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    Empty Threat: Trump's Statements on US Nukes 'Leverage Against Russia'

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    In a recent interview, United States President Donald Trump that that the key strategic agreement between the US and Russia is a "bad deal" and vowed to build up the US nuclear potential.

    'Bad Deal'

    The President referred to the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). The deal was signed between Moscow and Washington in 2010 and came into effect in 2011. The document limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear carriers to 700 and the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550. It is expected to last until 2021 with an option to be extended.

    In an interview with Reuters, Trump said: "I am the first one that would like to see everybody – nobody have nukes, but we’re going to fall behind any country even if it’s friendly country, we’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power."

    This was not the first statement of this kind by Trump about the New START Treaty. He had begun criticizing the agreement even during the presidency of Barack Obama.

    "During his electoral campaign, Trump said that the policy of the Obama administration was weak and the US military was significantly weakened due to the lack of military spending. Trump has long been known as a critic of deals signed by Barack Obama, including the New START," Viktor Olevich, a Russian political analyst and specialist in US-Russia relations, told RT.

    Konstantin Kosachev
    © Sputnik / The Press-service of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation
    In the interview, Trump also called the New START Treaty a "one-sided deal."

    "Just another bad deal that the country made, whether it’s START, whether it’s the Iran deal…we’re going to start making good deals," the President stated.

    According to Olevich, such statements are unjustified.

    "According to Trump’s rhetoric, he is going to use this as leverage against Russia, implying that the US may not extend the deal. If Washington rejects to extend the agreement this could mean that the American side is turning to an arms race. Of course, this would only deepen bilateral tensions. This will be harmful to nuclear parity between Russia and the US," the analyst pointed out.

    'Tragic Mistake'

    Olevich noted that many in the US are not inclined to endorse an increase in the US nuclear potential.

    In particular, former Defense Secretary and prominent specialist in nuclear security William Perry called for the extension of the New START deal.

    "President Trump’s reported comments that New START is a 'bad deal' and favored Russia is simply wrong. […] It would be a tragic mistake if we failed to take advantage of Russia’s offer to extend the treaty," Perry was quoted as saying by Politico.

    The former Pentagon chief also underscored that the treaty presumes equal numbers of weapons and a verification procedure that is "harder on Russia than the US."

    Trump and Defense Industry

    Political analyst Stanislav Byshok suggested that statements by Trump that the US falls behind in terms of nuclear potential are due to an informal agreement between Washington and the defense industry.

    "Since his electoral campaign, Trump has had certain informal agreements with the defense industry, including on arms procurement plans. This means modernization of the armed forces and additional military spending. Moreover, nuclear arms also presume additional spending, including on its production, storage and transportation," Byshok told RT.

    Thus, according to the expert, Trump’s loud statement on nuclear buildup are only rhetoric and no threat to the rest of the world. At the same time, they are sending a message to certain actors inside the US.

    "To a great extent, this is a matter of domestic importance, regarding relations between the President and the defense industry. Trump is trying to meet obligations to defense companies. Of course, all of the above needs to be explained to the public, especially in the US. This is why Trump says that the US is going to fall behind on nuclear power. In fact, it is not," Byshok explained.

    The very same reasons were behind the imaginary "Russian threat" and the story about Iran’s nuclear program, he added.

    "The same is about Iran and North Korea. Of course, everyone understands that Iran, and of course North Korea, will never attack anyone. Nevertheless, in order to maintain a public consensus, Iran, North Korea and Russia are used as bogeymen," he said.

    Weapon of Deterrence

    Trump’s statements should not be regarded as a threat since it is clear that no one is going to use nuclear weapons, according to Byshok.

    "I think his statement will mean nothing because in the contemporary world nuclear arms are a tool of deterrence and a way to gain global reputation, rather than an offensive weapon. Currently, both Russia and the US have sufficient arsenals for mutual destruction. So, even if their arsenals are increased the threat will remain the same," the expert said.

    Throwback to the 20th Century

    The upper house of the Russian Parliament commented on Trump’s statements, underscoring that Moscow stands firmly against the possible termination of the New START treaty.

    Russia will seek to extend the agreement which is regarded as the backbone of global security.

    "Of course, Russia is totally against the termination of the deal. We will insist that it is extended," Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the Russian upper house of parliament's committee for defense and security, told Sputnik.

    The lawmaker also rebuffed allegations that the New START treaty harms Washington’s interests. According to Ozerov, the agreement was designed with respect to the interests of both sides.

    Senior member of the Russian Parliament’s upper house Alexei Pushkov stressed that the termination of the New START treaty will be a setback in global security.

    "Trump’s statement on US nuclear buildup puts in question the strategic weapons agreement, throwing the world back to the 20th century," Pushkov said in a Twitter post.

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    Tags:
    defense, tensions, arms race, nuclear weapons, Strategic Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), Donald Trump, Russia, United States
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