As the tension between the United States and Russia continues, there is evidence that the United States has been rearranging its nuclear forces. While most of us like to forget the fact that we live in a world with nuclear weapons, the fact remains that both the United States and Russia possess stockpiles of several thousands.
Iran nuclear agreement thaws tensions
The irony of this is not lost in a week when the United States, and Russia for that matter, proclaimed the importance of a nuclear agreement with Iran. While the development of nuclear weapons by the Middle Eastern nation would hardly be viewed as a positive thing by many people, there is absolutely no chance of nuclear weapons being completely eradicated in the foreseeable future.
Indeed, nations such as the United States and Russia possess several thousands, and there are numerous other nuclear powers in the world that collectively possess many hundreds. Despite the existence of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, states such as Israel, India, Pakistan and China are all in possession of nuclear weapons, and there is no form of legislation that will ever encourage them to surrender them (or for that matter any attempts to include them in existing legislation).
While the general public all hopes that no-one will be irresponsible and insane enough to utilize full-scale nuclear weapons, the tension between Russia and the United States always keeps this unpalatable possibility alive. It is therefore encouraging that relations seem to have thawed somewhat between the two countries over the Iran agreement, but the potential for this to go pear-shaped if there are disagreements over this deal cannot be denied.
With the United States and Russia natural geopolitical rivals, and two nations that have had an extremely taut geopolitical and diplomatic relationship historically, it is always worthwhile to examine the current state of affairs. The infamous Russian publication Pravda recently did precisely this, interviewing the chairman of the Union of Geopolitics, Konstantin Sivkov. Some of the Western reportage of Sivkov has been particularly scathing, with a story emerging in April of this year suggesting that the Russian advised detonating Yellowstone Park. Often such statements are lost in translation, but this is nevertheless a serious accusation that means his comments are well worth examining.
Russia updates nuclear arsenal
Firstly, Sivkov acknowledged that Russia is currently in the process of updating its outdated nuclear arsenal. This has been reported widely for several months, and it seems that the nuclear capabilities of the nation have in fact been exaggerated considering its dated nature.
Russia is operating under the auspices of existing nuclear weapons treaties, and the START-3 treaty imposes restrictions of not more than 700 sea and ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles on the superpower. Sivkov states that Russia is strictly adhering to these regulations, but there could be some concern in the United States that the nation is attempting to surreptitiously improve its nuclear capabilities. Sivkov believes that Russia is simply maintaining its nuclear deterrent, but there could be scepticism about this in Washington.
Indeed, it is acknowledged by Pravda that the West has been concerned about the latest Russian manoeuvres. However, Sivkov states that military professionals do not share this verdict. It is suggested by the former military man that any such stories are merely part of a propaganda campaign aimed at instilling a negative image of Russia in the minds of Western people. Whether or not this is a valid point, it is also worth pointing out that Pravda doesn’t exactly have a reputation for neutrality.
It is fair to point out, though, that existing nuclear powers in the West also replace their missiles on a regular basis. This is particularly common in the United States, as the US is currently in possession of the largest nuclear arsenal in the world. Trident missiles are typically replaced within two to three decades, and this process continues across the Western world today.
However, the possibility of further tension and escalation in the negative relationship between the United States and Russia could increase due to the nuclear strategy of the US. It is suggested by Sivkov that Western nations in fact intend to repeal the existing agreements related to medium-range nuclear missiles. Sivkov suggests that a strategy is being put in place in the United States that would enable the nation to carry out a decapitating and preemptive nuclear strike on Russia.
Sivkov also states that the United States intends to divert a part of Russia’s nuclear potential from the United States to Europe. This would have the effect of transforming Europe into a potential theater of nuclear warfare. Sivkov asserts that in this context, nuclear weapons remain an incredibly important deterrent for Russia, and one that could contribute to a lasting, if uneasy, peace.
Assessing the Russian nuclear plans
One must take the comments from Sivkov with a pinch of salt, as obviously they come from a less than objective perspective. Pravda is considered by many Western observers to be little more than a propaganda mill, and that there is no doubt that the publication takes an extremely pro-Russian perspective on almost every issue.
However, the historical paranoia that exists between the United States and Russia would certainly lead people who are acquainted with the history of the nations to believe that such US action is possible. The United States is the only nation on the planet to have executed a pre-emptive strike with atomic weaponry, and although the concept of a nuclear weapon strike is not an attractive one, it is not inconceivable.
By the same token, the existing regime in Russia is reviled by many people, and has attracted a huge number of internal critics. The former world chess champion, Garry Kasparov, is one such critic of what he deems to be the Putin regime, and if his opinion on the Western world is not always on point, his views on his own country certainly deserve consideration.
Although there has been an impasse recently in the tension between the United States and Russia, the potential for this tense relationship to flare up one more is always imminent. We can only collectively hope that diplomatic solutions continue to be sought to geopolitical issues.