Last Monday, Sergey Ryabkov, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, made clear yet again that Moscow reserves the right to withdraw from New START, a strategic nuclear weapons arms control agreement with the United States. Ryabkov threatened that if the U.S. expands its missile defense system qualitatively or quantitatively, the Kremlin would retaliate with military or technical measures.
In addition to these threats, the Russians are also preventing any negotiations about tactical nuclear weapons until the United States reconsiders the plans for the NATO missile defense shield in Europe and dismantles its tactical nuclear weapons. Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister, said that any U.S. missile system in Europe would be aimed only at Russian missiles. Russia admitted that it is ready to continue to discuss future disarmament with other nuclear powers; however, “it would be better to start with the withdrawal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe,” according to Ryabkov. The fact that the Russians are able to make these demands is another poke in the eye to the Obama Administration’s statements about how New START will lead to an agreement on reductions of tactical nuclear weapons.
All these statements, voiced in a very aggressive language in the Russian media, point to a failure of the Obama Administration’s “reset” policy. Instead of expanding cooperation of both countries in the prevention of nuclear terrorism, the Obama Administration signed a treaty that prevents the United States from defending itself against the threat of ballistic missiles.
In addition, because the Duma’s ratification law contains provisions that are diametrically opposed to those adopted by the U.S., it is clear that there is no meeting of the minds between the parties in these two areas. Instead of being a driver for more cooperative relationship, the treaty might easily become another means to escalate the tension and emphasize the differences between the two countries. So far, the bellicose Russian statements do not give much hope for a “reset” in the relationship.
Co-authored by Haley Parks. Parks is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm