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August 27, 2018
US-Russia Nuclear Arms Control

Russia’s View on Nuclear Arms Control: An Interview With Ambassador Anatoly Antonov


April 2020

Arms Control Today conducted a written interview in early March with Anatoly Antonov, Russian ambassador to the United States on issues including the current status of U.S.-Russian strategic security talks, the future of New START, talks on intermediate-range missile systems, engaging China in arms control, and President Vladimir Putin’s proposal for a summit of the leaders of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Ambassador Anatoly Antonov, then director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Department of Security and Disarmament Affairs, speaks at the closing plenary of the New START negotiations on Apr. 9, 2010, one day after the treaty was signed in Prague by the U.S. and Russian presidents. (Photo: Eric Bridiers/U.S. Mission, Geneva)Antonov was appointed ambassador to the United States in August 2017. For more than three decades, he has served in the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its successor, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where he has specialized in the control of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Serving as the ministry’s director for security and disarmament, he headed Russia’s delegation to the 2009 negotiations on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). He was appointed deputy minister of defense in 2011 and deputy minister of foreign affairs in 2016.

Arms Control Today: What issues were discussed in the recent U.S.-Russian strategic security talks in Vienna? When do the two sides plan to meet next? Does Russia find this dialogue on issues affecting strategic stability useful and, if so, why?

Amb. Anatoly Antonov: Russia and the United States are the largest nuclear weapons powers and permanent members of the UN Security Council. They bear a special responsibility for preserving world peace and security. That is why it is crucial to maintain the bilateral strategic stability dialogue at any given circumstance, regardless of political situation. It goes without saying that such engagement should be conducted on a regular basis.

While discussing security issues, one must keep in mind that any conversation, no matter how substantial it might be, should focus on achieving tangible results. Reaching agreements on reducing tensions and mutually acceptable arms control solutions could help meet this goal. The primary task is to rebuild confidence in this area, attempt to preserve treaties that are still in effect, [and] mitigate crisis dynamic.

As for the consultations in January, our reaction can be described as “cautious optimism.” On the bright side is the fact that the meeting did take place, even though it exposed serious disagreements between our countries on a number of topics. Without going into detail, I must note that on many occasions we heard our partners talking about a concept of conducting dialogue within the framework of the so-called great power competition. In our view, such a formula could hardly serve as a foundation for building constructive cooperation on security issues between nuclear powers.

Nonetheless, Russian and American negotiators managed to discuss factors that significantly impact strategic stability (even though our partners somehow prefer the term “strategic security”). In our perspective, they include, above all, deployment of global missile defense, implementation of the “prompt strike” concept, threat of placement of weapons in outer space and designation of space as a “war-fighting domain,” quantitative and qualitative imbalances in conventional arms in Europe, development and deployment of low-yield nuclear warheads, and adoption of new doctrines that lead to lowering the threshold of using nuclear weapons.

In our view, another positive outcome of the renewed Russian-U.S. dialogue on strategic stability was the agreement reached in Vienna on conducting expert group discussions on specific topics, which we have to go over and agree on.

ACT: Do you agree or disagree with the idea that there is ample time to decide whether to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START)? From Moscow’s view, when must the presidents of the United States and Russia formally agree on extension of New START to ensure completion of the necessary processes before its expiration date? Is it Russia’s view that the treaty can only be extended once, or can it be extended multiple times totaling up to five years if the two parties decide to pursue that approach?

Is it possible for the Duma to provisionally recognize a joint decision by the two presidents to extend the treaty in order to allow a decision on extension closer to the expiration date?

Antonov: As you have correctly noted, Russian President Vladimir Putin clearly spelled out our stance on New START. On December 5, 2019, he declared our country’s readiness to immediately and unconditionally extend the treaty. Later last year, we officially suggested that Russia and the United States should review the entire set of corresponding issues including the term of the treaty’s possible extension (up to five years).

A Russian defense official shows Russia's 9M729 cruise missile at a facility outside Moscow on Jan. 23, 2019. Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov disputes the U.S. accusation that the missile violated the INF Treaty. (Photo: Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images)However, we have yet to get a response. Trump administration representatives keep claiming that “there is still time” since the extension of the treaty in their view can be formalized in a matter of days. These statements are made despite our repeated clarifications that New START’s extension is not a “mere technicality,” but a rather extensive process that requires the Russian side to undertake a series of domestic legislative procedures. I would like to reiterate that as past similar review processes show, it may take several months to complete the New START extension.

Therefore, it is surprising that the U.S. Department of State refused to conduct consultations proposed by the Russian side on legal aspects of potential extension of the treaty. In response, we hear mixed comments (for instance, during the briefing of a “senior State Department official” on March 9, 2020) on the nature of interaction between the executive and legislative branches in Russia.

As for your last question, I would rather not contemplate in a conditional tense. I wish to emphasize: Russia stands ready to reach an agreement on New START’s extension even this very day. However, our goodwill is not enough. It requires U.S. consent, which we have not received yet. Should Washington agree, we will immediately begin implementation of the corresponding domestic procedures.

We hope that the United States will finalize its stance on New START in the nearest future since there is not much time left before the treaty expires in February 2021.

ACT: For nearly a year, the United States has insisted that China be involved in trilateral nuclear arms control negotiations with Russia and the United States. Chinese officials have said, however, that given the disparities between their arsenal and those of the United States and Russia, they are not interested in trilateral arms control talks at this time. Russia has said that if the U.S. side can persuade China to participate, then other nuclear-armed states such as France and the United Kingdom should be involved.

In Russia’s view, which nuclear arms issues and which types of weapons should be part of any bilateral or multilateral follow-on negotiation to New START? Would Russia be willing to engage in negotiations designed to limit or reduce stockpiles of nonstrategic nuclear weapons as well as strategic nuclear weapons? When, in Russia’s view, should any such New START follow-on talks begin?

Antonov: I would like to remind you that our stance on this issue dates back to 2010. We have said more than once that, with the signing of New START, any possibilities for further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms on a bilateral basis are virtually exhausted and that further progress in this area will require involvement of other states with military nuclear capabilities. However, we do not understand why some of our U.S. colleagues talk exclusively about China. Let’s also involve NATO members possessing nuclear weapons, Great Britain and France. In fact, that is what the special representative of the president for nuclear nonproliferation, Ambassador Jeffrey Eberhardt, suggested in his March interview with your journal, when he said, “we have to move beyond bilateral discussions between ourselves and Russia and bring in other countries.”

We are convinced that cooperation with third countries in developing possible new agreements in this area should be strictly consensus based and pose no threats to legitimate security interests of the parties. Beijing has clearly rejected the idea of being involved in the so-called trilateral agreements on nuclear arms control that you have mentioned. We believe that this “obsession” with the trilateral format can become a serious obstacle to the development of the Russian-U.S. strategic dialogue, in particular, in terms of preserving existing treaties and developing possible new bilateral agreements.

There is no doubt that the Russian-U.S. bilateral arms control agenda remains relevant. We are open to discussing within the strategic dialogue the issue of the newest and prospective weapons that do not fall under New START. However, the conversation on this topic should be conducted in a comprehensive manner, which takes into account interests of both sides.

At the same time, the possible extension of New START would give Russia and the United States an opportunity to discuss the prospects of bilateral and multilateral arms control regimes in the environment of strategic predictability.

ACT: Regarding your proposal to convene a heads-of-state meeting among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, what specifically would be discussed at such a meeting, and what specific outcomes does President Putin think could be achieved and how?

Antonov: Currently we have been conducting preliminary discussion on a possible date and venue for the summit.

The goal of the summit, as stated by Russian President Putin, is to begin a substantial conversation on the fundamental principles of cooperation on the international arena in order to resolve the most pressing issues faced by the global community. A meeting of the leaders of the five permanent members of the Security Council is the most appropriate format for such a dialogue to commence.

We proceed from an understanding that the leaders will discuss the crisis situation in global stability and security, including the erosion of the UN-set foundations of the world order, regional conflicts, fight against international terrorism and transnational organized crime, challenges of migration, and destabilizing technologies. We will not be able to leave out disarmament and arms control issues. We hope that the summit will allow us to identify approaches to solving pressing strategic stability issues.

But it can only be achieved within an interested and mutually respectful dialogue that implies consideration of interests of all sides. Later, other countries can and must join these efforts since only collectively we may solve the global problems of humanity. The summit is our proposal to the international community to step away from confrontational thinking and get behind a productive agenda.

ACT: Would Russia’s proposal for talks on a moratorium on deploying intermediate-range missiles also prohibit Russian deployment of the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile, which U.S. and NATO officials have charged as an Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty)-noncompliant system? Which geographic “environments” does the Russian proposal envision becoming nondeployment zones for these prohibited missiles? How would the parties to the agreement monitor and verify compliance or otherwise share information about the locations and numbers of the prohibited systems? Lastly, is Russia open to considering counterproposals to its initial concept, and with which countries does Russia seek to negotiate such a missile moratorium?

Antonov: Russian President Putin’s message to the heads of the leading countries, including the United States and other NATO members, dated September 18, 2019, states that our country made a voluntary commitment not to deploy ground-based intermediate- and shorter-range missiles in Europe and other regions so long as the United States refrains from doing so. On many occasions, we have called on other countries to support this initiative in order to prevent a new missile arms race, primarily on the European continent.

We believe that a multilateral moratorium in accordance with the Russian proposal will require additional verification measures, especially considering that launchers capable of firing intermediate-range land-based missiles are already deployed in Romania (Poland soon will follow suit). It was clearly proven during the test of a sea-based Tomahawk cruise missile fired from a ground-based Mk41 launcher conducted on August 18, 2019. Should our U.S. and European partners be interested, Russia is ready to work out corresponding technical aspects of the verification regime.

As for 9M729 missiles, the alleged “proof” amassed by the United States and NATO of our systems violating the INF Treaty (while it was in effect) has never been presented either to us or the international community.

Russia stands ready to discuss the issues of intermediate- and shorter-range ground-based missiles with all concerned countries. Our call to adhere to a moratorium, similar to the one already observed by our country, is addressed above all to Washington and its allies in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

ACT: Regarding the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), what are the main action steps on nuclear disarmament, previously agreed in the 2010 review conference outcome document, or perhaps new steps that Russia will encourage the 10th NPT review conference to support? What specific nuclear risk reduction measures is Russia ready to support in the context of the NPT review conference? [Editor: The 2020 NPT Review Conference will not meet as scheduled, see ACT news article, this issue.]

Antonov: Our stance and priorities in nuclear disarmament have been comprehensively described in the Russian working paper submitted to the second preparatory committee for the 10th NPT review conference. It stipulates a consensus-based incremental approach that implies consistent work on creating the right conditions that help the global community to continue down the path toward nuclear disarmament.

In this regard, we consider the forced development of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (now open for signing) as wrongful. It fails to promote nuclear disarmament, undermines the NPT, and creates additional tensions between its participants. We believe that complete elimination of nuclear weapons is only possible within comprehensive and complete disarmament and under conditions of equal and indivisible security for all, including nuclear states, in accordance with the NPT.

A significant contribution to progress in nuclear disarmament would be made by extending New START and adopting a moratorium on the deployment of ground-based intermediate- and shorter-range missiles by the United States and its allies. An important role in efforts to limit and reduce nuclear weapons is played by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Unfortunately, since the CTBT was opened for signature 20 years ago, the world has still been awaiting its entry into force.

As for nuclear risks, we are working on a joint statement with the other permanent members of the UN Security Council on the inadmissibility of a nuclear war (the United States has failed to respond to Russia’s proposal to do it in a bilateral format). This could in a way become a reconfirmation of the well-known Gorbachev-Reagan formula, this time in a multilateral format.

Russia’s ambassador to the United States discusses strategic security, New START, and other key topics.

Surging U.S. Nuclear Weapons Budget a Growing Danger

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Volume 12, Issue 3, March 19, 2020

The projected cost to sustain and upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal continues to grow. And grow. And grow some more. The Trump administration’s fiscal year 2021 budget request released in February reinforces what has long been forewarned: The administration’s excessive strategy to replace nearly the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal at roughly the same time is a ticking budget time bomb, even at historically high levels of national defense spending.

“I am concerned that … we have underestimated the risks associated with such a complex and time-constrained modernization and recapitalization effort,” Adm. Charles Richard, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 13.

Vice Adm. Johnny Wolfe, the director of the Navy strategic systems programs, put it even more bluntly to the House Armed Services Committee on March 3. There is a “pervasive and overwhelming risk carried within the nuclear enterprise as refurbishment programs face capacity, funding, and schedule challenges,” he said.

Adm. Richard and Vice Adm. Wolfe support the administration’s modernization approach and believe that delays to the effort could undermine the U.S. nuclear deterrent. But their warnings should prompt renewed questions about whether the spending plans are necessary and sustainable. The need for a fundamental reassessment is magnified by the rising human and financial toll that the novel coronavirus is inflicting on the national economy. The threat to worker safety and health posed by the disease could exacerbate the execution challenges identified by Adm. Richard and Adm. Wolfe.

Last year, Congress supported the administration’s nuclear budget priorities despite strong opposition from the Democratic-led House. But the costs and opportunity costs of the plans are real and growing – and the biggest modernization bills are just beginning to hit. Scaling back the proposals for new delivery systems, warheads, and their infrastructure would make the nuclear weapons modernization effort easier to execute and save scores of billions of taxpayer dollars that should be spent on addressing higher priority national and health security challenges. Such adjustments would still leave ample funding to sustain a devasting U.S. nuclear deterrent.

The Fiscal Year 2021 Nuclear Budget Request

The administration is requesting $44.5 billion in fiscal year 2021 for the Defense and Energy Departments to sustain and modernize U.S. nuclear delivery systems and warheads and their supporting infrastructure, a larger-than-anticipated increase of about $7.3 billion, or 19 percent, from the fiscal year 2020 level. This includes $28.9 billion for the Pentagon and $15.6 billion for the Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

The proposed spending on nuclear weapons constitutes about 6 percent of the total national defense request, up from about 5 percent last year. By 2024, projected spending on the nuclear arsenal is slated to consume 6.8% of total national defense spending. The percentage will continue to rise through the late-2020s and early-2030s when modernization spending is slated to peak.

The largest increase sought is for the NNSA nuclear weapons activities account. The budget request calls for $15.6 billion, an astonishing increase of $3.1 billion, or 25 percent, above the fiscal year 2020 appropriation and $2.8 billion above the projection for 2021 in the fiscal year 2020 budget request. Over the next five years, the NNSA is planning to request over $81 billion for weapons activities, a nearly 24 percent increase over what it planned to seek over the same period as of last year.

To put the NNSA weapons activities request in perspective, $15.6 billion is almost twice as much as the $8.3 billion emergency spending bill signed into law March 6 to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus through prevention efforts and research to quickly produce a vaccine for the deadly disease.

The budget request would support continued implementation of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which called for expanding U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities. In addition to continuing full speed ahead with the previous administration’s plans to upgrade the arsenal on a largely like-for-like basis, the Trump administration proposed to develop two new sea-based low-yield nuclear options (one of which it has already begun deploying) and lay the groundwork to grow the size of the warhead stockpile.

The projected long-term cost of the proposed nuclear spending spree is even more staggering. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected last year that the United States is poised to spend nearly $500 billion, after including the effects of inflation, to maintain and replace its nuclear arsenal between fiscal years 2019 and 2028. This is an increase of nearly $100 billion, or about 23 percent, above the already enormous projected cost as of the end of the Obama administration. Over the next 30 years, the price tag is likely to top $1.5 trillion and could even approach $2 trillion.

These big nuclear bills are coming due as the Defense Department is seeking to replace large portions of its conventional forces and must contend with internal fiscal pressures, such as rising maintenance and operations costs. In addition, external fiscal pressures, such as the growing national debt and the significant economic contraction caused by the coronavirus pandemic, are all likely to limit the growth of – and perhaps reduce – military spending. Indeed, the Trump administration is recommending a lower national defense budget top line in fiscal year 2021 than Congress provided last year.

“The Pentagon must come to terms with the reality that future defense budgets are likely to be flat, which will force leaders to make some tough choices,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Feb. 6.

The costs and risks of the Trump administration’s nuclear weapons spending plans are compounded by its hostility to arms control. The administration withdrew the United States from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in August 2019 and has shown little interest in extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). If New START expires in February 2021 with nothing to replace it, the incentives for the United States and Russia to grow the size of their arsenals beyond the treaty limits would grow. A new quantitative arms race would cause the already high costs of the modernization effort to soar even higher.

Triad Budget Rises as Planned

The budget request contains large but planned increases to maintain the schedule of Pentagon programs to sustain and rebuild the U.S. triad of nuclear-armed missiles, submarines, and bombers.

The request includes $4.4 billion for the Navy program to build 12 Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). The Air Force is seeking $2.8 billion to continue development of the B-21 Raider strategic bomber, $500 million for the long-range standoff weapon program to replace the existing air-launched cruise missile, and $1.5 billion for the program to replace the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile with a missile system called the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD). The Pentagon is also asking for $4.2 billion to sustain and upgrade nuclear command, control, and communications systems.

Collectively, the request for these programs is an increase of $3.2 billion, or more than 30 percent, above the fiscal year 2020 level.

Over the next five years, the Pentagon is projecting to request $167 billion to sustain and modernize delivery systems and their supporting command and control infrastructure. The Columbia-class, GBSD, and B-21 programs could each cost between $100-$150 billion after including the effects of inflation and likely cost overruns, easily putting them among the top 10 most expensive Pentagon acquisition programs.

 
 

 

NNSA Budget Explodes

The NNSA budget submission includes large unplanned cost increases for several ongoing warhead life extension programs, the acceleration of the W93 program to develop a newly-designed submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead, the expansion of the production of plutonium pits for nuclear warheads to at least 80 per year, and other large infrastructure recapitalization projects.

The factors driving the NNSA to request such large unplanned increases are unclear. The agency said last year that its fiscal year 2020 budget plan was “fully consistent” with the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review and “affordable and executable.” Under that proposal, the NNSA did not plan to request more than $15 billion for the weapons activities account until 2030.

Several major ongoing programs would reportedly be delayed in the absence of the increase, which would suggest that they have encountered cost overruns. 

It is unlikely that the NNSA will be able to spend such a large increase in one year. Allison Bawden, a director at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), told the House Armed Services Committee on March 3 that spending the requested amount “will be very challenging.” This view is supported by the fact that the weapons activities account is sitting on approximately $5.5 billion in unspent carryover balances from previous years.

Despite massive budget increases since the Trump administration took office, the executability of NNSA’s plans is highly questionable. The ambition of the agency’s modernization program is unlike anything seen since the Cold War. Bawden noted that the GAO is “concerned about the long-term affordability of the plans.” Former NNSA administrator Frank Klotz said in a January 2018 interview before the release of the Nuclear Posture Review that the agency was already “working pretty much at full capacity.”

According to Bawden, the tightly coupled nature of the NNSA’s modernization program is such that “any delay could have a significant cascading effect on the overall effort.” The agency has consistently underestimated the cost and schedule risks of major warhead life extension programs and infrastructure recapitalization projects. An independent assessment published last year found “no historical precedent” for the NNSA’s plan to produce 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030. The assessment also stated that the agency had never completed a major project costing more than $700 million in fewer than 16 years.

This chart shows the NNSA’s future-years nuclear security program (FYNSP) for each fiscal year starting with FY 2017. The FYNSP reflects what the agency estimates its budget will be for that current fiscal year and the four succeeding fiscal years.Moreover, while the NNSA’s five-year spending projection sustains the enormous fiscal year 2021 funding proposal, outyear funding is slated to grow at a set rate of 2.1 percent. In other words, the outyear projections aren't based on what NNSA believes it will actually need. Several major NNSA efforts, such as developing a warhead for a new sea-launched cruise missile and the full scope of the plutonium pit production and uranium enrichment recapitalization plans, are not yet part of the budget. In sum, if "past is precedent," the outyear projections will exceed growth with inflation.

Nuclear Force Modernization Cannibalizes Conventional Military Modernization

The damaging opportunity costs of the administration’s decision to prioritize nuclear weapons are on full display in the budget request. The Navy has long been warning that the planned recapitalization of the ballistic missile submarine force will pose a particularly significant affordability challenge. The request includes funding to purchase the first submarine in the class over the next three years.

“[W]e must begin a 40-year recapitalization of our [SSBN] force,” Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly wrote in a Feb. 18 memo directing the Navy to identify $40 billion in savings over the next five years. “This requirement will consume a significant portion of our shipbuilding budget in the coming years and squeeze out funds we need to build a larger fleet.”

The Navy is requesting $19.9 billion for shipbuilding in fiscal year 2021, a decrease of $4.1 billion below the fiscal year 2020 level.

The shipbuilding budget also paid the price for the enormous unplanned increase for the NNSA. The agency’s budget submission was reportedly a controversial issue within the Trump administration and was not resolved until days before the Feb. 10 public release of the budget. President Trump ultimately signed off on adding over $2 billion to the NNSA’s weapons activities account, forcing a late scramble to make room for the additional funding.

Though the Pentagon has not confirmed the exact amount that was taken to pay for the increase, members of Congress and media reports indicate that the increase for the NNSA prevented the Navy from adding a second Virginia-class attack submarine to the shipbuilding budget. The decision to cut an attack submarine to pay for a budget increase the NNSA said last year it didn’t need is hard to square with the Pentagon’s top overall defense priority of preparing for great power competition with China.

Nuclear Weapons Aren’t Cheap

The Pentagon argues that even at its peak in the late-2020s, spending on nuclear weapons is affordable because it will consume a peak of roughly 6.4 percent of total Pentagon spending in 2029. But this figure is misleading for several reasons. For starters, the figure doesn’t include spending at the NNSA. When NNSA spending is included, nuclear weapons already account for 6 percent of the total FY 2021 national defense budget request. Regardless, even 6 percent of a budget as large as the Pentagon’s is an enormous amount of money. By comparison, the March 2013 congressionally mandated sequester reduced national defense spending (minus exempt military personnel accounts) by 7 percent. Military leaders and lawmakers repeatedly described the sequester as devastating.

Meanwhile, a better measure of the opportunity costs of prioritizing nuclear modernization is to compare spending on that modernization to overall Defense Department acquisition spending. The Pentagon is requesting $17.7 billion for nuclear weapons research, development, and procurement in fiscal year 2021. This amount already accounts for 7.3 percent of the total requested Pentagon acquisition spending. While the Pentagon is projecting a decline in total acquisition spending over the next five years, nuclear acquisition spending is primed for a major increase. The CBO estimated in 2017 that by the early 2030s, spending on nuclear weapons would rise to 15 percent of the Pentagon’s total acquisition costs.

Pentagon officials also repeatedly claim that unless they get every penny that they are asking for to modernize the arsenal, the arsenal will begin to erode into obsolescence. But this is a false choice. The right question is whether the administration’s approach is necessary, sustainable, and safe, especially in the absence of any negotiated restraints on the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. And the right answer is that the administration’s current path is unnecessary, unsustainable, and unsafe – and must be rethought.

Recommendations for Congress

The bottom line is that Trump administration’s nuclear weapons spending plans cannot be sustained without significant and sustained increases to defense spending – which are unlikely to be forthcoming – or cuts to other security priorities. The current approach is a costly and irrational recipe for nuclear modernization program delays and scope reductions.

But while the plans pose significant challenges, they need not prevent the United States from continuing to field a powerful and credible nuclear force sufficient to deter or respond to a nuclear attack against the United States and its allies. The administration inherited a larger and more diverse nuclear arsenal than is required for deterrence and its approach to modernization and arms control would increase the risks of miscalculation, unintended escalation, and accelerated global nuclear competition.

Instead, the United States could save at least $150 billion in fiscal year 2017 constant dollars through the mid-2040s by adjusting the current modernization approach while still retaining a triad and deploying the New START limit of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads. Such an approach would reflect a nuclear strategy that reduces reliance on nuclear weapons, emphasizes stability and survivability, de-emphasizes nuclear warfighting, reduces the risk of miscalculation, and is more affordable and executable.

The options include:

  • Buying 10 instead of 12 new Columbia class ballistic missile submarines;
  • Extending the life of the existing Minuteman III ICBM instead of building a new missile and reducing the size of the ICBM force from 400 missiles to 300 missiles (for a detailed discussion of the case for this option, see here);
  • Foregoing development of new nuclear air- and sea-launched cruise missiles;
  • Scaling back plans to build newly-designed ICBM and SLBM warheads;
  • Aiming for a pit production capacity of 30-50 pits per year by 2035 instead of at least 80 pits per year by 2030;
  • Foregoing development of a new uranium enrichment facility; and
  • Retiring the megaton-class B-83 gravity bomb.

Simply reverting to the fiscal year 2020 budget plan for NNSA weapons activities would save over $15.5 billion over the next five years.

Now is the time to re-evaluate nuclear weapons spending plans before the largest investments are made. Of course, pressure on the defense budget cannot be relieved solely by reducing nuclear weapons spending. A significant portion of the overall cost of nuclear weapons is fixed. That said, changes to the nuclear replacement program could make it easier to execute and ease some of the hard choices facing the overall defense enterprise.

In addition to pursuing adjustments to the scope and scale of the modernization program, Congress should also take steps to improve its understanding of the long-term budget challenges. These include:

  • Holding in-depth hearings on U.S. nuclear weapons policy and spending;
  • Requiring the Defense and Energy Departments to prepare a report on options for reducing the scale and scope of their nuclear modernization plans and the associated cost savings;
  • Mandating unclassified annual government updates on the projected long-term costs of nuclear weapons;
  • Requiring an independent report on alternatives to building a new ICBM;
  • Tasking the GAO to annually assess the affordability of the Defense and Energy Department’s modernization plans; and
  • Requiring the NNSA to perform detailed work examining the estimated life of plutonium pits.

Also, lawmakers should more aggressively highlight the relationship between arms control and upgrading the arsenal. The administration’s current one-sided approach both compounds the dangers of the spending plans and flies in the face of longstanding Congressional support for the pursuit of modernization and arms control in tandem.

