The U.S. and Russia are the world's two mightiest nuclear powers, and yet over the years, they've made deals to reduce their respective arsenals.
Just like a marriage gone bad, though, things have soured between Washington and Moscow. Bickering over nuclear issues has increased markedly in recent months, with each side accusing the other of cheating.
And that war of words is being matched by actions:
- Russia, in early October, moved a battery of nuclear-capable missile launchers within range of three Baltic states.
- In September, three U.S. long-range bombers — the kind used to drop nuclear weapons — flew over Eastern Europe in NATO military exercises.
- Russia, in late October, unveiled images of a new intercontinental ballistic missile dubbed the Satan 2, whose warhead, it claims, can destroy an area the size of Texas.
"I would have to say that, without question, this is the low point in U.S.-Russian relations since the end of the Cold War," says Steven Pifer, an arms control expert at the Brookings Institution.
According to Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, things began going downhill after Russia's invasion of Ukraine two years ago. They slid further last year with Moscow's intervention in Syria, and this year, got worse with Russian warplanes buzzing U.S. ships and planes in the Baltic — and Washington accusing Moscow of meddling in the presidential election.
These developments have other nuclear arms experts worried as well.
"We are in a dangerous situation," says Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists.
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