US May Lose Nuclear Parity With Russia Without START - Ex-NATO Deputy Chief

WASHINGTON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 06th December, 2019) The United States risks losing nuclear parity with Russia if it abandons New START and needs to extend the treaty to have a stable and predictable environment for modernizing its atomic arsenals, former NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller said during a discussion at a Washington think tank.

"I underscore and I believe it is in the national security interest of the United States to extend the New START treaty to February 2026. Such an extension will provide a stable environment both to modernize the US nuclear triad and to negotiate a new strategic arms reduction treaty," Gottemoeller said on Thursday, speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "Without that treaty in force that predictability and stability go out the window and fast."

The former chief US negotiator of the New START addressed a public debate on whether the last arms control regime between Russia and the United States should be prolonged beyond its expiry in February 2021 or scrapped in favor of a broader framework involving China

If the treaty is extended until 2026, it will continue to cap Russian deployed warheads at 1,550 and delivery systems - missiles and strategic bombers - at 700, on par with the American strategic potential. Without agreed limitations in place Russia, according to Gottemoeller, can rapidly install additional warheads on the existing intercontinental ballistic missiles and outpace the United States.

"There is no faster way for the Russians to outrun us than to deploy more nuclear warheads on their missiles," she argued. "They have plenty of them in storage. If released from the current 1,500 limit... the Russians could rapidly add several hundred more warheads, some say up to a thousand warheads, to their existing deployments of ICBMs without deploying a single additional missile."

Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated on Thursday that Russia was ready to extend the New START immediately - "right before the end of this year" - and without any preconditions.

Gottemoeller said it was "very possible" to engage China in an arms control regime but warned it would be "a long game" and require lengthy "phases of discussion."

She sees little point in talking about Chinese strategic forces since they are significantly inferior to those of Russia and the US - fewer than 500, according to Gottemoeller's estimates, against 4.000 in case of each of the bigger nuclear powers. Former NATO Deputy Chief suggested instead "going through the door" of intermediate range ground ballistic missiles, which she sees as a more immediate threat for both Russia and the US.