INF world (the foundational agreement for modern arms control, signed in December 1987 and which remained in force until the US withdrew in August 2019), and the extension of the New START treaty, the last remaining arms control agreement between the US and Russia which is set to expire in February 2021.)

However, while the New START treaty is a bilateral agreement between the US and Russia, the US made it clear that any extension must take into account China’s strategic nuclear forces. It’s a condition that all but kills any chance of the New START treaty being extended, since a completely new treaty vehicle would need to be negotiated on a trilateral basis. The insistence on a trilateral framework played a major role in the decision by the Trump administration to withdraw from the INF Treaty as well, something that does not portent well for the future of New START.

Even before the June 22 arms control summit, China made it clear that it would not be participating in talks, making any discussion of the extension of the New START treaty appear dead on arrival. The US, however, insisted that the talks go forward, raising the prospects that at least some progress could be made bilaterally between it and Russia.

In the end, however, cheap propaganda trumped substantive discussions, with the US, knowing full well China was not attending, setting out Chinese flags along an empty conference table for a photo that was later tweeted out by Billingslea, accompanied by a caption that read, “Vienna talks about to start. China is a no-show. Beijing still hiding behind #GreatWallofSecrecy on its crash nuclear build-up, and so many other things. We will proceed with #Russia, notwithstanding.”

The flag incident quickly drew the ire of the Russians. Ambassador to Austria Dmitry Lyubinsky said there “could not have been any Chinese flags at Russian-American consultations on strategic stability,” posting a flag-less picture on Facebook.

Billingslea’s tweet was countered by one from prominent Chinese journalist Chen Weihua, who criticized the US predilection for withdrawing from multilateral agreements such as the Iran nuclear agreement and the Paris Climate accords, before pointing out that “China has 300 nukes in contrast to 6,000 by US and Russia. So unless you agree to come down to 300 or even 500, you’re not making sense.” While not a Chinese official per se, Chen’s viewpoints are considered to closely track with official policy.

In the end, the Vienna summit was a bust, a one-day exchange of previously-held views which resolved no outstanding issues and left little hope for any breakthrough in the future. So long as the Trump administration continues to insist on Chinese presence at the negotiating table as a precondition for any new agreements, there is zero chance for progress in arms control talks with Russia, or China. This makes any extension of the New START treaty impossible, and a new nuclear arms race with Russia and China inevitable.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer. He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector. Follow him on Twitter @RealScottRitter

June 23, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment