Does SMART Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty Between US and Russia Have a Future?

  • The Smart Treaty expires in 2021.
  • There is a provision for an extention until 2026.
  • The US believes a new class of Russian weapons should be included in the SMART treaty.

US President Donald Trump’s special envoy for arms control, Marshall Billingslea, stated that the strategic treaty with Russia should include new weapons systems. Trump appointed Billingslea on April 10 as Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control. In this role, Billingslea will lead arms control negotiations on behalf of the US government. Previously, he served as the Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing in the United States Department of the Treasury.

Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Marshall Bellingslea.

In his recent Washington Times interview Billingslea said, “They have no money for this, to be honest, their economy is in ruins due to the outbreak of the virus, and their entire budget process depends on high oil prices, which they do not have and will not have in the foreseeable future. We are not going to concede anything to exclude these weapons systems (from the Treaty). They need to paint and throw out these (five new) programs.”

In reality, Russian systems have lower costs than US defense systems. Also, given Vladimir Putin’s personal desires, he will not his decrease defense budget and will continue with his strategic plan.

The above quote was pertaining to the two missiles that cover the start-3 conditions:

  •  Sarmat Intercontinental missile system, which Russia plans to add to its arsenal in 2021. At this time, Russia is still testing the system. The RS-28 Sarmat (NATO classification Satan-2) is a Russian fifth-generation mine-based strategic missile system with a heavy multistage liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The development of a new-generation ICBM was initiated for two reasons: obsolescence of the R-36M Voevoda ICBM and weak means of overcoming modern missile defense.
  • Avangard supersonic complex. According to recent statements, the Avangard glider can reach speeds of up to M=27 in flight. It carries a special warhead and is capable of delivering it over an intercontinental range. A planned flight with the ability to perform maneuvers makes it impossible to effectively intercept using existing air defense and missile defense systems. At the same time, it increases the accuracy of hitting targets.

Additionally, three complexes that do not fall under start-3:

  • Kinzhal hypersonic missile system. The Kinzhal hypersonic aviation missile system  is designed for high-precision strikes against moving surface and stationary ground targets. It includes a high-speed carrier aircraft and an x-47 M2 aeroballistic missile.

  • Burevesnik prospective Intercontinental cruise missile. Burevestnik” is an EAD with a compact nuclear reactor-created thanks to modern Russian technologies, which allows the cruise missile to fly indefinitely at subsonic speed for any distance.
  • Poseidon underwater unmanned vehicle with the possibility of being equipped with nuclear weapons. It can travel at a speed of more than 200 km/h. Poseidon has the depth and capabilities of underwater maneuvering. It is able to perform combat movement and maneuvering at depths of up to 1,000 meters. Poseidon has a unique maneuverability thanks to the latest technologies for controlling movement modes. This is due to the use of electromagnetic principles of operation of a nuclear installation; the transition from passive mode (for example, stealthy silent movement, up to 50 km/h) to combat attacking or evading enemy torpedoes (more than 200 km/h) takes no more than 1 minute.
Burevesnik Missile Infographic.

Billingslea did not answer the important question about if in fact Trump has decided to extend the START treaty. He believes that Russia should convince the US why it is important to extend the treaty. As it stands START will expire on February 5, 2021.

START is the treaty between the US and Russia on the Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. The points included in the Treaty: Intercontinental ballistic missiles, Submarine ballistic missiles, and Heavy bombers. The SMART treaty does include a provision for extension for 5 years, so it could stay in force until 2026.

Previously, the US has withdrawn from the INF, hence START is the only strategic treaty left between the US and Russia.

It is highly likely the negotiations will fail and the last treaty will expire. At this time, one of the key issues remaining is China. From a geopolitical prospective, a lot depends on the Kremlin’s position pertaining to China.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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