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5 unintended consequences of US sanctions

When it comes to sanctions, the law of unintended consequences works in Russia’s supreme short and long term favour.

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The latest round of US sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea are supposed to be a militant punitive measure designed to hurt three very different economies, though economies that in various ways have all learned to become increasingly self-sufficient over the years. Far from turning the economies of the aforementioned countries into 1990s Iraq, something very different is happening.

The real consequences of the sanctions are largely unintended from an official American point of view, even though in reality, the sanctions were all about Congress trying to limit the authority and slam the credibility of Donald Trump. This helps explain why few people in America have considered the following, although some voices outside of the Washington elite have voiced important concerns.

1. CONFIRMED: Russia and Iran strike $2.5 billion trade deal 

48 hours before Donald Trump’s self-described reluctant hand signed the sanctions, Iran and Russia struck a $2.5 billion deal wherein Russia will provide train carriages for Iranian rail networks.

As Forbes reports,

“Russia and Iran signed a $2.5 billion deal on Monday to start up a much-needed rail wagon production operation. The agreement was forged between the Industrial Development and Renovation Organization of Iran (IDRO) and Transmashholding, who is Russia’s largest rail equipment supplier. The two sides will set up a new joint venture, which will be 80% owned — although completely funded — by the Russian partner.

Iran is currently in the midsts of what could be called an infrastructure building bonanza. Emerging from decades of sanctions which left much of the country’s transportation infrastructure descending into proverbial ruins, Iran has embarked upon a near complete rebuild of its highway and rail networks. The country is expected to add on 15,000 kilometers of new rail lines in the next five years alone — a rapid expansion which is going to require 8,000-10,000 new wagons each year.

Reinvigorating the transport sector is a key part of Iran’s vision to leverage its geographic position to become a vibrant hub of trans-Eurasian trade, which plugs nicely into China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Russia’s continued economic activity in the post-Soviet neighborhood. Iran is also a core partner, along with Russia and India, in the emerging North-South Transport Corridor, which seeks to create a multimodal trade route that would cut the lead time between cities on the west coast of India and St. Petersburg in half, and has also worked out its territorial squabbles with Russia over the Caspian Sea”.

Thus, Russia and Iran have not only developed even closer economic ties, but are doing so in the medium and long term service of China’s One Belt–One Road initiative which both Moscow and Tehran have embraced.

2. The Death of Liberalism in Russia 

Ever since the end of the horrific 1990s in Russia which coincided with the year 2000 election of Vladimir Putin as President, liberalism (both social, economic and geo-political) has rapidly fallen out of favour.

Where the west still largely sees liberalism as a creed, Russia tends to see it as a failed experiment. That being said, even in recent years, moderate liberals in Russia have asserted that Russia’s relations with the west including and especially the United States, are somehow paramount to relations with Asian countries, fellow Eurasian states and the ‘global south’ of Latin America, Africa and, South Asia and South East Asia.

This sanctions prove once and for all that such a view is folly masquerading as strategy. Forgetting the fact that as a geographically, historically and temperamentally Eurasian state, Russia’s economy and pragmatic style of geo-politics is far more oriental than post-modern occidental, even if one desired to put the US on a paramount level vis-a-vis the rest of the Eurasian world, this has now been exposed as impossible.

If the most outwardly and by many accounts sincerely Russia friendly US leaders in decades, Donald Trump cannot even get a Congress controlled by his own party to refrain from passing punitive measures against Russia, then there truly is no hope for fully-fledged good and functional bilateral relations between Moscow and Washington at this time, this is especially true where America’s increasingly protectionist economy is concerned.

No matter what concessions Russian liberals would make to the US, nothing would be enough given the current political climate in the west. Many Russians have realised that surrendering one’s traditional interests and one’s dignity in the hope of good relations with the US is not only self-defeating but is furthermore, objective folly.

Even former President and current Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, often thought of as a closet-liberal has come out with a strongly worded statement to this effect.

