Starting a war is always easier than keeping the peace. It doesn’t take much to declare war, whereas peace is based on concrete guarantees. We once had four agreements that protected us from an arms race and rising tensions. They were the guarantees of peace. Two of them have already ceased to exist.
A treaty to limit missile defence systems.
The May 1972 deal between the U.S. and the USSR obliged both countries to abandon the development of sea, air, space or mobile ground-based missile defense systems. Until the end of the 70s, both the USSR and the USA strictly followed the agreements. When Reagan came to power in the United States, they began to promote the idea of unilateral withdrawal from the agreement. The signing of the treaty was justified by the fact that the superpowers had reached military and strategic parity. But it was this factor that kept Washington busy.
When the USSR collapsed and Moscow inherited the responsibility to comply with the agreements, the United States renewed its criticism of the ABM Treaty. Against this background, the first accusations against Russia appeared. In spring 1996, members of the US Senate Committee on Armed Forces sent a letter to the Kremlin. In the document, the senators expressed their dissatisfaction with the underground facility in Mount Yamantau in the South Urals. Moreover, they explicitly stated that this facility “will undermine Congress support for continued bilateral cooperation and the preservation of the ABM Treaty.In response, Moscow hastened to provide all necessary clarifications regarding the facility in the South Urals. In particular, the Russian presidential aide for national security responded to Washington that the disputed facility actually “belongs to the system of strategic nuclear force management. This system was not subject to restrictions, and countries had the right to build it in order to strengthen strategic security.At the time, the Kremlin tried to conduct the dialogue with extreme caution, as it understood the intentions of American political circles. The fears were well-founded, and the states have to give credit. They proceeded carefully to terminate the agreement so as not to damage their reputation. For the sake of persuasion, the initiative to revise the ABM treaty was presented there. Given that the former Soviets republics became independent, the US demanded that Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan join the agreement.We feel the consequences of the collapse of the agreement right now. When the United States was no longer constrained in its actions, it began deploying its missile defense systems in Alaska, South Korea, the Mediterranean, and Europe. If we simulate an armed conflict in this situation, the US could strike with cruise missiles with small nuclear warheads and inflict irreparable damage on the nuclear potential of the enemy, that is Russia. At the same time, the abundance of missile defense systems would make it possible to intercept the remnants of ballistic missiles launched as a retaliatory strike.
A treaty on strategic offensive arms reduction still exists. It will expire on February 5, 2021, which means there are more than nine months for Washington and Moscow to find common ground. There is little chance of a successful outcome, and the new year will surely start with another round of escalation. The scepticism is not without reason. The experience of the two previous cases makes it possible to simulate further developments around START-3.
Both Russia and the United States are now demonstrating their commitment to extending the treaty. Moscow is demanding an extension without preconditions. In the case of Washington, it is more and more complicated. Trump insists on making the agreement trilateral. It is proposed that China be involved in the deal. It’s a familiar situation, isn’t it?
But is it necessary to risk such an important document in an attempt to impose it on China? “Of course,” they say in Washington. – “China is a threat to the Americans. What’s the point of renewing the treaty if it doesn’t serve American interests?”
It’s hard to argue with that statement, because there’s a confrontation between the US and China. Only no one’s specifying what it has to do with nuclear weapons. China’s nuclear arsenal is 21 times smaller than that of the US – 6,185 American warheads against 290 Chinese. Russia has 6,500 warheads.
Obviously, START 3 is a peer agreement. The nuclear arsenal of the US and Russia accounts for more than 90% of all nuclear weapons in the world. The gap is colossal. China, like other countries, will not be able to violate this state of affairs for long. This means that there is no point in expanding the treaty, at least not at this stage.
The consequences of the termination of START 3 for the world will be deplorable. People have forgotten what it’s like to live in constant fear of the scorching nuclear flames. It was all in the midst of the Caribbean crisis. Now imagine a nuclear race in modern conditions and technology. Imagine a world where one political decision can have irreversible consequences, for pushing a button is so easy.
The Outer Space Treaty
Perhaps this agreement is the most unobvious and underestimated in the list of those that underpin world stability. Few people are paying attention to it right now. That is understandable, because START III is at stake. Nevertheless, the Outer Space Treaty is the first and only document of its kind.
In October 2018, Mike Pence made it clear that Washington does not rule out the deployment of nuclear weapons in space. “I think we need to do everything we can to protect US citizens. The president supports the principle that there can be no peace without power,” he said.
In August 2019, the White House released the following document: “The United States will develop and use space nuclear systems when such systems sustainably provide or expand space exploration and operational capabilities.
It remains to be seen when the United States claims that the Outer Space Treaty is not in its interests. The militarization of space will take the arms race to a whole new level. Should we say how it will undermine the situation on the planet? In the beginning, we talked about the fact that all four treaties are guarantees of peace. If they do not, the imbalance in armaments will reach incredible limits.
Imagine the situation: two people who are at war with each other. Each of them has a gun. They know about it. They can fire a gun, but they don’t, because then the opponent will use the gun as well. The outcome of the firefight is unpredictable. But the situation changes when only one of them has a gun. It’s the same in a global sense. If one country is armed with tanks and planes and another can hit a nuclear missile directly from space, sooner or later this advantage will be used.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.