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A 'New START' to an arms race between the US and Russia?

How European missile defense is blowing up the 'New START' nuclear weapons treaty, US relations with Russia, and possibly reigniting a cold-war arms race.

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Judging by the sound and fury coming from Russia lately, the United States might be witnessing the slow-motion destruction of President Obama’s foreign policy crown jewel, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

But no big surprise there, really: It was only a matter of time before the time bomb attached to the treaty –  European missile defense – blew it up. Not only is Russia figuratively up in arms, but it has actually upped its nuclear arms lately, possibly re-igniting a cold-war-style arms race.

Under New START, which entered into force in February, Moscow and Washington agreed to reduce their deployed strategic warheads to 1,550 each by 2018.  This strict balance or “parity” in strategic warhead numbers is a central tenet of the treaty.

The problem with European missile defense is that while it’s designed to counter Iran, the faster interceptors due to come online in 2018 will also be able to engage Russian warheads, upsetting this all-important perception of parity. Indeed, this interplay between strategic offense and defense was explicitly recognized in the preamble to the treaty.

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