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"I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them."

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
US-Russia Nuclear Arms Control

Fifty Years Ago, the First Strategic Arms Limitation Agreements Were Concluded

Fifty years ago, on May 26, 1972, the first bilateral nuclear arms control agreements were struck: the U.S.-Soviet Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The breakthrough agreements, which began the process of slowing the nuclear arms race, followed the entry into force of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1970. The U.S.-Soviet agreements were the product of intensive negotiations that began in 1969. The chief American negotiator was Gerard Smith, who had been appointed the director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency by then-president Richard...

U.S., Russia Adhering to New Start Despite War


May 2022
By Shannon Bugos

A few days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States and Russia exchanged data on their respective strategic nuclear forces as required by the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The data shared on March 1 showed that the countries remain at or below the treaty limits on deployed strategic warheads and their delivery vehicles.

“At a time when direct contacts are being curtailed, antagonism runs high, and trust [is] completely lost, it is nothing short of amazing that Russia and the United States continue to abide by the…treaty and exchange classified information as if nothing had happened,” wrote Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists in an April 6 blog post. The data exchange was made public on April 5.

The treaty limits U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces to 1,550 warheads deployed on 700 delivery vehicles, which are defined as intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers assigned to a nuclear mission.

The United States deploys 1,515 warheads on 686 delivery vehicles, and Russia deploys 1,474 warheads on 526 delivery vehicles, as of the latest data exchange.

Under New START, the two sides are allowed a certain number of on-site inspections each year, but those inspections have been paused since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even so, the two sides have continued to exchange various notifications on the status and basing or facility assignment of their respective strategic forces, for a total of 23,609 notifications as of April 7.

The treaty’s implementing body, the Bilateral Consultative Commission, ordinarily meets twice per year, but those meetings have also been paused because of the pandemic.

Alexander Darchiyev, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s North American Department, said on March 8
that “we’re preparing for the upcoming spring session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission.” Further information on when the commission may convene is unknown.

The exchange of New START data occurred after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Feb. 27 order to move his country’s nuclear forces to the heightened alert status of a “special regime of combat duty” in the early days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (See ACT, March 2022.) Although additional such orders have not been given, Russian officials have defended Putin’s order in the ensuing weeks. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov eventually downplayed the threat of nuclear war in late March. (See ACT, April 2022.)

On April 20, Russia test-launched a new nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile called the Sarmat. Although Putin called the test a warning to those in the West who “try to threaten our country,” some U.S. experts played down the impact saying Moscow notified Washington in advance as required under New START. The experts also estimated that SARMAT was initially slated to be operationally deployed in 2021, meaning the system is now behind schedule.

Russia and the United States are fulfilling their treaty commitments despite tensions over Ukraine.

“The Threat of Use of Nuclear Weapons and Russia’s War on Ukraine: Meeting the Legal and Political Challenge"

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Tuesday, May 3, 2022
11:00 am to 12:30 pm U.S. Eastern Time

Prior to and during Russia’s war against Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin has threatened the possible use of nuclear weapons should other states “interfere” in Russian military operations. Such threats of the use of force are the cornerstone of nuclear deterrence but, especially where states hold the option to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict, open the door to escalation and the actual use of nuclear weapons.

How can the international community meet the urgent challenges from the threat of use of nuclear weapons?

Our panelists included: 

  • Amb. Alexander Kmentt (Director of Disarmament, Arms Control and Nonproliferation at the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; President-designate for the first Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW)
  • Zia Mian (co-director, Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University)
  • John Burroughs (Senior Analyst, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy)
  • Alicia Sanders-Zakre (Policy and Research Coordinator at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons)
  • Daryl Kimball (Executive Director, Arms Control Association)
  • Ariana N. Smith (Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy) - moderator

Sponsored by the Arms Control Association, the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, and the Princeton University Program on Science and Global Security  

Description: 

President Vladimir Putin has threatened the possible use of nuclear weapons should other states interfere in Russian war in Ukraine. How can the international community meet the urgent challenges from such threat of use of nuclear weapons?

Country Resources:

Arms Control Must Remain the Goal


April 2022
By Andrei Zagorski

Less than four years ago, experts would acknowledge the possibility that Ukraine could eventually become an arena for Russian-NATO confrontation and predict that “any significant reescalation of military hostilities in Ukraine, pushing NATO, Russia or both to intervene directly or indirectly, may quickly grow into a direct military engagement in the most sensitive areas along their shared border,” as suggested by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) network of think tanks and academic institutions. Such a development would also bear the danger of potential nuclear escalation of the conflict.1

Russian President Vladimir Putin during his address to the nation at the Kremlin on February 21, three days before launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. After failing to secure a quick victory over Kyiv, Putin has raised fears that he may use chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons in the war. (Photo by Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)Although this scenario appeared remote at the time, Russia is weeks into its war in Ukraine; and the possibility of a nuclear escalation involving Russia, NATO, and the United States has reached levels not seen since the end of the Cold War. Since the beginning of the war in late February, Russia and the United States have played the nuclear deterrence card to communicate what they would see as redlines, the crossing of which could trigger World War III. As the hostilities evolved, however, these redlines seemed to blur, opening grey areas and thus increasing the ambiguity as to what developments could lead to inadvertent nuclear escalation. This highlights the need for a more robust mechanism, including relevant arms control measures, to appropriately address this inherent danger.

Mutual Signaling

From the beginning of the conflict, the United States and NATO repeatedly conveyed the message that they would not send troops to defend Ukraine, although they were prepared to arm the government in Kyiv and raise the costs of the intervention for Russia. Still, while launching the military operation, Russian President Vladimir Putin explicitly warned the West not to think of intervening militarily, implicitly threatening that this could lead to a nuclear war. “I would now like to say something very important for those who may be tempted to interfere in these developments from the outside,” Putin said on February 24. “No matter who tries to stand in our way or, all the more so, create threats for our country and our people, they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history. No matter how the events unfold, we are ready. All the necessary decisions in this regard have been taken. I hope that my words will be heard.”2

At the same time, U.S. President Joe Biden also signaled that the United States would not shy away from entering a world war that, by default, would become nuclear should the Russian military operation be extended beyond the borders of Ukraine and spill over onto the territory of any NATO member states. “If they move once—granted, if we respond, it is World War III, but we have a sacred obligation on NATO territory,”3 Biden said on March 11. Yet, the devil is in the details. In the course of the hostilities, many questions have arisen and more may arise in the future as to whether a particular action could be seen by one or another side as an escalation that could lead to direct engagement.

Although the politically controversial option of establishing a no-fly zone in Ukraine was rejected by the United States and NATO because it might lead to direct engagement between Russian and NATO combat aircraft, the consequences of other options were less obvious. Could the continuous supply of weapons to Ukraine from NATO member states amid the hostilities be interpreted as direct interference by the Western alliance in the war? Although Moscow would not take it that far, the Kremlin has made it clear that “any cargo moving into Ukrainian territory, which we would believe is carrying weapons, would be fair game.”4 It seems that this proposition is tacitly accepted in the West. Yet, if the Ukrainian air force launches from airfields on the territory of neighboring NATO member states, such as Romania and Poland—an option considered for a while during the early weeks of the war—would that provoke Russian strikes against such facilities, thus extending the military operation beyond the borders of Ukraine, and would NATO consider it a casus belli?

Such questions suggest how developments on the ground and decisions made by top leaders could further blur the redlines established by nuclear deterrence postures on both sides and set in motion an inadvertent escalation of the war. So far, Russia and the United States have exercised restraint in order to avoid such unintended escalation. One example was the U.S. decision to postpone a scheduled Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile flight test.5 Nevertheless, uncertainties persist and grow as the war continues.

A Wake-Up Call?

What lessons will be learned about the long-standing Russian and U.S. nuclear deterrence postures when the war in Ukraine is over? Will the war serve as a wake-up call similar to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 and lead to cooperative measures to reduce the risk of a nuclear war, not least by means of arms control agreements that could keep the escalatory dynamic from spinning out of control? Will this conflict lead to a new conventional and nuclear arms race extended to new domains, such as cyberwarfare? The answers to these questions are not obvious, but the world is more dangerous now than it was 20 or even 10 years ago.

At the moment, there is no way to know how the war in Ukraine might end. It seems that, for the time being, Kyiv is ready to negotiate with Moscow and may be prepared to abandon the goal of NATO membership for Ukraine, pending approval by a constitutional majority of the Ukrainian parliament or by a referendum. The issue of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the status of Crimea and the Donbas will poison relations between Moscow and Kyiv and Moscow and the West over the long term. So far, all options remain open, including Ukraine being pulled back into the Russian orbit; retaining room for maneuvering between Russia and the West as a nonaligned country like Finland, Yugoslavia, or Austria did during the Cold War; or even continuing to pursue its European option without aspiring for NATO membership.

Whatever the outcome, with Russia drawing its redlines on the ground unilaterally, the current dividing line in Europe will deepen. There will be no easy way to return to the discussion of a wider European security agenda, as anticipated in talks preceding the war, including on the concept of indivisible security, a concept that was at the heart of Russian proposals for years.6 An OSCE summit to address these issues, as proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron, is off the agenda for the time being. Nevertheless, the war has highlighted the enduring need to continue addressing relevant issues of strategic stability in order to minimize the risk of an unintentional stumble into the danger of nuclear escalation in a crisis.

As argued in 1958 by Alfred Wohlstetter, the existence of nuclear weapons does not automatically prevent a nuclear war but increases the danger of accidental wars particularly during a crisis, although this risk can be mitigated by arms control measures.7 This finding, which at the time seemed mostly intellectual, was reinforced by practical experience as Moscow and Washington engaged in crisis management when decisions had to be made under severe emotional stress, time pressure, and insufficient and contradictory information. The need for nuclear arms control was one of the most important lessons learned from this experience so that, in the end, it was not nuclear arms but nuclear arms control that has prevented a nuclear World War III.8

It is the evidence of the grey zone, in which the redlines of mutual nuclear deterrence tend to blur in the ongoing war in Ukraine, that suggests that nuclear arms control must be strengthened and not further dismembered despite the current collapse of Russian-Western relations.

Toward this end, several steps need to be addressed urgently. In the first instance, these must include the resumption of the Russian-U.S. strategic stability dialogue so that the two sides do not lose transparency into each other’s nuclear force structure and the predictability of their strategic postures with the expiration of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and its verification regime four years from now.

It is also in the security interests of both sides to agree on measures of restraint and cooperation with respect to dangerous military incidents and their deescalation so that eventual incidents do not ratchet up tensions even more. In this regard, reopening the lines of communication between the Russian and NATO defense establishments is essential.