The Prime Minister wrote the following in a Facebook post in Russian and English. The English section is re-produced below:

“The US President’s signing of the package of new sanctions against Russia will have a few consequences. First, it ends hopes for improving our relations with the new US administration. Second, it is a declaration of a full-fledged economic war on Russia. Third, the Trump administration has shown its total weakness by handing over executive power to Congress in the most humiliating way. This changes the power balance in US political circles.

What does it mean for them? The US establishment fully outwitted Trump; the President is not happy about the new sanctions, yet he could not but sign the bill. The issue of new sanctions came about, primarily, as another way to knock Trump down a peg. New steps are to come, and they will ultimately aim to remove him from power. A non-systemic player has to be removed. Meanwhile, the interests of the US business community are all but ignored, with politics chosen over a pragmatic approach. Anti-Russian hysteria has become a key part of both US foreign policy (which has occurred many times) and domestic policy (which is a novelty).

The sanctions regime has been codified and will remain in effect for decades unless a miracle happens. This legislation is going to be harsher than the Jackson-Vanik amendment as it is overarching and cannot be lifted by a special presidential order without Congress’ approval. Thus, relations between Russia and the United States are going to be extremely tense regardless of Congress’ makeup and regardless of who is president. Lengthy arguments in international bodies and courts are ahead, as well as rising international tensions and refusal to settle major international issues.

What does it mean for us? We will steadily continue our work on developing the economy and social sector, take efforts to substitute imports, and solve major national tasks, relying mostly on ourselves. We have learned to do so in the past few years, in conditions of almost closed financial markets as well as foreign investors’ and creditors’ fear of investing in Russia upon penalty of sanctions against third parties and countries. To some extent, this has even been to our advantage, although sanctions are meaningless overall. We will cope”.

If even Medvedev is using such language, the message to Russians is clear: Look everywhere, but don’t look to America, not anytime soon, certainly.

3. North Korea and Russia 

Russia and her ally China are deeply angered with America’s aggressive posturing towards Pyongyang. China and Russia have issued a joint statement condemning American militarism over the Korean peninsula while also stating their sincere desire to see Pyongyang refrain from moves which have been viewed by Seoul and Washington as provocative. After all, Russia and China both border North Korea and neither want to see a war, let alone a nuclear war on their doorstep.

Crucially though, both Moscow and Beijing have condemned any further attempts to sanctions North Korea’s economy. Russia in particular ought to go in the opposite direction and try and work with Pyongyang to open up the North Korean economy to Russia. A prosperous North Korea which engages positively with a neighbour that has had historically good relations with Pyongyang, would be a healthy way to de-escalate conflict and gently persuade North Korea to focus on bilateral prosperity rather than the instruments of war.  If Russia and North Korea could reach such an agreement, China would almost certainly approve as Russia and China have developed a level of trust that currently does not exist between China and North Korea.

Such a suggestion was recently made by Russian opposition leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a man while in the opposition, has often predicted a great deal of geo-political events, most famously when he anticipated the current Ukraine crisis in the late 1990s.

The sanctions which are manifest of the impossibility of meaningful cooperation with Washington could hasten Russia’s desire to solve the largely US inspired crisis in Korea more rapidly than many anticipate at this time.

4. A boost for One Belt–One Road 

Russia has expressed a commitment to actively participate in China’s global trade, commerce and infrastructure trade initiative from the moment it was announced in late 2013. While the sanctions do not change this, it reinforces the central importance of One Belt–One Road to tapping Russia’s potential in the 21st century for what will certainly be to the economic benefit of all Russians.

While some have challenged One Belt–One Road on the basis of being overly ambitious, America which opposes the plan has increasingly nothing to offer as an alternative. Even if the US did have a counter-proposal for One Belt–One Road, it is clear now that such a proposal would never be offered to Russia with respect or seriousness.

Russia therefore now realises that the road which is open to Moscow is China’s plan and not a would-be western plan. One Belt–One Road is more suited to the Russian economy than any hypothetical western counter-proposals would have been in any case.

5. The Seduction of Europe 

If the US forces its EU partner into a trade war, Russia will be able to exploit this schism by seducing European markets with offers which from the perspective of Dollars and Cents, Europe would be hard pressed to refuse.

