The Re-emerging Cold War: Russia Urges U.S. To Extend Nuclear Pact

Russia has proposed to the United States that the two nuclear superpowers extend their New START nuclear arms reduction treaty by five years, as its expiration date in 2021 approaches. The New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) was signed in 2010 under the Obama administration and is the last major nuclear arms-limitation treaty between Moscow and Washington. President Trump has previously told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, that the New START treaty was a bad deal for the United States. 

“It is already clear that within the remaining time we won’t be able to come up with a full-scale document to replace it,” Vladimir Leontyev, deputy director of the arms control department of Russia’s Foreign Ministry stated. Leontyev added that “the prospects of extending the treaty are unclear too […] The U.S. administration is silent about it.” Ernest J. Moniz, a former U.S. energy secretary, and Sam Nunn, a former senator from Georgia who helped draft previous arms-reduction legislation relating to the Soviet Union, wrote that “The United States and Russia are now in a state of strategic instability.” In their article, the two continued that “not since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis has the risk of a U.S.-Russian confrontation involving the use of nuclear weapons been as high as it is today.”

The START treaty limits each nation to no more than 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads, and no more than 700 long-range missiles and bombers. In the event of its expiration, both Washington and Moscow would be free to expand their nuclear arsenals without limits. Despite President Trump’s original campaign positions, which signalled conflict-aversion and a readiness for engagement with America’s adversaries (namely Russia), it has become increasingly evident that global security has deteriorated under Trump’s ‘America First’ policies. This refusal to maintain stability with Russia over the complaint that it is a ‘bad deal’ for the U.S. is a carbon-copy of what Trump has done with the Iran Nuclear Deal, and will likely have just as disastrous results. Notwithstanding claims that President Trump was involved in some kind of collaboration with the Russian state—claims which remain unproven—relations with the country have only worsened, rather than improved. While one might admonish the Russian state for a number of reasons, ultimately this is not a positive development for any side in this conflict. Such an outcome has been partly the result of Trump’s ‘America First’ policies, and partly the result of extreme hostility towards the Russian state from many of Trump’s opponents in the Democratic Party. Undoubtedly too, Trump has cooled his previous amicable position towards Russia under the pressure of much of the Democratic and Republican establishment. 

Regardless of one’s political affiliations, one has to question how wise it is to unnecessarily stoke conflict with Russia for the sake of pursuing domestic, partisan political goals. Unfortunately, as both sides of the political spectrum within the U.S. direct all their focus inwardly on domestic issues, they have demonstrated a disregard for the global implications of their solipsism. Thus, as the U.S. implodes and its political arena becomes increasingly unstable, we shall see that so too will the political arena on the international stage.