Finally, at a later stage, NATO and Russia should open discussions once again on where and how their conventional forces should be configured in areas where the two sides come into close geographic contact. A formal agreement with appropriate transparency and verification should be the goal even if it takes a long time to get there.

 

ENDNOTES

1. OSCE Network of Think Tanks and Academic Institutions, “Reducing the Risks of Conventional Deterrence in Europe: Arms Control in the NATO-Russia Contact Zones,” December 2018, pp. 8, 12, 14, https://osce-network.net/file-OSCE-Network/Publications/RISK_SP.pdf.

2. “Address by the President of the Russian Federation,” February 24, 2022, President of Russia, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/67843.

3. Josh Wingrove, “Biden Says He’d Fight World War III for NATO but Not for Ukraine,” Bloomberg, March 11, 2022.

4. Embassy of the Russian Federation in New Zealand, “Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's Interview With RT TV, 18 March 2022,” March 19, 2022, https://newzealand.mid.ru/en/press_center/news/foreign_minister_sergey_lavrov_s_interview_with_rt_tv_18_march_2022/.

5. Daryl G. Kimball, “How to Avoid Nuclear Catastrophe—and a Costly New Arms Race,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 11, 2022, https://thebulletin.org/2022/03/how-to-avoid-nuclear-catastrophe-and-a-costly-new-arms-race/.

6. See Rachel Ellehuus and Andrei Zagorski, “Restoring the European Security Order,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 2019, pp. 2–3, https://csis-website-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/190313_EllehuusandZagorski_RestoringEuropeanOrder.pdf; Jeremy Shapiro et al., “Regional Security Architecture,” in A Consensus Proposal for a Revised Regional Order in Post-Soviet Europe and Eurasia, ed. Samuel Charap et al. (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corp., 2019), pp. 9–31, https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/conf_proceedings/CF400/CF410/RAND_CF410.pdf.

7. Alfred Wohlstetter, “The Delicate Balance of Terror,” P-1472, RAND Corp., 1958, https://www.rand.org/pubs/papers/P1472.html.

8. Alexey Arbatov, “Escalating the Nuclear Rhetoric,” in Preventing the Crisis of Nuclear Arms Control and Catastrophic Terrorism (Moscow: National Institute of Corporate Reform, 2016), p. 15, http://www.luxembourgforum.org/media/documents/Washington_eng-PREVIEW_FINAL_PRINT_VERSION.pdf.


Andrei Zagorski leads the Department for Disarmament and Conflict Resolution Studies at the Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences and is a member on the trilateral Deep Cuts Commission.

 

New hostilities between Russia and the West highlight the need for a more robust mechanism, including arms control measures, to address the danger.

Biden’s Reported Decision to Retain Option to Use Nuclear Weapons Against Non-Nuclear Threats Is Disappointing, Illogical, and Dangerous

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For Immediate Release: March 25, 2022

Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director (202-463-8270 x107); Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst (202-463-8270 x113)

(Washington, D.C.)— President Joseph R. Biden has stepped back from a campaign vow and approved an old Obama-era policy that allows for a potential nuclear response to deter conventional and other non-nuclear dangers in addition to nuclear ones, U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal Thursday.

Biden’s policy will reportedly declare that the “fundamental role” of the U.S. nuclear arsenal will be to deter nuclear attacks. Such a policy, the officials said, will leave open the possibility that nuclear weapons could also be used in “extreme circumstances” to deter conventional, biological, chemical, and possibly cyberattacks by adversaries.

“If the report is correct, President Biden will have failed to follow through on his explicit 2020 campaign promise to adopt a much clearer and narrower policy regarding nuclear weapons use, and he will have missed a crucial opportunity to move the world back from the nuclear brink,” charged Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

Biden wrote in Foreign Affairs: “As I said in 2017, I believe that the sole purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal should be deterring—and, if necessary, retaliating against—a nuclear attack. As president, I will work to put that belief into practice, in consultation with the U.S. military and U.S. allies.”

“Putin’s deadly war against Ukraine, his nuclear saber-rattling, and Russia’s policy that reserves the option to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict with NATO underscore even more clearly how extremely dangerous it is for nuclear-armed states to threaten the use of nuclear weapons in response to non-nuclear threats—and it reinforces why it is necessary to move rapidly away from dangerous Cold War-era thinking about nuclear weapons,” Kimball said.

“Biden has apparently failed to seize his opportunity to meaningfully narrow the role of nuclear weapons and failed, through his NPR, to distinguish U.S. nuclear policy from Russia’s dangerous nuclear doctrine that threatens nuclear first use against non-nuclear threats,” he added.

“There is no plausible military scenario, no morally defensible reason, nor legally justifiable basis for threatening or using nuclear weapons first—if at all. As Presidents Reagan, Biden, Gorbachev, and even Putin have all said, a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” Kimball said. “Once nuclear weapons are used in a conflict between nuclear-armed states, there is no guarantee it will not result in nuclear retaliation and escalation to an all-out nuclear exchange.”

“We also strongly urge the administration to explain how Biden’s nuclear weapons declaratory policy will differ from Russia’s dangerous nuclear doctrine and under what circumstances the United States might believe it would make sense to initiate the use of nuclear weapons for the first time since 1945,” he said.

Shannon Bugos, a senior policy analyst at the Arms Control Association, added, “The final Biden NPR should also reiterate the longstanding U.S. commitment to actively pursue further verifiable reductions in the still bloated nuclear stockpiles of the United States and Russia, and to seek to engage China and other nuclear-armed states in the disarmament enterprise.”

“The sobering reality is that it would take just a few hundred U.S. or Russian strategic nuclear weapons to destroy each other’s military capacity, kill hundreds of millions of innocent people, and produce a planetary climate catastrophe,” she noted.

“Maintaining ambiguity about using nuclear weapons first is dangerous, illogical, and unnecessary," said Bugos.

Description: 

Biden has apparently failed to seize his opportunity to meaningfully narrow the role of nuclear weapons and failed through his Nuclear Posture Review.

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Putin’s Assault on Ukraine and the Nonproliferation Regime


March 2022
By Daryl G. Kimball

President Vladimir Putin has chosen the path of destruction instead of diplomacy. His months-long buildup of a massive Russian invasion force encircling Ukraine and his decision on Feb. 21 to order Russian soldiers into the eastern Ukrainian provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk have set in motion a catastrophic war. Putin’s indefensible, premeditated assault on Ukraine will heighten tensions between NATO and Russia, increase the risk of conflict elsewhere in Europe, and undermine prospects for nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament—for years to come.

A short-range Iskander missile system flight test. Russian intermediate-range missiles, like the controversial 9M729, are launched from similar platforms. (Photo credit: Russian Defense Ministry.)There are many grievances fueling Putin’s latest and most brazen attempt to reset the post-Cold War European security order through military force. Some are real, such as the effect of NATO’s expansion on the military balance in Europe, and some are imagined. No rationale, however, justifies a violent attack by Russia on one of its neighbors.

In an angry speech announcing his decision to move Russian forces into Ukraine, Putin espoused wild, ethno-racialist, and historically inaccurate claims that Ukraine is not a legitimate state and belongs within a greater Russia. He voiced hyperbolic claims that an independent, westward-leaning Ukraine, which he falsely charged might even build nuclear weapons, is a grave threat to Russia.

Putin’s military adventurism—including Russia’s conflict with Georgia in 2008, its takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, its cyberattacks and political influence games—and his push to modernize Russia’s military have already spurred NATO member states to bolster their military postures. Not surprisingly, Putin’s behavior has led Ukrainians to see Moscow as a threat and seek Western support.

Putin’s aggression against Ukraine violates the 1994 Budapest Memorandum in which Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States extended security assurances against the threat or use of force against Ukraine’s territory or political independence. In response, Ukraine acceded to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear-weapon state and gave up the 1,900 nuclear warheads it inherited from the Soviet Union. Ukraine, Russia, and the world were safer as a result. But Putin’s behavior undermines the NPT and reinforces the impression that nuclear-armed states can bully non-nuclear states, thus reducing the incentives for disarmament and making it more difficult to prevent nuclear proliferation.

The vicious cycle of mistrust between Russia and the West in recent years has been exacerbated by the loss—through negligence, noncompliance, or outright withdrawal—of important conventional and nuclear arms control agreements that helped end the Cold War. These guardrails included the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which was designed to prevent major force buildups on the continent; the Open Skies Treaty, which provided transparency about military capabilities and movements; the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which was designed to prevent an unconstrained offense-defense arms race; and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which reduced the danger of nuclear war in Europe. As a result, cooperation between the parties has eroded, concerns about military capabilities have grown, and the risk of miscalculation is higher.

With Putin’s deadly war against Ukraine now underway, the United States, Europe, and the international community must maintain a strong and unified response, including more powerful sanctions against key Russian institutions and leaders. The besieged people of Ukraine require urgent assistance from the international community. As it should, the Kyiv government will get defensive military assistance to deter Putin from seizing more, if not all, of its territory.

In the days and weeks ahead, leaders in Moscow, Washington, and Europe must be careful to avoid new and destabilizing military deployments, close encounters between Russian and NATO forces, and the introduction of offensive weapons that undermine common security. For example, the offer from Russia’s client state, Belarus, to host Russian tactical nuclear weapons, if pursued by Putin, would further undermine Russian and European security, and increase the risk of nuclear war.

Although Putin’s regime must suffer international isolation now, U.S. and Russian leaders must eventually seek to resume talks through their stalled strategic security dialogue to defuse broader NATO-Russia tensions and maintain common sense arms control measures to prevent an all-out arms race.

Russia’s December 2021 proposals on security and the Biden administration responses show there is room for negotiations to resolve mutual concerns, including agreements to scale back large military exercises and prevent the deployment of intermediate-range missiles in Europe or western Russia. Washington must test whether Russia is serious about such options.

In the long run, U.S., Russian, and European leaders, and their people, cannot lose sight of the fact that war and the threat of nuclear war are the common enemies. Russia and the West have an interest in striking agreements that further slash bloated strategic nuclear forces, regulate shorter-range “battlefield” nuclear arsenals, and set limits on long-range missile defenses before the last remaining nuclear arms control agreement, New START, expires in early 2026. Otherwise, the next showdown will be even riskier.

President Vladimir Putin has chosen the path of destruction instead of diplomacy.

Russia, U.S., NATO Security Proposals

 
March 2022

Prior to Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement in February 2022 that Russia would recognize the two Russian-controlled Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine as independent and his decision to order his military forces into Ukraine, Russia and the United States/NATO exchanged written security and arms control proposals. Russia initiated the exchange in December 2021 with proposals related to arms control, risk reduction, and transparency. The United States and NATO put forward their respective counterproposals in January 2022. The following is a side-by-side summary of the various proposals.