Already, Europe is panicking over the idea that countries like Germany might have to purchase expensive American Liquefied Natural Gas which then has to be painstakingly shipped to Europe rather than the cheap and comparatively local alternative of Russian pipeline gas.

Russia could therefore tempt Europe with the carrot of cheap energy and goods while combining it with the stick of demanding Europe drop its own sanctions against Russia, most of which date back to 2014. Russia already has sympathetic ears in southern Europe on this matter and Germany may well be moving in this direction due to America’s blatant disregard for northern European concerns.

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santiago

You must mean the Talmud and Mishnah.

The Torah is what they don’t believe in anymore.

santiago
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santiago

I hear you and Vtran. Just one thing though. US citizens are heavily armed, specially compared to other regimes and countries, and it is supposedly so in order to fight against a Tyrannical government. SO……. the american people are lately at fault and should pay up accordingly so, if they were to content because of a Starbucks coffee and preferred that coffee rather than the lives it cost, then by all means they should not enjoy anything that brings them contentment, that would be completely just and deserving. When a politicians son is buying 2K sneakers because his corrupt daddy… Read more »

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Empire Of Absurdity: Recycled Neocons, Recycled Enemies

Despite America’s military threats, bellicose speechifying, brutal sanctions, and Cold War-style conflict-framing, the incumbent Maduro seems firmly in control. 

Antiwar

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Authored by Major Danny Sjursen (ret.) via AntiWar.com:


There are times when I wish that the United States would just drop the charade and declare itself a global empire.

As a veteran of two imperial wars, a witness to the dark underside of America’s empire-denial, I’ve grown tired of the equivocation and denials from senior policymakers. The U.S. can’t be an empire, we’re told, because – unlike the Brits and Romans – America doesn’t annex territories outright, and our school children don’t color its colonies in red-white-and-blue on cute educational maps.

But this distinction, at root, is rather superficial. Conquest, colonization, and annexation are so 19th century – Washington has moved beyond the overt and engages in the (not-so) subtle modern form of imperialism. America’s empire over the last two decades – under Democrats and Republicans – has used a range of tools: economic, military, political, to topple regimes, instigate coups, and starve “enemy” civilians. Heck, it didn’t even start with 9/11 – bullying foreigners and overturning uncooperative regimes is as American as apple pie.

Still, observing post-9/11, post-Iraq/Afghanistan defeat, Washington play imperialism these days is tragicomically absurd. The emperor has no clothes, folks. Sure, America (for a few more fleeting years) boasts the world’s dominant economy, sure its dotted the globe with a few hundred military bases, and sure it’s military still outspends the next seven competitors combined. Nonetheless, what’s remarkable, what constitutes the real story of 2019, is this: the US empire can’t seem to accomplish anything anymore, can’t seem to bend anybody to its will. It’s almost sad to watch. America, the big-hulking has-been on the block, still struts its stuff, but most of the world simply ignores it.

Make no mistake, Washington isn’t done trying; it’s happy to keep throwing good money (and blood) at bad: to the tune of a cool $6 trillion, 7,000 troop deaths, and 500,000 foreign deaths – including maybe 240,000 civilians. But what’s it all been for? The world is no safer, global terror attacks have only increased, and Uncle Sam just can’t seem to achieve any of its preferred policy goals.

Think on it for a second: Russia and Iran “won” in Syria; the Taliban and Pakistan are about ready to “win” in Afghanistan; Iran is more influential than ever in Iraq; the Houthis won’t quit in Yemen; Moscow is keeping Crimea; Libya remains unstable; North Korea ain’t giving up its nukes; and China’s power continues to grow in its version of the Caribbean – the South China Sea. No amount of American cash, no volume of our soldiers’ blood, no escalation in drone strikes or the conventional bombing of brown folks, has favorably changed the calculus in any of these regional conflicts.

What does this tell us? Quite a lot, I’d argue – but not what the neoliberal/neoconservative alliance of pundits and policymakers are selling. See for these unrepentant militarists the problem is always the same: Washington didn’t use enough force, didn’t spend enough blood and treasure. So is the solution: more defense spending, more CIA operations, more saber-rattling, and more global military interventions.

