Wed, Feb 07, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Fears of nuclear arms race intensify

NEW START:Despite US and Russian pledges of complying with the pact, experts point to signs of Moscow re-arming and potential conflict between the US and North Korea

AFP, WASHINGTON

The Russian nuclear submarine Dmitry Donskoy is moored near Kronstadt, a seaport town 30km west of St Petersburg, Russia, on July 29 last year.

Photo: AP

The US and Russia are pledging to abide by a treaty limiting strategic nuclear weapons that took effect on Monday, but foreign leaders and experts fear a new arms race might be looming.

Concern over a potential conflict with nuclear-armed North Korea is also growing following a series of bellicose statements between Washington and Pyongyang.

The second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) signed in 2010 requires the US and Russia to have reduced the number of their deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550 each by Monday.

The US Department of State on Monday said that the US has lived up to the deal and it has “no reason to believe” Russia has done otherwise.

Russia for its part said it was committed to the treaty and would provide Washington with data on its strategic nuclear arsenal in “the near future.”

New START calls for inspections and for the world’s two leading nuclear powers to exchange data on their arsenals to verify compliance.

The treaty signed by then-US president Barack Obama was aimed at ushering in a new era in US-Russian relations and promoting the goal of doing away with nuclear arms.

However, those twin objectives appear distant and US President Donald Trump has little room for maneuver with Moscow, as he grapples with allegations his campaign may have colluded with the Kremlin to get him elected.

New START is “critically important at a time when trust in the relationship has deteriorated and the threat of miscalculation and misperception has risen,” the State Department said.

Mistrust of Russian intentions was reflected on Friday in a Nuclear Posture Review released by the Pentagon that called for a revamp of the US nuclear arsenal and development of new low-yield atomic weapons.

While the document underscored the US administration’s concerns about North Korea, Iran and China, the focus fell largely on Russia.

“This is a response to Russian expansion of their capability and the nature of their strategy and doctrine,” US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis wrote.

Russia denounced what it called the “bellicose” and “anti-Russian” nature of the new US nuclear policy, adding that it would take the necessary measures to ensure its own security.

German Minister of Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel warned of the dangers for Europe of a “renewed nuclear arms race.”

“Signs that Russia is re-arming, not only conventionally, but with nuclear weapons, are obvious,” Gabriel said. “We in Europe must begin new initiatives for arms control and disarmament.”

However, instead of developing new weapons, Germany’s top diplomat called for “existing arms control treaties to be upheld unconditionally.”

Rachel Bronson, CEO and president of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said the Nuclear Posture Review “is a spruced-up Cold War document, responding in dated ways to current threats.”

Among the greatest of the current threats is that of North Korea, and the standoff between Washington and Pyongyang has many uneasy.

“If you believe that nuclear weapons deter and bring peace and stability, then we should welcome North Korea,” International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons executive director Beatrice Fihn said mockingly.

“There are no acceptable nuclear weapons to use,” said Fihn, whose organization won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

“Any use will trigger a nuclear weapons conflict with catastrophic humanitarian consequences for civilians,” she said.

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