Russian Proposals on Security Guarantees to the United States and NATO, Dec. 15, 2021 U.S. and NATO Responses to Russia, Jan. 26, 2022
Arms Control, Risk Reduction, and Transparency

Parties shall not deploy ground-launched, intermediate- and short-range missiles either outside their national territories or inside their national territories from which the missiles can strike the national territory of the other party.

The United States is prepared to begin discussions on arms control for ground-based intermediate- and short-range missiles and their launchers. NATO calls for Russia to engage with the United States on these discussions.

The United States is prepared to discuss transparency measures to confirm the absence of Tomahawk cruise missiles at Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland, so long as Russia provides reciprocal transparency measures on two ground-launched missile bases of U.S. choosing in Russia.

No similar articles.

The United States proposes to begin discussions immediately on follow-on measures to New START, including on how future arms control would cover all U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons (strategic and non-strategic, deployed and non-deployed) and new kinds of nuclear-armed intercontinental-range delivery vehicles. NATO calls for Russia to engage with the United States on these discussions.

NATO calls for all states to recommit to their international arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation obligations and commitments, such as toward the Chemical Weapons Convention and Biological Weapons Convention. NATO calls for Russia to resume implementation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty.

NATO is ready to consult on ways to reduce threats to space systems and to promote a free and peaceful cyberspace.

Sources: Article 6, Russia Proposal to U.S.; Article 5, Russia Proposal to NATO; Pages 3 and 4, U.S. Response to Russia; Article 9, NATO Response to Russia
Nuclear and Conventional Forces Posture

Parties shall not deploy nuclear weapons outside their national territories and shall destroy all existing infrastructure for deployment of nuclear weapons outside of their national territories.

Parties shall not train military and civilian personnel from non-nuclear countries to use nuclear weapons or conduct exercises that include scenarios involving the use of nuclear weapons.

The United States and NATO are prepared to discuss areas of disagreement between NATO and Russia on U.S. and NATO force posture, including possibly the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe, and discuss conventional forces concerns, including enhanced transparency and risk reduction through the Vienna Document.

NATO is prepared to discuss holding reciprocal briefings on Russia's and NATO's nuclear policies.

Sources: Article 7, Russia Proposal to U.S.; Article 4, Russia Proposal to NATO; Page 3, U.S. Response to Russia; Article 9, NATO Response to Russia
NATO-Russia Relations

Parties reaffirm that they do not consider each other as adversaries.

Parties shall not undertake actions, participate in activities, or implement security measures that undermine the security interests of the other party. Parties shall not use the territories of other states to execute an armed attack against the other party.

Parties shall settle all international disputes by peaceful rather than forceful means. Parties shall use fora such as the NATO-Russia Council to address issues or settle problems. Parties shall establish telephone hotlines.

NATO poses no threat to Russia.

NATO believes that tensions and disagreements must be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy, rather than through the threat or use of force. NATO calls for Russia's immediate de-escalation around Ukraine. 

NATO supports re-establishing NATO and Russian mutual presence in Moscow and Brussels and establishing a civilian telephone hotline.

Sources: Articles 1 and 3, Russia Proposal to U.S.; Articles 1, 2, and 3, Russia Proposal to NATO; Articles 1, 2, and 7, NATO Response to Russia
NATO Expansion

All NATO member states shall commit to prohibit any further NATO expansion, to include denying the accession of Ukraine. The United States shall not establish military bases in or develop bilateral military cooperation with former USSR states who are not part of NATO. 

The United States and NATO are committed to supporting NATO's open door policy. The United States is willing to discuss reciprocal transparency measures and commitments by both the United States and Russia to not deploy offensive ground-launched missile systems and permanent combat forces in Ukraine.

Sources: Article 4, Russia Proposal to U.S.; Article 6, Russia Proposal to NATO; Pages 1 and 2, U.S. Response to Russia; Article 8, NATO Response to Russia
Military Maneuvers and Exercises 

Parties shall regularly inform each other about military exercises and main provisions of their military doctrines.

Parties shall not deploy armed forces in areas where the deployment could be perceived by the other party as a threat to its national security (except when the deployment is within the national territories of the parties).

Parties shall not fly heavy bombers (whether nuclear or non-nuclear) or deploy surface warships in areas outside national airspace and national territorial waters where they can strike targets in the territory of the other party. 

Parties shall maintain dialogue to prevent dangerous military activities at sea.

NATO calls for Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova.

The United States is prepared to discuss confidence building measures regarding ground-based military exercises in Europe (to include modernization of the Vienna Document) and to explore an enhanced exercise notification regime and nuclear risk reduction measures (including strategic nuclear bomber platforms).

The United States and NATO are prepared to explore measures to prevent incidents at sea and in the air (to include discussing enhancements in the Incidents at Sea Agreement and the Vienna Document).

Sources: Article 5, Russia Proposal to U.S.; Articles 2, 3, and 7, Russia Proposal to NATO; Pages 2 and 3, U.S. Response to Russia; Articles 8 and 9, NATO Response to Russia
Reaffirmation of UN Charter

Parties shall ensure that all international organizations or military alliances in which at least one party participates adhere to the principles contained in the United Nations Charter. 

NATO remains committed to the fundamental principles and agreements underpinning European security, including the United Nations Charter.

Sources: Article 2, Russia Proposal to U.S.; Article 8, Russia Proposal to NATO; Article 3, NATO Response to Russia

 

A chart outlining proposals put forward by the three parties to resolve differences over Ukraine and European security.

Russia’s War on Ukraine and the Risk of Nuclear Escalation: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

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Volume 14, Issue 3, Feb. 28, 2022

Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director (202-463-8270 x107); Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst (202-463-8270 x113)

Disponible en español

In the midst of his catastrophic, premeditated military assault on Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin Feb. 27 ordered Russia’s nuclear forces to move to a higher state of alert of “a special regime of combat duty,” unnecessarily escalating an already dangerous situation created by his indefensible decision to invade another sovereign nation.

By choosing the path of destruction rather than diplomacy, Putin has launched a violent military assault that threatens millions of innocent civilians in independent, democratic Ukraine.

Putin has also sharpened tensions between Russia and member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), increased the risk of conflict elsewhere on the European continent, and derailed past and potential future progress on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, possibly for years to come.

Putin’s order to put Russia’s nuclear forces on higher alert is not a complete surprise given his previous implied threats against any nation that tried to stop him in Ukraine.

But clearly, inserting nuclear weapons into the Ukraine war equation at this point is extremely dangerous. It is essential that U.S. President Joe Biden along with NATO leaders act with extreme restraint and not respond in kind. This is a very dangerous moment in this crisis, and all leaders, particularly Putin, need to step back from the nuclear brink.

In justifying his actions, Putin has pointed to longtime grievances, such as NATO’s expansion eastward, and the specious claim that Kyiv has plans to build nuclear weapons or obtain them from the United States. Ukraine was neither headed for NATO membership any time soon nor seeking a nuclear weapons capability. Ukraine did not pose the kind of threat that Putin claimed to justify his invasion.

Tragically, Putin also bypassed diplomatic options that could have addressed many of Russia’s stated security concerns in Europe.

In December, Moscow transmitted to each the United States and NATO a proposal on security guarantees, which included several nonstarters, such as a prohibition on allowing Ukraine to join NATO.

Nevertheless, the Russian proposal, as well as the U.S. and NATO counterproposals, highlighted potential areas for negotiations to resolve mutual security concerns. Yet, with the invasion of Ukraine, Putin has made any further progress on arms control and risk reduction impossible, at least for the time being.

The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which is the only remaining treaty limiting U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, expires in four years, which is a short period of time for negotiating and securing the necessary domestic support for a replacement arrangement.

As we wrote last week, “Although Putin’s regime must suffer international isolation now, U.S. and Russian leaders must eventually seek to resume talks through their stalled strategic security dialogue to defuse broader NATO-Russia tensions and maintain common sense arms control measures to prevent an all-out arms race.”

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about Putin’s war in Ukraine, Russia’s nuclear weapons, and the risks of escalation.—DARYL G. KIMBALL, executive director, and SHANNON BUGOS, senior policy analyst


What did Putin say, what does it mean, and how should we respond?

Putin’s statement is probably designed to reinforce his earlier implied threats that were clearly designed to try to ward off any military interference in his attack on Ukraine, a non-nuclear weapon state.

“Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly economic actions against our country, but leaders of major NATO countries are making aggressive statements about our country,” Putin said Feb. 27 in a meeting with defense officials. “So, I order to move Russia’s deterrence forces to a special regime of combat duty.”

A few days prior in his speech announcing his decision to invade Ukraine, Putin threatened any country that “tries to stand in our way or all the more so create threats for our country and our people” with consequences “such as you have never seen in your entire history.”

Putin’s threat is unprecedented in the post-Cold War era—and unacceptable. There has been no instance in which a U.S. or a Russian leader has raised the alert level of their nuclear forces in the middle of a crisis in order to try to coerce the other side's behavior.

The White House and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg immediately denounced the move but did not indicate they would follow suit.

“This is really a pattern that we’ve seen from President Putin through the course of this conflict, which is manufacturing threats that don’t exist in order to justify further aggression,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki commented Feb. 27. “At no point has Russia been under threat from NATO [or] has Russia been under threat from Ukraine.”

“We have the ability to defend ourselves,” assured Psaki.

“This is dangerous rhetoric,” Stoltenberg said. “This is a behavior which is irresponsible.”

It is not clear at this point, however, what changes to Russian operational readiness Putin has put into motion. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reportedly told Putin Feb. 28 that all nuclear command posts have been boosted with additional personnel.

Yet, one senior U.S. defense cautioned that while there is “no reason to doubt the validity of this order[,]…how it’s manifested itself I don’t think is completely clear yet.”

Pavel Podvig, director of the Russian Nuclear Forces Project, tweeted Feb. 27 that he is unsure that “we are dealing with elevated readiness level,” adding that, in his view, “it’s different.” Rather, he proposed that Putin’s order “most likely…means that the nuclear command and control system received what is known as a preliminary command.” This type of command, Podvig described, brings the nuclear systems into a working condition, but it “is not something that suggests that Russia is preparing itself to strike first.”

“The basic idea here is clearly to scare ‘the West’ into backing down. But part [of] the danger here is that it's not clear to me Putin has a clear de-escalation pathway in mind (except for the capitulation of Ukraine),” tweeted James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

What Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons also underscores is that nuclear weapons cannot prevent nuclear-armed states from launching major wars and that they increase the risk of an armed conflict between nuclear-armed states and nuclear-armed alliances. Rather than increasing security, they increase the danger of war by way of fostering the possibility of miscalculation and advertent or inadvertent escalation.

