We have witnessed a few historic summits, lately. Trump meeting Kim Jong-un had created a huge splash, just as the Wuhan meet of Prime Minister Modi and Xi Jinping did. None of these meetings led to strategic breakthroughs but they did pave the way majorly for the possibility of stepping out of the dark labyrinths where mutual relationships of the countries concerned have been locked for decades.
The impending meeting between Trump and Putin has also led to soaring expectations. However, breakthroughs can barely be anticipated keeping in view the complexities and multiplicity of issues involved. The author analyses some of the strategic issues in his article.
Trump Putin Summit 16 July 2018: Importance of Discussion On Nuclear Arms Control
On the16 July 2018, the US President Donald Trump and the Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet at Helsinki, Finland. The whole world awaits eagerly the outcome of this summit with the geo-strategic situation globally, strained. Both the leaders may discuss the methodology which will prevent troops of both countries operating in the same disturbed areas, supporting opposing forces, not to coming into conflict, as it happens in Syria today.
USA may also discuss the Russian interference in US elections, Russian cyber attacks, annexation of Crimea, Russian interference in East Ukraine and Syria and Russian support to Taliban in Afghanistan. Russia, on the other hand, may like to have Crimea recognized as Russian territory, discuss the US sanctions, US Aegis Ashore Missile deployment in Romania and Poland and US involvements/ interference in Syria and the Middle East and the growing clout of ISIS in Afghanistan.
But the most important issue for discussion, which is vital for “Peace of the World”, should be Nuclear Arms Control, namely the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty (INF) and the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).
New START is a nuclear arms control deal between USA and Russia which came into effect on 5 February 2011, during the Obama – Putin era. The main aim of the treaty is to limit the size of the American and Russian nuclear arms and their delivery systems. It also permits both the nations to keep a track of each other’s nuclear arsenal development to eliminate /curb mistrust and misunderstandings, by agreeing to share data and mutual inspections. The current treaty terminates in 2021, though there is a provision for extending it for five years, with mutual consent. The main highlights of the New START are:-
- Both countries cannot have more than 700 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMS) and Long Range Bombers armed with nuclear warheads.
- Possession of nuclear warheads is restricted to 1550.
- Both countries are restricted to a total of 800 of a combination of ICBMs, SLBMs and Long Range bombers, irrespective of whether they are nuclear capable or not.
- Both countries will provide data of movement of their nuclear arsenal, every day whether its operational, training or a movement to undergo repairs. Till date over 15700 such notifications on movement data has been exchanged.
- Each country will allow 18 inspections of their nuclear facilities, each year. This lifted a veil of secrecy as prevalent in the Cold War era and ushered in a degree of trust and faith.
In February 2017, President Putin had, during his first tele-conversation with President Trump, suggested the extension of the New START treaty till 2026. Trump had rejected the request, stating that the deal was unfavourable to USA. US National Security Adviser John Bolton has termed the Treaty as a “Unilateral Disarmament Treaty for USA” and is believed to be against the extension of the present form of the treaty.
Today, severe mistrust has crept in the execution of the treaty. USA’s deployment of Aegis Ashore Missile Shield in Deveselu, Romania and preparation of another site for the Aegis system at Redzikowo, Poland is objected to by Russia on the grounds that it violates 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty (INF).
Russian plans to deploy Nuclear missiles at Kaliningrad enclave between Poland and Lithuania and its operationalizing of the Ground Launched Cruise Missile system BM 729 are sticking points with USA.
In reality today, USA and Russia are in a nuclear arms race. USA, in February 2018 outlined its nuclear aims in a Pentagon release “Nuclear Posture Review”. The key points of this policy are:-
- To develop more nuclear Low Yield Weapons, to make them easily deliverable and to restrict collateral damage.
- To retaliate against cyber attacks with low yield weapons.
- To negate the Russian advantage of possessing 300 more nuclear warheads by producing more warheads.
In the meantime, President Putin on 1 March, 2018 announced Russia’s wish list to enhance its nuclear capabilities. Two main points of his vision are:-
- To produce a nuclear-powered cruise missile, which can hit any target in the world at a speed which will render all missile defence systems defenceless – “Invincible Missile”.
- To develop drone submarines (nuclear powered, nuclear-armed) which can target any port around the world.
The New START treaty focuses on long-range missiles, bombers and launch platforms and doesn’t include low yield weapons or Cruise Missiles and therefore there is a need to work on a new treaty. But, till a new treaty is implemented, there is a strong need for extension of the present treaty, more for safeguarding the existing exchange of information and inspection frameworks it provides. Or else, the world will again descend into the nuclear Dark Age of the Cold War era. This will further queer the pitch in the geo-strategic relations, already stressed by Global Trade War, North Korean refusal to de-nuclearise, increasing ISIS footprint in Afghanistan, growing power of China, refugee crisis in Europe and the Rohingyas, shortage of potable water, melting of polar caps and increase in natural calamities.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of BharatShakti.in)