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Nuclear Testing resurgence due to crumbling arms control frameworks

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Recent media reports that China started nuclear testing and Trump administration is also mulling ideas to initiate nuclear testing is the precedent of extremely dangerous trajectory in the 21st century. The erosion of arms control framework, may bring us to the obsolete ruins of nuclear testing sites. This paper will discuss the emergence of possibility of limited and high yield nuclear tests by the major nuclear powers especially the US China and Russia at the global level, and India and Pakistan at the regional level. We will note and observe trends which will decipher the quite resurgence of nuclear weapons test sites, not just for delivery means but for its actual yield. The erosion of arms control treaty was perceived as impossible a decade ago, and the arms control frameworks and the verification procedures evolved enough which become routine for the members of any such frameworks, after resurgent posturing from Russia and the new dislike for treaties by the administration in US, which sought solo flight in the global affairs by scraping and renegotiate almost every deal and agreement America made since its came into being. This new fragmented world is reintroducing some serious nuclear fallouts, almost from all the nuclear weapons states, with new ones in the offing, as the commitment to proliferation is eroding, the nuclear testing can be seen in the near future.

Prelude: Throughout the ages the invention of weapons systems brought about a seismic change in the world, whether it’s a castle warfare techniques of the medieval wars, where a formidable castle was an enduring challenge for the invaders, the castle was considered as the political and military heart of any territory, without getting control of the castle the invaders were considered as defeated in their mission. The siege warfare emerges to exhaust the castle strength by laying a siege. The evolution of weaponry to have a decisive edge in any conflict remained the prime focus of humans. The careful examination of conflicts over the ages shows that conflicts intent evolved overtime, first it was about getting more territory, then it shifted to arable lands, then acquiring supremacy through both, the religion was a late entry into the fray, the ideas and ideologies away from religion also shaped the dynamics of conflicts, the ideologies played a crucial role in the conflict we see today. The emergence of nuclear weapons after the two horrific great wars, was the single most event which changed the conflict we see today. The American atomic bombs may have killed millions, but the very nature of this weapons changed the way we see conflict and wars.

The memory of the cold war generation in Europe, Americas and Soviet Union, is a stark reminder that the world divided in two poles on the basis of ideology and economic system, put their bet on the most powerful weapons system human ever built and used, the nuclear genie from 1945 onwards was captured in a transparent fragile glass, but its horrific consequences was periodically shown to the world in the form of nuclear explosion by both poles. The nuclear testing is still the stark reminder of the world which was convinced enough to turn the world into ashes, if other side tried to intrude into its sphere of influence or resort to force to pursue that end. The colonial and major powers used a vast swath of land, air and sea for the nuclear testing. The nuclear testing have two intended objectives to demonstrate the power of the weaponry, and to show the rival pole that they are willing to pursue any end if they are threatened. Vast literature available on the emergence of nuclear testing, testify these findings. The nuclear explosions in the cold war era where not just limited to the gigantic blasts, but were also introduced at the small level, by experimenting atomic weapons at the battlefield and asymmetric or sabotage level, in the form of man pack. The legacy of nuclear testing still haunt us in many ways, whether it’s the cases sought by Marshall Islands and the ex-French colonies against its colonizers, the United States and France and ex-Soviet Union, the nuclear testing today have many facades and emerges as a well-researched area in the nuclear politics realm, the history of nuclear testing by all the 5 major nuclear powers is a history of human suffering. Nuclear explosion is all history and there is much written on the topic, from the world first nuclear explosion to the last one in contemporary history when North Korea tested its thermonuclear weapon on 3 September 2017.  We will focus on the possible emergence of nuclear testing in South Asian region. Both India and United States was the first country to detonate a series high yield nuclear weapon in the bravo test in 1954, followed by the Soviet Union in 1961, the explosion was the most powerful in the human history, the bomb was labeled as Tsar Bomba means Tsar’s bomb.

The culmination of high yield weapons by both countries provided them with evidence about the actual data about the status of damage, in few of the explosion actual military assets are being placed in the range of tests to gauge the effects of nuclear explosion of those assets. The history of nuclear testing and fissile material seem capped till the Obama presidency, but the Trump administration’s revival of the old concepts, like new tactical nuclear weapons, the space force and possible future nuclear tests, as the Trump’s America seem to negate the global treaties and frameworks, the recent pullout from the intermediate nuclear forces treaty, opened the hatch for the testing of new delivery systems, the hypersonic both in Intercontinental ballistic missiles ICBMs and cruise missile realms are ready to be developed by the leading weapons manufacturers.

