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US-Russian nuclear arms treaty may lose relevance

Monday, April 24, 2017

Subject

Prospects for renewing the New START treaty

Significance

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) expires in 2021 and a five-year extension is a likely option. However, the treaty's quantitative limits on nuclear weaponry may be of diminishing importance as US and Russian technology evolves. Russia's modernised land-based missiles are coming into service 10-15 years before any US upgrade. Moscow and Washington are investing in new submarines despite fiscal constraints on both sides.

Impacts

  • Russia views US missile defence deployments in Eastern Europe and South Korea as offensive and will adjust its deterrent capacity.
  • US budget pressures could see the life of ICBMs extended as the Pentagon invests in submarine upgrades.
  • The US military is more concerned about the escalation risks of tactical nuclear arms than the benefits of deterring conventional attack.

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