No, the inconvenient truth is as simple as it is disturbing to red-blooded patriots. To wit, the United States – or any wannabe hegemon – simply doesn’t possess the capability to shape the world in its own image. See those pesky locals – Arabs, Asians, Muslims, Slavs – don’t know what’s good for them, don’t understand that (obviously) there is a secret American zipped inside each of their very bodies, ready to burst out if given a little push!

It turns out that low-tech, cheap insurgent tactics, when combined with impassioned nationalism, can bog down the “world’s best military” indefinitely. It seems, too, that other regional heavyweights – Russia, China, Iran, North Korea – stand ready to call America’s nuclear bluff. That they know the US all-volunteer military and consumerist economy can’t ultimately absorb the potential losses a conventional war would demand. Even scarier for the military-industrial-congressional-media establishment is the logical extension of all this accumulated failure: the questionable efficacy of military force in the 21st century.

Rather than recognize the limits of American military, economic, and political power, Bush II, Obama, and now Trump, have simply dusted off the old playbook. It’s reached the level of absurdity under the unhinged regime of Mr. Trump. Proverbially blasting Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” as its foreign policy soundtrack, the Donald and company have doubled down. Heck, if Washington can’t get its way in Africa, Europe, Asia, or the Mideast, well why not clamp down in our own hemisphere, our traditional sphere of influence – South and Central America.

Enter the lunacy of the current Venezuela controversy. Trump’s team saw a golden opportunity in this socialist, backwater petrostate. Surely here, in nearby Monroe Doctrine country, Uncle Sam could get his way, topple the Maduro regime, and coronate the insurgent (though questionably legitimate) Juan Guaido. It’s early 20th century Yankee imperialism reborn. Everything seemed perfect. Trump could recall the specter of America’s tried and true enemy – “evil” socialism – cynically (and absurdly) equating Venezuelan populism with some absurd Cold-War-era existential threat to the nation. The idea that Venezuela presents a challenge on the scale of Soviet Russia is actually farcical. What’s more, and this is my favorite bit of irrationality, we were all recently treated to a game of “I know you are but what am I?” from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who (with a straight face) claimed Cuba, tiny island Cuba, was the real “imperialist” in Venezuela.

Next, in a move reminiscent of some sort of macabre 1980’s theme party, Trump resuscitated Elliot Abrams – you know, the convicted felon of Iran-Contra infamy, to serve as Washington’s special envoy to embattled Venezuela. Who better to act as “fair arbiter” in that country than a war-criminal with the blood of a few hundred thousand Central Americans (remember the Contras?!?) on his hands back in the the good old (Reagan) days.

Despite all this: America’s military threats, bellicose speechifying, brutal sanctions, and Cold War-style conflict-framing, the incumbent Maduro seems firmly in control. This isn’t to say that Venezuelans don’t have genuine grievances with the Maduro government (they do), but for now at least, it appears the military is staying loyal to the president, Russia/China are filling in the humanitarian aid gaps, and Uncle Sam is about to chalk up another loss on the world scene. Ultimately, whatever the outcome, the crisis will only end with a Venezuelan solution.

America’s impotence would almost be sad to watch, if, and only if, it wasn’t all so tragic for the Venezuelan people.

So Trump and his recycled neocons will continue to rant and rave and threaten Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba, and so on and so forth. America will still flex its aging, sagging muscles – a reflexive habit at this point.

Only now it’ll seem sad. Because no one is paying attention anymore.

The opposite of love is isn’t hate – it’s indifference.

*  *  *

Danny Sjursen is a retired US Army officer and regular contributor to Antiwar.comHe served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.

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Secret deal between DOJ and Clinton lawyers exposes Deep State corruption (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 111.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss newly released transcripts from disgraced FBI agent Peter Strzok that reveal the US Department of Justice and the Clinton Lawyers struck a secret deal that blocked the FBI from accessing Clinton Foundation emails, during the Hillary home server “investigation”.

