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Uncertainty around future of New START fuels arms race, says Putin

Uncertainty around the future of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is fueling a new arms race, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Council of Heads of State.

“Uncertainty remains around the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, which expires in February 2021,” Putin pointed out.

“The US administration still has not made up its mind as to what it’s going to do in this regard. As far as we can understand, debates are underway within the administration as some say that there is a need to extend the Treaty, while others think the US should not be tied down by limitations. This creates an atmosphere of uncertainty, fueling an arms race, which is really bad,” the Russian president added.

Putin said he had sent “a relevant message to the leaders of many countries.” “We have stated that we don’t plan to deploy intermediate-range missiles in case we develop them, but we will certainly work on this since the Americans now have such weapons,” he emphasized.

Concern about US plans to deploy missiles to Asia

Washington’s plans to deploy new short-range missiles to Japan and South Korea cause concern in Moscow, the Russian president revealed.

“The Pentagon has announced plans to deploy them to Asia, talks are underway with Japan and South Korea,” he noted. “It is clear who is the number one target in this case. We are not happy about it because it concerns us as well. We need to see where exactly they will be placed but Russia too will fall within the range of these missiles, thus all of this does not improve the global security situation, but only makes it worse,” Putin added.

The Russian president reiterated that the United States’ withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty “really deteriorates the global security situation.” He claimed that when pulling out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty back in 2002, the US “did it in a simpler manner, without inventing anything and putting the blame on Russia, they [the Americans] just left.” “But this time, they acted in a more sophisticated way: they made up an excuse, though all of this has nothing to do with Russia, it is about their Asia policy, and we can see now what is going on in relation to short and intermediate-range missiles,” the Russian leader pointed out.

“They kept accusing us of violations but just three months after the [INF Treaty] withdrawal, the US tested an intermediate-range missile. It means they [the Americans] developed it quite a while ago, because it is impossible to produce such weapons in three months, this kind of work takes years. They did work for years and then withdrew from the Treaty and tested the missile three months later,” Putin emphasized.

New START

New START, which came into force in 2011, limits Russia and the US to no more than 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers, no more than 1,550 deployed warheads and 800 deployed and non-deployed launchers.

The Treaty is set to remain in effect for ten years (until 2021) unless a new document is signed to replace it. The document can also be extended for no more than five years (that is, until 2026) by mutual agreement of the parties.

INF Treaty issue

The INF Treaty, signed by the Soviet Union and the United States on December 8, 1987, took effect on June 1, 1988. It applied to deployed and non-deployed ground-based missiles of intermediate range (1,000-5,000 kilometers) and shorter range (500-1,000 kilometers). Washington on many occasions accused Russia of violating the accord, but Moscow vehemently dismissed all accusations and, in its turn, expressed grievances over Washington’s non-compliance.

On February 1, 2019, US President Donald Trump announced the suspension of Washington’s obligations under the INF. On February 2, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow was also suspending the agreement. Putin signed a decree suspending Moscow’s compliance with the Treaty on March 4. On July 3, the head of state signed the decree into law after it had been approved by both houses of parliament.

On August 2, Washington formally withdrew from the INF Treaty and the Russian Foreign Ministry, in turn, officially confirmed that the Treaty had been terminated at the United States’ initiative.

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