Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, announced the suspension of his commitments to the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New Start) that he had with the United States since its entry into force on February 5, 2011. .
This treaty, which was considered a firm step to limit the nuclear threat between the two powers, was signed on April 8, 2010 after negotiations carried out by the teams of the then presidents of Russia, Dmitri Medvedev, and the United States. United States, Barack Obama.
“I am compelled to announce today that Russia is suspending its participation in the strategic offensive arms treaty. Russia does not give up, Russia freezes its participation”, was the announcement made by the Russian president in his state of the nation address on February 21.
Putin argued that this measure is due to information indicating that the United States “is developing new nuclear weapons”, meaning the breach of a series of treaties that began in the last century between the extinct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the american nation.
A history of treaties
This history of agreements on nuclear matters began with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (NIF) in 1987, when the then USSR and US governments agreed to limit the development of missiles. terrestrial missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers and began talks for Start I that aimed at limiting the number of nuclear missiles.
After years of talks on July 31, 1991, when the USSR was going through its worst institutional crisis that resulted in the dissolution of this union of Republics, Start I was signed, stipulating limitations on the number of various types of vehicles and nuclear warheads for both countries.
This first agreement came into effect in 1994 and was maintained until 1999, when Start II entered into force, which had been negotiated and finally agreed upon by the presidents of the United States, George Bush (Senior) and Russia Boris Yeltsin, in January 1993. This stipulated a ban on the use of multiple-headed intercontinental ballistic missiles (over 5,500 kilometers).
Start II was officially replaced by the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (Sort) reached by Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and George W. Bush (Jr.) in 2001, which was signed in 2004 and would come into force until 2012. This meant limiting the nuclear arsenal of each of the nations to 2,200 operational warheads.
With the arrival of the second decade of the 21st century, negotiations began to renew this nuclear capacity limitation agreement, whose agreement was described as “historic” by substantially restricting the number of nuclear warheads to 1,550 per country, reducing the number of missiles ICBMs, submarine-fired ballistic missiles and bombers to 800 and set the number of these missiles deployed and ready for use at 700.
In addition to this, for the first time supervision was established for compliance with this agreement, something that had been ignored by its predecessors, which left compliance or violation of the limits at the mercy of the countries.
Despite the fact that they were criticized for establishing limits that implied a great destructive capacity, this history of agreements represented a significant advance, taking into account that in the midst of the “Cold War”, the United States came to have 31,255 warheads and the USSR with 40,159, according to data from the Federation of American Scientists.
Back to the nuclear race
Although Putin’s announcement regarding his freezing of compliance with the New Start has been pointed out as “dangerous”, this breach of the agreements had its precedent in the US administration of Donald Trump, when the then Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo announces the withdrawal of the North American nation from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (NIF) signed with the extinct USSR and that it maintained with Russia.
“Russia is solely responsible for the disappearance of the treaty,” Pompeo argued after announcing this decision, which was supported by the announcement by the Department of Defense about testing a new mobile-launched cruise missile, an action that was prohibited. by the NIF.
“If the United States carries out nuclear weapons tests, we will do the same,” warned the Russian president, who clarified that “of course, we will not be the first to do so.”
This new nuclear race brings with it the memories of the world that after World War II and the devastation of the United States with the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was marked by the threat of a nuclear cataclysm due to the conflict that the United States maintained in its so-called “war against communism”.
a latent danger
Currently, in addition to the United States and Russia, countries such as China, Pakistan, India, the United Kingdom, France, North Korea and Israel have nuclear-capable weapons, increasing this threat if it is considered that several of these countries, such as the In the case of Pakistan and India, they maintain conflicts that have opened the possibility of a nuclear confrontation.
The most recent event occurred in 2018 when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and then-President Donald Trump started a kind of microphone war, where the threat to “press the button” – in reference to the activation for the launch of missiles nuclear – filled the front pages and went viral on social networks where it was mocked through the so-called memes.
Prior to this episode, in 2012 the conflict over Kashmir between India and Pakistan, the threat of launching this type of weapon was latent and returned to the fore in 2022 when on March 9 of that year a “technical malfunction” led to India to accidentally fire a supersonic missile that fell on Pakistani territory, specifically on the town of Mian Channu.
Fortunately, these events, and others that occurred in the past such as the missile crisis in 1962, have not led to the use of these weapons which, for some, are a deterrent that has prevented global confrontations such as the occurred in World War II.
The great architect of this thesis is the American political scientist Robert Jervis, who in his book «The meaning of the nuclear revolution”, published in 1989, describes how the great destructive power of nuclear weapons has had the effect of revolutionary change in the nature of international politics, because a warlike confrontation between two nuclear powers can always escalate into a mutually catastrophic nuclear conflict. which, in his opinion, makes any war irrational, forcing States to behave in a more restrained manner.
To support this thesis, its defenders point to the cases of the Vietnam war, where the United States withdrew after being defeated by the Vietcong, and Afghanistan, in the 1980s, when after losing to the Taliban, the Soviets also abandoned the territory. In both cases, nuclear weapons were not used.
This threat of assured mutual destruction that characters like Jervis exalt as they consider it decisive for peace between powers, continues to be controversial by those who see nuclear weapons as an element of self-destruction of the human species given its catastrophic consequences for the environment and its capacity for extermination. .
Given this, since 1970 the United Nations Organization (UN) entered into force the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Pacta document open for signature by the member states of this multilateral organization, whose objective is to prevent more nations from joining the development of this weapon.
This agreement between nations of the five continents (mostly from Africa and America) has prevented a further escalation in the manufacture of this type of weapon, although it has been questioned for not establishing controls or supervision elements for those nations that already have nuclear capability.
Ukraine and the nuclear scenario
The war that is taking place in Ukraine has opened the doors for this apparent new escalation of the nuclear scenario between the United States and Russia.
The distribution of weapons by the administration of Joe Biden and several European governments to the regime of Volodimir Zelenski, has been pointed out by Moscow as a “dangerous escalation” of a conflict that Russia argues began in 2014 when attacks were ordered from Kiev and the siege against the inhabitants of the Donbas region, a fact that had its greatest point with the threat of Ukraine’s entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
What began with the delivery of rifles and equipment to the combatants of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has increased as the conflict drags on and this is how in response to the constant -and very risqué- pleas of Zelenski, today the delivery of state-of-the-art tanks and long-range missiles is being prepared, with the promise by the Ukrainian ruler “not to bomb Russian territory”.
After this “great achievement” by the ruler of Ukraine, on his recent tour to Europe he decided to raise his demands to those who support him, pointing out the “urgent” need to send state-of-the-art combat aircraft (fighter bombers), a request that has obtained a “No” as an answer, which does not guarantee that it will not happen if one takes into account that for the tanks they initially refused.
In the midst of this increase in the Ukrainian military arsenal provided by Europe and the United States to nurture a conflict that will apparently be long-term, the possibility of an escalation appears imminent, especially if the words of the American president, Joe Biden, are taken into account. , who promised to “fight to the last Ukrainian”.
In addition to these words, although they have been insistent in denying it, the desire of the United States to keep this conflict alive and its constant threats against Russia, as well as the possibility of an attack by the Ukrainian regime against Russian territory using biological weapons, missiles or terrorist squads, raises the alert of an escalation of the conflict between nuclear powers, a fact that would be decisive in testing the thesis of “nuclear peace” or confirming that the threat of mutual assured destruction is not a retaining wall for its owners.