Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

Putin Makes His Countermove

As everyone knows by this point, Joe Biden visited Kyiv, Ukraine, earlier in the week. This was a double poke in Vladimir Putin's eyes. First, because it indicated the President's strong support for Putin's current enemy. Second, because it was embarrassing that Biden could stroll the enemy capital without concern.

Not surprisingly, given the kind of man he is, not to mention the fact that he's also losing on the PR front, the Russian president felt it necessary to respond to Biden's maneuver. Putin doesn't have all that many arrows left in his quiver, but he pulled out one of the biggest ones left yesterday, suspending Russian participation in the New START Treaty. That is the only remaining arms limitation treaty between the U.S. and Russia that is still in effect; it was negotiated back in 2011 by Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

On one hand, it is scary to have Russia threatening to do whatever it wants on the nuclear arms front. On the other hand, even Vladimir Putin is not willing to push his luck too much. His administration clarified that Russia is not withdrawing from the treaty, just suspending its participation. And by "suspend," Team Putin means "continue to abide by the caps on number of nuclear missiles." So, this looks to be a symbolic gesture, and considerably less substantive than it might seem at first glance.

That said, the one clear effect of suspending participation in the treaty is that the U.S. will not be able to inspect Russian missiles (something the treaty calls for, though the practice had already been temporarily suspended due to COVID), The lack of inspections means that Putin could follow the rules on number of missiles (easily monitored by American satellites) but could put extra nuclear warheads in each missile (not easily monitored by satellite). If the U.S. believed this was happening, it would likely respond in kind, meaning a brand-new arms race (despite the fact that both sides have more than enough nukes to destroy the world already). The last arms race ultimately turned out poorly for the then-Soviets, and you would think Putin wouldn't risk another, especially given how thin his country's economy is already stretched. But you just never know with him. (Z)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates