I posted numerous times before about the alleged ambiguity in the New START Treaty language regarding missile defense, and how in the rush for a lame duck, pre-Christmas ratification, the Senate ignored differences in interpretation rather than seek clarification from the Russians.
The Russians consistently had voiced objection to U.S. interpretations, including from the White House and Congress, that certain treaty language did not cover missile defense. The Russians also took upon themelves the interpretation that the construction of U.S. missile defenses, even if not banned by the treaty, would be cause for the Russians to withdraw.
Now that the treay has been ratified by both countries, the Russians again are objecting to U.S. missile defense plans and threatening to withdraw:
Russia sees the planned U.S. missile defense system as a potential threat to its nuclear forces and may review its participation in a landmark nuclear arms treaty, officials said Monday.
The New START deal, the centerpiece of Barack Obama’s efforts to reset ties with Russia and the most significant arms control pact in nearly two decades, took effect last week. It limits each country to 1,550 strategic warheads, down from the current ceiling of 2,200.
The treaty doesn’t prevent the U.S. from building new missile defense systems, but Russia has warned that it reserves the right to withdraw from the treaty if the United States significantly boosts its missile shield.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov reaffirmed Monday that a buildup in the U.S. missile defense capability would prompt Moscow re-consider its obligations under the New START treaty.
“If the U.S. increases the qualitative and quantitative potential of its missile defense … a question will arise whether Russia should further abide by the treaty or would have to take other measures to respond to the situation, including military-technical measures,” Ryabkov said, according to Russian news agencies.
Oh, and remember how criticisms that the treaty did not cover short-range nukes, in which the Russians have an overwhelming advantage, were rebuffed with assurances that there would be more negotiations?
This was important because the treaty covered only long-range nukes in which the U.S. had an advantage (and as the Russian Defense Minister has noted, only the U.S. will be cutting its long-range stockpiles since the Russians do not have enough operational long-range weapons even to reach treaty limits).
Not going to happen any time soon in part because of the missile shield issue:
A top Russian foreign ministry official said Monday that Moscow was aware of Washington’s desire to start a new round of short-range missile reduction talks this year.
But he said such talks could only go ahead once Washington reconsidered its plans for a new missile defence shield for Europe and its desire to place weapons in space.
“We have taken note of the US president’s position, which seeks to put a time frame on the start of tactical nuclear missile negotiations,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.
But we should put the emphasis on the word ‘seeks’,” the Russian official said
“We are not avoiding these talks. But talks about tactical nuclear missiles are impossible without a set of other issues: an imbalance of conventional forces, missile defence, and the deployment of arms in space,” he said.
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