As the established and time tested, treaties and arms control frameworks fell apart in the form of CFE treaty, INF treaty and the slow but sure erosion of the Open skies treaty, because of the growing mistrust between the major global powers. As we revisit the history of nuclear history, it has three visible trends, that is development of the warheads, its development system, followed by the sabre rattling and potential threats because of offensive nuclear postures In the form of doctrines and strategies, followed by the new frameworks to control the threat, by reaching a common understanding to eliminate the threat posed by that weapon system. The complete architecture of arms control which was the bedrock of global security by not just minimizing the nuclear threat, but excluding it entirely from the conflict scenario, is now crumbling, both at global and regional level. Few years back the concept of crumbling of the arms control framework was unimaginable, though various factors were there to rollback treaties but both Obama administration and Russian government never tried to go for such options, but the world saw a revival in the form of new start and later at regional level in proliferation realm when EU and US opted to go for a treaty with Iran. The spirit of rule based order was seen in all these steps, where threat was being caped using the existing frameworks, which neutralizes threat to the world peace posed by the nuclear realm. The commitment and trust factors are driving major stakeholders away from their global commitments, which already initiated the global arms race, in which the possible resumption of nuclear tests may make a debut, the last reported US nuclear explosion was in the 1992, at the dawn of the new world order, the France and others closed in 1996. The regional nuclear rivals, has its solo show stealer in the 1998, after that the only nuclear mad child North Korea remained in news because of their nuclear testing.

Regional Nuclear Rivals: These explosions Pakistan are observing a moratorium on further nuclear explosions but the changing nature of leadership in India pose a threat to this mutual understanding. The US and French companies involved in the nuclear commerce with India and the recent push by the US to make India a de jure nuclear power by admitting them in the Nuclear Supplier Group, is a step seen with suspicion by Pakistan and China. The blind western eye on India in its human rights violations, and other global issues, mainly with Pakistan shows US clearly accommodating India, in the club, where they have the luxury to go ballistic in the nuclear realm. Pakistan opposition to the Fissile Material Cut Off Treaty FMCT and the US and Indian support to the treaty shows that they lift India out of the fissile material deficiency, and India at any stage can turn this fissile material allowed to obtain for energy use, for the weapons purposes, the steps which validate this argument, are the inclusion of India in various strategic export control regimes, like Wassennar Arrangement, Australia Group, Missile Technology Control regime, MTCR, and its push for NSG Nuclear Supplier Group. India Pakistan nuclear equation can only be balanced with parity between both at the nuclear level. Any gigantic leap on Indian part which is already happening, will move Pakistan away from its commitments, as national interests and its security won’t allow it to observe those moratorium, and will ward off its defensive strategies which are in place since it detonated its first device.

Make in India may mark the end of moratorium: Defense acquisition is normal activity in almost every country, countries acquire weapons from foreign countries according to their arms forces need, few countries in the world go all alone to suffice their defense needs, the prime example of such counties are United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom and France, means all the UNSC permanent members, others countries rely heavily on foreign purchases to either feel safe or threaten others by those acquisitions. India is among this second tier vast grouping which rely heavily on foreign input for its defense needs. India under Nrendar Modi introduced an ambitious plan to convert Indian defense needs into entirely domestic domain, to lessen and at later stage eliminate any foreign input in its defense acquisition, in nuclear realm they gain much by signing up to nuclear deals with United States, France and Russia, at the space level they made sufficient advances, by thrusting for ingenious GPS system and space Prowse which can seriously rival that of major powers, Indian military plans in almost all domains defy its regional posture which they tout being influenced by China and on later stages Pakistan, but its military ends are truly global In nature. Whether its acquisition related to naval assets or aerial combat fighters they are pushing for indigenous build and operate model, by purchasing technology from the lead tech countries. The Indian nuclear programme is running full pace and unnoticed in the western circles because of their newly formed alliance against China. India at later stage may come up with their nuclear testing plans. Totally ingenious India for its defense need and its global economic clout will make it hard for the global powers to punish India the way did in the aftermath of 1998 nuclear tests.

