U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent nuclear wake-up call has aroused alert and vigilance on the Russian side and could risk setting off a new Cold War-style nuclear arms race between Washington and Moscow, observers say.
Trump, in an interview with the Reuters news agency in the Oval Office on Thursday, expressed his dissatisfaction with the New START Treaty and declared the aim of ensuring the U.S. nuclear arsenal “at the top of the pack”.
Analysts believe that if the United States gives up the nuclear balance of power adopted by past U.S. administrations and resorts to unilateral advantages, U.S. nuclear arsenal expansion would make U.S.-Russian relations more complicated and take the bilateral relationship toward a dead end.
RUSSIA FEARS “RETURN TO COLD WAR”
In the Reuters interview, Trump called the New START Treaty, or the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, “one-sided” and “a bad deal” for Washington.
The pact was signed by the United States and Russia in 2010. Following ratification by the U.S. Senate and the Federal Assembly of Russia, the treaty went into force in 2011. Under the treaty, the two nations agreed to cut the number of deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550 and the number of deployed missiles and bombers to 700. The treaty is expected to last until 2021 and it may be extended for a period of no more than five years.
Trump said the United States was going to be “at the top of the pack” in terms of nuclear capacities and would never “fall behind on nuclear power”.
He also complained that the Russian deployment of a ground-based cruise missile is in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), an agreement signed by the United States and the Soviet Union in 1987.
Asked if he would raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump said he would do so “if and when we meet.” But he had no meetings scheduled as of yet with Putin.
Trump’s words have made a big splash in Russia. Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the Russian lower house of parliament’s international affairs committee, said if Washington seriously aims for the dominance in nuclear sphere, a return to cold war and arms race will be inevitable.
Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the international affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, said Trump’s words are arguably the “most alarming statement” on the subject of relations with Russia.
TRUMP’S REAL PURPOSE
Trump’s attitude towards Russia has shifted greatly after taking office on January 20. Affected by the incident of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor who got fired for not being truthful with the vice president about his communications with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Trump has felt the immense resistance among the American political elites on improving U.S.-Russia ties. If not adjusting his position, his reign might be seriously challenged.
Liang Yabin, senior researcher of Pangoal Institution, said that since Trump took office, his policies have been continuously boycotted both inside and outside the United States, giving way to exaggeration that external threats could be an effective means for him to consolidate power. The statement is also viewed as the implementation of his campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.”
From a broader perspective, the statement reflected America’s strategic shift from a balance of power to unilateral strategic advantage as the U.S. hawkish worries that its limitation of nuclear capabilities will connive at Russia’s nuclear ambitions.
U.S.-RUSSIA RELATIONSHIP IN JEOPARDY
Some international media believe Trump’s new statement could mean restart of a nuclear arms race between the two big powers, further complicating bilateral relations.
According to Liang, the two nations have already begun playing the dangerous game with military build-up in Eastern Europe, including NATO’s moving troops to Poland and Lithuania.
Li Yonghui, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that Trump’s policy on Russia is still a work on progress. In face of strong resistance, Trump may contact with Russia progressively. If the two leaders could meet as reports have said, the United States’ policy on Russia could surface by then.
The Russian side has so far maintained restraint and avoided directly attacking Trump. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov recently said it’s still too early to say what course bilateral relations would take.
“We never wore rose-tinted glasses, never had any illusions, so there is nothing to be disappointed with,” Peskov said.
Observers said there is room to maneuver on U.S-Russia ties, but it is difficult to make substantial improvement, adding that structural contradiction will make U.S.-Russia conflicts on nuclear weapons, missile defense and the issue of Ukraine continue. Enditem