In the case of Russia’s war against Ukraine, Putin is essentially using the threat of nuclear weapons as a cover for his massive invasion of a non-nuclear weapons state. Key U.S. officials share the view that nuclear weapons can provide cover for projecting conventional military force. Admiral Charles Richard, head of U.S. Strategic Command, said in remarks published in February 2021 that "We must acknowledge the foundation nature of our nation's strategic nuclear forces, as they create the 'maneuver space' for us to project conventional military power strategically."


Have U.S. or Russian leaders made any similar nuclear threats against one another since the end of the Cold War?

No. Putin’s public implied nuclear threats toward NATO and the United States and his decision to raise the alert status of Russia’s nuclear forces is unprecedented in the post-Cold War era.

However, during the Cold War, between 1948 and 1961 as well as the the period between the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and into the mid-1970s, there were numerous nuclear threats and alerts designed to change the behavior of adversaries.

For example, President Richard Nixon and his national security adviser Henry Kissinger developed what he called the "madman theory," which posited that threatening massive, even excessive, levels of military violence, including nuclear attacks, would intimidate the North Vietnamese and their patrons in the Soviet Union into submission at the negotiating table.

On Oct. 9, 1969, Nixon and Kissinger instructed the Pentagon to place U.S. nuclear and other military forces around the globe on alert, and to do so secretly. For 18 days in October of that year, the Pentagon carried out one of the largest and most extensive secret military operations in U.S. history. Tactical and strategic bomber forces and submarines armed with Polaris missiles went on alert. This "Joint Chiefs Readiness Test" culminated in a flight of nuclear-armed B-52 bombers over northern Alaska.

The secret 1969 U.S. nuclear alert, though certainly noticed by Soviet leaders, failed to pressure them into helping Nixon win concessions from Hanoi. Nixon switched his Vietnam strategy from one of intimidation to one of steady troop withdrawals and Vietnamization—reinforced by rapprochement with China and détente with the Soviet Union. In the end, he exited Vietnam only after negotiating an unsatisfactory armistice agreement.

In the past, similar nuclear gambits have failed to work as intended. Such threats are unlikely to succeed when the side threatened possesses its own nuclear weapons capabilities, when a non-nuclear state or a guerrilla or terror group is presumably under the protection of a nuclear state, or when the nuclear threat is disproportionate and therefore not credible because it is aimed at a small country or non-state actor.


How many nuclear weapons do Russia, the United States, and NATO currently have?

The United States deploys 1,389 strategic warheads on 665 strategic delivery systems, and Russia deploys 1,458 strategic nuclear warheads on 527 strategic delivery systems as of September 2021 and according to the counting rules established by the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Both countries are currently modernizing their nuclear delivery systems.

Strategic warheads are counted using the provisions of New START, which Biden and Putin agreed to extend for five years in January 2021 but will expire in 2026. New START caps each country at 1,550 strategic warheads deployed on 700 delivery systems, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers assigned a nuclear mission.

The U.K. and France, also NATO members, are estimated to possess 225 nuclear warheads and 290 respectively.

The United States also has an estimated 160 B-61 nuclear gravity bombs that are forward-deployed across six NATO bases in five European countries: Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The total estimated U.S. B-61 stockpile amounts to 230.

In addition, Russia is believed to have an estimated 1,900 non-strategic, or tactical, nuclear weapons, all of which are thought to be in central storage, not deployed in the field.

Russia, like the United States, keeps its land-based ICBMs on a high state of readiness at all times, and it is believed that Russia’s SLBMs, like the U.S. forces, are similarly postured. The ICBM forces of both countries are maintained on a “launch-under-attack” posture, meaning they can be launched within minutes of an authorized “go” order by either leader and can arrive at their targets within 20 minutes or less. This posture leaves each side with very little time to make a decision about launching a retaliatory strike if they detect a launch of strategic nuclear weapons against their forces, which creates the risk that a false alarm could trigger nuclear war.

Sea-based strategic nuclear weapons, which are extremely hard to detect and destroy, can be fired nearly as quickly at their targets depending on their location. Other systems, such as strategic bomber-based weapons, take relatively more time to arm with nuclear weapons and reach their target launch points, but bombers can be recalled for a period of time after launch orders are given.


What are the policies governing U.S. and Russian nuclear use?

Both U.S. and Russian presidents have sole authority to authorize the use of nuclear weapons, meaning they do not require concurrence from their respective military and security advisers or by other elected representatives of the people.

Current U.S. and Russian military strategies reserve the option to use nuclear weapons first. In Russia’s case, its military policy allows for the president to order the use of nuclear weapons if the state is at risk or possibly if Russia is losing a major war. The theory is that a “limited” use of nuclear weapons could halt an adversary’s advances or even tip the balance back in favor of the losing side.

Some U.S. officials have argued for deployment of additional types of “more usable” low-yield nuclear weapons in the arsenal. However, even what are deemed low-yield nuclear weapons today still hold immense power. For instance, the low-yield W76-2, a new warhead deployed in late 2019 for U.S. submarine-launched ballistic missiles, is estimated to have an explosive yield of five kilotons, roughly one-third the yield of the bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

But once nuclear weapons are used in a conflict involving nuclear-armed adversaries—even if on a so-called “limited scale” involving a handful of “smaller” Hiroshima-sized bombs—there is no guarantee the conflict would not escalate and become a global nuclear conflagration.

Biden and Putin both seem to understand that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” a statement originally endorsed in 1985 by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev and reiterated by the five countries with the largest nuclear arsenals in January 2022.

The former head of U.S. Strategic Command, Gen. John Hyten, described in 2018 how the command’s annual nuclear command and control and field training always ends. “It ends bad,” he said. “And the bad meaning it ends with global nuclear war.”

However, such a recognition among leaders does not mean a nuclear war will not break out. After all, Putin has demonstrated that he is an extreme risk-taker.

To reduce the risk of nuclear war and draw a strong distinction between Putin's irresponsible nuclear threats and U.S. behavior, Biden should adjust U.S. declaratory policy by clarifying that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter the first use of nuclear weapons by others. A sole purpose policy would rule out the use of nuclear weapons in a preemptive strike or in response to a non-nuclear attack on the United States or its allies, increase strategic stability, and reduce the risk of nuclear war.

In fact, during the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden wrote in Foreign Affairs: “As I said in 2017, I believe that the sole purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal should be deterring—and, if necessary, retaliating against—a nuclear attack. As president, I will work to put that belief into practice, in consultation with the U.S. military and U.S. allies.”

Ultimately, even the best intentions of one side cannot ensure that the interests of all to prevent the use of nuclear weapons will win out. Therefore, the only action that can actually prevent the use of nuclear weapons is the removal of these weapons from the battlefield and their verifiable elimination.


What would be the effects from an outbreak of nuclear war?

Beyond the many dangers to the millions of innocent people caught in Putin’s war of choice against Ukraine, there is also an increased risk that the war might lead to an even more severe, if unintentional, escalatory spiral involving NATO and Russian forces, both of which have nuclear weapons at their disposal.

The indiscriminate and horrific effects of nuclear weapons use are well-established, which is why the vast majority of the world’s nations consider policies that threaten nuclear use to be dangerous, immoral, and legally unjustifiable and consequently have developed the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

If Russian or NATO leaders chose to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict in Europe, the result could be a quick escalation from a local disaster into a European nuclear war and then a global catastrophe. Millions, perhaps tens of millions, would die in the first 45 minutes.

A detailed study published in 2002 assessed the direct consequences of a major conflict between the United and Russia.

The study concluded that if 350 of the strategic nuclear warheads in the Russian arsenal reached major industrial and military targets in the United States, an estimated 70 to 100 million people would die in the first hours from the explosions and fires.

The U.S. president could quickly retaliate with as many as 1,350 nuclear weapons on long range missiles and bombers and, in consultation with allies, another 160 nuclear gravity bombs on shorter-range fighter-bombers based in five NATO countries in Europe.

Many more people would be exposed to lethal doses of radiation. The entire economic infrastructure of the country would be destroyed—the internet, the electric grid, the food distribution system, the health system, the banking system, and the transportation network.

In the following weeks and months, the vast majority of those who did not die in the initial attack would succumb to starvation, exposure, radiation poisoning, and epidemic disease. A U.S. counterattack would cause the same level of destruction in Russia, and if NATO forces were involved in the war, Canada and Europe would also suffer a similar fate.

More recent scientific studies indicate that the dust and soot produced by a nuclear exchange of 100-200 detonations would create lasting and potentially catastrophic climactic effects that would devastate food production and lead to famine in many parts of the world.


What are the past and present arms control treaties that have limited U.S. and Soviet/Russian nuclear weapons? What is the status of those treaties?

During the Cold War and after, arms control agreements helped to win and maintain the peace.

However, there has been growing mistrust between Russia and the West in recent years, leading to and fueling the loss of pivotal conventional and nuclear arms control and/or risk reduction treaties through negligence, noncompliance, or outright withdrawal.

Some of these treaties, which have acted as guardrails preventing the outbreak of catastrophic conventional and nuclear wars, included:

In the absence of these agreements, cooperation between the parties has eroded, concerns about military capabilities have grown, and the risk of miscalculation skyrocketed.

Of note is also the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which prohibits nuclear test explosions and established a global monitoring and verification network. The treaty has 185 signatories, including China, Russia, and the United States. During the course of the nuclear age, at least eight states conducted more than 2,000 nuclear weapon test blasts above ground, underground, and underwater. The CTBT has effectively halted nuclear test explosions. However, the treaty is not yet in force due to the failure of eight states to ratify, leaving the door to nuclear testing in the future ajar.