Pakistan and the nuclear tests: Pakistan being vigorously pushed by the leading western scholars in their famous Stimson’s paper the Normal Nuclear Pakistan, written by Toby Dalton and Michael Krepon. The paper said that Pakistan should not wait for India and tread its own way to join the test ban framework. This will put pressure on India, to sign up to those frameworks in response, citing Pakistan recognition at the global level. Pakistan nuclear weapons program remained robust, and emerge as one of the most advanced among the nuclear weapons, the rational posturing vise a vis India, and various proposals being presented by Pakistan, to introduce a strategic restraint regime, and others measures to sign up to those frameworks which can put a visible limit on the uncontrolled arms race being imposed by India on Pakistan. The introduction of other domains into the nuclear foray by India, such as the concept of nuclear triads, aircraft carriers, to carry out long range nuclear air strikes, to dilute Pakistan defenses, the expansion is disturbing enough for Pakistan to commit to any such frameworks in recent future, because the south Asian nuclear politics is still an unfinished business, as Pakistan is being dragged below by its opponent in parity. Any future decision by India to test nuclear devices, whether low of high yield will invite Pakistan to demonstrate its capability to maintain deterrence vis a vis India, and thus remain relevant in the nuclear game. The political and economic fallout will be worse for Pakistan as compared to India. But looking at the development at international and regional level it seem possibility that nuclear testing may become a headline in the strategically unstable South Asia.

China and nuclear testing: China remained the only constant in nuclear equation. Its swift and decisive nuclear forces seem to replace Russians in the Western strategic lens, as the growing literature in leading research organizations is dedicated to China vs. United States nuclear equation, discussing number of delivery means, the strength and type of payload, its role and place in nuclear arms control domain, and the offset technologies China is pursuing and testing in nuclear realm. The Chinese being the efficient partner in nuclear nonproliferation and arms control domain remain committed to nuclear peace.

Russia and nuclear testing: The Russians being labeled as bully in the recent skirmishes in the nuclear realm, by introducing a series of violations, in various treaties and frameworks, most notably the cold war milestone called INF intermediate nuclear forces treaty. The CFE treaty and other framework related to fissile material was set aside by the Russian Federation, citing it as contrary to Russia’s global influence and non-compliance from west. The Russian concept of Poseidon which is in its infant stages, the concept is terrifying for test ban advocates, as the Russian calculations of this weapons till now is only limited to computer generated models, the downward trajectory in US West relation, with harsh sanctions in place, and Russia fighting it out with extending influence In other parts of the world, like Middle East, Asia, Arctic and the Eastern Europe, the United States and Russia may find them in the loggerheads, to offset any coercion in the future the nuclear testing to demonstrate its new arsenal seem possibility.

The Russian introduction of hypersonic missiles in the nuclear and conventional realm, forced other western powers like France and United States to keep up with the pace, in the nuclear delivery, France announced to have hypersonic missiles by 2021, United States also on project to introduce such missiles. The steps in the delivery means by all the rivals, won’t be limited to the delivery means alone, the strength of any weapon is its payload, the gradual evolution of kilotons to megatons, and then its fragmentation according to strategy in the cold war era and post-cold war era, will require these powers especially Russia to come out of computer simulation and test weapons in real time, to reintroduce the concept of arms control for the 21st century, where weapons, range, payload, target and all other parameters got new definitions. The US seem to initiate or follow the testing, as there already plans in place. The Russian actions shows that they are planning for this eventuality to happen.

United States and Nuclear test ban : The US remain the only nuclear weapons state to have conducted the most nuclear tests to gauge its weapons vitality for both performance and signaling purposes. United States is not party to comprehensive test ban treaty. Under Obama, various programs like Nuclear Security Summit and Proliferation Security initiative were bolstered and used to ensure nuclear safety and security, the administration dedicated much focus to these areas, but its last leg the fourth summit was briefly politicized and the major nuclear power Russia skipped the summit, citing nuclear bias. The NSS remained active platforms to discus and implement ideas, the Trump administration is not willing to commit to such platforms.

The nuclear testing threat from United states is two pronged, one, it’s from the United States itself, and second, the United states commitment and concrete steps to export nuclear technology to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states like United Arab Emirates, the geopolitical standing of these countries is precarious in a troubled region, which cite Iran as a security threat, the Iran nuclear program is a no secret and they like United States and Israel are vary of the Europe efforts to stop Iran from acquiring bombs. The India Pakistan nuclear rivalry completing its second decade proved to be the enduring one, but with a rational underpinnings, both countries maintained the relevance of these nukes, by not restoring to cold war’s hair trigger strategies, nor the weapons are being put on table as option like the North Korean regime, the North Korean like nuclear brinkmanship is anticipated from Iran and its Arab rivals, if they get their hand on these weapons.

The nuclear testing genie can erupt from the Arabian sands, because of the blind us strategic exports. With trump at the helm, the United States which is developing and upgrading its SSBN fleet, may find it necessary to test the trident or its successor, with a new payloads. One enduring feature remained constant at the end of cold war, is the development of delivery system but no side tested its revised and updated payload. The evolution in fissile material technology is evident from the fuels like MOX and others, the payload for nukes evolved over time, adding lethality to the device. . The cold war strategies like massive retaliation flexible response are dust now, all the strategies were carefully designed citing the delivery means and payload used in those devices, United States and Russia are both convinced to have updated nuclear delivery means to dilute each other strategies, the nuclear testing remain the most relevant item after they get their hands on updated delivery means.