If the administration continues to insist on nuclear weapons modernization without arms control, then Congress should make it clear that it will not allow the president to increase the size of the arsenal above the New START limits and will be further emboldened to seek to restrain the administration’s excessive and unsustainable spending plans.—Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy, and Shannon Bugos, research assistant

Description: 

The Trump administration’s excessive strategy to replace nearly the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal at roughly the same time is a ticking budget time bomb, even at historically high levels of national defense spending.

Country Resources:

U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Watch, March 13, 2020

Trump Officials Remain Bullish on Trilateral Arms Control and Bearish on New START President Donald Trump said recently that he is open to meeting with the other heads of state of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to discuss arms control and will soon put forward a trilateral arms control proposal with Russia and China. But China continues to express its opposition to trilateral talks and has yet to respond to U.S. overtures to begin a bilateral strategic security dialogue. At the same time, the U.S. administration continues to deflect questions about its stance on the New...

No One Wins an Arms Race or a Nuclear War


March 2020
By Daryl G. Kimball

Fulfilling a goal outlined in its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review report, the Trump administration acknowledged last month that the United States has deployed for the first time a low-yield nuclear warhead on some U.S. submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

The move comes as the administration is proposing to increase spending to more than $44 billion next year to continue and, in some cases, accelerate programs to replace and upgrade all the major elements of the bloated U.S. arsenal. Unless curtailed, the plan, which departs in important ways from long-standing U.S. policies, will accelerate global nuclear competition and increase the risk of nuclear war.

As if to underscore the dangers of the administration’s strategy, the Defense Department led an exercise last month simulating a limited nuclear war. “The scenario included a European contingency…. Russia decides to use a low-yield, limited nuclear weapon against a site on NATO territory,” and the United States fires back with a “limited” nuclear response, according to the Pentagon. The U.S. response presumably involved the low-yield sub-launched warhead, known as the W76-2.

The exercise perpetuates the dangerous illusion that a nuclear war can be fought and won. The new warhead, which packs a five-kiloton explosive yield, is large enough destroy a large city. It would be delivered on the same type of long-range ballistic missile launched from the same strategic submarine that carries missiles loaded with 100-kiloton strategic warheads. Russian military leaders would be hard pressed to know, in the heat of a crisis, whether the missile was part of a “limited” strike or the first wave of an all-out nuclear attack.

Nevertheless, Trump officials insist that the president needs “more credible” nuclear use options to deter the possible first use of nuclear weapons by Russia. In reality, once nuclear weapons of any kind are detonated in a conflict between nuclear-armed adversaries, there is no guarantee against a cycle of escalation leading to all-out global nuclear war. Lowering the threshold for nuclear use by making nuclear weapons “more usable” takes the United States and Russia and the world in the wrong direction.

The administration plans do not stop there. Its fiscal year 2021 budget proposal calls for other new kinds of destabilizing nuclear weapons systems, including a new nuclear warhead for SLBMs, dubbed the W93, and a new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile for deployment on surface ships and submarines. If developed, the W93 would be the first new warhead design added to the U.S. arsenal in more than three decades.

The Defense Department is also seeking $28.9 billion next year, a 30 percent increase, for programs to sustain and recapitalize the existing nuclear arsenal.

The Pentagon’s nuclear modernization spending binge includes $4.4 billion to begin construction of a fleet of 12 Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines; $2.8 billion for the new B-21 stealth bomber program; $1.5 billion to start work on a new ground-based intercontinental ballistic missile system; and $500 million to continue development work on a new nuclear-armed, air-launched cruise missile.

The administration is also demanding a 25 percent boost for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s weapons budget, to $15.6 billion, to cover the growing cost of nuclear warhead refurbishment, design, and production work. This includes expanding the capacity to build plutonium warhead cores to at least 80 per year—an unrealistic and unnecessary goal.

The administration’s grandiose proposals not only would contribute to a dangerous global qualitative nuclear arms race, but they are excessive and unaffordable. Over the next 30 years, these and other nuclear weapons programs are estimated to cost taxpayers at least $1.5 trillion.

Worse yet, the Trump administration’s program of record would sustain deployed strategic warhead numbers at levels 30 percent higher than the Pentagon itself determined in 2013 is necessary to deter nuclear attack. Taken together, Trump’s policies to “greatly strengthen and expand” the U.S. nuclear capability and his failure to engage in good faith negotiations to end the arms race and pursue disarmament are a violation of U.S. obligations under Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

It does not have to be this way. First, the Trump administration needs to heed calls from military officials, U.S. allies, and bipartisan national security leaders to take up Russia’s offer to extend the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty by five years before it is due to expire early next year. Without the treaty, the doors to an open-ended global nuclear arms competition will swing open. History shows that there are no winners in a nuclear arms race.

Second, the Congress, and perhaps a new president in 2021, must rein in the exploding cost and scope of the U.S. nuclear modernization program, particularly the efforts to develop “more usable” nuclear weapons. Hundreds of billions of dollars can be saved by delaying, trimming, or eliminating major elements of the current plan while maintaining a devastating nuclear deterrent. This would allow for those monies to be redirected to other, more urgent national security projects and domestic programs that address real human needs.

Fulfilling a goal outlined in its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review report, the Trump administration acknowledged last month that the United States has deployed for the first time a low-yield nuclear warhead on some U.S. submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

Time to Renew the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle


March 2020
By Lewis Dunn and William Potter

The risk of use of nuclear weapons among the great powers is greater today than since the height of the Cold War. Growing political-military competition has increased the possibility of a U.S.-Russian or U.S.-Chinese military conflict. Any such conflict would carry with it the danger of escalation across the nuclear threshold, most probably driven by misinterpretation and miscalculation.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan arrive at a session of their 1985 summit in Geneva. Their agreement that "a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought" was the most notable achievement of the summit. (Photo: Bettman/Getty Images) Concerns about this risk have focused renewed attention among officials, experts, and civil society on the 1985 statement by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Whether or not nuclear-weapon states should endorse what came to be known as the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle, or make some other equally compelling commitment to avoiding use of nuclear weapons, almost certainly will be part of the debate at the upcoming 2020 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.

Since the United States dropped two atomic bombs to end World War II in 1945, the subsequent nonuse of nuclear weapons is one of the more perplexing, if positive, phenomena of the past 75 years. This tradition, or what some prefer to consider to be a taboo or norm, has persisted despite the existence of a number of unfavorable conditions, from the demonstrated technical effectiveness of the weapon to the centrality of nuclear weapons in the deterrence strategies, military doctrines, and operational war plans of a growing number of states.1 Although the strength and vitality of the tradition of nuclear nonuse has fluctuated over time, the very fact of decade after decade of nonuse has steadily strengthened the norm.

The language of the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle has its roots in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. That crisis led to an increasingly shared recognition in Washington and Moscow of the risks of using nuclear weapons and the need to stabilize the “balance of terror.”2 Although the precise formulation of this recognition is most closely associated with the November 1985 summit in Geneva between Reagan and Gorbachev, the underlying philosophy was reflected in a number of U.S.-Soviet agreements and treaties negotiated between 1969 and 1979. The 1971 Agreement on Measures to Reduce the Outbreak of Nuclear War, for example, proceeds from the premise that nuclear war would have “devastating consequences…for all mankind” and expresses “the need to exert every effort to avert the risk of outbreak of such a war.”3 Similarly, the 1972 Basic Principles of Relations Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics proceeds from “the common determination that in the nuclear age there is no alternative to conducting…mutual relations on the basis of peaceful coexistence...[and the parties] will do their utmost to avoid military confrontations and to prevent the outbreak of nuclear war.”4 The same perspective is articulated in almost verbatim language in the 1973 Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War, 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and 1979 Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II Treaty.

This recognition of the risks of nuclear use was sustained in the 1960s and 1970s across both Republican and Democratic administrations, but it appeared to be in jeopardy when Reagan arrived in the White House in 1981. Some of his early comments about the potential for limiting the escalation of a war involving tactical nuclear weapons prompted Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to declare in October 1981 that “it is dangerous madness to try to defeat each other in the arms race and to count on victory in nuclear war.” Brezhnev added that “only he who has decided to commit suicide can start a nuclear war in the hope of emerging a victor.”5

Almost immediately thereafter, Reagan responded to Brezhnev’s charge by declaring that he had been misquoted and that the United States also opposed the use of nuclear weapons as “all mankind would lose” in a nuclear exchange.6 Subsequently, in April 1982, Reagan refined his message in the famous line from a national radio address: “Those who’ve governed America throughout the nuclear age and we who govern it today have had to recognize that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”7 Frequently repeated by Reagan thereafter, the language later became the most notable achievement of the 1985 Geneva summit. After the summit, this phrase was repeated in bilateral settings such as the December 1987 Washington summit8 and the May-June 1988 Moscow summit.9 Variants of the statement also appeared in both Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty texts.10 Significantly, however, neither the more recent 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty nor the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty make direct or indirect reference to the principle.

Although references to the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle are much less prominent in multilateral disarmament and nonproliferation fora, there is language in the NPT and occasional formulations in the NPT review process that are consistent with the principle. Perhaps most importantly, the preamble to the NPT highlights “the devastation that would be visited upon all mankind by a nuclear war and the consequent need to make every effort to avert the danger of such a war and to take measures to safeguard the security of peoples.” Although the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference did not adopt a consensus document, the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle also is referenced in the report of Main Committee I, which states that “[t]he conference reaffirms that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought, considering the devastation that a nuclear war would bring.”11 Aside from this 1995 report, no other NPT review conference made specific reference to the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle, although the related theme of the global humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use appears in the 2010 NPT Review Conference final document.12

Renewed Attention but Elusive Agreement

During the past two years, there has been renewed interest in the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle and its possible affirmation by the United States and Russia, as well as its endorsement more widely by all five NPT nuclear-weapon states. In 2018, UN High Representative for Disarmament Izumi Nakamitsu highlighted the current relevance of the principle.13 Writing in April 2019, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry, and former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) called for U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin jointly to reaffirm that declaration.14 In the months preceding the May 2019 NPT Preparatory Committee meeting in New York, China had unsuccessfully proposed an affirmation by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council when it served as chair of the P-5 process, periodic consultations among China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States on NPT-related matters. China also brought the issue back into the review process at that preparatory committee but received no public support for its initiative to include reference to the principle in the Chair’s Factual Summary.15

Chinese President Xi Jinping greets Russian President Vladimir Putin at a ceremony during their 2016 summit in Beijing. China and Russia have supported an affirmation of the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle. (Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)The thinking among these five states recognized as nuclear-weapon countries under the NPT on an affirmation of the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle is complex, and the lack of formal policy statements make understanding their policies more difficult. China has most strongly and consistently supported affirmation, and the United States has been the most reluctant. The Russian Federation appears to have been open to the Chinese effort to gain a joint statement on the subject and also has stated that it had sought unsuccessfully to gain U.S. affirmation of the principle in the fall of 2018.16 The position of the United Kingdom appears to have fluctuated over time, publicly in step with the United States but privately being more amenable to an endorsement. France has staked out its own position, at times suggesting that the principle erodes the fundamental logic of its nuclear deterrence posture.

The 2020 Review Conference

There are competing arguments on whether the review conference is an opportunity or perhaps a “forcing event” to create consensus among the nuclear-weapon states in support of the principle. Renewal could be pursued in several different ways: by a bilateral U.S.-Russian statement on the eve of the review conference, with which the other nuclear-weapon states could associate themselves; by its inclusion in a joint P-5 statement prior to or at the review conference; or by its inclusion in a review conference final declaration.

The primary argument for seeking agreement by all five nuclear-weapon states to affirm the principle is that it would be an important signal among themselves that they recognize today’s growing dangers of nuclear confrontation, crisis, and conflict escalation. Moreover, by signaling their shared interest in avoiding a nuclear war, an endorsement could be a stepping stone to more concrete actions to address today’s nuclear risks. Today’s P-5 discussions of nuclear doctrine could be broadened to include crisis avoidance and crisis management, perhaps by creating a dedicated working group to focus explicitly on the risks of misinterpretation, miscalculation, and subsequent escalation in a U.S./NATO-Russian or a U.S.-Chinese confrontation and how to reduce those risks. All of the five could also revisit the Cold War agreements aimed at reducing the dangers of nuclear war with the goal of first updating and then transforming those bilateral agreements into multilateral ones. By so contributing to reducing nuclear risks, renewal also would serve the interests of all the non-nuclear-weapon states.

Affirmation also could help create a more conducive political context for other bilateral risk reduction efforts such as resumption (in the U.S.-Russian case) or intensification (in the U.S.-Chinese case) of contacts between defense and military personnel to avoid possible accidents, miscalculations, and misinterpretations. Similarly, by signaling a shared interest in reducing nuclear dangers, affirmation could help halt the pending collapse of U.S.-Russian arms control as well as facilitate exploration of cooperative measures to avoid intensification of U.S.-Chinese strategic competition. Here, too, nuclear and non-nuclear nations would benefit.

Participants of the 2010 NPT Review Conference in New York, shown here in plenary session, agreed to adopt the NPT Action Plan, including a commitment by nuclear-weapon states to discuss policies to prevent the use of nuclear weapons. (Photo: United Nations)Renewal of the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle by all NPT parties could contribute, moreover, to a successful NPT review conference.17 By partly responding to widespread fears among many non-nuclear-weapon states of a heightened risk of nuclear use and greater reliance on perceived nuclear war-fighting doctrines by some nuclear-weapon states, it would set a more positive tone for the review conference. It also would signal that the nuclear powers understand and take seriously their concerns about nuclear risks.

