With Bolton Out, Russian Lawmakers See Greater Chance for New START Extension

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By Patrick Goodenough | September 11, 2019 | 4:22 AM EDT

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in June 2018. (Photo: The Kremlin)

(CNSNews.com) – Senior Russian lawmakers voiced optimism Tuesday that the departure of National Security Advisor John Bolton would help to improve Moscow-Washington relations, particularly in the field of arms control.

Konstantin Kosachev, who chairs the Russian equivalent of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was not sorry to see the back of Bolton, whatever the reasons behind President Trump’s decision.

He told the TASS news agency that Bolton’s exit could improve chances for a negotiated extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction (New START) Treaty.

Kosachev said Bolton had “always been against agreements in the sphere of strategic stability and arms control obviously thinking that they lay too many restrictions on the United States not letting it demonstrate its superiority.”

“I don’t know if that was the reason why Trump has fired Bolton but I know that this is why I am not going to be sorry for his resignation,” he said.

Another senior Russian lawmaker, Alexei Pushkov, responded to news of Bolton’s exit by tweeting “one less super hawk,” and adding that his departure may mean that New START will now be “preserved.”

Pushkov, a former chairman of Russia’s counterpart to the House Foreign Affairs Committee who is now a senator, also speculated about reasons for Trump’s decision.

“Apparently, Trump is very determined to leave Afghanistan, while Bolton took a different approach. This could be the last reason, but it was hardly the main reason,” he tweeted. “Bolton must have tried too often to draw his own line – instead of the Trump line.”

President Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the signing of the New START Treaty in Prague in April 2010. (Photo: The Kremlin)

Pushkov added that the chances of Trump meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani were now stronger, arguing that Bolton’s removal would benefit rather than harm diplomacy.

New START, which was negotiated under the Obama administration and took effect in February 2011, placed limits on deployed Russian and U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), strategic bombers, deployed warheads, and deployed and non-deployed ICBM and SLBM launchers and heavy bombers.

The treaty is set to expire in 2021, unless replaced by a new document, or unless extended by a maximum of five years – to 2026 – by mutual consent of both governments.

Over the summer, U.S. and Russian officials met in Prague to discuss resuming talks on the future of New START, but Bolton in an interview with the Free Beacon expressed doubt that the treaty would be extended.

“There’s no decision but I think it’s unlikely,” Bolton said at the time, adding that weaknesses in the treaty which worried Republicans at the time it was ratified in late 2010 – by a lame-duck Senate after active lobbying by the Obama administration – remained unresolved.

Bolton, who served as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security in the George W. Bush administration, also pointed out that the limits in the New START Treaty – like those in the recently-scrapped Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty – do not apply to China’s nuclear stockpile.

Although he sounded a pessimistic note in that interview about the likelihood of extending New START, Bolton did not rule out negotiating a new, presumably better treaty to replace it, and said, “I’ll just tell you as an old arms control negotiator, if you really want to negotiate, you can do it fast.”


Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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