Nuclear Testing in Brexited Europe, France and UK nukes: The nuclear testing in Europe is not a realistic assumption, France carried out almost its nuclear tests on the foreign occupied territories and islands. The last one being in 1996, The France resorting back to nuke testing holds no ground, the same hold true for United Kingdom, which also remained committed to the nuclear test ban, in the greater interest of humanity. Others factors being on the back foot in this realm, is the gradual military weakness of both countries vis a vis their rivals, the parity is unachievable and they still rely on united states to guard them against any future nuclear threat.

Conclusion: The examination of developments that occurred in all these nuclear countries shows that, the halt in the nuclear weaponry that the world saw in the first two decades of the 21st century is disappearing. Large scale nuclear developments, commitments for upgrading and replacing those weapons with new one is established fact. The United States will have new SSBNs operating in the oceans, a force that clearly offset the major power like China and even Russia, Russia offsetting United States in aerial delivery means, China being the newcomers among both of them on the path to have efficient nuclear force to take on the largest nuclear weapons states, Pakistan, India parity dilemma, European countries grappling with their own security dilemma, all these factors surely bring back the nukes as tool for the survival. A lot have been appearing and written on the delivery means but they payload problem is just resurfacing, and these nuclear weapons states may initiate a new wave of cold and hot tests to rewrite the rules of nuclear game in their respective regions. The major powers need to commit to the test ban, the world may not see high yield testing in the near future, but once a low yield new material weapon is tested by any power, it will reverse the gains of test ban, and will give reprieve to others to start the menace of nuclear testing, which is not just lethal from the environmental and human perspective but will also relive the horrors of nuclear winters, which have just started to fade from the human memory.

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What is driving Russia’s security concerns?

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The current discussions between Russia and NATO pivot on Russia’s requirement for the Alliance to provide legally binding security guarantees: specifically, that the alliance will not expand east, which will require revoking the 2008 NATO Bucharest summit decision that Ukraine and Georgia “will become members of NATO” .

It is useful to shed some light on the underlying points which drive Russia’s deep concerns. Moscow holds that the USSR was deceived on the issue of NATO expansion. At the same time, it is recognised that it was the fault of the Soviet leadership not to acquire legally binding guarantees at that time and the fault of the Russian leadership in the 1990s not to prevent NATO expansion per se. The current acrimony is caused by numerous examples of Western leaders making promises, blurred or straightforward, not to expand NATO further.

The Russian leadership after 1991 expressed this concern on many occasions, including the letters of Boris Yeltsin to Bill Clinton in October 1993 and then in December 1994.

But Russia’s proposals were not limited only to political statements. For example, in 2009 Moscow already put forward the draft of a legally binding European Security Treaty.

As to the issue of membership, it is unlikely that Moscow buys certain behind-the-scenes hints that the potential NATO membership of Ukraine is really only a rhetorical position. Often this approach is called “constructive ambiguity”. Moscow strongly believes, with good reason, that in the past all unofficial promises about the expansion of NATO were broken. Why would it believe them now?

Another fundamental point, from Russia’s point of view, is that beside the right to choose alliances, there is a crucial role for the concept of indivisible security, particularly the elements of equal security and the obligation that no country not to strengthen its own security at the expanse of the other. These principles are enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act (1975), in the Paris Charter (1990), in the NATO-Russia Founding Act (1997) and in the Charter of European Security (1999). Therefore, it should be the obligation of both sides to work out the parameters of indivisible security holistically and not to pretend that this is an invention of Moscow.

Arguably, indivisibility of security may include, for example, an obligation not to indicate the other side in military strategic concepts, doctrines, postures and planning as an enemy, rival or adversary. Among other things, it may also include an obligation to halt the development of military planning and military exercises, which designate Europe as a potentialtheatre of war between NATO and Russia. It is Pentagon, which in its official press statements indicate for example Georgia, Ukraine and Romania as “frontline states”.

A common Western argument against Russia’s current draft is that it is difficult to see how such a legally binding guarantee can be achieved when Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty stipulates that its parties, upon unanimous decision, can invite any other European state to join.

But to refer to Article 10 regarding the expansion of NATO after 1991 is not correct. In 1949 Article 10 of course did not envisage the open-door policy for the states that were in the Soviet bloc. After 1991 a qualitatively new situation arose. It was not Article 10 but a political decision of the United States in 1994-1995 to open a totally new chapter in the expansion. That decision was of a paramount importance.