Despite the benefits of pursuing the principle, there also are arguments for avoiding the effort. The consequences of trying and failing to reaffirm the principle could heighten suspicions the nuclear-weapon states have about each other. In particular, some Russian experts have warned that U.S. reluctance to reaffirm the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle has already raised questions in Moscow about U.S. intentions. Closely related, trying and failing could reinforce the existing judgment of some if not many non-nuclear-weapon states that several P-5 nations increasingly believe that nuclear weapons are usable. This outcome could negatively affect the atmosphere at the review conference and dampen prospects for a successful outcome.

It is difficult to anticipate the costs of trying and failing. Given that U.S., French, and to a lesser degree UK reluctance to reaffirm the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle is already well known publicly, the costs of a failed effort may well be sunk costs by now, already paid. It also is difficult to gauge how much credibility to give Russian claims that U.S. reluctance to reaffirm the principle has created new uneasiness about U.S. intentions. Nonetheless, there likely would be some cost in trying and failing.

A very different argument against seeking an affirmation of the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle in the NPT context is that it could be construed as ignoring the non-NPT nuclear-armed states. Nonetheless, rather than providing a reason to set aside pursuit of an affirmation by the nuclear-weapon states, this argument suggests the importance of finding ways to engage non-NPT nuclear-armed states. Indeed, a parallel commitment to do so could be a complement to an endorsement of the principle at the review conference.

In addition, it is sometimes argued that it makes no sense to affirm the principle because it was relevant only in the bygone U.S.-Soviet Cold War era. In many ways, however, today’s environment of mutual mistrust and heightened military competition among the United States, Russia, and China is all too reminiscent of the early 1980s when the U.S. and Soviet leadership worried about the risk of nuclear escalation and use.

Finally, there are concerns in some quarters that affirmation of the principle could contribute to the erosion of deterrence. While conceivable, other declarations and actions are apt to be far more relevant to a robust U.S. deterrence posture in a future crisis. Moreover, the argument that affirmation is at odds with the logic of nuclear deterrence, with its combination of a threat to use nuclear weapons and preparations to do so, is not as compelling because nuclear deterrence has long been based on a threat that the country making it ultimately would not have wanted to carry out. This dilemma is at its core, and an affirmation of the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle would not alter that predicament. Indeed, perhaps that partly explains why Reagan and his key advisers, clearly all very strong supporters of robust deterrence of the then-Soviet Union, were quite able to sign on to what became the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle.

It is difficult to predict how states will respond to the aforementioned points, and some may continue to object to a simple affirmation of the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle. Modified formulations could generate greater support. For example, one possibility would adapt the language of the NPT’s preamble to “affirm the commitment of the NPT nuclear-weapon states to be guided in their mutual actions by their joint recognition of the vast devastation that would be visited upon all mankind by a nuclear war and the consequent need to make every effort to avert the danger of such a war involving them.” Alternatively, the nuclear-weapon states could state their “recognition of their unique and special responsibility to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again as well as their commitment to sustain and strengthen their mutual engagement, bilaterally and within the P-5 process, in order to avoid mutual misperceptions and miscalculations that could lead to a process of escalation to use of nuclear weapons.” Both of these statements would comprise a strong commitment to avoid the use of nuclear weapons and to act accordingly, but they lack the simplicity of the original formulation.

A Way Forward

A review of these considerations reinforces the logic of the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle and the desirability of seeking its affirmation in one form or another at the 2020 review conference. Admittedly, it is late in the game, but it is not too late, especially given past instances in which one or more of the P-5 has made a last-minute decision that led to a review conference outcome. Outside experts and civil society should make endorsement of the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle at the review conference a priority. That endorsement could be part of a broader package of actions consistent with the principle to address today’s risk of use of nuclear weapons. P-5 countries should acknowledge their unique responsibility to act in ways to avoid the use of nuclear weapons and to preserve the 75-year old nuclear taboo. Endorsing the principle also could be accompanied by a joint commitment to use the P-5 process along with bilateral actions to reduce the risks of nuclear escalation and use posed by misinterpretation and miscalculation during a crisis.

Ideally, governments that attach importance to the principle should pursue efforts diplomatically to secure its affirmation, at high levels, with the United States and other P-5 countries. They should consider doing so in any upcoming bilateral consultations on the NPT review conference and in other political consultations. Retired former senior officials could make the case yet again for affirmation privately and publicly.

Similarly, like-minded governments, outside experts, civil society, and others should look for ways to keep the issue of reviving and affirming the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle on the review conference agenda. Hopefully, China will again raise this issue within the P-5 context, while the current chair of the P-5, the United Kingdom, should keep the issue on the P-5 agenda. Supportive non-nuclear-weapon states also could call for endorsing the principle in their national statements at the review conference, while encouraging a similar call in the statements of those regional and political groups with which they are affiliated, including the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, the New Agenda Coalition, and the Non-Aligned Movement. Nakamitsu already has raised this issue on a number of occasions, but could do so again. It also could be an element of any statement by UN Secretary-General António Guterres prior to or at the review conference.

Going a step further to mobilize and generate support, a group of countries could circulate a draft resolution at the review conference on affirmation and line up support from as many NPT parties participating in the conference as possible. This step would follow the model of the Canadian decision to circulate a resolution in support of indefinite extension of the NPT at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference. The Canadian resolution gained support from many more countries than a majority of the participants in that conference, demonstrating in an irrefutable manner that the votes were present for indefinite extension. This knowledge helped to generate momentum for the eventual indefinite extension of the NPT without a vote. As in that case, the purpose of a resolution on affirmation would not be to seek a vote but to shift the thinking of countries, which otherwise might be reluctant to include affirmation of the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle as part of the review conference outcome.

How states will address the many problems that await them at the 2020 review conference remains uncertain. What is indisputable is the urgent need to reduce the danger of nuclear use. Hopefully, they will recognize that now, more than ever, is the time to renew the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. It is a precept that serves the interests of all NPT parties and merits special attention on the 75th anniversary of what should remain the first and only use of nuclear weapons.

 

ENDNOTES

1. William C. Potter, “In Search of the Nuclear Taboo: Past, Present, and Future,” IFRI Proliferation Papers, No. 31 (Winter 2010). For two of the most important scholarly works on the norm against nuclear weapons use, see Nina Tannenwald, The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons Since 1945 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007); T.V. Paul, The Tradition of Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009).

2. Animated partly by that same concern, the Cuban missile crisis also led to greater U.S.-Soviet cooperation on nonproliferation. For a discussion of this relationship, see William C. Potter and Sarah Bidgood, eds., Once and Future Partners: The United States, Russia and Nuclear Non-Proliferation (New York: Routledge, 2018).

3. Agreement on Measures to Reduce the Risk of Outbreak of Nuclear War Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, preamble, September 30, 1971, 807 U.N.T.S. 57.

4. Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State, “116. Paper Agreed Upon by the United States and the Soviet Union,” n.d., https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76v01/d116.

5. Serge Schmemann, “Brezhnev Bids Reagan Help Ban a Nuclear Attack,” The New York Times, October 21, 1981, p. A7.

6. Jim Anderson, “President Reagan, Answering a Challenge From Soviet Leader Leonid…,” UPI, October 21, 1981.

7. “Radio Address to the Nation on Nuclear Weapons,” Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, April 17, 1982, https://www.reaganlibrary.gov/research/speeches/41782a.

8. International Atomic Energy Agency, “Text of the Joint U.S.-Soviet Summit Statement,” INFCIRC/348, December 21, 1987.

9. “Joint Statement Following the Soviet-United States Summit Meeting in Moscow,” June 1, 1988, http://insidethecoldwar.org/sites/default/files/documents/Joint%20Statement%20Following%20the%20Soviet-United%20States%20Summit%20Meeting%20in%20Moscow.pdf.

10. See “Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms,” Conference on Disarmament, CD/1192, April 5, 1993; U.S. Department of State, “Treaty Between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START II),” n.d., https://2009-2017.state.gov/t/avc/trty/102887.htm (“Conscious that nuclear war would have devastating consequences for all humanity, that it cannot be won and must never be fought…”).

11. 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Final Document: Part II,” NPT/CONF.1995/32) (Part II), 1995, p. 253.

12. 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Final Document: Volume I,” NPT/CONF.2010/50) (Vol. I), 2010.

13. Izumi Nakamitsu, “Remarks at the First Committee Side Event Entitled ‘Disarmament to Save Humanity: Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” October 9, 2018, https://s3.amazonaws.com/unoda-web/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Izumi-Remarks-at-First-Committee-Side-Event-on-Reducing-Nuclear-Risks.pdf.

14. George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, and Sam Nunn, “The Threat of Nuclear War Is Still With Us,” The Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2019.

15. The only other country to endorse the principle during formal sessions of the Preparatory Committee meeting was Switzerland, which in the opening general debate called on all states that possess nuclear weapons to affirm the appeal by the UN secretary-general that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.

16. See Elena Chernenko, “Yadernomu miru—da, da, da” [Toward Nuclear Peace—Yes, Yes, Yes], Kommersant, April 19, 2019, p. 1; “Briefing for Representative of Mass-Media by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov on the Issues of Preparation to the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” April 26, 2019 (copy on file with authors. Oddly, Russia did not speak to the issue in any formal session of the Preparatory Committee and did not endorse the Chinese position.

17. The authors define a successful review conference outcome as one that advances the goals of the NPT, whether in a traditional final document; one or more separate resolutions or decisions; a series of stand-alone voluntary commitments made by groups of states, including the nuclear-weapon states; or a combination of these actions.


Lewis Dunn is a former U.S. ambassador to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference. William Potter is the Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. The authors wish to thank Vladislav Chernavskikh for his research assistance.

Reaffirming the principle that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” could strengthen this year’s review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

U.S.-Russia Talks to Begin Soon, U.S. Says


March 2020
By Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos

The United States and Russia are nearing the start of new arms control talks, but China is presently uninterested in limiting its nuclear forces, U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said last month.

White House National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien participates in a February event in Washington. He acknowledged publicly for the first time in February that China is not interested in arms control talks with the United States or Russia. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)“We’ll be sitting down with our Russian colleagues very soon,” O’Brien said Feb. 11. “We’ll have to wait and see how those negotiations play out.”

He also acknowledged—the first time an administration official has done so—that China has no interest in joining the negotiations. “So far, and this is not surprising, the Chinese are not interested in arms control,” he said.

O’Brien’s admission stands in contrast to repeated statements from U.S. President Donald Trump that China is eager to join arms control talks. Beijing is “extremely excited about getting involved,” Trump claimed last December.

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), signed in 2010, will expire on Feb. 5, 2021, unless the United States and Russia mutually agree to extend it by up to five years.

Moscow stands ready to extend New START immediately and without any preconditions, according to remarks Russian President Vladimir Putin made in late 2019, but the Trump administration has yet to make its decision regarding the future of the accord. During his Feb. 11 remarks, O’Brien said he would not “get into conditions or that sort of thing in this context or in this forum” on potential U.S. preconditions for extending New START. U.S. officials have previously said Washington prefers to seek a more comprehensive deal that covers additional types of nuclear weapons and includes China.

Senior administration officials addressed bringing China into the arms control process at a Feb. 14 background briefing for reporters at the White House, but the administration has not yet put forward a proposal for a new accord. “Now is the time for China to put its money where its mouth is and prove that it is a responsible international actor,” said one official, Reuters reported.

“On New START, we have made no decision on a possible extension as we are focused on addressing a broader range of threats beyond just the weapons subject to the treaty,” another official said.

For its part, China has consistently expressed its opposition to trilateral talks with the United States and Russia. “This position is very clear and has been widely understood by the international community, including Russia,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told reporters on Jan. 22. The United States “constantly makes an issue of China on this to dodge and shift its responsibilities for nuclear disarmament,” he said.

Robert Wood, the U.S. permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, claimed on Jan. 21 that Washington and Moscow had reached an “understanding” about pursuing trilateral talks with China. “Hopefully over time and through the influence of others besides the United States, [China] will come to the table,” he said.

Soviet Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, however, stated on Feb. 10 that Moscow “will not try to convince China” to join the talks. “If the Americans are quite sure that it makes no sense to take any further steps on the New START…without China, let them get down to business on this all on their own,” he said. “Even if a multilateral process gets under way, it will be utterly protracted,” and “we ought to have a safety net in an extended New START.”

“We have told the Americans as much,” he said. “They are still silent.”

In addition to pursuing trilateral talks with Russia and China, Christopher Ford, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, said on Dec. 20 that the United States had invited China to begin a bilateral strategic security dialogue. Fu Cong, director of the arms control department at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, remarked on Feb. 12 at a conference of nuclear-weapon states in London that Beijing will answer Ford’s proposal “soon.”

Another reported hindrance to the U.S. effort to negotiate a more comprehensive replacement for New START is the Trump administration’s inability to find a lead negotiator for the undertaking. The administration has offered the role to several potential candidates, but no one has agreed to take it, Politico reported on Feb. 12.

Calls from key foreign leaders and former officials to extend New START have intensified amid the administration’s continued indecision on the future of the accord.

