Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Lavrov questions fate of the New START Treaty

As the U.S. intends to exit the INF treaty, Russia’s Foreign Minister says the future of the treaty regulating strategic nuclear weapons in unclear.
October 29, 2018

Singed in 2010, the New START Treaty limits the number of nuclear warheads to 1,550 on no more than 700 delivery systems on each side. Delivery systems includes all three legs of the nuclear triad; bombers, ballistic missiles and submarine based ballistic missiles.

Submarines are of special importance and a high priority in the current modernization of Russia’s nuclear forces. The new Bulava ballistic missiles are placed on board the Borei-class submarines, of which three are in service and five more are under construction at the Semash yard in Severodvinsk.

On the Barents Sea coast, the Borei-class submarines are to be based in Gadzhiyevo, some 100 kilometers from the border to Norway.

The New START Treaty follows the START-I and START-II agreements and expires in 2021.

Interviewed by Rossiya 1 TV channel on Sunday, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commented last week’s meetings with U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolten in Moscow. Lavrov said Russia is preparing answers to the list of questions from the U.S. side regarding the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force (INF) Treaty.

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If the U.S. finally decides to leave the 1987 INF Treaty, there will be a six-months countdown before a final termination. Washington threatens to exit the INF agreement, claiming Russia violates it by testing a new ground-launch missile with a range banned under the INF document. The INF Treaty bans possessing, producing and deploying ground-launch cruise- or ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,000 kilometers. The agreement is seen as a major security assurance for Europe.

With the INF Treaty in jeopardy, fears are now rising that the New START Treaty will die as it expires in 2021. Donal Trump has previously called the agreement «A bad deal» and «a one-sided deal.»

In the interview on Russian TV, Lavrov confirms that the agreement regulating the strategic nuclear weapons are indeed up in the air.

«The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty [ABM-agreement] has vanished and all our attempts to establish any reasonable dialogue with the United States and NATO amid the lack of the agreement have not found an echo and the INF Treaty will soon disappear while the fate of the New START Treaty is unclear,» the Russian Foreign Minister said according to the transcript from the interview posted on the ministry’s portal.   

The New START Treaty has an opening for being extended by five years beyond 2021, but if so, talks about extension should start now. With U.S. withdrawing from the INF agreement, such talks are nowadays likely more far-away then ever before.

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