Also, it is said that the United States is similarly unlikely to enter into a bilateral arrangement with Russia regarding NATO expansion, since this would violate Article 8 of the Treaty, whereby parties undertake not to enter into any international engagements in conflict with the Treaty.

Again, the point is not straightforward. The US de facto is the dominant member of NATO, which in most circumstances calls the shots there. According to history, when its national interests demanded, it took decisions that can be interpreted as conflicting or even undermining Article 8. For example, the security interests of the UK were clearly disregarded in 1956-1957 in the course of the Suez crisis due to the actions of the US. Or doesn’t the AUKUS run counter to the security interests of France? Or, for example, didn’t the way in which the US left Afghanistan undermine the security of some other members of NATO?

Short of the legally binding guarantee by NATO, what other options for a settlement might be satisfactory for Russia?

Russia deeply values the status of neutrality that several countries in Europe maintain. Indeed, it would be difficult to dismiss the fact that the international standing of Finland, Austria or Switzerland would have been much lower if not for their policy of neutrality. Moreover, one may say that the security of these countries is even higher than the security of some member states of NATO. So why not consider an option of neutrality, for example, for Ukraine, Moldova or Georgia, buttressed by certain international treaties like it was in the case of Austria?

Another back-up option would be to consider any further theoretical expansion of NATO on the conditions that were applied to the territory of the former German Democratic Republic—i.e. that NATO integrated troops or NATO infrastructure is not deployed on this territory.

Alternatively, a further option could be to place a moratorium on a new membership, for example for 15-20 years, which would not undermine Article 10 per se. For example, Turkey now for 16 years is a candidate-country of the European Union but nobody in the EU pretends that it can become a member in the foreseeable future.

Mutual security concerns could be met if a significant complex of agreements is approved. Firstly, agreements could be made on military-to-military communication, on military drills and exercises, and on patrols of strategic bombers.

Secondly, there could be a NATO-Russia comprehensive agreement on the basis of well-known IncSea and dangerous military activities agreements.

Thirdly, there is scope for an agreement on an obligation not to deploy in NATO members, bordering Russia, any strike systems, either nuclear or conventional.

And fourthly, in the league of its own, there could be an agreement on a Russia-NATO legally binding moratorium on the INF land-based systems, both nuclear and conventional.

Finally, on Ukraine, it is often said that Ukraine is much weaker than Russia and has no ability to launch and sustain a large-scale offensive against Russia. This misses the point.

Russia is concerned about two things. First, that there is no guarantee that sooner or later a third country would not decide to sell to or deploy in Ukraine strike systems that will endanger Russia’s security. Second, that Ukraine may attack not Russia but Donbas, like Poroshenko did in 2015, to try to solve the problem with military means and at the same time to try to involve NATO in military confrontation with Russia. This could be called a Saakashvili style of doing things.

It is unlikely that Russia will ever agree to restrain the movement of troops on its own territory, which would be quite humiliating. This would be a matter for a new CFE treaty if such a treaty is ever revived. Another question is what is considered “in proximity to the Ukrainian border”? At present, the deployment of most additional Russian troops, described by Western sources as “in proximity”, is minimum 200-300 km from the border. Does it mean that Russian troops will be prohibited from approaching its own borders in proximity, for example, of 400-500 km?

Meanwhile, on the other side there are more than 100 thousand Ukrainian troops concentrated on the contact line with Donbas, and much closer to it than the distance between the Russian troops and the Russian border. It is interesting to note that maps, which Western media these days is so fond of printing and which show locations where Russian military forces are stationed or deployed on the territory of Russia, do not have any indication of Ukrainian troops disposition. What happens if Ukrainian troops receive orders to attack Donbas akin to orders that Saakashvili gave his troops in 2008 to attack Tskhinval? It is clear that Moscow will never let Kiev take Donbas by force destroying the whole edifice of the political process based on the Minsk-2 agreements, which, importantly, in 2015 became a part of the UN Security Council Resolution. The additional Russian troops deployments are intended to deter Kiev from attacking Donbas and they are not a harbinger of “invasion of Ukraine”.

At present there are conflicting signals coming from all sides, which can be interpreted in many ways. Warmongers shout that diplomacy is a waste of time and that only muscle-flexing and even application of hard power will teach the other a lesson. Still, most top policymakers in Moscow, Washington and major European capitals seem to prefer further consultations and dialogue, both public and confidential. In the sphere of arms control in Europe and CBMs, on which there is an ample pool of expert recommendations, the US and NATO have let it be known that they are ready to talk seriously with Moscow.