“It is critical that the New START…be extended beyond 2021,” said French President Emmanuel Macron in a Feb. 7 speech on defense and deterrence. The uncertainty regarding the treaty’s future, he said, contributes to “the possibility of a return of pure unhindered military and nuclear competition by 2021.” Macron joined other U.S. allies, such as Finland, Germany, and the United Kingdom, in endorsing the treaty’s extension.

The Aspen Ministers Forum, a group of former foreign ministers from around the world, released a statement on Feb. 10 also supporting prolonging the treaty. “Extending New START would lay solid groundwork and build momentum towards increased international cooperation in the new decade,” they stated.

Meanwhile, the United States and Russia resumed their dialogue on strategic security on Jan. 16 in Vienna. The State Department said the two sides discussed “nuclear stockpiles and strategy, crisis and arms race stability, and the role and potential future of arms control, including the importance of moving beyond a solely bilateral format.” The dialogue will continue, and the two sides will “begin expert-level engagement on particular topics in the near future,” according to the State Department.

In remarks to the press after the January meeting, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov commented that the talks were “difficult” and that Russia does not have a clear understanding of Washington’s overall strategic plan for arms control.

New START caps U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals at 1,550 deployed warheads, 700 deployed missiles and heavy bombers, and 800 deployed and nondeployed missile launchers and bombers each. It also put into place a rigorous inspections and verification regime, on which the U.S. military relies for knowledge about the Russian arsenal.

While declining to share his advice to the Trump administration on New START’s extension, Gen. John Hyten, current vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), recently emphasized the importance of the accord.

“If you’re the STRATCOM commander, New START is really important,” Hyten said Jan. 17. “It allows you to posture your force and understand what you have to do in order to deter the adversary, Russia in this case, and tells you what you have to do. It also gives you insight into the Russian nuclear forces because of the verification regime.”

Hyten expressed concern about Russian nuclear weapons not covered by the treaty, such as new strategic nuclear weapon delivery vehicles that Moscow is developing and Russia’s larger arsenal of nonstrategic nuclear weapons, estimated at 2,000 warheads. “We have to make sure that when we sit down with Russia, we talk about all the nuclear weapons that are out there,” he said.

 

A dialogue may be advancing between the United States and Russia, but China appears unwilling to discuss any limits to its nuclear arsenal.

Arms Control Experts Urge Trump to Agree to Extend Key Treaty Limiting Russia’s Nuclear Forces

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For Immediate Release: February 5, 2020

(Washington, D.C.)—In one year, on Feb. 5, 2021, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) will expire unless President Trump takes up Russia’s offer to extend the treaty by a period of up to five years.

“New START is the only remaining legally binding, verifiable agreement limiting the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals,” says Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. “If it lapses with nothing to replace it, the result would open the door to unconstrained nuclear competition that President Trump says he wants to avoid.”

New START, which has been in force since February 5, 2011, verifiably limits U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals to 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 deployed strategic missiles and heavy bombers.

“New START is working as designed,” says Thomas Countryman, chairman of the board of the Arms Control Association and former acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, “and both sides are in compliance with the treaty’s limits and obligations.”

Military and intelligence officials have said they greatly value New START’s monitoring and verification provisions, which provide predictability and transparency and help promote a stable nuclear deterrence posture vis-à-vis Russia. Republican and Democratic members of Congress and all of the major Democratic presidential contenders support New START extension.

“Extending New START should be the easiest foreign policy decision Trump can make. Failure to extend the treaty, on the other hand, would be one of the worst decisions the President could make,” Countryman said.

Although Russia has indicated its support for a clean, unconditional extension, the Trump administration has yet to officially decide on the future of the treaty. Instead, Trump administration officials say they want to explore options for a new treaty that covers all types of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons and involves China.

Kori Schake, director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, recently said that, in regard to China, “I wouldn't want to pay the price of losing the restrictions on Russian forces in order to get restrictions on a Chinese force that’s much smaller and less significant in the composition of its war fighting.” Currently, the United States and Russia each have a total of about 6,000 nuclear warheads, while China has about 300.

“A new agreement with Russia and with China is not achievable before New START is due to expire,” notes Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and nuclear threat reduction policy with the Arms Control Association. “By extending New START, however, Trump could secure a significant foreign policy win that would provide a foundation for follow-on negotiations with Russia and possibly with China to further reduce nuclear risks,” he said.

Resources:

Experts Available in Washington:

  • Thomas Countryman, former​ ​acting​ ​under secretary of state for​ ​arms​ ​control and ​international security, and ​​chair of the board for the Arm​​s Control Association, [email protected], 301-312-3445
  • Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, [email protected], 202-277-3478
  • Kingston Reif, ​director for ​disarmament​​ and ​threat reduction​ ​policy​, ​[email protected], 202-463-8270, ext. 104
Description: 

New START, the last remaining treaty limiting the world's two most deadly arsenals, expires one year from today. Arms control experts urge the Trump administration to agree to extend the treaty.

Country Resources:

Responses to Common Criticisms About Extending New START

Sections:

Body: 

Volume 12, Issue 1, February 5, 2020

With the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on August 2, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is now the only remaining arms control agreement limiting at least a portion of the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.

Signed in 2010, New START verifiably caps U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals at 1,550 deployed warheads, 700 deployed missiles and heavy bombers, and 800 deployed and nondeployed missile launchers and bombers. The treaty is slated to expire one year from today on February 5, 2021, but it can be extended by up to five years by agreement of the U.S. and Russian presidents.

Although Russia has indicated its support for a clean, unconditional extension, the Trump administration remains officially undecided about whether to extend the treaty and is seeking a more comprehensive arms control agreement that includes more types of Russian weapons as well as China.

If New START lapses without an extension or replacement, there will be no legally binding constraints on the world's two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time in half a century. The risk of unconstrained U.S.-Russian nuclear competition, and of even more strained bilateral relations, would grow.

Below are responses to some of the most common objections raised against New START. The criticisms range from understandable, to misleading, to disingenuous. None of them merit a decision to allow the treaty to lapse.

Claim: New START doesn’t include the new strategic nuclear delivery systems that Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled in March 2018.

Response: In a March 2018 speech, Putin said that Russia is developing several new strategic nuclear weapons delivery systems designed to ensure that Russia can maintain an adequate nuclear deterrent in the face of unconstrained U.S. missile defenses. These systems include a new heavy ICBM (the Sarmat), hypersonic glide vehicle (the Avangard), nuclear-powered cruise missile (Skyfall), and nuclear-powered underwater torpedo (Poseidon).

U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Oct. 30 that “if we were simply to extend New START now, without touching those other systems, which the Russians have been invested in, we’re tying our hands in not limiting what...the Russians see where their growth [is]…in their strategic assets.” Given the range of the new Russian weapons, it is reasonable to ask why they shouldn’t be limited by New START.

But Russia’s development of the weapons actually strengthens the case for extending New START. Russia has stated that the two systems closest to deployment (the Avangard, which began combat duty in late December, and Sarmat) would be captured by the treaty. Russia will be limited in how many of these weapons they can deploy, and the treaty’s verification regime will give the United States a clearer picture of how many of these weapons there are and where they are located. Russia last November exhibited the Avangard to U.S. inspectors per the terms of the agreement.

As for the other two weapons—Skyfall, a recent test of which resulted in a deadly explosion, and Poseidon—they are still in development and unlikely to be deployed in large numbers or before the mid-2020s at the earliest, according to independent open source and intelligence assessments. This means that these systems likely wouldn’t be fielded until after the expiration of an extended New START, which should make them less relevant in the administration’s current analysis of whether to extend the treaty.

(Putin also unveiled an air-launched ballistic missile, the Kinzhal, in his 2018 address. The missile reportedly began trial deployment in December 2017. Russia is currently planning to field the weapon on the shorter-range MiG-31 aircraft, in which case Kinzhal would not be accountable under New START.)

Moscow says that it is open to discussing limitations on the Skyfall, Poseidon, and Kinzhal in the format of strategic stability talks, but that capturing them would require an amendment to New START or a new agreement, in which case Moscow would have its own list of U.S. capabilities that should be addressed. Article V of the treaty states: “When a Party believes that a new kind of strategic offensive arm is emerging,” the two sides can discuss how to take the systems into account. Both sides are discussing the new systems, making use of this provision.

Extending New START provides the best and only chance to limit Russia's new strategic weapons. It would be illogical and irresponsible for the United States to forego another five years of limits on Russia's enormous arsenal of hundreds of existing strategic nuclear weapons because Russia might deploy some new weapons not covered by the treaty over five years from now.

Claim: New START doesn’t include Russia’s large arsenal of non-strategic nuclear weapons.

Response: Russia maintains a large arsenal of approximately 2,000 non-strategic nuclear warheads for short-range delivery. The United States is estimated to possess about 200 such weapons, approximately 180 of which are housed on the territory of five European NATO member states. David Trachtenberg, who served as Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from October 2017 to July 2019, wrote last November that New START “ignores the significant and growing Russian advantage in non-strategic nuclear forces.”

Contrary to popular belief, Russia’s arsenal of non-strategic nuclear warheads, which are believed to be housed in central storage, has actually decreased significantly since New START was negotiated.

Talks on limiting both countries’ non-strategic nuclear weapons are nonetheless long overdue. The Senate during its review of New START in 2010 called for future negotiations with Russia to address the imbalance between the two sides in non-strategic nuclear weapons.

But New START was designed to focus on limiting Russian strategic nuclear weapons that can directly threaten the U.S. homeland. Talks to limit non-strategic nuclear warheads would be time-consuming and difficult. Russia insists that a future agreement limiting a broader range of nuclear weapons also limit U.S. missile defenses and advanced conventional strike weapons and include British and French nuclear forces. Russia is also likely to demand that any agreement limiting Russian short-range nuclear weapons mandate the removal of the U.S. short-range weapons deployed in Europe and possibly conventional forces near Russia’s border. The Trump administration has given no indication that it is willing to address these Russian demands.

Extending New START would buy five additional years with which to engage in negotiations with Russia to attempt to capture weapons and technologies not limited by the treaty while retaining limits on Russia’s strategic nuclear forces. Ditching the treaty on the other hand would leave all types of Russian weapons unconstrained. Threatening Russia with New START’s expiration is not going to force the Kremlin to unilaterally concede to U.S. demands on non-strategic weapons.

Claim: New START doesn’t include China.

Response: The Trump administration argues that China must be included in the arms control process. “[I]t is vital that nuclear arms control adapt itself to the modern strategic environment; we are committed to involving both Russia and China…by negotiating a trilateral nuclear arms control agreement,” said Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Christopher Ford in a Dec. 13 speech in Brussels. “There can be no serious future for arms control that does not involve both Moscow and Beijing, and they know it,” Ford claimed.

Seeking to convince China, which has never formally participated in the arms control process, to get off the arms control sidelines is an important and worthwhile goal. But there is no realistic possibility of concluding an unprecedented trilateral deal with Russia and China before New START expires in 2021. Though Trump has repeatedly claimed that China is excited to begin trilateral talks, China has repeatedly made its opposition to such talks clear.

Currently, the United States and Russia each have a total of about 6,000 nuclear warheads, while China has about 300. If negotiations on a new agreement including China are to become a real possibility, either “the U.S. agrees to reduce its arsenal to China’s level or agrees for China to raise its arsenal to the U.S. level,” Fu Cong, director of the arms control department at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said Nov. 8.

In addition, nearly a year after the Trump administration first called for including China in arms control talks, officials have yet to articulate their goals for a multilateral accord or strategy for achieving it. Nor does the administration appear to have the personnel to negotiate such a deal.

Jettisoning New START’s limits on Russia’s enormous existing arsenal of deployed strategic nuclear weapons—just because it doesn't cover all Russian weapons or include China's much smaller arsenal—would be akin to cutting off our nose to spite our face. As Pranay Vaddi, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has written, “there is no chance for arms control with China if New START is permitted to expire. It is unimaginable that China would join the arms control process if the U.S. and Russia walked away.”

Fortunately, extending New START is perfectly compatible with seeking to engage China on arms control and is a necessary foundation from which to pursue more ambitious arms control talks. In the near-term, the United States should pursue a sustained strategic stability dialogue with Beijing focused strengthening crisis stability, reducing the risk of unintended escalation, and exploring what would be required to enhance transparency about China’s nuclear forces and cap the growth of those forces.

Claim: Holding out on extending New START provides leverage to bring Russia and China to the negotiating table on a broader arms control agreement.

Response: As the administration continues to weigh whether to extend New START, some officials argue that whatever the final decision, it would premature to extend now. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Dec. 5 that “if the United States were to agree to extend the treaty now, I think it would make it less likely that we would have the ability to persuade Russia and China to enter negotiations on a broader agreement.”

The claim that holding out on extension provides the United States with leverage over Russia and China is unconvincing for several reasons.

First, New START is useless as a bargaining chip unless the administration is willing to walk away from the treaty if Russia and China don’t meet U.S. demands for talks. But making New START a chip in a high-stakes poker game with Russia and China is a dangerous gamble because the treaty is too important to be gambled away.

Second, the Trump administration does not have a good track record when it comes to attempting to leverage existing nuclear agreements into better deals. In the case of the Iran Deal, the administration’s threats to withdraw failed to convince Iran to agree to better terms. In the case of the INF Treaty, the administration’s threat to withdraw failed to convince Russia to return to compliance. President Trump ultimately withdrew from both agreements with no viable plan to replace them.

