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Will Arab countries be a hub for START talks?

Dec 08,2022 - Last updated at Dec 08,2022


The US-Russian negotiations on Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) were supposed to be held between November 29 and December 6 in Egypt, which is deemed a centre for strategic disarmament dialogue. However, the meeting was cancelled. 

The meeting was supposed to take place in Egypt being a non-partisan neutral country capable of hosting high-level meetings between the American and Russian officials to discuss tensions over two of the world’s major nuclear arsenals.

Sergei Ryabkov, Russian deputy minister of foreign affairs, said that the meeting was cancelled two days before the beginning of negotiations. Such a meeting could have been a major diplomatic breakthrough, not only for the two super powers, but also for the Middle East region, which is in a state of reluctance and uncertainty between both powers.

Washington has kept silence over the reasons for talk postponement. Moscow was unusually candid on what Russians wanted to discuss and convey in these postponed talks. Although Ryabkov did not fall into too much of the details, he said that a broader range of security issues was on the table, including Moscow’s military operations in Ukraine. It is obvious that Moscow keeps the White House responsible for Russia’s rather modest military progress in Ukraine and points fingers at US Department of Defence abundant military hardware assistance for Kyiv.

Nonetheless, the US insists on resuming the inspections on START with no additional preliminary conditions on the table. The Russians claim that the Americans have fundamentally violated quantitative restrictions stipulated by the New START, which was ratified on February 5, 2011 and extended in alacrity on January 26, 2021 for another 5 years.

Moscow claims that at least 56 Trident-2 submarine-launched ballistic (SLBM) missile launchers, 41 B-52H Stratofortress, a long-range, heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions, and 4 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), a ballistic missile with a range greater than 5,500 kilometres, primarily designed for nuclear weapons delivery. ICBM silos remain outside of START warranty and inspection procedures and may again be reconverted to carry nuclear warheads. Some Russian diplomats complain that the US is not interested or concerned about START; in spite of these claims, the Americans remain silent over Russian allegations.

It was a number of times in history for the past 30 years of START treaties that negotiations were postponed or undermined by mutual mistrust and claims. However, both the US and Russia had a very successful track-record of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), two rounds of bilateral conferences and corresponding international treaties involving the United States and the Soviet Union. SALT treaties and diplomatic practices allowed for the progress to continue due to the efforts of senior military officers and top diplomats. The mutual trust was also one of key fundamentals for bilateral dialogue. Nevertheless, for the very first time it seems that historical practice has stumbled upon an irreversible impediment when one the US and Russia have not trust of each other.

Russian media sources claim that the decision to “postpone”, if not cancel, the START talks in Egypt was a political one. Sergey Yevgenyevich Naryshkin, Russian politician and head of political intelligence arm (SVR), is said to have reported to the government extensively at Russian security council meeting some days before the beginning of consultations in Cairo. Regardless of Naryshkin’s input in that meeting in Moscow before key Russian leaders, it seems that the details delivered in the meeting were more than enough for Russian President Vladimir Putin to put START treaty talks on ice at least for the foreseeable future. It is said that whenever intelligence has the last say in international politics, it manifests that the foundations of trust are dimming if not vanishing.

All nuclear weapons figures are estimates but, according to the Federation of American Scientists, Russia has 5,977 nuclear warheads — the devices that trigger a nuclear explosion — though that figure includes about 1,500 retired nuclear warheads that are dismantled. 

Let us all hope that no chance is amiss for strategic disarmament, and that diplomacy is given an important role to play when it comes to resolving decisive world issues. Let us hope that the Arab region will be playing a strategic centre for US-Russian negotiations on Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

The world looks for such talks to be scheduled and to start anywhere in the Middle East to defuse political and military tension between both super powers to avert any ramifications on the safety and security of the world and the generations to come. Talks are the only guarantee to secure durable and lasting peace between nations.

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