Where to use?

Prelims level: International treaties for peace and development are being asked in UPSC Prelims.

Mains level: Evolution of Global ties, majorly superpowers concerning India.

International Relations | Mains Paper 2: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India

Why in news?

  • Russia is inclined to talk with the United States on nuclear arms control even as Moscow and Washington have remained locked in a tense stand-off over Russia’s moves in Ukraine.
  • The New START, INF and the Open Skies be explicit about the differences between these treaties. For instance- to check if their inception was during the cold war era etc.

New START Treaty

  • The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) pact restricts the number of deployed nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers and is due to expire in 2021 unless renewed.
  • The treaty limits the US and Russia to a maximum of 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, agreeably below Cold War caps.
  • It was signed in 2010 by former US President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
  • It is one of the essential controls on the superpower deployment of nuclear weapons.

Background of US-Russia Nuclear Relations

  • The US formally QUIT the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF)
  • The deal obliged the two nations to eradicate all ground-based missiles of ranges between 500 and 5,500 km.

When did nuclear disarmament begin?

  • In 1985, the two nations joined in arms control negotiations on three tracks.
    • The first negotiated with strategic weapons with ranges of over 5,500 km, leading to the START agreement in 1991.
    • It restricted both sides to 1,600 strategic delivery vehicles and 6,000 warheads.
    • A second track dealt with middle-range missiles and this was directed to the INF Treaty in 1987.
    • A third track, Nuclear, and Space Talks was planned to address Soviet apprehensions regarding the US’s Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI) but this did not produce any result.

Success of INF

  • The INF Treaty was celebrated as a great demilitarisation accord even though no nuclear warheads were disassembled.
  • As it is a bilateral arrangement, it did not prohibit other countries.
  • By 1991, the INF was executed. USSR eradicated 1,846 and the US destroyed 846 Pershing and cruise missiles. 
  • Associated production establishments were also shut down.
  • INF Treaty was the first agreement to include intensive validation efforts, including on-site assessments.

How has the nuclear behaviour been?

  • With the ending of the Cold War and the break-up of the USSR in the end-1991, former Soviet partners were joining NATO and becoming EU members.
  • The U.S. was funding missile defence and conventional global accuracy strike capacities to expand its specialised authority.
  • In 2001, the U.S. declared its unilateral withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty).
  • The US also condemned Russia for not yielding to the ‘zero-yield’ standard inflicted by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). This may mark the beginning of a new nuclear arms race.

Implications of the New Start

  • The 2011 New START lapsed in 2021. It may fulfil the fate of the INF Treaty.
  • The 2018 NPR envisaged the growth of new nuclear weapons, including low-yield weapons.
  • China is preparing to utilise its test site year-round with its objectives for its nuclear force.
  • CTBT requires ratification by the US., China, Iran, Israel and Egypt and observation by India, Pakistan and North Korea. It is doubtful to ever enter into emphasis.


A new nuclear arms race could just be the dawn. It may be more complex because of considerable nations being involved.

Technological transformations are bringing cyber and space domains into contention. It raises the perils of escalation.