Third, as Vincent Manzo and Madison Estes wrote last July, the longer the administration waits to extend New START, “the more attention U.S. defense, intelligence, and diplomatic officials will likely devote to figuring out how to manage the challenges that would emerge without New START—and the less they will have to conceptualize and negotiate new and plausible arms control arrangements for the emerging strategic landscape.”

Fourth, Russia has provided no indication that it would trade an extension of New START for talks on limiting weapons not covered by the treaty. Russia has repeatedly made clear the U.S. concessions it is seeking in return for a new agreement capturing additional types of weapons. Moreover, Moscow is no doubt aware that most U.S. allies strongly support a clean extension and would likely blame Washington for the treaty’s collapses. While Moscow would prefer to extend New START, it also appears content with a world in which the treaty dies and the United States is left holding the bag.

Finally, there is no evidence that China supports New START so strongly that it would reverse its longstanding policy and join trilateral talks with the United States and Russia to avert the treaty’s collapse.

Claim: Russia is violating other arms control agreements.

Response: The Trump administration has stated that Russian noncompliance with other arms control agreements is one of the factors it is considering in weighing whether to extend New START. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford said last September that “it’s difficult for me right now in the wake of the violation of the INF Treaty to say automatically that I support extending START.”

Despite its concerns with Russian noncompliance with other agreements, the United States continues to assess the Russia remains in compliance with New START. Attempting to “punish” Russia’s violations of other agreements by abandoning New START would senselessly and counterproductively free Russia to expand the number of strategic nuclear weapons pointed at the United States after New START expires in 2021. Moreover, letting New START expire won’t discourage Russia from future violations, especially since the United States is likely to be blamed for New START’s collapse.

Claim: The United States hasn’t sufficiently modernized its nuclear arsenal.

Response: Some opponents of extending New START argue that the treaty should be allowed to die because modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is not proceeding swiftly enough. As Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James Risch (R-Idaho) claimed last May, “We just haven't followed through on it [modernization] and it's—it's very unfortunate. One of the many reasons why I oppose…a gratuitous five-year extension, given where we are.”

New START was negotiated with U.S. nuclear modernization in mind and is consistent with the Pentagon and Energy Department’s planned recapitalization of U.S. nuclear forces and their supporting infrastructure.

In November 2010, when the Senate was debating New START, the Obama administration pledged to spend about $85 billion between fiscal years 2011 and 2020 on nuclear weapons activities at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). (Separately the Defense Department identified $100 billion in planned spending on delivery system sustainment and modernization, though it was never entirely clear what this number included).

Spending on NNSA weapons activities over the 10-year period between fiscal years 2011 and 2020 exceeded what was projected. The Obama administration initially kept pace with the pledged levels, then had to cut back due to the unwillingness of House Republican appropriators to fund the requested amounts and later the 2011 Budget Control Act, and then returned to the pledged levels in fiscal years 2016 and 2017. The Trump administration for its part has blown way above the levels projected in 2010, and press reports indicate that the FY 2021 budget request will continue that trend. Spending on nuclear weapons by the Defense Department has greatly exceeded $100 billion since fiscal year 2011.

The question then is not whether the U.S. arsenal is being upgraded (it is), but whether the administration’s nuclear weapons spending plans are necessary or sustainable. The answer is that they are not. In fact, the costs and risks of the Trump administration’s nuclear weapons spending plans are compounded by its hostility to arms control. As Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) noted last September, “bipartisan support for nuclear modernization is tied to maintaining an arms control process that controls and seeks to reduce Russian nuclear forces…We’re not interested in writing blank checks for a nuclear arms race with Russia.”

Congress should support both extending New START and adjusting the administration’s modernization plans because doing so makes sense for U.S. security. —KINGSTON REIF, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy

Description: 

New START expires on Feb. 5, 2021, but can be extended by up to five years. Here are responses to the common criticisms about an extension of the treaty.

Country Resources:

The Case for Extending New START

Sections:

Body: 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020
2:00 - 4:00pm
National Press Club
529 14th Street NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC 20045

On February 5, 2021, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) will expire unless the U.S. and Russian presidents choose to extend it by up to five years.

New START, which has been in force since February 5, 2011, verifiably limits U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals to 1,550 deployed warheads, 700 deployed missiles and heavy bombers, and 800 deployed and nondeployed missile launchers and bombers. Since February 2018, the United States and Russia have met and maintained their obligations under the treaty. Although Russia has indicated its support for a clean, unconditional extension, the Trump administration has yet to officially decide on the future of the treaty. Administration officials have said President Trump is seeking a “new era of arms control” that includes more types of Russian weapons as well as China. 

If New START expires without an extension or replacement, there will be no legally binding constraints on the world's two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time in half a century. The treaty’s rigorous monitoring and verification regime, which includes on-site inspections and the exchange of thousands of notifications, would also disappear.

Speakers outlined the case for extending New START and address frequently asked questions about the treaty and the future of arms control.

Key quotes from the speakers are listed here, with a full transcript below.

  • “Without New START extension, the two countries could be locked into a nuclear arms race that would exceed in expense and risk the arms race we saw at the height of the Cold War. Both sides would be able to quickly upload hundreds of additional warheads into existing missiles, which might preserve the important principle of numerical parity, but at the expense of stability.” —Thomas Countryman, chairman of the board of the Arms Control Association and former acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security
     
  • “[New START] is a treaty that does what it does very well: It limits strategic nuclear arms in a verifiable way so as to provide clarity and certainty in the respected strategic arms of each party, thereby preventing an uncontrolled strategic arms race fueled by uncertainty and instability. It allows each side to see the other side as it is, not 20 feet tall and not 2 feet tall.” —Madelyn Creedon, former principal deputy administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, Department of Energy
     
  • “It's significant that the Russians are in compliance with New START, and we ought to hang onto it…It's inherently valuable to have restrictions on the Russian stockpile, whether or not we are able to put restrictions on Chinese forces…I wouldn't want to pay the price of losing the restrictions on Russian forces in order to get restrictions on a Chinese force that's much smaller and less significant in the composition of its war fighting.” —Kori Schake, director of foreign and defense policy studies, American Enterprise Institute
     
  • “Global security would be greatly enhanced by extending the New START agreement for another five years. Extension would preserve the last effective and verifiable agreement to limit strategic arms competition with Russia and make it easier to maintain deterrence and strategic stability. It would ensure a high degree of predictability, thanks to the intrusive verification and transparency regime in New START, by reducing uncertainty about Russia's future force size structure extension and would diminish the worst case assumptions that could drive up the cost of U.S. force modernization and create a lot of high anxiety in many of our allies. ” —Amb. Alexander Vershbow, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, and NATO deputy secretary general

FULL TRANSCRIPT

THOMAS COUNTRYMAN: Good afternoon. If everybody would have a seat, we'll get started. Thank you very much for coming out on this brisk afternoon. I'm Tom Countryman. I'm the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Arms Control Association.

And the Association wants to welcome you today to our briefing on the case for extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Before we hear from our guest panelists who have extensive national security experience about their perspectives of the stakes in extension, I'm going to give you a little background -- and many of you already familiar with it -- about New START and outline the Arms Control Association's perspective.

New START limits the world's two largest and most deadly nuclear arsenals, the U.S. and Russian strategic arsenals, to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed delivery systems, which includes as you know, missiles, bombers, and submarines.

Since it entered into force in 2011, the treaty has been working and both sides are in compliance. But just 12 months from now, on February 5th, 2021, New START is set to expire. Fortunately, New START is popular in both Washington and Moscow, and it contains a clause fairly unique among treaties in that it can be extended for an additional five years with only the signatures of President Trump and President Putin. That is without going back to either the Senate or the Duma.

From ACA's perspective, extending New START should be the easiest foreign policy decision that President Trump can make. And conversely, failure to extend the treaty would be one of the most dangerous decisions the president could make.

Without New START extension, the two countries could be locked into a nuclear arms race that would exceed in expense and risk the arms race we saw at the height of the Cold War.

Both sides would be able to quickly upload hundreds of additional warheads into existing missiles, which might preserve the important principle of numerical parity but at the expense of stability.

Military and intelligence officials have said they greatly value the monitoring and verification provisions of New START, which provide predictability and transparency and help promote a stable nuclear deterrence posture vis-a-vis Russia, and which cannot be easily or cheaply substituted by national technical means.

The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, testified about New START to the House Foreign Affairs Committee recently. He said, "It contributes substantially to U.S. national security by providing limits, robust verification, and predictability about Russia's strategic forces."

He said, "We have high confidence that Russia is in compliance, and without the treaty and its verification provisions we would be flying blind. It's strongly in the U.S. national interest," Mullen concluded, "to extend New START for five years so that the United States and Russia can continue to realize the mutual benefits and stability that it provides."

Now, as we'll hear in more detail from our panel, all U.S. allies -- in NATO and in East Asia -- support the treaty's extension. Members of Congress of both parties support extending it, as do 80 percent of the American public based on recent polls.

There is no other step that the President can make in foreign policy and certainly not with regard to Russia that would draw such strong bipartisan support as the extension of New START.

Unfortunately, this administration has failed to open discussions with Moscow on the extension. The president says he wants more. A bigger deal that covers not just U.S. and Russian strategic weapons but also tactical nuclear weapons, and more ambitiously he wants to bring China into a new trilateral treaty.

These are praiseworthy goals and I support them, but they are long-term goals that do not take account of the fact that concluding such an ambitious and expansive new agreement within the next year and before New START expires is virtually impossible.

As our panel will discuss, there is a better solution that is staring the administration right in the face: simply extending New START, lock in the current limits on the U.S. and Russian arsenals and build from that to more ambitious restraints, not only on Russia and the United States, but potentially on China as well.

So, that's just where the Arms Control Association stands -- the basics about it. We have a great panel to talk to you. We have a smaller panel than we anticipated. As you know, in Washington, circumstances don't always allow the schedule to go through.

So, we're missing General Weinstein and Congressman Fortenberry. But I think you'll hear some of the points they would have made. I especially regret not having Congressman Fortenberry here. He has been a genuine leader in the House of Representatives in raising awareness of all nuclear issues both arms control and nonproliferation. And I was really looking forward to having him here today.

But we -- it means we have enough time, not only for our speakers to go in-depth but to take all of your questions. So, with that let me hand it over to the executive director of ACA, Daryl Kimball.

DARYL KIMBALL: Well, thank you very much, Tom. And thanks to all of you for being here this afternoon. There are -- I hear from my staff a few competing news items up there. So it's very good to see so many of you here this afternoon.

But we believe that this is one of the most important foreign policy issues of 2020. And we hope that your work after this meeting, your presence will help elevate this issue and help inform the discussion in the weeks to come.

And to -- for our discussions today, we've got three very experienced thoughtful folks to dive into some of the issues that Tom had just touched upon. So we're going to hear it from each of them for about 10 minutes or so, and then we're going to take your questions, again, through discussion about some of the issues that they've raised and some of the others that they may not have raised.

And first we're going to hear from Ambassador Sandy Vershbow who, as his bio says, has extensive experience in the U.S. diplomatic corps, working in government since 1977. He has served at NATO as our ambassador and has a depth of experience and knowledge about the views of our allies on these issues. He's going to be talking about that as well the implications of the New START and our arms control breakdown with Russia on U.S.-Russian relations.

Then we're going to hear from Kori Schake who just 10 days ago came to Washington, D.C. for our lovely climate here from California to take over as the lead Defense Policy Director -- Foreign and Defense Policy Director at the American Enterprise Institute. She's going to share her perspectives on New START and the U.S.-Russia nuclear arms control situation from her perspective and experience as a veteran of the Defense Department and the National Security Council.

And then last but not least we're going to here from Madelyn Creedon who is currently a non-resident senior fellow at Brookings Institution, but perhaps more importantly before that she served as the deputy administrator at the National Nuclear Security Administration and was also the assistant secretary at the Defense Department for Global Strategic Affairs.

So she has extensive knowledge and experience about New START itself, about how it affects the U.S. planning for maintaining and structuring our nuclear forces in the years ahead. And Madelyn is going to discuss in more granularity some of the issues and concerns that have come up about extension of the treaty, what weapons systems it does and does not cover, the triangle, and perhaps some other things.

So with that, let me turn it over to Ambassador Vershbow to start us off. Thanks for being here.

AMB. ALEXANDER VERSHBOW: Thanks very much, Daryl. Thanks to all of you for coming. It's nice to see some former U.S. government colleagues out there because I appreciate the convergence. But first of all, let me start by echoing what we've already heard.

I think -- our allies think -- that global security will be greatly enhanced by extending the New START agreement for another five years. Extension would preserve the last effective and verifiable agreement to limit strategic arms competition with Russia and make it easier to maintain deterrence and strategic stability. As was said, it would ensure a high degree of predictability, thanks to the intrusive verification and transparency regime in New START, by reducing uncertainty about Russia's future force size structure extension and would diminish the worst case assumptions that could drive up the cost of U.S. force modernization and create a lot of high anxiety in many of our allies.

In fact, I think extending New START would actually help to strengthen the domestic and the allied political consensus in favor of both strategic force modernization and NATO's nuclear strategy and force posture.

