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The end of START – global consequences

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Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has made it clear that «the future of START-3 Treaty is foregone». During an online session of the Primakov Readings the minister pointed out that «it looks like the United States has already taken a decision not to prolong the treaty». What is meant is, in the first place, the US persistent attempts to turn two-party talks into three-party ones, with the participation of China. How dangerous is Washington’s reluctance to remain committed to strategic nuclear reduction?

Since the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty ceased to exist at Trump’s initiative in August last year,  START-3 has been the only bilateral agreement between Russia and the USA which puts restrictions on the two countries’ nuclear missile potentials. START-3, signed in 2010, expires in February 2021. Under the conditions of the Treaty, it can be extended for another five years without resorting to the procedure of obtaining the approval of the two countries’ parliaments. This is particularly essential given the current confrontation between the Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress.

At present, the Russian Federation and the United States have three options to deal with strategic nuclear weapons: to prolong START-3, work out a new agreement, or suspend, for some time, any negotiations on strategic weapons restrictions. Both parties understand that the current state of bilateral relations leaves little hope of coming to agreement over a short period of time and without preparation. Meanwhile, prolongation of START-3 for five years would give Moscow and Washington extra time, a “strategic lull” of sorts, during which both countries would be able to maintain the high level, if not trust, then of awareness of each other’s policies on such an important issue as strategic stability.

In June, Russia and the US held talks in Vienna on the possibility of control and extension of START-3. The two sides agreed to continue consultations I the Austrian capital at the end of July – at the beginning of August. However, the course towards the destruction of the existing system of weapons control, which took upper hand in the US policy long before the arrival of Trump, leaves little hope of seeing the Treaty extended in the future. 

According to Russia’s former Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, after the disintegration of the USSR, the US «felt the winner and openly proclaimed a departure from international agreements which, in the opinion of several US administrations, could tie US hands on the international scene, or in other  words, stand in the way of US attempts to establish its domineering position all over the world». In the area of strategic stability, the United States first initiated the elimination of START, then – of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Washington «did its utmost to stop NATO countries from ratifying the modified version of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty». The United States «evaded a constructive dialogue on other areas of weapons control». Given this, START-3 became «more of an exception».

The US administration insists that negotiations on the reduction of nuclear weapons should be necessarily joined by China. Only in this case, Washington says, it would make sense to assume “restrictions and commitments” yet again.  The United States is thereby trying to put forward its own conditions: either a three-party nuclear agreement between Moscow, Washington and Beijing, or a complete rejection of any commitments in the sphere of nuclear weapons. «Beijing rejects the idea». Moscow is interested in the prolongation of START-3 “without preliminary conditions”, Vladimir Putin pointed out repeatedly. 

Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has pursued a policy which is aimed, he says, at “ridding” America of “unwanted” commitments. Nevertheless,  in the case of START-3, the true motives of the Trump administration cause disputes among observers. The Treaty enjoys wide-ranging support amidst the US expert community, while the White House’s intention to necessarily involve China is seen by many American observers as «unrealistic».

In all likelihood, what is meant is a tactical intention to first please the voters, many of which share Trump’s opinion that America “has taken too many commitments” over the past decades. And then, in case of reelection of the incumbent president, the next move will be to clinch “the best deal of all possible”. Some optimists still hope that a consistent refusal of the current administration to sign weapons control and strategic weapons reduction treaties, first of all, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Treaty on Open Skies, is all but collecting “the best cards” “for bargaining” over new agreements.

As it seems, the Trump administration expects to get geopolitical dividends irrespective of what scenario talks on strategic offensive weapons will follow. 

Clearly visible are Washington’s attempts to provoke Moscow into taking radical steps in response, which it could then use as a new justification of “consolidation” for NATO and the West as a whole.

Also visible is the economic reasons behind measures to destroy the system of strategic stability: unavoidable, though forced, retaliatory steps by Russia will be described as “aggressive plans” and the reaction to these plans will have to involve an increase of military spending on the part of Washington’s allies. In the first place, it will spill into purchasing costly US-made systems which are designed to “offset” the non-existent “threat from Moscow”.

Apparently, Washington plans to benefit from the situation even if Europe refuses to be dependent on the US interests and chooses to move in the direction of a more resolute and independent policy concerning the buildup of military potential. If that is the case, the US may attempt to worsen the EU split by making countries that are ready to partake in Washington’s strategic arms race hostile towards those that understood the danger and futility of such a policy back in the days of the Cold War.