The situations in the Baltic region and in the Black Sea region require urgent and lasting de-escalation. A compromise on the issue of further expansion of NATO should be reached in a way that satisfies both sides in spite of each having to make necessary concessions. A final imperative is that the US-Russia tracks on the future of strategic stability and cyber security should proceed unhindered. The P5 statement of January 2022 on preventing nuclear war and avoiding arms races needs to be followed by a P5 summit – the Russian proposal that was unanimously supported in 2020.

In summary, Western and Russian diplomats, both civil and military, need time to continue their work, which is of existential importance.

From our partner RIAC

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In 2022, military rivalry between powers will be increasingly intense

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“Each state pursues its own interest’s, however defined, in ways it judges best. Force is a means of achieving the external ends of states because there exists no consistent, reliable process of reconciling the conflicts of interest that inevitably arise among similar units in a condition of anarchy.” – Kenneth Waltz,

The worldwide security environment is experiencing substantial volatility and uncertainty as a result of huge developments and a pandemic, both of which have not been experienced in a century. In light of this, major countries including as Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and India have hastened their military reform while focusing on crucial sectors. 2022 might be a year when the military game between big nations heats up.

The military competition between major powers is first and foremost a battle for strategic domination, and the role of nuclear weapons in altering the strategic position is self-evident. In 2022, the nuclear arms race will remain the center of military rivalry between Russia, the United States, and other major countries, while hypersonic weapons will become the focus of military technology competition among major nations.

The current nuclear weapons competition between major nations will be more focused on technological improvements in weapon quality. In 2022, the United States would invest USD 27.8 billion in nuclear weapons development. It intends to buy Columbia-class strategic nuclear-powered submarines and improve nuclear command, control, and communication systems, as well as early warning systems.

One Borei-A nuclear-powered submarine, two Tu-160M strategic bombers, and 21 sets of new ballistic missile systems will be ordered by Russia. And its strategic nuclear arsenal is anticipated to be modernized at a pace of more than 90%. This year, the United Kingdom and France will both beef up their nuclear arsenals. They aspire to improve their nuclear forces by constructing new strategic nuclear-powered submarines, increasing the quantity of nuclear warheads, and testing new ballistic missiles.

Russia will commission the Zircon sea-based hypersonic cruise missiles this year and continue to develop new hypersonic missiles as a leader in hypersonic weapon technology. To catch up with Russia, the US will invest USD 3.8 billion this year in the development of hypersonic weapons. Hypersonic weapons are also being researched and developed in France, the United Kingdom, and Japan.

Surviving contemporary warfare is the cornerstone of the military competition between major countries, and keeping the cutting edge of conventional weapons and equipment is a necessary condition for victory. In 2022, major nations including as Russia and the United States will speed up the upgrade of primary war equipment.

The United States will concentrate on improving the Navy and Air Force’s weaponry and equipment. As planned, the US Navy will accelerate the upgrade and commissioning of weapons and equipment such as Ford-class aircraft carriers, Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines, and F-15EX fighter jets, as well as develop a high-end sea and air equipment system that includes new aircraft carrier platforms and fifth-generation fighter jets.

Russian military equipment improvements are in full swing, with the army receiving additional T-14 tanks, the navy receiving 16 major vessels, and the aerospace force and navy receiving over 200 new or better aircraft. The commissioning of a new generation of Boxer armored vehicles in the United Kingdom will be accelerated. India will continue to push for the deployment of its first homegrown aircraft carrier in combat. Japan will also continue to buy F-35B fighter jets and improve the Izumo, a quasi-aircraft carrier.

The US military’s aim this year in the domain of electromagnetic spectrum is to push the Air Force’s Project Kaiju electronic warfare program and the Navy’s next generation jammer low band (NGJ-LB) program, as well as better enhance the electronic warfare process via exercises. Pole-21, Krasukha, and other new electronic warfare systems will be sent to Russia in order to increase the automation of electronic warfare systems. The electronic warfare systems of the Type 45 destroyers, as well as the Type 26 and Type 31 frigates, will be upgraded by the United Kingdom. To build combat power, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces will continue to develop the newly formed 301st Electronic Warfare Company.

Around the world, a new cycle of scientific, technical, and military upheaval is gaining traction, and conflict is swiftly shifting towards a more intelligent form. Russia, the United States, and other major countries have boosted their investment in scientific research in order to win future battles, with a concentration on intelligent technology, unmanned equipment, and human-machine coordinated tactics.

This year, the US military intends to spend USD 874 million on research and development to boost the use of intelligent technologies in domains such as information, command and control, logistics, network defense, and others. More than 150 artificial intelligence (AI) projects are presently being developed in Russia.