We all remember the debate on the ratification of New START 10 years ago: the ratification was a precondition for Democrats for modernization and modernization was a precondition for some Republicans for New START. I think that remains the political reality today. Like many members of Congress, our NATO allies are also wedded to dual-track approaches to nuclear weapons and force modernization more generally, in which deterrence and dialogue with Russia go hand in hand. The force improvements -- the conventional force improvements that NATO has made since the Russian aggression against Ukraine -- those decisions were based on the consensus in favor of continuing dialogue with Russia as we develop our conventional forces. So a dialogue between NATO and Russia may not be very productive, but it's politically important nevertheless.

And I think the need for a dual-track approach is even more evident when it comes to the decision our allies might be asked to take in coming years to modernize and increase the readiness of NATO's nuclear deterrence capabilities, the allies have reaffirmed on numerous occasions that as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance, but it's no secret that there is significant opposition in several basing countries to continue reliance on nuclear deterrence in maintaining NATO's longstanding nuclear sharing arrangements.

As you may have noticed, the Belgian parliament came close to ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons just two weeks ago. There is still considerable support for the Nuclear Ban Treaty in the Netherlands and other allied countries, Germany repeatedly postponed a decision on whether to incorporate a nuclear capability in the replacement for its Tornado dual-capable aircraft, and there are growing strains within the German coalition on this issue. So U.S. unwillingness to extend New START could strengthen anti-nuclear sentiments in these and other countries, jeopardizing the NATO consensus.

The same way as I think applies with respect to decisions that will be needed on measures the U.S. will be proposing to counter Russia's violation of the INF treaty -- decisions that I think will need to be based on consultations and agreement by potential basing countries. Allies would be more reluctant to endorse U.S. recommendations particularly, if they involve additional nuclear capabilities that are targeted on Russia, and will also be sensitive about reorganizing NATO missile defense away from Iran and Port Russia if these steps are being taken in the context of an unraveling New START regime and a new arms race.

Now, in saying this, I'm not suggesting New START is perfect or is of timeless value -- the strategic environment has changed in the past decade and the Trump administration has raised valid criticisms about the treaty's shortcomings that will need to be addressed in the future. The first is that New START doesn't cover all of Russia’s nuclear capabilities that threaten the U.S. and the allies, including not only strategic nuclear weapons, new intermediate-range systems as well as these exotic systems, which, I think Madelyn will tell us more about.

And the second concern is the treaty doesn't constrain any of China's growing nuclear capabilities, both strategic and intermediate-range that already threaten the U.S. forces and the U.S. mainland along with our Pacific allies. So the allies don't dispute any of these concerns, but I think they would agree that these are not as urgent as tending to the extension of New START. An extension would give us additional time to negotiate long term solutions to both sets of concerns the administration has raised, while preventing the Russians from launching a rapid build up of warheads and delivery systems in excess of the New START treaty.

While we can do some building up ourselves, I think given the asymmetry in the U.S. and Russian modernization cycles, Russia might be better positioned to break out of the treaty by uploading warheads or activating non-deployed systems to the United States. So as Rose Gottemoeller argued in her New York Times piece last year, we shouldn't give Russia the opportunity to outrun us.

Now, some of these new guidance systems are covered by the treaty, the Russians have said that, and the more exotic ones aren't going to be ready to be deployed in the next five years. So there's plenty of time to devise new ways to address these, figure out how to limit some of these new technologies and ensure sufficient verification. As that time develops, we need to develop an approach to dealing with non-strategic nuclear weapons, which in the past has been considered in the "too hard" category, and perhaps we can even come up with a successor to the INF treaty, although that might be too hopeful to complete.

Now on China, including China in future arms control agreements is certainly a worthwhile goal, but as I said, I don't think this is as urgent as extension to the New START treaty. China right now has a minimum strategic nuclear deterrent of about 300 warheads, which is roughly 5 percent of the numbers possessed by the United States and Russia with close to 700 INF range missiles. These forces don’t at the present time affect strategic stability or undermine the benefits of the bilateral New START treaty.

The question shouldn't be if China (inaudible). I think we should actually enlist the Russians in trying to engage with Beijing in some kind of strategic stability dialog to educate the Chinese about nuclear deterrence and show them that it's in their own interest to work with the other nuclear powers to strengthen stability and predictability.

We certainly shouldn't make New START extension hostage to Chinese agreements to join in trilateral negotiations. That may take years to accomplish and I think that if we were to forego five more years in New START just because of China, this could be seen by allies as a smoke screen for abandoning arms control altogether and certainly opening us to risk (inaudible) jeopardize force modernization.

Before I finish, let me just say a couple of words about the importance of New START in managing the increasingly nasty political relationship between the West and Putin's Russia that we've been dealing with especially since the invasion of Ukraine in 2014. I would say today's competition with Russia is in many ways riskier and less stable than the U.S.-Soviet relationship was in the last decades of the Cold War when we were able to kind of lower tensions through détente and actually agree on some rules of the road and the agreements like the Helsinki Final Act (inaudible) just to further reference to limit strategic and conventional arms and stabilize the potential military competition. We pushed it even further in the days of Gorbachev and Yeltsin but also in the early Putin administration and under Medvedev in agreeing on a more elaborate set of agreements and rules of the road to limit the competition.

As late as 2013 we were talking about potentially game-changing cooperation with Russia on missile defense against rogue states. But I think, to put it bluntly, today Russia has joined the ranks of rogue states, no longer special rules of the game I just mentioned, it's working to undermine the rules-based order, it's trying to block its neighbors' path toward NATO and the EU, working to destabilize Western societies, to discredit our democratic institutions. So this is a far more difficult environment than the period when we negotiated New START, and I think there's a real risk that a military incident could spiral out of control, that concern can no longer be dismissed. Maintaining stability through extension of New START could help reduce the chances that such an accidental conflict could go nuclear.

So this (inaudible) New START may be somewhat a more important politically than it was 10 years ago when it was (inaudible) in terms of keeping the competition with Russia within bounds. There's a lot of other areas where we need to compete with Russia. We should focus our resources and mobilize the allies on those fronts, such as strengthening conventional deterrence, strengthening resilience against cyber and hybrid threats, figuring out what is the right counter to the INF Treaty with our mission of supporting Ukraine and Georgia and the other neighboring states of Russia as to defend their sovereignty and opposing Putin’s ambitious agenda, and of course we should try to develop a coherent strategy to counter Putin’s growing influence in the Middle East and around the world. What we allowed (inaudible) managing relations with Russia, we focus our resources and political strength on these areas of competition rather than triggering an accelerated, costly arms competition with Russia (inaudible) collapse of New Start.

So looking at 2020, extend without preconditions. Russia has complied with New START. Its upheld its side of the verification and transparency regime. It is in a better place to break out of the treaty than we are, and so it would be wise to pocket Putin's offer and keep our allies with us and use the additional time to address the long-term challenges. Thanks.

KIMBALL: Thanks, Sandy. This is a very good and in-depth introduction. Kori, thanks for being with us, good to see you.

KORI SCHAKE: It's my pleasure. I mostly agree with everything Sandy just said, and so [inaudible] by reviewing and outlining for the (inaudible). But it seems to me that the value, for me, of this START treaty is first to limit the (inaudible) strategic warheads and that really matters and exactly for the reasons Sandy said because our -- well, New START was negotiated at a time when we were hopeful about the relationship with Russia. We're not hopeful about our relationship with Russia anymore for lots of good reasons.

And I favor sustaining the INF treaty, but I couldn't come up with a good answer of how to bring the Russians back into compliance. So it's significant that the Russians are in compliance with New START, and we ought to hang onto it (inaudible) keeping restraints on Russian strategic nuclear forces. Actually, I don't think the argument's any harder than that for New START, but two other reasons I favor the treaty, the second is that the counting rules in New START prejudice slow delivery systems, right? The return to the Reagan administration's bomber counting rules where the bomber counts as a single unit, not the weapons on the bomber.

And I think one of the real challenges that we have at hypersonic and a lot of the new innovations in conventional and nuclear delivery systems and suspicion are that they are going to speed up the pace of warfare such that it collapses decision time and that increases the likelihood of sloppy, dangerous, damaging mistakes.

And so, I think that counting rules are actually advantageous because they prejudice slow delivery platforms. And the third reason that I favor the treaty is that the onsite verification provisions that we don't have in any other medium to understand what's going on in Russia's strategic forces. I think that was hugely valuable.

For me, those three reasons are compelling about why to remain in the treaty. I take Sandy's point and Tom's point, I think it's a very valuable one that there is also reputational benefit to staying in the treaty, especially before we start to have a NATO conversation about modernizing NATO's nuclear forces. It’s well-nigh impossible to have a policy discussion among the NATO allies if we have just withdrawn from the START treaty. We are going to end up with a really bad outcome in NATO if that (inaudible) that kind of study.

And it may not be -- it may not advantage us much in the conversation about nuclear modernization to stay in the treaty, but leaving it will surely do some damage. And the administration I think is right in both of its complaints about the treaty. First, that it only captures strategic forces when the United States and its NATO allies have reduced our non-strategic nuclear forces by over 90 percent since the end of the Cold War and Russia has expanded theirs.

But that's not cheating on the treaty. That's smart work of the rule set, and so they are right that it would be wonderful to get the Russians engaged in meaningful non-strategic nuclear force restrictions. I personally favor the proposal that Ambassador Eric Edelman and Frank Miller made in the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago, which is to have an oath to negotiate a treaty in the future that has an overall limit of nuclear weapons so that you can trade off between strategic and non-strategic, you get a limit on all of them and the parties to the treaty can determine what the balance of forces that they want. That strikes to me as a reasonable point.

But the administration is right that the Russians have expanded their non-strategic nuclear forces, that has increased the threat to America's NATO allies in Europe and it has created the potential for a widening the Atlantic in a crisis. So they're not wrong to be worried about that, it would be wonderful to capture that in the future. And the second thing they're not wrong about is that Chinese nuclear forces become increasingly important as the US and Russia stockpiles get drawn down.

But we're about a factor of four away from where that balance (inaudible) and we shouldn't lose perspective that it's inherently valuable to have restrictions on the Russian stockpile, whether or not we are able to put restrictions on Chinese forces. And so I agree with Sandy that I too would like to see restrictions on the Chinese forces. I wouldn't want to pay the price of losing the restrictions on Russian forces in order to get restrictions on a Chinese force that's much smaller and less significant in the composition of its war fighting.

Moreover, I agree with Sandy that time matters and I didn't know, Tom, until you said it but it was a simple signature from both the US and Russia heads of state that extended it for five years and I, again, I like the notion, I'm basically the poor man's Frank Miller. I like the notion that Frank and Eric pointed out that making the extension contingent on having an agreement that captures both non-strategic and strategic, but that part, that's five years for that conversation. And so extending the treaty while creating the expectation that within five years, we will want an overall nuclear limit seems to me a great direction to go.

And I'm not sure I agree with Sandy that Russia is better positioned to break out from the treaty, and the two data points I would offer to substantiate that are first, this is the only arms control treaty the Russians weren't cheating on, and there's a reason they're not cheating on it, because it's in their interest for it to remain in force, and it may even be asymmetrically in their interest for it to remain in force. The second thing is that Russia has nearly completed its cycle of nuclear modernization and the United States is just commencing ours, as Sandy said, it was part of the bargain to get Republican votes for ratification of the New START treaty, and it’s only just coming into being. Meanwhile, the Russians have increased and modernized their force and, as Sandy said, effected a lot of exotic new delivery systems.

Again, that's smart playing the rules in the way that the United States did their aircraft carrier development in the 1930s when we were signatories to the Washington Naval Accords. But that tells you how important it is to keep the rules in play so that you can, as my AEI colleague John Maurer argued, that arms control agreements should be worked to limit the things we're most scared of and to drive the competition into areas of either less importance or your greater asymmetric advantage, and we have lots of opportunities to do that and we should, but not as a substitute to keeping these valuable restrictions in place.

The last thing I'd like to mention is the effect on the national defense spending. I don't share with you, or at least I don’t share to the extent that Tom laid out, that if New START isn't extended, it would be an unlimited arms race between the U.S. and the Russians. I think the strategic balance is more stable than that, but we have a lot of big fish to fry, and even though 700 billion dollars and the eye popping size of the American defense budget, it nonetheless isn't exorbitant for the number of things we're trying to do with that budget. And limiting what we spend on our nuclear forces in order to enable, for example, our own development of exotic delivery systems is a judicious use of the taxpayer's money. And I think I will close with that.

KIMBALL: Great, thank you, and I'm not disagreeing with that last point, but I think, as I heard Tom say, the door would be opened to an unconstrained arms race -- that is the risk, it's not a certainty, but without the limits established by New START, the temptation will be there by both sides to upload, to increase...

SCHAKE: (inaudible) the temptation and tempering it.

KIMBALL: Okay, it may not be as enticing (inaudible). Madelyn, on to you.

MADELYN CREEDON: Okay. Thanks Daryl. And thanks to Kori and Sandy for laying out really most of the arguments on the treaty, but I want to reflect just for a moment on what we haven't talked about today, and that's about a strategic arms reduction treaty. So the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, which was signed in April of 2010 and entered into force on February 5th of 2011 and expires in February 5 of 2021. It's a treaty with which both Russia and the U.S. are complying and that point has been made, but that is an extraordinarily important point, and both met the central limits of the treaty on a friendly basis in February of 2018.

