In a speech earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will suspend its participation in the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), according to CNN. Leaving this treaty is Russia’s retaliation for the U.S. support of Ukraine and the continued military aid sent to Ukraine by the West – but will it result in a “New Cold War?”
Sometime this spring, weather conditions in Russia will improve, making it easier for Russia to launch a major attack on Ukraine at any time. By withdrawing from the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, Putin wants the U.S. and other Western nations to know that he will not look kindly on more aggressive military aid to Ukraine.
Putin’s speech came after President Joseph Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv last Monday, according to AP News. Biden’s visit demonstrated his continued support of Ukraine, and Biden’s promises of more weapons and other supplies over the winter could not go without a Russian response.
What Is the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty?
Over the last few decades, there have been several treaties to reduce the potential for nuclear war, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. These treaties aimed to curb the dangers of the Cold War through nuclear disarmament.
But after the Cold War ended, the situation changed. New START is a product of the 21st century and involves a different, more global political arena.
The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty limited the number of nuclear weapons the U.S. and Russia could own. Washington Examiner’s Mike Brest said, “U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the treaty in 2010 to manage their nuclear arsenals. The two sides agreed to extend it just days before its expiration in February 2021 for another five years into 2026.
Danger of an All-Out Nuclear War
“Per the agreement, Moscow and Washington committed to a maximum of 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads on deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles or deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles, a maximum of 700 deployed ICBMs, SBLMs, and deployed heavy bombers, and 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.”
It does not take a military genius to understand that this high number of nuclear warheads can destroy a civilization. There is also the danger of an all-out nuclear war.
The benefit of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is that it ensures that the U.S. and Russia continue to communicate about nuclear weapons and other nuclear issues. But with Russia’s decision to withdraw from the treaty, the future is less predictable.
[Related article: The Iran and Russia Alliance: How Will It Affect the Future?]
What Will Be the Effects of Russia Leaving the New Strategy Arms Reduction Treaty?
According to NBC News, the Kremlin will suspend nuclear site inspections mandated by the treaty, making Russia non-compliant with New START. Putin explained the move as a necessary action, since the U.S. will share all information it will learn in these inspections with Ukraine. NBC also reported that Russia will still abide by the cap on nuclear weapons until the treaty expires in 2026.
Will the Nuclear Arms Race Begin Again?
According to NBC, John Bolton, former national security adviser during the Trump administration, did not shed any tears for New START. He said, “If it disappeared tomorrow, it wouldn’t trouble me at all.”
Bolton also mentioned to NBC that the real danger is China, stating: “As China raises its production and delivery capabilities, you’re in a tripolar nuclear world, and it would be foolhardy for the United States to engage in a treaty of limitations with one of those other major nuclear powers but not the other.”
Are We Looking at a Second Cold War?
What is Russia getting out of this move to withdraw from New START? It’s not much; rather, it is a declaration of Russian intent, not a move that has any immediate effects on the Ukrainian battlefield.
NATO’s support of Ukraine ultimately means that the Cold War will be back or is already back. But it will not be a replay of the 20th-century Cold War. It will be a “Second Cold War” or a “Cold War 2.” The Warsaw Pact is gone, and the Eastern Bloc is siding with NATO and the European Union. Russia will have to look for support in the East, namely China.
China and Russia Alliance Might Lead to World War III
Turning to China is not a surprise. On February 20, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky told German news source The World that a Chinese-Russian alliance might lead to a third world war, according to the New York Post.
Zelensky noted, “For us, it is important that China does not support the Russian Federation in this war…In fact, I would like it to be on our side. At the moment, however, I don’t think it’s possible. Because if China allies itself with Russia, there will be a world war, and I do think that China is aware of that.”
After the fall of Afghanistan and the decision of the U.S. military to withdraw from the country, Russia and China saw that as a sign of weakness on the part of the White House. Also, actions taken by the Trump administration to withdraw from international agreements also seemed to indicate that the U.S. is not interested anymore in global dominance, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
The Influence of China
But Putin has learned that his dreams of rebuilding a Russian empire fall short; the mighty Russian army has been reduced to rubble after years of neglect and corruption. In Beijing, Chinese leaders are making calculations about the future and wondering whether it would it be better to open a new Cold War front or continue with the traditional Chinese policy of relative isolationism in everything but economic projects.
With the Russian decision to leave the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, international relations and global politics will change. American voters will need to think carefully about future leaders and their negotiating skills when it comes to complex dealings with nuclear powers like Russia. The world does not want an official “Second Cold War,” a.k.a. “Cold War 2.”