Nuclear weapons, nuclear plants and their components these are the Kremlin’s favorite topics for saber rattling and terrorizing the civilized world.

One of the most common excuses for the West not to help Ukraine militarily, is that it risks pushing Russia into starting a nuclear war. When, during his Orwellian monologue earlier this week, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin announced his decision to pause Russia’s participation in the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty, it sounded ominous. But that’s arguably far from reality. 

Rather, the announcement provides insights into the Kremlin’s weaknesses and carries upsides that strengthen the civilized world’s case against the belligerent state, namely:

1)    Russia is further evidencing itself to be the main state sponsor of global – including nuclear – terrorism;

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2)    The announcement provides a fundamental push for sanctioning the Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation;

3)    It empowers the International Atomic Energy Association to clean its house of its Russian agents;

4)    It adds pressure on the Budapest Memorandum signatories to guarantee Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, particularly France and China who signed guarantees to protect Ukraine in the case Ukraine would face a nuclear threat; and

5)    It provides members of the freedom-loving world impetus to act in support of Ukraine’s security guarantees.

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“New START” is so-called because it is the successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I). START I was signed not between Russia and the U.S., but between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Later that year, the Soviet Union dissipated as a result of the Kremlin’s corruption.

START I was the first treaty that required U.S. and Soviet reductions of strategic nuclear weapons. It entered into force on Dec. 5, 1994, when the five treaty parties, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and the U.S. exchanged instruments of ratification in Budapest. It is also the document which led to the signing of the sorrowful Budapest Memorandum through which the Newly Independent States disarmed in exchange for security guarantees made by Russia, the U.K., the U.S., then later China and France.

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To varying degrees, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of these disarmed states is under serious threat, as is the legitimacy of the entire international legal structure.

Russia’s refusal to cooperate in strategic arms reduction is nothing new

In late 1995 and without explanation, Russia cut off bilateral talks aimed at realizing the legal instrument that would permit nuclear data exchange and transparency measures to go forward. This happened during a time of great instability within Russia and the Newly Independent States of the former Soviet Union.

Moscow’s secret services and bandits were impacting the global illegal arms trade. Transdniestria, an illegal Kremlin enclave within Moldova, serves as example of where organized crime was deemed to be funneling radioactive materials to terrorists, particularly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

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Russia’s refusal to move forward with the Agreement for Cooperation halted virtually all reciprocal transparency initiatives related to nuclear warhead dismantlement and warhead component storage. It also denied the two sides the opportunity to significantly improve fissile material security against the most serious potential threat – collusion between insiders involving security and/or management personnel. This includes the likes of organized crime boss Semion Mogilevich, accused of everything from laundering money through the Trump Towers, owning Kremlin-oriented energy companies to selling nuclear weapons. This threat is something we are facing once again today, particularly as it pertains to Rosatom.

The state-owned enterprise is a key component of Russia's military-industrial complex. It produces Russian nuclear weapons and nuclear fuel for numerous countries. The current lack of sanctions against the company is motivated by the fact that the company’s products and services are too unique to be replaced quickly and play a significant role in international markets.

However, sanctions on Rosatom and Russia’s nuclear sector, which can have short term moderate burdens on the Western economies can and must be developed.

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Rosatom, together with Kadirov terrorists, is playing a key role in terrorizing the world by hijacking and attacking the third largest nuclear power plant on Earth: the Zaporizhzhia Atomic Energy Plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is at a virtual loss of control over the dangerous situation. Recently, it has been blocked from rotating its team members at the plant. Now is the time for the IAEA to clean its house of Russian operatives and cooperate more effectively on the international stage to secure safety in and around the jeopardized nuclear plant.

France, despite being a Budapest Memorandum guarantor of those states that agreed to their nuclear disarmament, continues to work with Rosatom. Germany has finally stepped up to the plate and its sanctions will put Rosatom into a position in which it can no longer guarantee the delivery of its “peaceful” nuclear energy development plans with Hungary, Syria and Bangladesh and all the others. Perhaps now, France will understand that blocking the EU’s Rosatom sanctions is a very poor idea.

Notably, former U.S. President Donald Trump repeatedly signaled his own intention to let New START expire unless it was broadened to include other nations with strategic weapons, chiefly China. Perhaps it is time for China, who arguably has the most to gain from Russia’s war against Ukraine, to surprise us all with the dignity it purports. The promises it made to the disarmed Budapest states should have meaning; particularly to invaded Ukraine.

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Putin’s New START announcement simply brought to public light that which has already been going on. Factually, Russia had already ceased its New START cooperation. Earlier this year, the State Department told Congress Russia was not complying with the only nuclear arms control treaty remaining between the two nations; jeopardizing a source of stability in their relationship.

In true Orwellian fashion, by pausing participation in New START, Russia’s dictator only further exposed the terrible condition his empire is in. To paraphrase Orwell, the onus is now on the free world to use its freedom, and duty, to say two plus two make four. If it grants itself this power, a new, sustainable peace will follow. 

 

The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.

 

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