In addition, the United States and the Soviet Union—and later Russia—negotiated a series of treaties that capped and eventually reversed the nuclear arms race. These included:

  • The 1972 Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I): Though important as the first such treaty, it only slowed the growth of the two countries’ long-range nuclear arsenals. It ignored nuclear-armed strategic bombers and did not cap warhead numbers, leaving both sides free to enlarge their forces by deploying multiple warheads onto their missiles and increasing their bomber-based forces.
  • The 1979 SALT II: This treaty was never formally ratified because the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan later that year, but Reagan agreed to respect its limits.
  • The 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I): This agreement, which expired in December 2009, was the first to require the United States and the Soviet Union to reduce their strategic deployed arsenals and destroy excess delivery systems through an intrusive verification involving on-site inspections, the regular exchange of information, and the use of national technical means (i.e., satellites). START I was delayed for several years due to the collapse of the Soviet Union and ensuing efforts to denuclearize Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus by returning their nuclear weapons to Russia and making them non-nuclear weapons states under the nuclear 1968 Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and parties to START I.
  • The 1993 START II: This treaty called for further cuts in deployed strategic arsenals and banned the deployment of destabilizing multiple-warhead land-based missiles. However, it never entered into force due to the U.S. withdrawal in 2002 from the ABM Treaty.
  • The 1997 START III Framework: This framework for a third START included a reduction in deployed strategic warheads to 2,000-2,500. Significantly, in addition to requiring the destruction of delivery vehicles, START III negotiations were to address “the destruction of strategic nuclear warheads…to promote the irreversibility of deep reductions including prevention of a rapid increase in the number of warheads.” Negotiations were supposed to begin after START II entered into force, which never happened.
  • The 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT or Moscow Treaty): This treaty required the United States and Russia to reduce their strategic arsenals to 1,700-2,200 warheads each. Unfortunately, it did not include a treaty-specific verification and monitoring regime. SORT was replaced by New START Feb. 5, 2011 .
  • The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START): This legally binding, verifiable agreement limits each side to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 700 strategic ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers assigned a nuclear mission. The treaty has a strong verification regime. The United States and Russia agreed Feb. 3, 2021, to extend New START by five years, as allowed by the treaty text, until Feb. 5, 2026.

As a result of these agreements, the total stockpiles of the two countries have been slashed from their peaks in the mid-1980s at almost 70,000 nuclear weapons to about 10,000 total U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons today. Plus, we no longer live in a world in which nuclear-armed states are detonating nuclear test explosions to perfect new and more deadly types of nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, the United States and Russia still currently possess far more nuclear weapons than necessary to destroy one another many times over and more than enough to deter a nuclear attack from the other.

Consequently, the United States and Russia should further reduce their nuclear stockpiles and work to get other nuclear-armed countries involved in the process and eventually in the agreements. In 2013, for instance, the Obama administration found that the United States could further cut its deployed nuclear arsenal to about 1,000 without sacrificing U.S. or allied security.

Unless Washington and Moscow resume talks to reach a new agreement to replace New START before its expiration, there will be no limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972—and we risk an all-out nuclear arms race once again.

Admittedly, however, Putin’s destructive, indefensible war on Ukraine will make that task much tougher.


How should the United States and NATO respond to Putin’s threat and minimize the risk of an outbreak of nuclear war?

The danger of miscalculation and escalation, including to the nuclear level, among adversaries is real and high.

Though Russia has yet to locate military forces along the Ukrainian-Polish border, for instance, there is a possibility that Russian and NATO forces will engage militarily, prompting the situation to quickly spin further out of control.

There is also the potential for close military encounters elsewhere involving U.S./NATO and Russian aircraft, warships, and submarines.

In the days and weeks and months ahead, leaders in Moscow, Washington, and Europe, as well as military commanders in the field, must be careful to avoid new and destabilizing military deployments, dangerous encounters between Russian and NATO forces, and the introduction of new types of conventional or nuclear weapons that undermine shared security interests.

For example, the offer from Russia’s client state, Belarus, to host Russian tactical nuclear weapons, if pursued by Putin, would further undermine Russian and European security and increase the risk of nuclear war. Unfortunately, Belarus voted Feb. 27 in a referendum to abandon its status as a non-nuclear state.


How can the United States and Russia get nuclear arms reduction efforts back on track?

Due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Putin’s regime will and should face the consequences and suffer international isolation imposed through a strong and unified front.

For the time being, this isolation includes a suspension of the bilateral U.S.-Russian strategic stability dialogue, which Biden and Putin resumed in June 2021 and last convened in early January 2022.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman confirmed Feb. 26 that Washington will not proceed with the dialogue under the current circumstances, saying that she sees “no reason” to do so. The day prior, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said that while “arms control is something that will continue to be in our national security interest,…we don’t have another iteration of the Strategic Stability Dialogue planned.”

Eventually, however, U.S. and Russian leaders must seek to resume talks through their bilateral strategic security dialogue in order to prevent even greater NATO-Russia tensions and maintain common-sense arms control and risk reduction measures.

The Russian proposal on security guarantees from December 2021 and the U.S. (as well as NATO) counterproposal from January 2022 contain areas of overlap, demonstrating that there is room for negotiations to resolve mutual security concerns. The areas with the most promise are related to crafting a new agreement similar to the now-defunct INF Treaty; negotiating a follow-on to New START; agreeing to scale back large military exercises; and establishing risk reduction and transparency measures, such as hotlines.

Washington must test whether Moscow is serious about such options and, if possible, restart the strategic stability dialogue—and they must try to do so before New START expires in early 2026, else the next showdown will be even riskier.

In the long run, U.S., Russian, and European leaders—and their people—cannot lose sight of the fact that war and the threat of nuclear war are the common enemies. Russia and the West have a shared interest in striking agreements that further slash bloated strategic nuclear forces, regulate shorter-range “battlefield” nuclear arsenals, and set limits on long-range missile defenses.


Should Ukraine have kept its nuclear weapons that it inherited from the Soviet Union? Will Ukraine seek to have nuclear weapons once again?

Putin’s invasion of Crimea in 2014 and the current invasion violate the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances.

In 1994, the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom signed this important agreement, which extended security assurances against the threat or use of force against Ukraine’s territory or political independence. In return, the newly independent Ukraine acceded to the nuclear 1968 Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear-weapon state and gave up the 1,900 nuclear warheads it inherited from the Soviet Union.

Ukraine did not have operational control of and could not have safely maintained those nuclear weapons. Any attempt by Kyiv to keep these nuclear weapons would only have resulted in greater danger for Ukraine, Europe, and the world.

Arguments that a nuclear-armed Ukraine would be safer today are fallacies, as are any claims that Kyiv seeks to build or obtain nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons do not make anyone safer and instead pose an existential threat to all of us.

Putin’s takeover of Crimea in 2014 and this new, massive invasion in 2022 serve to undermine the NPT and reinforce the unfortunate impression that nuclear-armed states can bully non-nuclear states, thereby reducing the incentives for nuclear disarmament and making it more difficult to prevent nuclear proliferation.

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Although Putin's regime must suffer international isolation now, U.S. and Russian leaders must eventually seek to resume talks through their stalled strategic security dialogue to defuse broader NATO-Russia tensions and maintain common sense arms control measures to prevent an all-out arms race.

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La guerra de Rusia contra Ucrania y el riesgo de una escalada nuclear: respuestas a preguntas frecuentes

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Volumen 14, número 3, 28 de febrero de 2022

Contactos con los medios: Daryl Kimball, director ejecutivo (202-463-8270 x107); Shannon Bugos, analista sénior de políticas (202-463-8270 x113)

Read this in English.

En medio de su ataque militar premeditado y catastrófico contra Ucrania, el 27 de febrero, el presidente ruso, Vladimir Putin, ordenó a las fuerzas nucleares de Rusia pasar a un estado de alerta más alto de "un régimen especial de servicio de combate", lo que intensificó innecesariamente una situación ya peligrosa creada por su decisión indefendible de invadir otra nación soberana.

Al elegir el camino de la destrucción en lugar de la diplomacia, Putin ha lanzado un ataque militar violento que amenaza a millones de civiles inocentes en una Ucrania independiente y democrática.

Putin también agudizó las tensiones entre Rusia y los estados miembros de la Organización del Tratado del Atlántico Norte (OTAN), aumentó el riesgo de conflicto en otras partes del continente europeo y descarriló el progreso pasado y futuro potencial en la no proliferación nuclear y el desarme, posiblemente en los años venideros.

La orden de Putin de poner a las fuerzas nucleares de Rusia en alerta máxima no es una completa sorpresa dadas sus amenazas implícitas anteriores contra cualquier nación que intentara detenerlo en Ucrania.

Pero claramente, insertar armas nucleares en la ecuación de guerra de Ucrania en este punto es extremadamente peligroso. Es esencial que el presidente de los Estados Unidos, Joe Biden, junto con los líderes de la OTAN, actúen con extrema moderación y no respondan del mismo modo. Este es un momento muy peligroso en esta crisis, y todos los líderes, particularmente Putin, deben alejarse del borde nuclear.

Al justificar sus acciones, Putin ha señalado agravios de larga data, como la expansión de la OTAN hacia el este y la engañosa afirmación de que Kiev tiene planes para construir armas nucleares u obtenerlas de Estados Unidos. Ucrania no iba a alcanzar la membresía de la OTAN  en un plazo corto de tiempo ni buscaba una capacidad de armas nucleares. Ucrania no representaba el tipo de amenaza que Putin afirmó para justificar su invasión.

Trágicamente, Putin también pasó por alto las opciones diplomáticas que podrían haber abordado muchas de las preocupaciones de seguridad declaradas por Rusia en Europa.

En diciembre, Moscú transmitió tanto a Estados Unidos como a la OTAN una propuesta sobre garantías de seguridad, que incluía varios obstáculos, como la prohibición de permitir que Ucrania se una a la OTAN.

La propuesta rusa, así como las contrapropuestas de EE. UU. y la OTAN, destacaron áreas potenciales de negociación para resolver preocupaciones de seguridad mutua. Sin embargo, con la invasión de Ucrania, Putin ha hecho imposible cualquier progreso adicional en el control de armas y la reducción de riesgos, al menos por el momento.

El Nuevo Tratado de Reducción de Armas Estratégicas de 2010 (Nuevo START), que es el único tratado restante que limita los arsenales nucleares de EE. UU. y Rusia, vence en cuatro años, que es un período corto de tiempo para negociar y asegurar el apoyo interno necesario para un arreglo de reemplazo.

Como escribimos la semana pasada, “Aunque el régimen de Putin debe sufrir el aislamiento internacional ahora, los líderes de EE. UU. y Rusia deben eventualmente tratar de reanudar las conversaciones a través de su estancado diálogo de seguridad estratégica para calmar las tensiones más amplias entre la OTAN y Rusia y mantener medidas de control de armas de sentido común para evitar una carrera armamentista”.

A continuación se encuentran las respuestas a las preguntas frecuentes sobre la guerra de Putin en Ucrania, las armas nucleares de Rusia y los riesgos de una escalada.—DARYL G. KIMBALL, director ejecutivo, y SHANNON BUGOS, analista principal de políticas

¿Qué dijo Putin, qué significa y cómo debemos responder?

La declaración de Putin probablemente esté diseñada para reforzar sus amenazas implícitas anteriores que estaban claramente diseñadas para tratar de evitar cualquier interferencia militar en su ataque a Ucrania, un estado sin armas nucleares.

“Los países occidentales no solo están tomando medidas económicas hostiles contra nuestro país, sino que los líderes de los principales países de la OTAN están haciendo declaraciones agresivas sobre nuestro país”, dijo Putin el 27 de febrero en una reunión con funcionarios de defensa. “Por eso, ordeno trasladar las fuerzas de disuasión de Rusia a un régimen especial de servicio de combate”.

Unos días antes, en su discurso anunciando su decisión de invadir Ucrania, Putin amenazó a cualquier país que “trate de interponerse en nuestro camino o, más aún, cree amenazas para nuestro país y nuestra gente” con consecuencias “como nunca se ha visto en toda tu historia.”

La amenaza de Putin no tiene precedentes en la era posterior a la Guerra Fría, y es inaceptable. No ha habido ningún caso en el que un líder estadounidense o ruso haya elevado el nivel de alerta de sus fuerzas nucleares en medio de una crisis para tratar de coaccionar el comportamiento del otro lado.

La Casa Blanca y el secretario general de la OTAN, Jens Stoltenberg, denunciaron de inmediato la medida, pero no indicaron que harían lo mismo.

“Este es realmente un patrón que hemos visto del presidente Putin a lo largo de este conflicto, que está fabricando amenazas que no existen para justificar una mayor agresión”, comentó la secretaria de prensa de la Casa Blanca, Jen Psaki, el 27 de febrero. “ En ningún momento Rusia ha estado bajo la amenaza de la OTAN [o] Rusia ha estado bajo la amenaza de Ucrania”.

“Tenemos la capacidad de defendernos”, aseguró Psaki.

“Esta es una retórica peligrosa”, dijo Stoltenberg. “Este es un comportamiento que es irresponsable”.

Sin embargo, en este momento no está claro qué cambios ha puesto en marcha Putin en la preparación operativa rusa. Según se informa, el ministro de Defensa ruso, Sergei Shoigu, le dijo a Putin el 28 de febrero que todos los puestos de mando nuclear han sido reforzados con personal adicional.

Sin embargo, un alto defensor de los EE. UU. advirtió que si bien “no hay motivo para dudar de la validez de esta orden[,]… no creo que esté del todo claro todavía cómo se manifiesta”.

Pavel Podvig, director del Proyecto de Fuerzas Nucleares de Rusia, tuiteó el 27 de febrero que no está seguro de que “estamos lidiando con un nivel de preparación elevado”, y agregó que, en su opinión, “es diferente”. Más bien, propuso que la orden de Putin “muy probablemente… signifique que el sistema de comando y control nuclear recibió lo que se conoce como un comando preliminar”. Este tipo de comando, describió Podvig, pone los sistemas nucleares en condiciones de funcionamiento, pero "no es algo que sugiera que Rusia se está preparando para atacar primero".

“La idea básica aquí es claramente asustar a 'Occidente' para que retroceda. Pero parte [del] peligro aquí es que no me queda claro que Putin tenga en mente un camino claro de desescalada (excepto por la capitulación de Ucrania)”, tuiteó James Acton, codirector del Programa de Política Nuclear en el Fondo para la Paz Internacional de Carnegie.

Lo que la amenaza de Putin de usar armas nucleares también subraya es que las armas nucleares no pueden evitar que los estados con armas nucleares lancen guerras importantes y que aumentan el riesgo de un conflicto armado entre estados con armas nucleares y alianzas con armas nucleares. En lugar de aumentar la seguridad, aumentan el peligro de guerra al fomentar la posibilidad de un error de cálculo y una escalada deliberada o inadvertida.

En el caso de la guerra de Rusia contra Ucrania, Putin está utilizando esencialmente la amenaza de las armas nucleares como una tapadera para su invasión masiva de un estado sin armas nucleares. Funcionarios estadounidenses clave comparten la opinión de que las armas nucleares pueden servir de cobertura para proyectar una fuerza militar convencional. El almirante Charles Richard, jefe del Comando Estratégico de EE. UU., dijo en declaraciones publicadas en febrero de 2021 que "debemos reconocer la naturaleza fundamental de las fuerzas nucleares estratégicas de nuestra nación, ya que crean el 'espacio de maniobra' para que podamos proyectar estratégicamente el poder militar convencional".

¿Han hecho los líderes estadounidenses o rusos alguna amenaza nuclear similar entre sí desde el final de la Guerra Fría?

No. Las amenazas nucleares implícitas públicas de Putin hacia la OTAN y los Estados Unidos y su decisión de elevar el estado de alerta de las fuerzas nucleares de Rusia no tiene precedentes en la era posterior a la Guerra Fría.

Sin embargo, durante la Guerra Fría, entre 1948 y 1961, así como el período entre la Crisis de los Misiles Cubanos de 1962 y mediados de la década de 1970, hubo numerosas amenazas y alertas nucleares diseñadas para cambiar el comportamiento de los adversarios.

Por ejemplo, el presidente Richard Nixon y su asesor de seguridad nacional, Henry Kissinger, desarrollaron lo que él llamó la "teoría del loco", que postulaba que amenazar con niveles masivos, incluso excesivos, de violencia militar, incluidos ataques nucleares, intimidaría a los norvietnamitas y sus patrocinadores en la Unión Soviética a la sumisión en la mesa de negociaciones.

El 9 de octubre de 1969, Nixon y Kissinger ordenaron al Pentágono que pusiera en alerta a las fuerzas nucleares estadounidenses y otras fuerzas militares en todo el mundo, y que lo hiciera en secreto. Durante 18 días en octubre de ese año, el Pentágono llevó a cabo una de las operaciones militares secretas más grandes y extensas en la historia de Estados Unidos. Las fuerzas de bombarderos tácticos y estratégicos y los submarinos armados con misiles Polaris se pusieron en alerta. Esta "Prueba de preparación de los jefes conjuntos" culminó con un vuelo de bombarderos B-52 con armas nucleares sobre el norte de Alaska.

La alerta nuclear secreta de los EE. UU. de 1969, aunque ciertamente notada por los líderes soviéticos, no logró presionarlos para que ayudaran a Nixon a obtener concesiones de Hanoi. Nixon cambió su estrategia de Vietnam de una de intimidación a una de constantes retiradas de tropas y vietnamización, reforzada por el acercamiento a China y la distensión con la Unión Soviética. Al final, salió de Vietnam solo después de negociar un acuerdo de armisticio insatisfactorio.

En el pasado, tácticas nucleares similares no funcionaron según lo previsto. Es poco probable que tales amenazas tengan éxito cuando el lado amenazado posee sus propias capacidades de armas nucleares, cuando un estado no nuclear o un grupo guerrillero o terrorista está presumiblemente bajo la protección de un estado nuclear, o cuando la amenaza nuclear es desproporcionada y, por lo tanto, no es creíble. porque está dirigido a un país pequeño o actor no estatal.

¿Cuántas armas nucleares tienen actualmente Rusia, Estados Unidos y la OTAN?

Estados Unidos despliega 1389 ojivas nucleares estratégicas en 665 sistemas de entrega estratégica y Rusia despliega 1458 ojivas nucleares estratégicas en 527 sistemas de entrega estratégica a partir de septiembre de 2021 y de acuerdo con las reglas de conteo establecidas por el Nuevo Tratado de Reducción de Armas Estratégicas de 2010 (Nuevo START). Ambos países están actualmente modernizando sus sistemas de entrega nuclear.

Las ojivas estratégicas se cuentan utilizando las disposiciones del Nuevo START, que Biden y Putin acordaron extender por cinco años en enero de 2021 pero que expirará en 2026. El Nuevo START limita a cada país a 1550 ojivas estratégicas desplegadas en 700 sistemas de lanzamiento, incluidos misiles balísticos intercontinentales ( ICBM), misiles balísticos lanzados desde submarinos (SLBM) y bombarderos pesados ​​asignados a una misión nuclear.

Se estima que el Reino Unido y Francia, también miembros de la OTAN, poseen 225 ojivas nucleares y 290, respectivamente.

Estados Unidos también tiene un estimado de 160 bombas de gravedad nuclear B-61 que están desplegadas en seis bases de la OTAN en cinco países europeos: Italia, Alemania, Turquía, Bélgica y los Países Bajos. La reserva total estimada de B-61 de EE. UU. asciende a 230.

Además, se cree que Rusia tiene un estimado de 1.900 armas nucleares no estratégicas o tácticas, todas las cuales se cree que están en almacenamiento central, no desplegadas en el campo.

Rusia, al igual que Estados Unidos, mantiene sus misiles balísticos intercontinentales terrestres en un alto estado de preparación en todo momento, y se cree que los SLBM de Rusia, al igual que las fuerzas estadounidenses, tienen una postura similar. Las fuerzas de misiles balísticos intercontinentales de ambos países se mantienen en una postura de "lanzamiento bajo ataque", lo que significa que pueden lanzarse a los pocos minutos de una orden de "ir" autorizada por cualquiera de los líderes y pueden llegar a sus objetivos en 20 minutos o menos. Esta postura deja a cada lado con muy poco tiempo para tomar una decisión sobre el lanzamiento de un ataque de represalia si detectan un lanzamiento de armas nucleares estratégicas contra sus fuerzas, lo que crea el riesgo de que una falsa alarma pueda desencadenar una guerra nuclear.

Las armas nucleares estratégicas basadas en el mar, que son extremadamente difíciles de detectar y destruir, pueden dispararse casi tan rápido a sus objetivos dependiendo de su ubicación. Otros sistemas, como las armas estratégicas basadas en bombarderos, tardan relativamente más tiempo en armarse con armas nucleares y llegar a sus puntos de lanzamiento objetivo, pero los bombarderos pueden retirarse durante un período de tiempo después de que se dan las órdenes de lanzamiento.

¿Cuáles son las políticas que rigen el uso nuclear de EE. UU. y Rusia?

Tanto los presidentes de EE. UU. como los de Rusia tienen la autoridad exclusiva para autorizar el uso de armas nucleares, lo que significa que no requieren el consentimiento de sus respectivos asesores militares y de seguridad ni de otros representantes electos del pueblo.

Las estrategias militares actuales de EE. UU. y Rusia reservan la opción de usar armas nucleares primero. En el caso de Rusia, su política militar permite que el presidente ordene el uso de armas nucleares si el estado está en riesgo o posiblemente si Rusia está perdiendo una guerra importante. La teoría es que un uso “limitado” de armas nucleares podría detener los avances de un adversario o incluso inclinar la balanza a favor del bando perdedor.

