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End of New STRAT Agreement: Is the Last Link of Nuclear Cooperation Broken?

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The developments since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine War have shown that nuclear armament, especially hypersonic missiles, has reached a more dangerous point than ever before, and nuclear deterrence has once again come to the agenda of the international public opinion. In the analyzes we wrote in this process, “It will not be a surprise if the last legal agreements on nuclear weapons are also repealed.” we have predicted.[1]

At this point, this prediction came true earlier than expected, and during his speech at the Federal Assembly on February 21, 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he suspended the obligations of the New START Agreement. As a matter of fact, the Russian leader signed the said decision on February 28, 2023. In order to understand the issue, “How did it come to this stage?” The question should be opened for discussion.

As it is known, the world has focused on various security problems, especially the Russia-Ukraine War. In this environment, the nuclear threat is also silent; but it has grown dangerously. Because steps are being taken that no one would even want to dream of. However, despite this, the issue of nuclear weapons does not receive enough attention on the agenda of the international community.

The “New Cold War”, which started with the withdrawal of the United States (USA) from the Anti-Ballistic Missiles (ABM) Convention, called the Missile Defense System in 2002, continues at full speed and evolves to more dangerous dimensions with each passing day. Hypersonic cruise missiles, which are extremely difficult to catch by existing missile defense systems in today’s technological conditions, have taken nuclear war to a different stage. Because the world no longer needs to doubt about Mutual Guaranteed Destruction (MAD). Because it is now certain that humanity and moreover the planet will be destroyed in a possible nuclear war.

As it will be remembered, the relentless nuclear arms race in the first years of the Cold War period came to a standstill with the Cuban Crisis, which was the closest approach to a nuclear war, and starting from the symbolic agreements in the détente period, limiting nuclear weapons tests, preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, limiting the number of nuclear weapons between the USA and Russia. and eventually the nuclear arms race was ended by signing various agreements on its reduction and then the nuclear disarmament process was started.

In the post-Cold War period, the developments that started with the USA’s declaration of hegemony and Russia’s opposition to it reversed the aforementioned course. Although it did not attract much attention at that time, the withdrawal of the USA from the EBM Convention in 2002 laid the foundation of the dangerous picture that has emerged in the current situation.

The emergence of the restriction of the ABM Convention, which is one of the main agreements that put an end to the meaningless and endlessly dangerous nuclear armament and the struggle to develop defense systems against it in the first period of the Cold War, led to a new era of armament and the development of more advanced missile defense systems by both the USA and Russia. has opened.

The rivalry between Russia, which sees the color revolutions and NATO’s enlargement as threats to its national security, and the USA, which considers Russia’s interventions in Ukraine and Georgia as a threat in the aforementioned period, has become much more intense with the repeal of nuclear weapons agreements signed during the Cold War period. moved to a different dimension.

The Russia-Ukraine War, in which threats to use nuclear weapons were flying, clearly revealed how real, close and great the threat of nuclear weapons is. As a matter of fact, while US President Joe Biden stated that the risk of using nuclear weapons was this close for the first time since the 1962 Cuban Crisis; Russian officials, especially Putin, reminded under what conditions Russia would use nuclear weapons, and revealed the seriousness of Moscow. In particular, it was seen that they tried to emphasize the danger of nuclear weapons by comparing the effectiveness of SARMAT missiles with the size of the territory of France or England.

Ultimately, the already shaky process came to an end with Russia’s suspension of the New START Agreement on February 28, 2023. There is no longer a contract that limits both parties.

In fact, the crisis experienced in 2021 regarding the extension of this contract gave the first signals of this. Worked on the New START Contract for the renewal of the contract, which will expire on February 5, 2021; however, then US President Donald Trump refused to sign the contract, especially under the influence of then National Security Advisor John Bolton. Biden, on the other hand, signed the signature rejected by Trump in the first days of his appointment, and by agreeing to extend the term of the contract for five years, the only remaining contract between the USA and Russia on strategic nuclear weapons was extended. Periodic negotiations for the contract could not be held due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

As it can be understood, the nuclear danger, which progressed silently and deeply after the Russia-Ukraine War, entered a much more troubled period. The United States and Russia are now completely exempt from legal restrictions on the limitation or reduction of nuclear weapons, which they have de facto violated for a long time. Of course, this will accelerate the nuclear arms race carried out over hypersonic missiles and the processes related to missile defense systems, since there are no legal restrictions. Moreover, the process will not only be limited to the USA and Russia, and China will also be involved in the nuclear arms race. Moreover, the developments will also provide legitimacy to the efforts of the actors, such as Iran and North Korea, who are trying to obtain nuclear weapons.

All of this could create an opportunity to confirm Kenneth Waltz’s thesis that the gradual increase in the number of states with nuclear weapons is better for global security.[2] Of course, no one would want this thesis to be tested by a nuclear war.


[1] Şafak Oğuz, “Nükleer İşbirliğinin Son Halkası: Yeni START Sözleşmesi”, ANKASAM, https://www.ankasam.org/nukleer-isbirliginin-son-halkasi-yeni-start-sozlesmesi/, (Date of Accession: 17.03.2023).

[2] Kenneth Waltz, “The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May Be Better”, Adelphi Papers, 21(171), 1981.

Doç. Dr. Şafak OĞUZ
Doç. Dr. Şafak OĞUZ
In 2019, Şafak OĞUZ received his Associate Professor title and retired in 2021 after 23 years of service in the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF). Having worked for the United Nations (UN) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during his service, OĞUZ works on Weapons of Mass Destruction, Terrorism, International Security, International Organizations and Peace and Conflict Studies. OĞUZ is currently a faculty member at Cappadocia University, Faculty of Economics, Administrative and Social Sciences, Department of International Relations. He is fluent in English and German.