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Recently in The Times it was reported that the new US president, Donald Trump is ready to review the anti-Russian sanctions in exchange for Russia's agreement to reduce the number of nuclear weapons under the pretext of reducing tension in international relations and an end to the confrontation. Speaker of the Russian president, Dmitry Peskov on the eve of the Donald Trump’s inauguration said that Russia "has always stood for the proportional and fair process of nuclear disarmament". Opinion of the Russian authorities on this issue has changed. Former US President Barack Obama was convinced that Russia does not want to reduce the nuclear arsenal according to the third agreement on the reduction of offensive arms, which he proposed to extend. After the expiration of its terms in 2021 legal restrictions on the reduction of nuclear weapons in USA and in Russian Federation will disappear.
Adhere to tradition for lifting of sanctions
With coming to power of new US Presidents White House is often intensify negotiations with the Kremlin to reduce nuclear weapons. In the relations between the US and Russia there is a tradition to take responsibilities of the international nuclear security guarantors on the example of reducing the nuclear legacy of the Cold War. Although the US-Russian agreements do not regulate the number of nuclear arsenals of the United Kingdom, France, Pakistan, India and China.
The US president Donald Trump offers Russia to reduce nuclear arsenals, to create an excuse for cancellation of decrees on anti-Russian sanctions. The new president is interested not so much in improving the international nuclear safety climate as to defend the interests of US oil companies in the Russian market. ExxonMobil oil company because of the anti-Russian sanctions have lost billions of dollars on oil production projects in Russia.
Donald Trump has the right to cancel orders of Barack Obama, who created the legal framework for the sectoral sanctions against Russian companies and officials after the annexation of Crimea. However, he can’t act unilaterally. The lifting of anti-Russian sanctions will be negatively perceived by the US Congress, which disapproves the statements made by Donald Trump to normalize relations with the Russian Federation, which does not stop the aggression in Ukraine and continues its military intervention in Syria. Part of the American society can perceive the action of the new president as a concession to the Kremlin, which would have a negative impact on the international image of the USA. As a true businessman, Donald Trump is interested in reaching a mutually beneficial deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and not a policy of appeasement.
Reducing of Russian nuclear arsenals is the main reason for which Donald Trump can argue the abolition of anti-Russian sanctions before the full implementation of Minsk agreements and return of Crimea to Ukraine. The American president is counting on the fact that the public will perceive such a move not as the US concession to Russia, but as a diplomatic victory for Washington in strengthening the international regime of non-proliferation and reduction of nuclear weapons in the world. The international community perceives the prevention of nuclear war as a more global task than resolving local conflicts, including in the east of Ukraine. Perhaps the US president clearly outlined the theme of reduction of nuclear weapons in the upcoming talks with the Russian side, in order to avoid discussion of problematic issues in bilateral relations.
US have nothing to lose from further reductions in nuclear weapons. Donald Trump in his election program was talking about the modernization of the US military, including nuclear arsenal. Reducing the number of nuclear warheads and their carriers will not prevent to finance the program of intercontinental ballistic missiles' modernization, albeit in smaller numbers. Washington is betting on the development of a missile defense system, to reflect the probability of a nuclear strike from the potential adversaries (Russia, China, North Korea). In 2002, the US withdrew from the treaty on the limitation of anti-missile systems of 1972, which allowed Washington and Moscow to have no more than two missile defense systems around the capital and in the area of concentration of missile launchers. But the document does not extend to the development and production of missile defense systems.
Aggression without limits
Despite the fact that part of the Russian society perceives the reduce of nuclear arsenal negatively, seeing it as a "threat" to Russia's national security, the proposal of Donald Trump is beneficial to the Kremlin. Since Russia has quite complicated economic situation, the Kremlin bosses may eventually accept the offer of Donald Trump and agree to a further reduction of nuclear arsenal to create a reason for lifting of sanctions. Russia can avoid responsibility for the implementation of Minsk agreements and further aggression in Ukraine. The reduction of nuclear weapons is advantageous in terms of the Russian military budget savings. According to Global Security resource, in 2016 Russia planned to spend an additional 4 billion rubles on the development of nuclear weapons. These funds Kremlin could use to finance the Russian-terrorist forces in Donbas.
Nuclear weapons are not essential to national security. Since the days of "cold war" Russia is aware of the possibility of mutual annihilation when nuclear weapons will be used against the holder of another nuclear weapons. Whatever loud statements may be made by Russian politicians and analysts regarding the right of Russia to use nuclear weapons for its security arrangements, the current Russian leadership will not take this step due to fears of retaliation from the United States. Russia may use nuclear weapons only as a factor of pressure on the non-nuclear states. For this it’s not necessary to have hundreds of missile weapons. Russia relies on mobile based ICBMs development (missile complex "Yars" on the truck) that allows it to move ballistic missiles to the borders of neighboring countries for intimidation.
Even in the case of a further reduction of nuclear weapons US will have an informal quantitative advantage in ICBMs comparing to Russia. United Kingdom, which is the main military and political partner of the US in NATO, has 120 nuclear warheads (Trident II, US production), which can be mounted on nuclear submarines. Since 1962, the UK's nuclear arsenal is part of the US nuclear planning system. In Russia, there are fears that ballistic missiles Trident II are equipped with American-made "retargeting system" that would allow the US to use them at its discretion. Due to the geographical location of the UK, the time of approach of the British ICBMs to vital facilities of Russia is less than for the nuclear warheads from the territory of the United States.
Donald Trump's desire to link the reduction of nuclear arsenals with the abolition of the anti-Russian sanctions waits for the Congress position. Even if Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin sign an additional agreement to extend the document on nuclear weapons, it will not have a higher legal force as long as the US Congress does not ratify it. Before negotiations with Vladimir Putin on the reduction of nuclear arsenals, and promises regarding the abolition of anti-Russian sanctions, for Donald Trump it is necessary to gain support in the US Congress. A group of US senators led by Republican John McCain and Democrat Ben Cardin has prepared a bill that would extend sanctions on Russian oil and gas sector and any foreign companies that are interested to do business in this segment. Senators and members of the House of Representatives can’t support the extension of document regarding the nuclear weapons, knowing that then president will cancel the anti-Russian sanctions. Without legislative support the US will not be able to carry out the reduction of nuclear arsenals.
Russia will not reduce nuclear weapons unilaterally without the proportional participation of the USA, even if in return will be followed by the abolition of the anti-Russian sanctions.
Vladimir Putin will not receive support of a significant part of Russian society, which still sees nuclear weapons as a factor in its security and resource of Russian greatness. Uncritically minds of the Russian population are convinced that as long as the nuclear weapon will be in Kremlin's hands, the whole world will be afraid of them, and NATO would not dare to take aggressive action. As long as Russia does not reduce nuclear weapons, Donald Trump will not have good reasons to cancel the decrees of Barack Obama's on anti-Russian sanctions. It is a vicious circle, created by the system of checks and contradictions between the executive and the legislative power in the United States. In this case, the tricks of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin to find a convenient excuse to cancel the anti-Russian sanctions without performing Minsk agreements and returning of Crimea to Ukraine are coming to a standstill.