Algunos funcionarios estadounidenses han abogado por el despliegue de tipos adicionales de armas nucleares de bajo rendimiento "más utilizables" en el arsenal. Sin embargo, incluso las que hoy en día se consideran armas nucleares de bajo rendimiento todavía tienen un poder inmenso. Por ejemplo, se estima que el W76-2 de bajo rendimiento, una nueva ojiva desplegada a fines de 2019 para misiles balísticos lanzados desde submarinos estadounidenses, tiene un rendimiento explosivo de cinco kilotones, aproximadamente un tercio del rendimiento de la bomba que Estados Unidos cayó sobre Hiroshima en 1945.

Pero una vez que se usan armas nucleares en un conflicto que involucra a adversarios con armas nucleares, incluso si en la llamada "escala limitada" que involucra un puñado de bombas "más pequeñas" del tamaño de Hiroshima, no hay garantía de que el conflicto no se intensifique y se convierta en un conflicto. conflagración nuclear mundial.

Biden y Putin parecen entender que “una guerra nuclear no se puede ganar y nunca se debe librar”, una declaración respaldada originalmente en 1985 por los presidentes Ronald Reagan y Mikhail Gorbachev y reiterada por los cinco países con los mayores arsenales nucleares en enero de 2022.

El exjefe del Comando Estratégico de EE. UU., el general John Hyten, describió en 2018 cómo el comando y control nuclear anual y el entrenamiento de campo del comando siempre terminan. “Termina mal”, dijo. “Y el mal significado de que termina con una guerra nuclear global”.

Sin embargo, tal reconocimiento entre los líderes no significa que no vaya a estallar una guerra nuclear. Después de todo, Putin ha demostrado que es un tomador de riesgos extremo.

Para reducir el riesgo de una guerra nuclear y establecer una fuerte distinción entre las amenazas nucleares irresponsables de Putin y el comportamiento de EE. UU., Biden debería ajustar la política declaratoria de EE. UU. aclarando que el único propósito de las armas nucleares es disuadir a otros de que las usen por primera vez. Una política de propósito único descartaría el uso de armas nucleares en un ataque preventivo o en respuesta a un ataque no nuclear contra los Estados Unidos o sus aliados, aumentaría la estabilidad estratégica y reduciría el riesgo de una guerra nuclear.

De hecho, durante la campaña presidencial de 2020, Biden escribió en Foreign Affairs: “Como dije en 2017, creo que el único propósito del arsenal nuclear de EE. UU. debería ser disuadir y, si es necesario, tomar represalias contra un ataque nuclear. Como presidente, trabajaré para poner en práctica esa creencia, en consulta con el ejército de los EE. UU. y los aliados de los EE. UU.

En última instancia, incluso las mejores intenciones de un lado no pueden garantizar que triunfen los intereses de todos para evitar el uso de armas nucleares. Por lo tanto, la única acción que realmente puede prevenir el uso de armas nucleares es la remoción de estas armas del campo de batalla y su eliminación verificable.

¿Cuáles serían los efectos de un estallido de guerra nuclear?

Más allá de los muchos peligros para los millones de personas inocentes atrapadas en la guerra elegida por Putin contra Ucrania, también existe un mayor riesgo de que la guerra pueda conducir a una escalada aún más grave, aunque involuntaria, en espiral que involucre a las fuerzas de la OTAN y Rusia, las cuales tienen armas nucleares a su disposición.

Los efectos indiscriminados y terribles del uso de armas nucleares están bien establecidos, razón por la cual la gran mayoría de las naciones del mundo consideran que las políticas que amenazan el uso nuclear son peligrosas, inmorales y legalmente injustificables y, en consecuencia, han desarrollado el Tratado sobre la prohibición de armas nucleares de 2017. Armas Nucleares (TPNW).

Si los líderes rusos o de la OTAN optan por usar armas nucleares primero en un conflicto en Europa, el resultado podría ser una rápida escalada de un desastre local a una guerra nuclear europea y luego a una catástrofe global. Millones, quizás decenas de millones, morirían en los primeros 45 minutos.

Un estudio detallado publicado en 2002 evaluó las consecuencias directas de un gran conflicto entre Estados Unidos y Rusia.

El estudio concluyó que si 350 de las ojivas nucleares estratégicas en el arsenal ruso alcanzaran objetivos industriales y militares importantes en los Estados Unidos, se estima que entre 70 y 100 millones de personas morirían en las primeras horas a causa de las explosiones y los incendios.

El presidente de EE. UU. podría tomar represalias rápidamente con hasta 1.350 armas nucleares en misiles y bombarderos de largo alcance y, en consulta con los aliados, otras 160 bombas de gravedad nuclear en cazabombarderos de corto alcance con base en cinco países de la OTAN en Europa.

Muchas más personas estarían expuestas a dosis letales de radiación. Se destruiría toda la infraestructura económica del país: Internet, la red eléctrica, el sistema de distribución de alimentos, el sistema de salud, el sistema bancario y la red de transporte.

En las siguientes semanas y meses, la gran mayoría de los que no murieron en el ataque inicial sucumbirían al hambre, la exposición, el envenenamiento por radiación y las enfermedades epidémicas. Un contraataque de EE. UU. causaría el mismo nivel de destrucción en Rusia, y si las fuerzas de la OTAN estuvieran involucradas en la guerra, Canadá y Europa también sufrirían un destino similar.

Estudios científicos más recientes indican que el polvo y el hollín producidos por un intercambio nuclear de 100 a 200 detonaciones crearían efectos climáticos duraderos y potencialmente catastróficos que devastarían la producción de alimentos y conducirían a la hambruna en muchas partes del mundo.

¿Cuáles son los tratados de control de armas pasados ​​y presentes que han limitado las armas nucleares estadounidenses y soviéticas/rusas? ¿Cuál es el estatus de esos tratados?

Durante la Guerra Fría y después, los acuerdos de control de armas ayudaron a ganar y mantener la paz.

Sin embargo, ha habido una creciente desconfianza entre Rusia y Occidente en los últimos años, lo que ha provocado y alimentado la pérdida de tratados fundamentales de control de armas nucleares y convencionales y/o reducción de riesgos por negligencia, incumplimiento o retiro total.

Algunos de estos tratados, que han actuado como barandillas para prevenir el estallido de guerras nucleares y convencionales catastróficas, incluyen:

  • El Tratado sobre Misiles Antibalísticos (ABM) de 1972, que fue diseñado para prevenir una carrera armamentista ofensiva-defensiva sin restricciones;
  • El Tratado sobre Fuerzas Nucleares de Alcance Intermedio (INF) de 1987, que redujo el peligro de una guerra nuclear en Europa al eliminar toda una clase de misiles;
  • El Tratado sobre Fuerzas Armadas Convencionales en Europa (FACE) de 1990, que fue diseñado para prevenir grandes acumulaciones de armas y fuerzas convencionales en el continente europeo; y
  • El Tratado de Cielos Abiertos de 1992, que brindó transparencia sobre las capacidades y movimientos militares.

En ausencia de estos acuerdos, la cooperación entre las partes se ha erosionado, ha aumentado la preocupación por las capacidades militares y se ha disparado el riesgo de errores de cálculo.

Cabe destacar también el Tratado de Prohibición Completa de los Ensayos Nucleares (CTBT) de 1996, que prohíbe las explosiones de pruebas nucleares y estableció una red global de monitoreo y verificación. El tratado tiene 185 signatarios, incluidos China, Rusia y Estados Unidos. Durante el transcurso de la era nuclear, al menos ocho estados llevaron a cabo más de 2000 explosiones de prueba de armas nucleares en la superficie, bajo tierra y bajo el agua. El Tratado de prohibición completa de los ensayos nucleares ha detenido de forma eficaz las explosiones de ensayos nucleares. Sin embargo, el tratado aún no está en vigor debido a que ocho estados no lo ratificaron, lo que deja entreabierta la puerta a las pruebas nucleares en el futuro.

Además, Estados Unidos y la Unión Soviética, y más tarde Rusia, negociaron una serie de tratados que limitaron y finalmente revirtieron la carrera de armamentos nucleares. Estos incluyeron:

  • El Tratado sobre la Limitación de Armas Estratégicas de 1972 (SALT I): aunque importante como el primer tratado de este tipo, sólo frenó el crecimiento de los arsenales nucleares de largo alcance de los dos países. Ignoró a los bombarderos estratégicos con armas nucleares y no limitó el número de ojivas, dejando a ambos lados libres para ampliar sus fuerzas mediante el despliegue de múltiples ojivas en sus misiles y aumentando sus fuerzas basadas en bombarderos.
  • El SALT II de 1979: este tratado nunca fue ratificado formalmente porque la Unión Soviética invadió Afganistán más tarde ese año, pero Reagan acordó respetar sus límites.
  • El Tratado de Reducción de Armas Estratégicas de 1991 (START I): este acuerdo, que expiró en diciembre de 2009, fue el primero en exigir a los Estados Unidos y la Unión Soviética que redujeran sus arsenales estratégicos desplegados y destruyeran los sistemas de entrega en exceso a través de una verificación intrusiva que involucraba en- inspecciones del sitio, el intercambio regular de información y el uso de medios técnicos nacionales (es decir, satélites). START I se retrasó varios años debido al colapso de la Unión Soviética y los esfuerzos subsiguientes para desnuclearizar Ucrania, Kazajstán y Bielorrusia al devolver sus armas nucleares a Rusia y convertirlos en estados sin armas nucleares en virtud del Tratado de No Proliferación Nuclear (TNP) de 1968. y partes de START I.
  • El START II de 1993: este tratado pedía más recortes en los arsenales estratégicos desplegados y prohibía el despliegue de misiles terrestres desestabilizadores de cabezas múltiples. Sin embargo, nunca entró en vigor debido a la retirada de Estados Unidos en 2002 del Tratado ABM.
  • Marco START III de 1997: este marco para un tercer START incluía una reducción de las ojivas estratégicas desplegadas a 2000-2500. Significativamente, además de requerir la destrucción de los vehículos de entrega, las negociaciones de START III debían abordar "la destrucción de ojivas nucleares estratégicas... para promover la irreversibilidad de las reducciones profundas, incluida la prevención de un rápido aumento en la cantidad de ojivas". Se suponía que las negociaciones comenzarían después de que START II entrara en vigor, lo que nunca sucedió.
  • El Tratado de Reducciones de Ofensivas Estratégicas de 2002 (SORT o Tratado de Moscú): Este tratado requería que Estados Unidos y Rusia redujeran sus arsenales estratégicos a 1.700-2.200 ojivas cada uno. Desafortunadamente, no incluía un régimen de verificación y monitoreo específico del tratado. SORT fue reemplazado por New START el 5 de febrero de 2011.
  • El Nuevo Tratado de Reducción de Armas Estratégicas de 2010 (Nuevo START): este acuerdo legalmente vinculante y verificable limita a cada parte a 1550 ojivas nucleares estratégicas desplegadas en 700 ICBM estratégicos, SLBM y bombarderos pesados ​​asignados a una misión nuclear. El tratado tiene un fuerte régimen de verificación. Estados Unidos y Rusia acordaron el 3 de febrero de 2021 extender el Nuevo START por cinco años, según lo permite el texto del tratado, hasta el 5 de febrero de 2026.