Washington’s reasons for demanding that “Beijing join the agreements between Washington and Moscow on weapons control” appear questionable. On the one hand, in terms of military might, the United States expresses concern over China’s nuclear potential. Speaking at the Hudson Institute in May last year the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Robert Ashley pointed out that in 2018 China carried out more ballistic missile tests than the rest of the world taken together. According to General Ashley, China is likely to double its nuclear arsenal over the next ten years. But this is only «highly likely».

On the other hand, everyone knows that “the key priority of the Donald Trump administration in foreign policy is to contain China, both as an economic and a military superpower». There are grounds to assume that having reasonable doubts about its ability to subdue China in global competition, Trump opted for dragging China into the costly nuclear missile race. Particularly since in the  conditions of the global corona crisis, the economic instruments of pressure that the US has at its disposal are rapidly  losing their power. The top priority is to impose on Beijing a zugzwang, in which it will be forced to make a choice between the logic of economic development and «the logic of geopolitical confrontation», between reforms and «security and control priorities». Washington expects to put China in such a position where it will have to react to the rate and scope of an arms race imposed by a rich opponent.

Finally, the intention to destroy the global strategic stability framework bears the cynical expectations to sow seeds of distrust between Beijing and Moscow. US political and expert circles believe that Moscow, like Washington, is concerned about the fact that China, having signed none of the existing agreements on weapons reduction, is building up its missile arsenals without any restrictions. Thus, by provoking China into boosting its missile arsenals, it will be possible to “sell” Moscow a threat to global strategic stability on the basis of the assumption that none of the  three nuclear powers can maintain parity with the combined potentials of the other two.

But Beijing has already given it to understand that it is fully aware of Washington’s intentions. At the beginning of July Director of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Arms Control Department Fu Cong said that «China is ready to enter three-party weapons control talks with the US and Russia if the United States agrees to cut its nuclear arsenals to the level of  China». The Chinese Foreign Ministry also urged the United States to give a positive answer to Russia’s proposal to prolong START-3. This would create «conditions for the participation of other nuclear states in nuclear disarmament talks».

In addition, any attempts at “rationally” calculating hypothetical layouts and new configurations of forces among nuclear powers become useless because it is impossible to foresee the scope of destabilizing consequences of the  collapse of START-3 for international security as a whole. According to Alexey Arbatov of the Russian Academy of Sciences, elimination of START-3 will jeopardize the entire system of international treaties on nuclear weapons, including the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. As recently as at the end of last year the United States made an attempt to question the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. And since one of the main principles of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is contained in Article 6, which deals with nuclear disarmament, «in the event the treaty flops, even if a chain reaction of pulling out of the treaty does not start, the treaty will lose its value. No one will attend these conferences, no one will observe IAEA guarantees, so the system risks falling to pieces very quickly».

In Asia, in case of China entering a strategic arms race with America, such leading powers as Japan, South Korea and Australia, may choose to take independent decisions in the area of strategic security. The strengthening of China’s strategic potential, particularly amid the new deterioration of bilateral relations, is bound to cause response action from India. This, in turn, will lead to a change of Pakistan’s nuclear policy. The most dramatic scenario in this case would be a nuclear arms race in Asia Pacific Region. 

Thus, the multiplying hints by the United States at its desire to pull out of START-3 signals Washington’s readiness to blatantly abandon a nuclear dialogue as such. The looming threat of non-prolongation of START-3 creates conditions for the destruction of the established global strategic stability regime. Considering the present state of Chinese-American relations, in case of a new arms race, this time between the United States and China, the prospects of the two countries entering a meaningful dialogue in military and strategic sphere appear vague, to say the least.

At last, the cessation, or suspension of START-3, would mean disappearance of a unique legally binding mechanism of mutual control. Without such a mechanism the dialogue on nuclear disarmament will suffer a dramatic setback. This means that not only Russia and the United States, but any other countries willing to hold talks on the restriction or reduction of nuclear weapons will have to start the whole process from scratch.