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Via Zerohedge


The Justice Department and Hillary Clinton’s legal team “negotiated” an agreement that blocked the FBI from accessing emails on Clinton’s homebrew server related to the Clinton Foundation, according to a transcript of recently released testimony from last summer by former FBI special agent Peter Strzok.

Under questioning from Judiciary Committee General Counsel Zachary Somers, Strzok acknowledged that Clinton’s private personal email servers contained a mixture of emails related to the Clinton Foundation, her work as secretary of state and other matters.

“Were you given access to [Clinton Foundation-related] emails as part of the investigation?” Somers asked

We were not. We did not have access,” Strzok responded. “My recollection is that the access to those emails were based on consent that was negotiated between the Department of Justice attorneys and counsel for Clinton.” –Fox News

Strzok added that “a significant filter team” was employed at the FBI to “work through the various terms of the various consent agreements.”

“According to the attorneys, we lacked probable cause to get a search warrant for those servers and projected that either it would take a very long time and/or it would be impossible to get to the point where we could obtain probable cause to get a warrant,” said Strzok.

The foundation has long been accused of “pay-to-play” transactions, fueled by a report in the IBTimes that the Clinton-led State Department authorized $151 billion in Pentagon-brokered deals to 16 countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation – a 145% increase in completed sales to those nations over the same time frame during the Bush administration. 

Adding to speculation of malfeasance is the fact that donor contributions to the Clinton Foundation dried up by approximately 90% over a three-year period between 2014 and 2017, according to financial statements.

What’s more, Bill Clinton reportedly received a $1 million check from Qatar – one of the countries which gained State Department clearance to buy US weapons while Clinton was Secretary of State, even as the department signaled them out for a range of alleged ills,” according to IBTimes. The Clinton Foundation confirmed it accepted the money.

Then there was the surely unrelated $145 million donated to the Foundation from parties linked to the Uranium One deal prior to its approval through a rubber-stamp committee.

“The committee almost never met, and when it deliberated it was usually at a fairly low bureaucratic level,” Richard Perle said. Perle, who has worked for the Reagan, Clinton and both Bush administrations added, “I think it’s a bit of a joke.” –CBS

Later in his testimony last summer, Strzok said that agents were able to access “the entire universe” of information on the servers by using search terms to probe their contents – saying “we had it voluntarily.”

“What’s bizarre about this, is in any other situation, there’s no possible way they would allow the potential perpetrator to self-select what the FBI gets to see,” said former Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz – former chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee until 2017 and current contributor to Fox News. “The FBI should be the one to sort through those emails — not the Clinton attorneys.

Chaffetz suggested that the goal of the DOJ was to “make sure they hear no evil, see no evil — they had no interest in pursuing the truth.”

“The Clinton Foundation isn’t supposed to be communicating with the State Department anyway,” said Chaffetz. “The foundation — with her name on it — is not supposed to be communicating with the senior officials at the State Department.”

Republican-led concerns that the DOJ, under the Obama administration, was too cozy with the Clinton team during the 2016 presidential campaign have grown louder in recent days. Earlier this week, Fox News exclusively reviewed an internal chart prepared by federal investigators working on the so-called “Midyear Exam” probe into Clinton’s emails. The chart contained the words “NOTE: DOJ not willing to charge this” next to a key statute on the mishandling of classified information.

The notation appeared to contradict former FBI Director James Comey’s repeated claims that his team made its decision that Clinton should not face criminal charges independently.

But Strzok, in his closed-door interview, denied that the DOJ exercised undue influence over the FBI, and insisted that lawyers at the DOJ were involved in an advisory capacity working with agents. –Fox News

Strzok was fired from the FBI after months of intense scrutiny over anti-Trump text messages he exchanged with his mistress – FBI lawyer Lisa Page. Both Strzok and Page were involved at the highest levels of both the Clinton email investigation and the counterintelligence investigation on President Trump and his 2016 campaign.

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US continues to try to corner Russia with silence on Nukes

Moscow continues to be patient in what appears to be an ever more lopsided, intentional stonewalling situation provoked by the Americans.

