The latter half of Trump’s first term has witnessed the unraveling of late Cold War-era deals and treaties meant to prevent the US and Russia from ever stumbling toward nuclear standoff and war, including the collapse of both the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and Open Skies after US withdrawal from both, and even New START has remained hanging in the balance.
The most significant nuclear arms reduction treaty, New START, will expire in February 2021 if the two sides don’t agree to renew it. So far ongoing talks between Moscow and Washington have failed to extend it by up to five years, despite pressure to strike an extension by America’s allies.
Currently less than a year remains for a breakthrough. The last talks in late June reportedly led nowhere. “The Wall Street Journal on June 23 quoted an unnamed U.S. official who said that the topics for the working groups would be nuclear warheads, especially Russia’s unconstrained stockpile of nonstrategic nuclear weapons, and doctrine; verification; and space systems. But a June 24 report in Kommersant cited Russian officials saying Moscow did not necessarily agree to discuss nuclear warheads,” wrote the Arms Control Association.
However, the US and Russia have returned to the negotiating table in Vienna on this week. At least three days of negotiations are expected to run through the end of the week.
Washington’s position has remained that New START and others remain somewhat obsolete given they fail to account for new leaps in missile technology, but especially because China is not involved. Pompeo’s State Department has been pushing for a new treaty that accounts for China, something increasingly looking to be unrealizable given US-China relations this summer have fallen off a cliff.
While it’s as yet unclear if current Vienna talks have resulted in any progress, there are other “new” issues to be dealt with apart from whether it can include China, namely space security, after both sides have lately charged the other with turning space into “a war-fighting domain”.
Both Russia and China have signaled they would like to see an agreement that would prevent the militarization of space. At least one entire day in Vienna is to be focused on space.
Washington has condemned the Kremlin’s anti-satellite weapons testing over the past years, while the Kremlin issued a statement this week that, “Russia has always been and remains a country that is committed to the aim of fully demilitarising outer space and non-deployment of any kinds of arms in outer space,” according to TASS.