From our partner International Affairs

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Defense

India’s Sprouting Counterforce Posture

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In recent years, the technological advancements by India in the domain of counterforce military capabilities have increased the vulnerability of the South Asian region. While trying to disturb the strategic stability in South Asia, India through its adventuresome counterforce posture against Pakistan is on the verge of becoming a rogue state. Notwithstanding the repercussions, India is voyaging towards destabilization in the South Asian Region.

India’s enhanced strategic nuclear capabilities which includes-the development of Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs), Ballistic Missile Defence System (BMD), Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), supersonic and hypersonic cruise missiles, and acquisition of nuclear-capable submarines- indicate that India is moving away from its declared policy of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) towards a more aggressive, counterforce posture against Pakistan. The BMD and MIRV technology along with the provision of an advanced navigation system under BECA would embolden India to go for the first strike against Pakistan. While having reliance on BMD, as to be sheltered in return. These technological advancements made by India are sprouting a new era of counterforce posture, which would further make the South Asian region volatile and vulnerable to conflicts.

India’s urge to acquire counterforce capability is strongly associated with its doctrinal shift. As the stated posture requires flexibility in the use of nuclear weapons, which fortifies the first strike capability, and thus a deviation in India’s declared policy of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) has become more significant, particularly concerning its impact on regional stability. India’s declared policy of NFU, set out in Draft Nuclear Doctrine in 1999, followed by its first amendment in January 2003 has since then been into hot debates. Pakistan has long doubted the Indian policy of NFU, as the actions and statements by the officials of the latter have always been aggressive and protruding towards the former. India, now, is drifting away from its policy of NFU with the acquisition of counterforce capabilities, particularly against Pakistan. This is further evident from the statement issued by India’s Defense Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh, back in August 2019. It stated “Till today, our nuclear policy is ‘no-first-use’ (NFU). What happens in the future depends on the circumstances.” A change at the doctrinal level is evident in the Indian strategic enclave. Notwithstanding the challenges and repercussions caused by the counterforce strategy and with an attempt to destabilize the nuclear deterrence in the region, India would go unjustifiably low to attain such measures.  

In the same vein, India has been enhancing its nuclear capabilities for strategic flexibility against its regional rivals. By the same token, it wants to attain nuclear dominance, which would ultimately result in chaos in the region. The counterforce capability by India would compel its adversaries to heed towards the preemptive strike, in case of a crisis, out of the fear of the use of Nuclear weapons first by the patent enemy.  Moreover, the counterforce capability pushes the enemy to put the nuclear weapons on hair-trigger mode, which is directly linked with the crisis escalation.  The acquisition of counterforce capability by India would likely provoke a new arms race in the region. This would further destabilize the already volatile South Asian region. The far-reaching destabilization which India is trying to create, just to have an edge on the nuclear adversary, would be back on India’s face, faster than she knew it.

On the contrary, Pakistan has been maintaining a posture of Credible Minimum Deterrence (CMD) and does not claim to have a No-First Use (NFU) policy. Moreover, Pakistan’s nuclear capability is defensive in principle and a tool for deterrence. Given the Indian evolved notions of counterforce preemption, even now Pakistan would be left with no choice but to leave room for carrying out a ‘first strike’ as a feasible deterrent against India. Nevertheless, with the advent of technological innovations, its countermeasure arrives soon, too. Presently, there are two aspects that Pakistan should take into consideration; the growing Indo-US nexus and India’s concealed innovations in the nuclear posture. Though India is far from achieving counterforce strikes against Pakistan’s nuclear targets, concrete steps are required for maintaining future deterrence stability. With that intention, Pakistan might need to look towards its allies for getting hands-on the modern capabilities which includes- advanced communication and navigation systems, sensors, and advancements in artificial intelligence and otherwise, is essential for strengthening its deterrent capability. Pakistan should heed towards the development of absolute second-strike capability; as, what is survivable today, could be vulnerable tomorrow. Therefore, advancements in technology should be made for preserving nuclear deterrence in the future as well.

Summarizing it all, the existence of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence has created a stable environment in the region, by deterring full-scale wars on multiple occasions that might have resulted in a nuclear exchange. With the revolution in nuclear technology, the threat of nuclear war has emerged again. Instead of going towards the attainment of peace and stability in the region, India has been enhancing its counterforce capabilities. This would likely remain a significant threat to the deterrence stability in the region. Moreover, any kind of failure to maintain nuclear deterrence in South Asia could result in an all-out war, without any escalation control. India, in its lust for power and hegemonic designs, has been destabilizing the region. Both the nuclear states in South Asia need to engage in arms restraint and escalation control measures. This seems to be a concrete and more plausible way out; else the new era of destabilization could be more disastrous.  