This year, it will concentrate on adapting intelligent software for various weapon platforms in order to improve combat effectiveness. France, the United Kingdom, India, and other countries have also stepped up their AI research and attempted to use it broadly in areas such as intelligence reconnaissance, auxiliary decision-making, and network security.

In the scope of human coordinated operations, the United States was the first to investigate and has a distinct edge. The US intends to conduct the first combat test of company-level unmanned armored forces, investigate ways for fifth-generation fighter jets to coordinate with unmanned reconnaissance aircraft and drone swarms, and promote manned and unmanned warships working together on reconnaissance, anti-submarine, and mine-sweeping missions.

Russia will work to integrate unmanned equipment into manned combat systems as quickly as feasible, while also promoting the methodical development of drones and unmanned vehicles. Furthermore, France and the United Kingdom are actively investigating human-machine coordinated techniques in military operations, such as large urban areas.

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Spotlight on the Russia-Ukraine situation

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The United States of America and Russia have recently been at loggerheads over the issue of Ukraine.

Weeks ago the leaders of the two superpowers behind the Ukrainian situation convened a meeting on the crisis. Although they both drew a clear line between them during the meeting, they made no political commitment, thus showing that the political chess game surrounding Ukraine has only just begun.

In what was seen as a “frank and pragmatic” conversation by both sides, President Putin made it clear to President Biden that he was not satisfied with the implementation of the February 11, 2015 Minsk-2 Agreement (which, besides establishing ceasefire conditions, also reaffirmed arrangements for the future autonomy of pro-Russian separatists), as NATO continues to expand eastward. President Biden, in turn, noted that if Russia dared to invade Ukraine, the United States of America and its allies would impose strong “economic sanctions and other measures” to counterattack, although no US troop deployments to Ukraine were considered.

Although they both played their cards right and agreed that they would continue to negotiate in the future, the talks did not calm down the situation on the Ukrainian border and, after the two sides issued mutual civilian and military warnings, the future development on the Ukrainian border is still very uncertain.

Since November 2020 Russia has had thousands of soldiers stationed on Ukraine’s border. The size of the combat forces deployed has made the neighbouring State rather nervous.

The current crisis in Ukraine has deepened since the beginning of November 2021. Russia, however, has denied any speculation that it is about to invade Ukraine, stressing that the deployment of troops on the Russian-Ukrainian border is purely for defensive purposes and that no one should point the finger at such a deployment of forces on the territory of Russia itself.

It is obvious that such a statement cannot convince Ukraine: after the 2014 crisis, any problems on the border between the two sides attract attention and Ukraine still has sporadic conflicts with pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country.

Firstly, the fundamental reason why the US-Russian dispute over Ukraine is hard to resolve is that there is no reasonable position or room in the US-led European security architecture that matches Russian strength and status.

Over the past thirty-two years, the United States of America has forcibly excluded any reasonable proposal to establish broad and inclusive security in Europe and has built a post-Cold War European security framework that has crushed and expelled Russia, much as NATO did when it contained the Soviet Union in Europe in 1949-1990.

Moreover, Russia’s long cherished desire to integrate into the “European family” and even into the “Western community” through cooperation with the United States of America – which, in the days of the impotent Yeltsin, looked upon it not as an equal partner but as a semi-colony – has been overshadowed by the resolute actions of NATO, which has expanded eastward to further elevate its status as the sole superpower, at least in Europe, after its recent failure in Afghanistan.  

Maintaining a lasting peace after the great wars (including the Cold War) in the 20th century was based on treating the defeated side with tolerance and equality at the negotiating table. Facts have shown that this has not been taken on board by the policy of the United States of America and its Western fawners and sycophants. Treating Russia as the loser in the Cold War is tantamount to frustrating it severely and ruthlessly, thus depriving it of the most important constituent feature of the post-short century European security order.

Unless Russia reacts with stronger means, it will always be in a position of defence and never of equality. Russia will not accept any legitimacy for the persistence of a European security order that deprives it of vital security interests, wanting to make it a kind of protectorate surrounded by US-made nuclear bombs. The long-lasting Ukrainian crisis is the last barrier and the most crucial link in the confrontation between Russia, the United States of America and the West. It is a warning to those European countries that over the past decades have been deprived of a foreign policy of their own, not just obeying the White House’s orders.

Secondly, the Ukrainian issue is an important structural problem that affects the direction of European security construction and no one can afford to lose in this crisis.