Como resultado de estos acuerdos, las reservas totales de los dos países se han reducido de sus picos a mediados de la década de 1980 en casi 70.000 armas nucleares a alrededor de 10.000 armas nucleares estadounidenses y rusas en la actualidad. Además, ya no vivimos en un mundo en el que los estados con armas nucleares están detonando explosiones de prueba nucleares para perfeccionar tipos nuevos y más mortíferos de armas nucleares.

Sin embargo, Estados Unidos y Rusia todavía poseen muchas más armas nucleares de las necesarias para destruirse mutuamente muchas veces y más que suficientes para disuadir un ataque nuclear del otro.

En consecuencia, Estados Unidos y Rusia deberían reducir aún más sus reservas nucleares y trabajar para involucrar a otros países con armas nucleares en el proceso y eventualmente en los acuerdos. En 2013, por ejemplo, la administración Obama descubrió que Estados Unidos podía reducir aún más su arsenal nuclear desplegado a unas 1000 sin sacrificar la seguridad de Estados Unidos o de sus aliados.

A menos que Washington y Moscú reanuden las conversaciones para llegar a un nuevo acuerdo que reemplace el Nuevo START antes de su vencimiento, no habrá límites para los dos arsenales nucleares más grandes del mundo por primera vez desde 1972, y corremos el riesgo de una carrera armamentista nuclear total una vez más.

Es cierto, sin embargo, que la guerra destructiva e indefendible de Putin contra Ucrania hará que esa tarea sea mucho más difícil.

¿Cómo deberían responder Estados Unidos y la OTAN a la amenaza de Putin y minimizar el riesgo de un estallido de guerra nuclear?

El peligro de error de cálculo y escalada, incluso al nivel nuclear, entre los adversarios es real y alto.

Aunque Rusia aún tiene que ubicar fuerzas militares a lo largo de la frontera entre Ucrania y Polonia, por ejemplo, existe la posibilidad de que las fuerzas rusas y de la OTAN se enfrenten militarmente, lo que provocaría que la situación se descontrolara rápidamente.

También existe la posibilidad de encuentros militares cercanos en otros lugares que involucren aviones, buques de guerra y submarinos de EE. UU./OTAN y Rusia.

En los días, semanas y meses venideros, los líderes en Moscú, Washington y Europa, así como los comandantes militares en el campo, deben tener cuidado de evitar despliegues militares nuevos y desestabilizadores, encuentros peligrosos entre las fuerzas rusas y de la OTAN y la introducción de nuevos tipos de armas convencionales o nucleares que socavan los intereses de seguridad compartidos.

Por ejemplo, la oferta del estado cliente de Rusia, Bielorrusia, de albergar armas nucleares tácticas rusas, si Putin la persigue, socavaría aún más la seguridad rusa y europea y aumentaría el riesgo de una guerra nuclear. Desafortunadamente, Bielorrusia votó el 27 de febrero en un referéndum para abandonar su condición de estado no nuclear.

¿Cómo pueden Estados Unidos y Rusia volver a encarrilar los esfuerzos de reducción de armas nucleares?

Debido a la invasión de Ucrania por parte de Rusia, el régimen de Putin deberá enfrentar las consecuencias y sufrir el aislamiento internacional impuesto a través de un frente fuerte y unificado.

Por el momento, este aislamiento incluye la suspensión del diálogo de estabilidad estratégica bilateral entre Estados Unidos y Rusia, que Biden y Putin reanudaron en junio de 2021 y convocaron por última vez a principios de enero de 2022.

La subsecretaria de Estado, Wendy Sherman, confirmó el 26 de febrero que Washington no continuará con el diálogo en las circunstancias actuales y dijo que “no ve razón” para hacerlo. El día anterior, el portavoz del Departamento de Estado, Ned Price, dijo que si bien “el control de armas es algo que seguirá siendo de nuestro interés para la seguridad nacional… no tenemos planeada otra iteración del Diálogo de Estabilidad Estratégica”.

Eventualmente, sin embargo, los líderes de EE. UU. y Rusia deben buscar reanudar las conversaciones a través de su diálogo de seguridad estratégica bilateral para evitar tensiones aún mayores entre la OTAN y Rusia y mantener medidas de control de armas y reducción de riesgos de sentido común.

La propuesta rusa sobre garantías de seguridad de diciembre de 2021 y la contrapropuesta de EE. UU. (así como la OTAN) de enero de 2022 contienen áreas de superposición, lo que demuestra que hay espacio para negociaciones para resolver preocupaciones de seguridad mutua. Las áreas más prometedoras están relacionadas con la elaboración de un nuevo acuerdo similar al ya desaparecido Tratado INF; negociar una continuación del Nuevo START; acordar reducir los grandes ejercicios militares; y establecer medidas de reducción de riesgos y transparencia, como líneas telefónicas de atención.

Washington debe probar si Moscú se toma en serio tales opciones y, si es posible, reiniciar el diálogo de estabilidad estratégica, y debe intentar hacerlo antes de que el Nuevo START expire a principios de 2026, de lo contrario, el próximo enfrentamiento será aún más riesgoso.

A la larga, los líderes estadounidenses, rusos y europeos —y su pueblo— no pueden perder de vista el hecho de que la guerra y la amenaza de una guerra nuclear son enemigos comunes. Rusia y Occidente tienen un interés compartido en llegar a acuerdos que reduzcan aún más las fuerzas nucleares estratégicas infladas, regulen los arsenales nucleares de "campo de batalla" de corto alcance y establezcan límites en las defensas de misiles de largo alcance.

¿Ucrania debería haber mantenido sus armas nucleares que heredó de la Unión Soviética? ¿Ucrania buscará tener armas nucleares una vez más?

La invasión de Crimea por parte de Putin en 2014 y la invasión actual violan el Memorando de Budapest de 1994 sobre garantías de seguridad.

En 1994, Estados Unidos, Rusia y el Reino Unido firmaron este importante acuerdo, que amplió las garantías de seguridad contra la amenaza o el uso de la fuerza contra el territorio de Ucrania o su independencia política. A cambio, la recién independizada Ucrania se adhirió al Tratado de No Proliferación Nuclear (TNP) de 1968 como un estado sin armas nucleares y renunció a las 1.900 ojivas nucleares que heredó de la Unión Soviética.

Ucrania no tenía el control operativo de esas armas nucleares y no podía haberlas mantenido en condiciones de seguridad. Cualquier intento de Kiev de mantener estas armas nucleares solo habría resultado en un mayor peligro para Ucrania, Europa y el mundo.

Los argumentos de que una Ucrania con armas nucleares sería más segura hoy en día son falacias, al igual que cualquier afirmación de que Kiev busca construir u obtener armas nucleares. Las armas nucleares no hacen que nadie esté más seguro y, en cambio, representan una amenaza existencial para todos nosotros.

La toma de Crimea por parte de Putin en 2014 y esta nueva invasión masiva en 2022 sirven para socavar el TNP y reforzar la desafortunada impresión de que los estados con armas nucleares pueden intimidar a los estados no nucleares, reduciendo así los incentivos para el desarme nuclear y haciendo que sea más difícil de prevenir una proliferación nuclear.

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Si bien el régimen de Putin debe sufrir el aislamiento internacional ahora, los líderes de EE. UU. y Rusia deben buscar eventualmente reanudar las conversaciones a través de su estancado diálogo de seguridad estratégica para calmar las tensiones más amplias entre la OTAN y Rusia y mantener medidas de control de armas de sentido común para evitar una carrera armamentista total.

Country Resources:

U.S., German, Russian Experts Outline Plan for Defusing Russia-NATO Crisis Through Arms Control

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For Immediate Release: Feb. 11, 2022

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Association 1-202-463-8270, ext. 107; Oliver Meier, +49 171 359 2410, Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy Hamburg

(WASHINGTON, D.C)—In a joint statement issued today, a senior group of American, European, and Russian security experts warn that: “The tensions between Russia, Ukraine, and NATO create the potential for a disastrous war that can and must be avoided through serious and deft diplomacy.”

“Among other steps, NATO and Russia should pursue agreement on common sense arms control instruments to help move away from the brink of disaster and promote stability and security in Europe,” they write. The experts are members of a 24-member group of leading nuclear arms control and risk reduction experts known as the Deep Cuts Commission.

“NATO and Russia have advanced different ideas on conventional and nuclear arms control. Yet, the two draft agreements put forward by Moscow in December 2021 as well as the U.S. and NATO responses to these texts submitted in January 2022 indicate there is room for negotiations designed to resolve mutual security concerns,” the Commissioners note.

“Both sides have stated that they are ready to engage in talks on risk reduction and confidence-building concerning offensive and defensive missile deployments in Europe, transparency on conventional weapons and military exercises, as well as on conventional forces posture and arms control,” the Commissioners point out in their Feb. 11 joint statement.

Among other steps, the Commission recommends negotiations on a balanced agreement between the United States and Russia on a verifiable moratorium on the deployment of intermediate-range missiles between the Atlantic and the Urals and an arrangement between NATO and Russia for reciprocal transparency visits to NATO’s Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland and Russia’s 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile sites.

Other recommendations include agreements, guidelines, and notifications designed to scale back major military exercises and avoid close military encounters between Russian and NATO forces.

“Substantive discussions on these important issues as well as information exchanges and confidence-building steps offer a path to stabilize the current crisis and enhance European security in the longer term,” the Commissioners say.

The full statement from the Deep Cuts Commission, “Defusing the Ukraine Crisis through Arms Control, Transparency and Risk Reduction,” is available online.

The Deep Cuts Commission was established in 2013 and is based at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH). The Commission was established to provide decision-makers with concrete, practical policy options to enhance international security by reducing the number and risks of nuclear weapons. The Arms Control Association (ACA) and the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO, RAN), are the U.S. and Russian project partners.

 

Description: 

A senior group of American, European, and Russian security experts warn that "tensions between Russia, Ukraine and NATO create the potential for a disastrous war that can and must be avoided through serious and deft diplo­macy.”

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