Seraphim Hanisch

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TASS reported on March 17th that despite Russian readiness to discuss the present problem of strategic weapons deployments and disarmament with its counterparts in the United States, the Americans have not offered Russia any proposals to conduct such talks.

The Kremlin has not yet received any particular proposals on the talks over issues of strategic stability and disarmament from Washington, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS on Sunday when commenting on the statement made by US National Security Adviser John Bolton who did not rule out that such talks could be held with Russia and China.

“No intelligible proposals has been received [from the US] so far,” Peskov said.

Earlier Bolton said in an interview with radio host John Catsimatidis aired on Sunday that he considers it reasonable to include China in the negotiation on those issues with Russia as well.

“China is building up its nuclear capacity now. It’s one of the reasons why we’re looking at strengthening our national missile defense system here in the United States. And it’s one reason why, if we’re going to have another arms control negotiation, for example, with the Russians, it may make sense to include China in that discussion as well,” he said.

Mr. Bolton’s sense about this particular aspect of any arms discussions is correct, as China was not formerly a player in geopolitical affairs the way it is now. The now all-but-scrapped Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, was a treaty concluded by the US and the USSR leaders Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, back in 1987. However, for in succeeding decades, most notably since the fall of the Soviet Union, the US has been gradually building up weaponry in what appears to be an attempt to create a ring around the Russian Federation, a situation which is understandably increasingly untenable to the Russian government.

Both sides have accused one another of violating this treaty, and the mutual violations and recriminations on top of a host of other (largely fabricated) allegations against the Russian government’s activities led US President Donald Trump to announce his nation’s withdrawal from the treaty, formally suspending it on 1 February. Russian President Vladimir Putin followed suit by suspending it the very next day.

The INF eliminated all of both nations’ land based ballistic and cruise missiles that had a range between 500 and 1000 kilometers (310-620 miles) and also those that had ranges between 1000 and 5500 km (620-3420 miles) and their launchers.

This meant that basically all the missiles on both sides were withdrawn from Europe’s eastern regions – in fact, much, if not most, of Europe was missile-free as the result of this treaty. That is no longer the case today, and both nations’ accusations have provoked re-development of much more advanced systems than ever before, especially true considering the Russian progress into hypersonic and nuclear powered weapons that offer unlimited range.

This situation generates great concern in Europe, such that the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on both Moscow and Washington to salvage the INF and extend the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, or the New START as it is known.

“I call on the parties to the INF Treaty to use the time remaining to engage in sincere dialogue on the various issues that have been raised. It is very important that this treaty is preserved,” Guterres said at a session of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Monday.

He stressed that the demise of that accord would make the world more insecure and unstable, which “will be keenly felt in Europe.” “We simply cannot afford to return to the unrestrained nuclear competition of the darkest days of the Cold War,” he said.

Guterres also urged the US and Russia to extend the START Treaty, which expires in 2021, and explore the possibility of further reducing their nuclear arsenals. “I also call on the United States and the Russian Federation to extend the so-called New START Treaty before it expires in 2021,” he said.

The UN chief recalled that the treaty “is the only international legal instrument limiting the size of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals” and that its inspection provisions “represent important confidence-building measures that benefit the entire world.”

Guterres recalled that the bilateral arms control process between Russia and the US “has been one of the hallmarks of international security for fifty years.”

“Thanks to their efforts, global stockpiles of nuclear weapons are now less than one-sixth of what they were in 1985,” the UN secretary-general pointed out.

The Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (the New START Treaty) entered into force on February 5, 2011. The document stipulates that seven years after its entry into effect each party should have no more than a total of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers, as well as no more than 1,550 warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and strategic bombers, and a total of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers and strategic bombers. The new START Treaty obliges the parties to exchange information on the number of warheads and carriers twice a year.

The new START Treaty will remain in force during 10 years until 2021, unless superseded by a subsequent agreement. It may be extended for a period of no more than five years (that is, until 2026) upon the parties’ mutual consent. Moscow has repeatedly called on Washington not to delay the issue of extending the Treaty.

 

 

 

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