22.03.2021 Author: Christopher Black

The New START Treaty; Hopes and Realities


On February 3, five days after President Putin signed the legislation, ratified by the State Duma, extending the NEW START treaty for five years the United States Secretary of State Blinken announced that the USA has also formally agreed to extend the Treaty.

This is a positive move for anyone who wants to see nuclear arms reduced and then finally eliminated entirely but is it as positive as we could hope? To answer that question we have to look at the history of nuclear arms in the world and the current political circumstances.

Formally titled Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, otherwise known as the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, it replaces the original START 1 which expired in 2009 and the Treaty of Moscow, concerning the same issues, that was signed in June 2003 and expired in February 2011. New START came into force on February 5 2011and was due to expire this year.

Russia had pushed for its extension during the Trump regime but Trump attacked the Treaty as one of the “bad deals” that America had entered into. Contrary to the claims of the Democratic Party faction of the ruling elite in the US President Trump’s first telephone call with President Putin when he was elected was not a friendly one. President Putin asked of if the Treaty could be extended but Trump refused, claiming it favoured Russia, a lie that played well with his supporters. In 2019 the USA quit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty which raised concerns about US intentions regarding the START Treaty. In June 2019 the Americans raised the issue of bringing China into the Treaty, which China rejects out of hand as an attempt to disarm it and negotiations stalled. Then President Putin offered to extend it without conditions and to include in it the new AVANGARD hypersonic weapons system. In 2020 further talks took place, with the Americans once again trying to bring China into the Treaty. On the day President Biden was sworn into office, Russia asked the USA to be more constructive and rightly charged the Americans under Trump’s regime of trying to dismantle international agreements on arms control and of being aggressive in their approach. Biden responded positively and on January 26 he and President Putin agreed to a five-year extension. Though ratified by the Russian Duma, it has yet to be ratified by the US Senate.

The Treaty essentially limits the number of deployed nuclear warheads or 1,550 for each side, which, is an improvement over the original START Treaty. But the count is vague since it assumes one warhead per bomber when they can carry multiple warheads. It also limits the number of ICBMS and submarine launched missiles and the number of heavy bombers that can carry them. However it does not reduce the number of non-deployed nuclear warheads that are stockpiled and could be brought back into service. To assure these limits are met, the Treaty provides for various mechanisms or monitoring compliance including on site inspections and satellite and remote monitoring.

Any rational person must see this as a positive step, however modest, towards the complete elimination of the threat of nuclear weapons. For Russia it is a positive step forward, an achievement of their diplomacy but the Americans are playing it differently. They are talking about it as if it is a victory for them and a setback for Russia.

The US State Department stated about the New START that,

“The New START Treaty’s verification provisions enable the United States to assess Russian compliance with the treaty and give us a vital window into Russian intercontinental-range nuclear forces and operations.  Without the New START Treaty’s verification measures, there would be a decrease in US knowledge of Russian nuclear forces.  Over time we would have less confidence in our assessments of Russian forces and would have less information upon which to base decisions about US nuclear forces.”

In other words, it was more important for them as an intelligence gathering mechanism, not a mechanism whose ultimate goal is peace for the world. This statement still appears on their website. On the other hand The US Secretary of State Blinken stated in February 21 that,

“President Biden has made it clear: the US has a national security imperative and a moral responsibility to reduce and eventually eliminate the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction.

For decades, President Biden has worked to protect and advance the international arms control and non-proliferation architecture – and the institutions that underpin it – by shepherding treaties through the Senate, engaging in diplomacy, and advocating for risk reduction measures.

And just two weeks after he took office as President, the United States and the Russian Federation extended New START for five years. That decision made our countries and the world safer, and it was only the beginning of our efforts to address nuclear threats.

The United States is ready to engage Russia in strategic stability discussions on arms control and emerging security issues. We will be clear-eyed about the broader challenges posed by Russia and how our respective nuclear arsenals represent existential threats to each other.”

Words we can all applaud. But then Blinken descends into the usual American hypocrisy by calling for continued pressure on China, North Korea and Iran to be “denuclearised,” arrogating to itself the sole right of possessing nuclear weapons of mass destruction, and clearly because undefended nations are easily attacked nations. That they cannot see their own arrogance and hypocrisy shows us that we are dealing with a nation that thinks it has the right to destroy the world to get their way but no one has the right to defend themselves against them. For why does Russia have nuclear weapons, why China, North Korea?

We all know why, because it was the United States of America that first developed these horrific weapons, and were the first and only power to use them. And who did they use them against, but the innocent civilians of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki whose citizens were massacred in what can only be called acts of genocide, in order to make a demonstration to the USSR that the United States is absolutely ruthless and cruel, willing to massacre any number of people to maintain hegemony of the world. But their demonstration with the lives if hundreds of thousands did not lead to their world rule, Instead the nations of the world saw that the only way to protect themselves against such a barbaric nation state, has been to arm themselves with the same weapons to try to prevent themselves from being attacked. The American development, as well as that of their British, French, Israel and other allies, of nuclear weapons, was entirely for offensive purposes. The reaction of nations like Russia, China, and North Korea, has been for defensive purposes. India and Pakistan exhibited similar behaviour. If my enemy has such weapons, I must have them as well. That is the logic we are fixed with.

This simple fact is proved by the American strategic first strike policy adopted by the USA by which they state they will use these weapons under a number of scenarios. Faced with such a policy, a policy of extermination, what else can any targeted nation do except respond in kind and then hope, once the Americans are faced with their own threat, that they can be persuaded to abandon them.

Blinken also had the gall to mention in his statement the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which it is still a party. He said,

“Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons entering into force. The NPT’s near universality is an achievement we should all celebrate. The US is committed to advancing the non-proliferation and disarmament goals of the NPT, as well as increasing cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. We look forward to the tenth Review Conference and will do our part to make it a success.”

But of course they do not regard that Treaty as applying to themselves, only to their targeted enemies. When they say “advancing non-proliferation” they do not mean their obligation under that Treaty to eliminate their own nuclear weapons. They are referring to everyone else except themselves. For, if they were serious about complying with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, they would also sign the new Treaty on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. But they refuse to sign it.

And to make matters worse, Britain announced on March 16 that is not going to reduce its nuclear arsenal, which must be seen as really a part of he US arsenal. Britain, instead will raise the cap on its nuclear weapons from 180 to 260, citing the “acute threat from Russia” as well as China as its excuse. There can be no doubt that this was decided with the Americas so that in effect the USA has instantly reneged on the New START Treaty extension it just agreed to.

The key to nuclear disarmament is the United States. If it eliminated them, all nations would have to and I think most would be quick to react in kind. Expensive to produce, dangerous to maintain and store, the nuclear materials dangerous for the world for thousands of years, they are an immediate threat to the survival of humankind even without a nuclear war which would destroy the planet if it happens. But without a change in the irrational, hegemonistic, thinking, bordering on psychopathological, if not past that, the world will continue down the path to destruction. The Doomsday Clock has not been moved back because the New START Treaty has been extended. It is a beginning only. Now we, the people of the world who will disappear in a nuclear war over which we will have no control, and especially the American people, must push for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. They are weapons of genocide, against all humanity.

Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto. He is known for a number of high-profile war crimes cases and recently published his novel Beneath the Clouds. He writes essays on international law, politics and world events, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.