Ukrainian crisis, Biden’s three levers to deal with Putin: nuclear weapons, inspections, contacts

from Giuseppe Sarcina

The White House makes it known that all the cards are on the table. Now it’s up to Vladimir Putin to decide between war and, if not perpetual peace, at least serious negotiations

from our correspondent
WASHINGTON – The White House makes it known that all the cards are on the table. Now it’s up to Vladimir Putin to decide between war and, if not perpetual peace, at least serious negotiations. On Tuesday Joe Biden made it clear that the United States is not willing to satisfy the main request of the Russians: a written agreement to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO. But the Americans are not obstructing the attempt by Germany and France: persuade Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenski to dismiss the issue for a long time. Biden, on the other hand, offers an alternative path, assuming that Putin’s goal is really just to ensure Russia’s security.

In the speech of the day before yesterday the US leader summed up the proposal, citing three aspects : reduction of nuclear weapons; mutual control mechanisms; new measures for stability. What does this mean in practice? The confrontation between the two military superpowers stopped in 2019, when Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the New Start treaty, which provides for the reduction of strategic nuclear weapons. At the time, Washington accused Moscow of violating the phasing-out program. The two sides resumed strategic dialogue after the Biden-Putin summit, last June 17 in Geneva. In the lineup of meetings there is, of course, the fate of the New Start which formally expires in 2026.

The document sets the ceiling for 1,550 nuclear warheads per side and 770 vehicles (missiles, planes, submarines) to drop atomic bombs. The Russians are asking the US not to deploy other nuclear weapons outside their national borders, that is, in Europe. THEThe precise reference: the 100 B61 atomic bombs that Washington is preparing to deploy in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Holland and Turkey. The United States replies: but then in the count we must also include the nuclear warheads stored in the deposits, or classified only as defensive instruments, therefore not strategic, while in reality they represent a threat (for example the Russian cruise missile 9M729). The US in total has 3,800 warheads; Russia 4,500.

Basically the Russians don’t want more nuclear bombs in Europe, while the Americans demand that Putin’s entire arsenal be taken into account. To break the deadlock Biden is now proposing a balanced moratorium that lasts a few years. Namely: the Kremlin agrees to also include cruise missiles in the count, including 9M729; the White House for a while gave up sending other newspapers to Europe. The scheme would be strengthened by control mechanisms, agreed between NATO and Russia. For example: allow Moscow inspectors to enter Aegis Ashore anti-missile bases in Romania and Poland. In exchange, Atlantic Alliance officers should have access to at least two Russian 9M729 missile positions.

Finally, the other measures for stability. The US and NATO suggest setting limits on military exercises in Europe. Again: avoid the risk of contacts between the allied armed forces and the Russian ones, strengthening the communication channels between the respective military commands. In the background, at least for now, it remains the American attempt to initiate negotiations on the reduction of conventional weapons: those planes, those tanks that are besieging Ukraine.

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