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A pig in a poke of Lithuanian Armed Forces

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The proverb “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” perfectly reflects the situation in the Lithuanian armed forces. It is it unclear how the army will carry out its tasks, if everything that happens there runs counter to common sense.

The conscription took place in Lithuania. The recruits once again were revealed by an electronic lottery on January 7, 2021. 3,828 recruits were selected from the list of 38 thousand conscripts aged 18 to 23.

The idea of using electronic lottery in such a serious procedure arises a lot of questions among Lithuanians. Young people are suspicious of this method and fully admit the possibility of corruption. Nobody could check the results and so nobody could be blamed for random selection. The more so, the armed forces could get weaker recruits than in case of using usual ways of choosing among candidates. So, the army buys a pig in a poke.

This approach to recruitment in Lithuania results in presence of those with criminal intents and inclinations. Сases of crimes committed by Lithuanian military personnel have increased. Incidents with the involvement of military regularly occurred in Lithuania in 2020.

Thus, a soldier of the Lithuanian army was detained in Jurbarkas in October. He was driving under the influence of alcohol. A Lithuanian soldier suspected of drunk driving was detained also in Siauliai in December. Panevėžys County Chief Police Commissariat was looking for a soldier who deserted from the Lithuanian Armed Forces and so forth.

Such behaviour poses serious risks to public safety and leads to loss of confidence in the Lithuanian army in society.

Lithuanian military officials have chosen a new way to discourage young people from serving in the army, which is already not popular.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The ministry of defence decided to run a photo contest that would reflect service in the country’s armed forces. It is doubtful that such pictures will attract to the army, but the real situation is provided.

Usually, popularization is the act of making something attractive to the general public. This contest served the opposite goal. Look at the pictures and make conclusions.

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Defense

Fatah-1: A New Security and Technological Development About Pakistan’s Indigenous GMLRS

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Islamabad: It seems like 2021 has been a good start for Pakistan specifically with regard to stepping up its missile testing. On the 7th of January, the Pakistan military has successfully conducted a purely indigenously developed missile test flight known to be Fatah-1. As stated by various reports, Fatah-1 is an extended-range Guided Multi-Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) which itself is a developed variant of the guided MLRS family.

According to the recent statement given by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) about the newly developed rocket, it was stated: “The weapon system will give Pakistan Army capability of a precision target deep in the enemy territory.” Director-General of Pakistan Army, Media Wing, major general Babar Iftikhar on 7th January tweeted: “Pakistan today conducted a successful; test flight of indigenously developed Fatah-1, Guided Multi Launch Rocket System, capable of delivering a conventional Warhead up to a range of 140 km.”

Defense analyst Mr. Syed Muhammad Ali also stated in his capacity: “the new system was very fast, accurate, survivable, and difficult to intercept”. A video was also shared by ISPR on their official website, in which the missile launch can be seen while being fired from the launcher however, the details on when and where the test flight has taken place, along with the specification of the rocket system are yet to be announced.

Currently, Pakistan Army owns a wide range of Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM), Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBM), Battlefield Ballistic Missiles (BBM), Rocket Artillery, and Surface to Surface Cruise Missile (SSCM). In the previous year, Pakistan had also maintained prime success in conducting the Ra’ad-II cruise missile and Ghaznavi surface-to-surface ballistic missile (SSBM). Besides, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on 30thDecember made apt progress when it comes to the national air defense arsenal as it was announced that PAF is beginning the production of the State-of-the-art JF-17 Thunder Block 3 fighter jets, at the same time acquiring the 14 dual-seat Jf-17 aircraft.

According to various reports, the JF-17 Thunder Block 3 will be said to have a new radar operational capability which will be far better in the practical domain as compared to the Raphael aircraft acquired by India. Whereas, the exchange of 14 dual-seat aircraft, manufactured with Pak-China cooperation were also given to the PAF which will be used for extensive training.

The recent successful testing of Fatah-1 has been considered to be another milestone for Pakistan as it tends to be a fitting response to the recent developments in the conventional capabilities carried out by India and also to India’s Cold Start Doctrine.

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