When silence does not make it better: US-Russia Nuclear Relations

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Today’s world faces numerous issues: crisis of liberalism, trade and economic wars between the major geopolitical rivals, populists and autocrats who hold their seats in parliaments and other governmental bodies. However, all those problems would become unimportant in case of another, not worldwide war, but a nuclear one.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), there are 9 nuclear-weapon states in the world: five of them are under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), three of them are not, and one state -Israel-, is an undeclared nuclear state. The biggest amount of nuclear missiles are situated on the territory of the United States and Russia, making them their heritage from the Cold War. 

The nuclear policy of the two countries is as different as their approach to the foreign policy. On the one hand, Russia’s military doctrine, included in the 2010’s edition states that first of all, Russian government considers NATO and its enlargment as the main threat to the country. Secondly, the right to use the regular army on the territory of another state which poses a threat to the sovereignty of the country as well to the rights of russian-speaking citizens, and last but not the least, there is the fact that nuclear weapons may be used against the state which violates the sovereignty and poses a threat to Russia’s existence.

On the other hand, the United States remains the only country in the world which has used nuclear weapons against another state. Luckily, there have not been any other cases in world’s history. The Nuclear Posture Review of 2018 established that nuclear weapons may be used only in case of nuclear attack from another state, great losses among citizens and serious damages to infrastructure and central authorities. In this regard, as its opponents and threats  the US names Russia and North Korea.

Relations between Russia and the US in terms of nuclear policy are not easy. However, keeping in mind that nowadays Russia is a state under sanctions regardless of numerous attempts of Vladimir Putin to depict it as “a democratic state”, it is going to be difficult to continue the dialogue in the sphere of nuclear non-proliferation.

America’s withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty  and the denunciation of the INF Treaty  create a serious and dangerous precedent in the international relations. Moreover, the absence of  information on negotiations on the extension of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty III  (START III) or the signing of a new treaty do not make that situation clearer. If after 2021 there is no extension of the existing treaty or a renewed one, then the parties will find themselves without any binding agreements in terms of strategic nuclear forces and it will create a legal – and dangerous- vacuum in their relations. 

Even if both states claim that it is impossible to use the preemptive strike, even if they are aware of the hazardous consequences of using nuclear forces, there is still a great need in for  dialogue between the US and Russia. After all, the economic problems, violation of human rights or climate issues would become totally irrelevant if nuclear weapons were used by any state.

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