From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : New Start Treaty, INF Treaty
Mains level : Nuclear disarmament
Russia postponed nuclear weapons talks with the United States under the New START Treaty with neither side giving a reason for the postponement.
New START Treaty
- The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) pact limits the number of deployed nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers and is due to expire in 2021 unless renewed.
- The treaty limits the US and Russia to a maximum of 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, well below Cold War caps.
- It was signed in 2010 by former US President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
- It is one of the key controls on the superpower deployment of nuclear weapons.
Background of US-Russia Nuclear Relations
- The US formally QUIT the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF)
- The agreement obliged the two countries to eliminate all ground-based missiles of ranges between 500 and 5,500 km.
When did nuclear disarmament begin?
- In 1985, the two countries entered into arms control negotiations on three tracks.
- The first dealt with strategic weapons with ranges of over 5,500 km, leading to the START agreement in 1991.
- It limited both sides to 1,600 strategic delivery vehicles and 6,000 warheads.
- A second track dealt with intermediate-range missiles and this led to the INF Treaty in 1987.
- A third track, Nuclear, and Space Talks was intended to address Soviet concerns regarding the U.S.’s Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI) but this did not yield any outcome.
Success of INF
- The INF Treaty was hailed as a great disarmament pact even though no nuclear warheads were dismantled.
- As it is a bilateral agreement, it did not restrict other countries.
- By 1991, the INF was implemented. USSR destroyed 1,846 and the US destroyed 846 Pershing and cruise missiles.
- Associated production facilities were also closed down.
- INF Treaty was the first pact to include intensive verification measures, including on-site inspections.
How has the nuclear behavior been?
- With the end of the Cold War and the break-up of the USSR in end-1991, former Soviet allies were joining NATO and becoming EU members.
- The U.S. was investing in missile defense and conventional global precision strike capabilities to expand its technological lead.
- In 2001, the U.S. announced its unilateral withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty).
- The US also blamed Russia for not complying with the ‘zero-yield’ standard imposed by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). This may indicate the beginning of a new nuclear arms race.
Implications of the New Start
- The 2011 New START lapsed in 2021. It may meet the fate of the INF Treaty.
- The 2018 NPR envisaged the development of new nuclear weapons, including low-yield weapons.
- China is preparing to operate its test site year-round with its goals for its nuclear force.
- CTBT requires ratification by U.S., China, and Iran, Israel and Egypt and adherence by India, Pakistan and North Korea. It is unlikely to ever enter into force.
- A new nuclear arms race could just be the beginning. It may be more complicated because of multiple countries being involved.
- Technological changes are bringing cyber and space domains into contention. It raises the risks of escalation.
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