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What Russia's Withdrawal From The START Treaty Really Means

While the specter of nuclear war may seem to loom larger and more ominously in the wake of Putin’s speech on the anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine, the New START treaty, in which Putin has now suspended cooperation, has been on its way out since last summer. The speech was not shocking and was straight from the traditional Cold War playbook. But what was the aim? It’s hard to say. Putin simply wants to win the war. There is no ideology here other than anti-everything. Putin’s senseless scorched-earth tactics in eastern Ukraine, which amount to destruction with no purpose, do not line up with his stated aim of fighting for “historical lands”, which was his pro-war rally speech on Wednesday.

The New START treaty, signed by Obama and Medvedev in 2010, was a bit of a diplomatic coup at the time because it represented a “new start” with Russia. Specifically, the treaty holds that the U.S. and Russia can only have a maximum of 1,550 deployed warheads each (which was a 30% reduction from 2002). The treaty was never going to prevent a nuclear war. It was symbolic at best and represented diplomacy that broke further away from the Cold War mentality. Putin’s scrapping of the treaty is simply a reversal of that diplomacy.

This is another element in what is intended to be a very long war, and Putin is hoping that Republicans will win in Washington with their “Ukraine fatigue” theories and the White House…

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