While Europe can achieve unity, integrity and lasting peace, the key challenge is whether it can truly incorporate Russia. This depends crucially on whether NATO’s eastward expansion will stop and whether Ukraine will be able to resolve these two key factors on its own and permanently. NATO, which has continued to expand in history and reality, is the most lethal threat to security for Russia. NATO continues to weaken Russia and deprive it of its European statehood, and mocks its status as a great power. Preventing NATO from continuing its eastward expansion is probably the most important security interest not only of Russia, but also of European countries with no foreign policies of their own, but with peoples and public that do not certainly want to be dragged into a conventional war on the continent, on behalf of a country that has an ocean between Europe and itself as a safety belt.

The current feasible solution to ensure lasting security in Europe is for Ukraine not to join NATO, but to maintain a permanent status of neutrality, like Austria, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, etc. This is a prerequisite for Ukraine to preserve its territorial integrity and sovereignty to the fullest extent possible, and it is also the only reasonable solution for settling the deep conflict between Russia and the United States of America.

To this end, Russia signed the aforementioned Minsk-2 Agreement of 2015. Looking at the evolution of NATO over the past decades, however, we can see that it has absolutely no chance of changing a well-established “open door” membership policy.  

The United States of America and NATO will not accept the option of a neutral Ukraine, and the current level of political decision-making in the country is other-directed. For these reasons, Ukraine now appears morally dismembered, and bears a striking resemblance to the divided Berlin and the two pre-1989 Germanies. It can be said that the division of Ukraine is a sign of the new split in Europe after Cold War I, and the construction of the so-called European security – or rather  US hegemony – ends with the reality of a Cold War II between NATO and Russia. It must be said that this is a tragedy, as the devastating consequences of a war will be paid by the peoples of Europe, and certainly not by those from New England to California.

Thirdly, the misleading and deceptive nature of US-Russian diplomacy and the short-sightedness of the EU, with no foreign policy of its own regarding the construction of its own security, are the main reasons for the current lack of mutual trust between the United States of America – which relies on the servility of the aforementioned EU – and Russia, terrified by the nuclear encirclement on its borders.

The United States took advantage of the deep problems of the Soviet Union and of Russia’s zeal and policies for the self-inflicted change in the 1990s – indeed, a turning point – at the expense of “verbal commitment” diplomacy.

In 1990, on behalf of President George H. W. Bush’s Administration, US Secretary of State Baker made a verbal promise to the then Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, that “upon reunification, after Germany remaining within NATO, the organisation would not expand eastward”. President Clinton’s Administration rejected that promise on the grounds that it was its predecessor’s decision and that verbal promises were not valid, but in the meantime George H. W. Bush had incorporated the Baltic States into NATO.

In the mid-1990s, President Clinton indirectly made a verbal commitment to Russia’s then leader, the faint-hearted Yeltsin, to respect the red line whereby NATO should not cross the eastern borders of the Baltic States. Nevertheless, as already stated above, President George H. W. Bush’s Administration had already broken that promise by crossing their Western borders. It stands to reason that, in the eyes of Russia, the “verbal commitment diplomacy” is rightly synonymous with fraud and hypocrisy that the United States of America is accustomed to implementing with Russia. This is exactly the reason why Russia is currently insisting that the United States and NATO must sign a treaty with it on Ukraine’s neutrality and a ban on the deployment of offensive (i.e. nuclear) weapons in Ukraine.

Equally important is the fact that after Cold War I, the United States of America, with its mentality of rushing to grab the fruits of victory, lured 14 small and medium-sized countries into the process of expansion, causing crises in Europe’s peripheral regions and artfully creating Russophobia in the Central, Balkan and Eastern European countries.

This complete disregard for the “concert of great powers” – a centuries-old principle fundamental to ensuring lasting security in Europe – and the practice of “being penny wise and pound foolish” have artificially led to a prolonged confrontation between Russia and the European countries, in the same way as between the United States of America and Russia. The age-old trend of emphasising the global primacy of the United States of America by creating crises and inventing enemies reaffirms the tragic reality of its own emergence as a danger to world peace.

All in all, the Ukraine crisis is a key issue for the direction of European security. The United States will not stop its eastward expansion. Russia, forced into a corner, has no other way but to react with all its might and strength. This heralds Cold War II in Europe, and lasting turmoil and the possible partition of Ukraine will be its immutable destiny.

The worst-case scenario will be a conventional war on the continent between NATO troops and Russian forces, causing millions and millions dead, as well as destroying cities. The war will be conventional because the United States would never use nuclear weapons – but not out of the goodness of its heart, but out of fear of a Russian response that would remove the US territory from the NBC security level.

To the point that that we will miss the good old days of Covid-19.

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