The last days of the week have passed under the geopolitics sign. Presidents of the United States and Russia Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin decided to extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-3), which would expire on February 5 this year. As stipulated by the protocol to the agreement, Moscow's proposal to extend it sent to Washington last fall was supported by the new 46th US president. His predecessor refused to sign the agreement and used every trick in the book to prevent this from happening.
Donald Trump's administration imposed ultimatum requirements on the extension of START-3 the Kremlin was unable to accept a priori. For instance, the United States believed that Moscow should involve Beijing in a bilateral agreement, which adamantly refused to engage in any talks on the reduction of strategic or any other weapons. Moreover, Washington wanted to combine strategic and non-strategic weapons in one agreement, i.e. to converge a toaster and a refrigerator, although these types of weapons clearly belong to utterly different classes. While both sides know almost everything about strategic weapons, with talks, information exchanges and mutual inspections taking place over the years, no official information has ever existed about tactical weapons, and it is impossible to discuss them without transparency and verification that cannot be achieved even within a few months.
For what reason did Donald Trump do this? There are several of them. One is the ambitious Trump's conviction of America's being above all the international laws and regulations, and the impossibility of bounding it by any international obligations. Hence the withdrawal from many treaties, ranging from the climate agreement to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty to the Iran nuclear deal and the Open Skies Treaty. Trump's decision was also affected by the fact that START-3 was concluded under Barack Obama. Everything related to his Democratic predecessor was existential to Republican Donald Trump. He was'nt able to stand the sight of his deeds. Naturally, when Democrat Joe Biden, who was Barack Obama's vice president, came to power in the United States, he immediately made up his mind to extend the START-3 Treaty. But not only because it was reached under his former boss and with his direct involvement, but also due to the agreement's expediency, primarily for the United States itself.
By the way, very few people remember that President Barack Obama offered to extend START for another five years in 2015 but was refused. Moscow cited many reasons for that. Among them were the following: rabid media aggression against our country unleashed by the 44th US President's administration, Washington's refusal to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, swindle with the disposal of weapons-grade plutonium (the Americans refused to process it, as agreed by the two capitals and as Russia did, but enshrouded it with molten glass for long term storage, so as to use the plutonium in nuclear warheads at each point of time).
But why did the American Democrats, unlike the Republicans, think that START-3 was very profitable for them? Because they still had the ability to control the development and modernization of Russia's strategic nuclear deterrent forces. Under the START Treaty, we must inform Washington about the creation of new strategic carriers and let them get acquainted with those before they become operational. We also should accept American inspections, which can arrive in our country several times a year to visit the locations of Strategic Missile Forces' firing positions or bases for our strategic submarine cruisers, as well as strategic aviation airfields. There were a total of 18 inspections throughout the operation of START. We have to warn the Americans about each ballistic missile test-firing: which missile is used, where it will fly from, where it should strike. Moreover, we must provide telemetry data on the flight of such missiles five times a year, that is being completely transparent, open, predictable and honest with our START Treaty partners.
In December 2019, our general staff invited American inspectors to the village of Yasny, Orenburg region, to demonstrate the process of commissioning two strategic missile systems with the Avangard hypersonic warhead which flies an unpredictable trajectory to the target, maneuvering at a speed of about 27 mach (27 times the speed of sound). It was hardly a goodwill gesture but our START Treaty obligation. Last year, when the third complex equipped with the hypersonic Avangard was being placed on high alert, there were no American inspectors in Russia. And again, it was not the host country's evil intent but the coronavirus pandemic that prevented them from coming to Russia.
Should the United States disagree to extend the START Treaty, they could not see our new Sarmat super-heavy ICBM, which is currently being tested to replace the world's largest strategic missile Voevoda, also known as Satan in the West.
Notice that the United States has the same obligations owed to us, as per the agreement stipulations. Moreover, the START Treaty is highly beneficial to us also because it does not limit the development and modernization of our strategic deterrent forces. This includes the creation of the Avangard hypersonic complex and the Sarmat heavy liquid-fuelled missile with a range of over 17 thousand kilometers, able to fly even across the South Pole. Just like with the Avangard, it ignores any modern or promising missile defense systems, as President Vladimir Putin said when "zeroing them out", which also became possible thanks to START-3.
Besides, extending this treaty saves us from an expensive and ruinous arms race. The state program allocated about 20 trillion rubles to create new weapons and military equipment from 2020 to 2027. It is being carried out in a phased and meaningful way, as evidenced by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu's reports at the military department's annual meetings. We won't need extra charges if we have a clear insight into what and how the United States does as regards its strategic nuclear forces. And not only in this area. START makes it possible for us to be positive about the US nuclear weapons modernization prospects. And this is yet another "killer app" for our economy and finances from having such an agreement.
The extension of the agreement will come into force after being ratified by the Russian Parliament and the Federation Council, signed by Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden and after the exchange of ratification notes. But what will change between Moscow and Washington? Can we hope for a kind of thaw after the "Donald Trump era"?
The answer is ambiguous. The extension of START-3 for another five years will provide for continuing the arms control discussion, both strategic and tactical, nuclear and conventional, for negotiating strategic stability and perhaps arms reduction, involving third countries in these negotiations. Not only China, as the Trump administration insisted, but also US NATO allies, France and the UK. A meeting between the five permanent UN Security Council members (the United States, Russia, France, Great Britain and China), which Moscow and Washington negotiate, can help this.
But it seems naive to hope for a sharp warming between the United States and Russia after extending START. There are many reasons for that. First of all, no one can abolish geopolitical competition between Moscow and Washington, as well as between Washington and Beijing. Russia, like China, is one of the great powers that cannot and should not resign itself to the part of an eternal runner-up always following the US footsteps. Just like their European NATO allies did, who have long lost their sovereignty and independence and turned into Washington's vassals. Russia cannot resort to such a move, as it would mean the loss of our country, like it was in the 1990s. Or maybe even worse. Because the United States has also learned its lessons from those years when they thought it was done with such a "wild" country as the USSR\Russia. But Washington turned to be all wet and won't make another mistake of this kind.
And we won't buy into foreign democrats' "sweet-loving melodies" and preachment. All the more so as Joe Biden and his team already point to the need of investigating Russia's interference in the US 2020 elections (gentlemen from Washington believe that it was we who voted, not the country's population), cyber attacks on US government agencies and public organizations (no one needs proof for such claims) and encouragement of the Afghan Taliban to kill American soldiers and officers for Russian money (?!)...
Such statements doesn't leave much hope that things will undergo a 180-degree turn between Russia and the United States after Joe Biden's team comes to power in the United States and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is extended. Sanctions are not going to be lifted; political, economic, financial, information and psychological pressure will continue, as well as the interference in our domestic affairs and the orchestration of illegal color revolutions and public flare-ups...