Early last week, there had been some hope raised that some kind of extension – at least for one year to provide space for further negotiation on a longer extension – of the New START Treaty, which is set to expire in February.
On Tuesday the 27th, Russia’s Deputy FM Sergei Ryabkov stated that the two sides were not close to an agreement and that Russia had not yet heard back on its latest offers:
“We’ve met the U.S. halfway twice over the past few weeks. We haven’t received a proper response. Strictly speaking, the Americans have confirmed the position which they’ve worked out thus far, setting up extra conditions around the treaty’s extension and the idea of freezing, in favor of which the Russian Foreign Ministry spoke on the 20th [of October],” Ryabkov told reporters in Moscow.
“We’re continuing the dialogue, but the prospects for this dialogue are rather problematic, and I’d rather not make any predictions about the result of this dialogue right now. But we’re certainly not on the verge of any kind of agreement whatsoever, as of today,” he said.
As of the end of last week, it appears that no deal will be agreed before tomorrow’s election.
Putin had also offered to allow NATO inspections for deployment of INF-banned missiles on both sides in an effort to revive arms control measures that have been undermined by the U.S.’s decision to destroy the INF Treaty. As Antiwar.com reported on October 26th:
On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered mutual inspections of each other’s military bases to NATO to prevent the deployment of missiles banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty….
…Putin offered access to sites in Kaliningrad, where the US has accused Russia of deploying 9M729 missiles. The US claims Russia’s 9M729 missiles are a violation of the INF, one of the reasons Washington cited to withdraw from the treaty, but Moscow insists the 9M729’s are a lower range than banned under the INF.
Still, Putin says Russia has not deployed the 9M729 in Europe. He is asking for access to US and NATO sites in Europe in exchange for Kaliningrad. Since the US withdrew from the INF, Washington has abstained from deploying INF-banned missiles to Europe but is seeking to deploy such missiles in Asia to face China.
Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter explained what he thought Putin’s reasoning was in an analysis, also published on October 26th:
In a bold new proposal, Russian President Vladimir Putin has expanded on his existing offer of a moratorium on the deployment of intermediate-range nuclear forces on European soil by suggesting that Russia and the US/NATO engage in so-called “verification measures” (a euphemism for on-site inspections) “regarding the Aegis Ashore systems equipped with Mk 41 launchers at US and NATO bases in Europe and the 9M729 missiles at Russian military facilities in the Kaliningrad Region.”…
….For its part, Russia long maintained that [the Poland and Romania-based] Mk 41 Aegis Ashore system was a violation of the INF Treaty, as it was designed to launch both SM-3 surface-to-air missiles and Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missiles from aboard US naval warships. The US claims that the Mk 41 Aegis Ashore is only intended to be used in an anti-ballistic missile role. However, Russia claimed that the US in effect turned a permitted weapon (the seal-launched cruise missile) into a prohibited one (a ground-launched cruise missile, banned by the INF Treaty.) While the US denied that the Mk 41 Aegis Ashore had this capability, the fact that a Mk 41 was used to launch a Tomahawk cruise missile only weeks after the expiration of the INF Treaty underscored the validity of Russia’s claims….
….While the US has, to date, eschewed the redeployment of INF weapons to Europe, the presence of two Mk 41 Aegis Ashore sites on NATO soil (one in Romania, the other in Poland) have raised concerns in Russia that both could be secretly armed with cruise missiles, thereby putting Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrence at risk of a preemptive US nuclear first strike.
Ritter points out that Washington, when leaving the treaty in 2019, cited the fact that China was not included as an additional reason for withdrawal along with Russia’s 9M729 missiles.
Here we find perhaps the most important part of Putin’s new proposal: “We are calling upon all parties concerned to explore ways of maintaining stability and preventing missile crises ‘in a world without the INF Treaty’ regarding the Asia-Pacific Region. We are open to joint work along these lines.” Putin appears to recognize the reality that there cannot be meaningful US-Russian nuclear arms control without factoring in China.
Later in the week, Washington’s lead arms control negotiator with Russia, Marshall Billingslea rejected this offer via his Twitter account. Furthermore, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien confirmed that the U.S. remains ready and willing to deploy intermediate range missiles in Europe if it believes them to be necessary to “deter Russia.”
Investigative reporter Gareth Porter has just written an expose on how the Pentagon allowed the defense industry and Taiwan hardliners to overtake US foreign policy on China:
When the United States finalized a set of seven arms sales packages to Taiwan in August, including 66 upgraded F-16 fighter planes and longer-range air-to-ground missiles that could hit sensitive targets on mainland China, it shifted US policy sharply toward a much more aggressive stance on the geo-strategic island at the heart of military tensions between the United States and China.
Branded “Fortress Taiwan” by the Pentagon, the ambitious arms deal was the engineered by Randall Schriver, a veteran pro-Taiwan activist and anti-China hardliner whose think tank had been financed by America’s biggest arms contractors and by the Taiwan government itself.
Since assuming the post of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs in early 2018, Schriver has focused primarily on granting his major arms company patrons the vaunted arms deals they had sought for years.
Read the full article here.