So New START replaced the previous 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which of course expired in December 2009. Like its predecessor treaties, START 1, START 2, the strategic arms limitation treaties, the SALT treaties, some of these of course entered into force and some didn't, but New START limits strategic nuclear arms of the U.S. and Russia. There's a decade in our history of strategic nuclear arms agreement between Russia and U.S. These treaties play with New START and played historically a large role in reducing the nuclear arsenals of the two countries from their peaks.

The U.S. peaked at 31,255 weapons in 1965, and Russia peaked in 1985 at about 38,000 weapons. Strategic nuclear arms of course include ICBMs, SLBMs and their launchers, ballistic missile submarines, long-range bombers and the nuclear warheads that all these systems carry. So did I mention that the New START treaty is a bilateral between the U.S. and Russia, strategic nuclear arms control treaty, designed to limit strategic nuclear arms. It is not a treaty that limits ballistic missiles, ballistic missile defense systems. It's not a treaty that limits non-strategic nuclear systems. It doesn't limit short to intermediate range ballistic missiles. It doesn't limit micro (inaudible). It doesn't cover anything except strategic nuclear arms, and it wasn't designed to.

It is what it is: it's an effective bilateral, verifiable strategic nuclear arms control treaty that is essential to our ability to provide an effective deterrent. Now the last words outlined, they actually belong to General John Hyten when he was commander of the U.S. Strategic Command. The treaty is a bilateral, verifiable agreement that gives us some predictability on what our potential adversaries look like. And those aren’t my words either, those are General Paul Selva’s when he was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The New START treaty contains verification and transparency measures such as data exchanges, periodic data updates, notifications, unique identifiers on strategic systems, some access to its monitoring and on-site inspections. That will give us important insights into Russian strategic nuclear forces and how they operate their forces.

We will understand Russian strategic forces much better with the treaty than would be the case without it. Now, so you might get the theme here, but it's not my words either, right? But the combined thoughts and views of seven former commanders of the U.S. Strategic Command expressed in a letter of support for the New START Treaty in July of 2010.

So when New START was signed, the idea was that the treaty would carry on the long heritage of mutually working to reduce strategic nuclear arms. The Obama administration certainly realized that non-strategic arms are also important and that their importance is in fact growing, but this treaty was a treaty covering and limiting strategic arms, and the next treaty would deal with non-strategic arms or even the whole nuclear stockpile and their delivery systems.

So Russia wasn't interested in pursuing a follow-on treaty as we all know during the Obama administration. In fact, they made it very clear that they were not interested in talking about a follow-on treaty until the central limits were met. Of course, those central limits were met as I mentioned in February of 2018 after the Obama administration had come to a close. And by then there was very little interest on either side working on a new treaty. Clearly the geo-politics had changed substantially.

And as both Kori and Sandy mentioned, the situation is probably even worse now than it was when the central of limits came into force.

Such a comprehensive treaty, a treaty that's covers non-strategics for all nuclear warheads and their delivery systems would be a much more difficult treaty to negotiate then, and it will be more difficult going forward. Among other things, such a treaty would have to cover a wide range of dual-use systems. It would be very challenging to verify, and it would ironically force Russia to admit that it had cheated on the INF Treaty in advance of the U.S. strategic withdrawal because you couldn't have a comprehensive treaty without bringing those systems in as well.

So the critics have complained as we all know that New START does not limit these Russian short-range nuclear systems and other non-strategic systems. And it's true, it doesn't, and the treaty wasn't designed to do that. So as we noted, the Russians have far too many short-range nuclear weapons for their own good, as well as instability along their borders, but this needs to be addressed in a separate negotiation. No single treaty provides a silver bullet to mitigate all the threats we face. And New START is no exception. Those words were actually penned by Brent Scowcroft, the former National Security Advisor to George H.W. Bush and Jake Garn, the former Republican senator from Utah in September of 2010 in an op-ed in the Washington Times.

So New START is not and was not intended to be a silver bullet. So it doesn't cover China, it doesn't cover other countries, and it doesn't cover nonstrategic nuclear weapons. These omissions do not make it a fatally flawed treaty, it is a treaty that does what it does very well: It limits strategic nuclear arms in a verifiable way so as to provide clarity and certainty in the respected strategic arms of each party, thereby preventing an uncontrolled strategic arms race fueled by uncertainty and instability. It allows each side to see the other side as it is, not 20 feet tall and not 2 feet tall.

Without the transparency provided by this treaty, there's no predictability, no transparency, no certainty, no stability, and distrust and suspicion will only grow over time as a result. So my advice to this administration or the next one, work on the treaty with China, find the incentive to get China to the table, they clearly are not interested now, but figure out what that is, work on a bilateral treaty with Russia that covers non-strategic arms for full stockpile size, work on a multi-lateral treaty that covers short to intermediate range missiles, work on a treaty that covers dual use systems, work on any treaty that provides benefit to the U.S. and ensures stability, predictability, transparency, and reduces threats of war be they direct, inadvertent, or accidental.

Work on agreements short of treaties, work on transparency agreements, work on ways to basically have baby steps in some instances where you might eventually get a treaty that would provide some sort of transparency and understanding and stability. This could include China. This could include India and Pakistan and the DPRK. The point is, continue to work on these things, but don't throw out a perfectly good treaty that is working well in the process. Extend the New START Treaty and use its flexibility to cover those new types of Russian strategic arms, Sarmat and Avangard.

KIMBALL: Thank you, everyone. And I would just note that New START doesn't cover migratory birds, but there is the Migratory Bird Act, so, start it off with migratory birds, there is a law at least on that.

We have some time for questions and discussion to explore these issues even further, and I just wanted to kick us off as you all contemplate your questions with a question for each of you, if you would like to address it.

And Madelyn, you started touching upon this at the very end, but the Trump administration has made a big issue of the importance of engaging China. It was about nine months ago that the president brought this up. In some form or other, there was reporting about this, and yet the Administration has not yet put forward any specifics of how it would like to engage China. Rumor has it that they may lay out some ideas soon.

I don't know if that's true, or exactly when, but my question to each of you is: what are some realistic options for engaging China at this stage, given, as you all have said, that China has never been part of a formal negotiation on nuclear arms control, given that China has a relatively smaller yet still deadly nuclear arsenal relative to the U.S. and Russia, given that they said, no, thank you, we don't want to be a part of a negotiation, so what kinds of steps -- and Madelyn, you were kicking off some ideas that I wanted to, as each of you to try to offer your suggestions, is it a numerical proposal? Is it common numerical limits? Is it about information sharing, about transparency?

What might it be and what could we offer that we'd be willing to offer in exchange to induce China to do this? Because as I think each of you mentioned, China does not have a strong incentive to do so.

Your thoughts, Kori, Sandy, or Madelyn?

SCHAKE: So I would start by having a public conversation about great powers who limit their nuclear forces in relation to one another and China clearly likes the vision of itself as the hegemon of the 21st century. And so, it’s a not inconsequential way of engaging with the Chinese, and I think that might be useful.

I also think you can have a conversation about confidence-building measures and transparency in the South China Sea that you -- so in broader conversation with the Chinese about military transparency, potential flashpoints and confidence building, that it could be rolled in.

Third, I also very much like the Edelman and Miller idea and a UN Security Council permanent five declaration of their forces that starts a process of socialization on those issues.

VERSHBOW: Thanks a lot. I would agree that the place to start is through some kind of dialogue to change the Chinese perspective, and they're quite adamant right now that they don't have any need to participate with a (inaudible) smaller than that of the United States and Russia. I think they need to understand that this is not only about size of forces, but about qualitative characteristics, about what's stabilizing, what's destabilizing, at least to get them to understand that it’s in their interest to participate in some kind of process.

It may start with the verification or transparency measures for information sharing. In terms of, we are saying that the strategic-only framework, it's hard to see what we would gain by adding a ceiling amount of Chinese warheads and delivery systems. It would probably be higher than they currently deploy, so, you know, we make them feel good that we're putting some kind of block on some (inaudible) build-up in the future, and that might be useful.

I think if there's an area where we actually have something to offer is that more in the INF deal where we could offer to talk about putting some kind of constraints both on the numbers and the locations, particularly of the missiles that we are contemplating deploying in the Asia-Pacific theater to induce China's (inaudible).

I do think something like the INF is something we should be thinking about, even though the Russians violated the old one, but I think there's still ways we could promote stability and predictability, in this case, perhaps, on a trilateral basis.

KIMBALL: Any other thoughts in addition to what you're...

CREEDON: I mean I'd certainly would agree on the idea that it has to be broader than nuclear, it can't just be nuclear, it probably is a non-starter, yes, even under New START it's 1,550 deployed strategics, obviously the U.S. arsenal is much larger; it's just under 4,000. But where there is some, is what Sandy said, I think maybe is in INF, like the systems China has maybe as many as 2,100 short, medium and intermediate range missiles. We have just started -- the U.S. has just started a series of tests in that, and maybe this is something. But I think the first step is to have a conversation with China and just see, what are the things that they’re interested in, what are the things that we’re interested in.

There may be some completely off-the-wall sorts of concepts that we might want to think about that have nothing to do with nuclear systems, such as if the U.S. were to ratify the Law of the Sea convention which China has ratified and the U.S. abides by but hasn't ratified, maybe this is something, right, so now there is a reciprocity with ratification of treaties.

There are a lot of other ideas that we might bring to the fore on this, but I think the first is just get to sit down and figure out what are the shared interests, where are the diversion strategies and are there incentives to bring those to the table?

KIMBALL: All right, thank you. We’re going to turn it over the audience here. So if you could just raise your hand and identify yourself, the microphone will come to you so that we can record. So if we could take the gentleman at the back with the handsome pinstripe suit, and so that we can get this on a microphone and record it for our transcript.

BRUCE MACDONALD: All right. First of all, thanks to the Arms Control Association and to our speakers for their great presentations. First, I’m (inaudible), I’m a (inaudible) quoted in the Strategic Posture Review Commission 10 years ago.

I have a comment and a question. And the comment is it's ironic that in the (inaudible) on the question of extending New START, the administration puts at risk a lot of its strategic priorities. The only way the ground-based strategic deterrent, i.e. the Minuteman replacement, makes sense is if you hit the tight limits on warheads, otherwise it becomes, simply just allocating the top two warheads that are paced to 400 silos.

Right now, for them to do that on a very fixed level, every warhead you'd use to destroy the Russians would actually end up using up more warheads than they would destroy or as (inaudible), if it’s unlimited, then it becomes easy, but then two single warheads (inaudible) make no sense at all. That's my comment.

My question is that -- and I've raised this in one or two other forums -- is given the amount of chaos there is in U.S. strategic thinking, mightn't it be time to have a big group of senior experts like the Strategic Posture Review Commission, what is it, 10 or 11 years ago to review the whole question of strategic stability and the U.S. strategic posture. Back then it was strictly nuclear weapons arms control and non-proliferation. Today you might well want to add cyber and space to that. But there is chaos right now in U.S. strategic thinking. There is, the biggest drawback to New START of course is that it was negotiated under President Obama and that makes it lethal I think in the mind of President Trump, but it's time, to I think, to reorient or to restabilize and talk about stability, stabilize thinking in U.S. strategic policy. It's something that our allies might very much appreciate...

KIMBALL: Let's let our speakers answer your question.

MACDONALD: So my question is what do you think about that re-engagement, something like the Strategic Posture Commission --

KIMBALL: Talk about that.

SCHAKE: I think that those kinds of commissions are most helpful at start of an administration, when you can use the time that an administration is starting up to help shape their agenda and offer good ideas, and it's not clear to me the Trump administration is permeable to that kind of thinking, especially at this point in time. And that -- our test case, if you'd ask me, which is, I understand, got into the National Defense Authorization Act a year or two ago, a Cyber Solarium Commission. Congressman Mike Gallagher is on it, several others -- so I think Senator Angus King is on it, several good people, and they’re about to come out with their recommendations on an important subject that needs that kind of careful strategic analysis, and so we'll have a data point about how the administration, how receptive they are to that kind of help.

CREEDON: You know, I would say, probably, that I start with a bit of bias against these commissions, but the particular one that you mentioned I think it impacts some very good purposes, but I completely agree with Kori, you've very much better off at the beginning of an administration. And there certainly would be time for some commission to both get stood up, funded, selected, formulated, studied with any sort of a response that would provide any insight into the New START Treaty, because you kind of have to do that in the next couple of months.

But maybe long term, maybe, you know, for much broader discussion about strategic stability and working much farther than just Russia or just China.

VERSHBOW: (inaudible) The longer I've been retired, the more I’ve been interested in these kinds of commissions.

(LAUGHTER)

VERSHBOW: But I agree with that. But I agree it probably makes more sense at the beginning of the administration. But I think there's plenty of room for track-two initiatives even now, maybe trilateral track-twos with the Russians and the Chinese, which may be easier to get started than official (inaudible) with China, at least in the short run.

What the administration has to its credit, I think, is reaching out to China, although I don’t know exactly what they are able to accomplish, but there is potential to at least prepare the ground for serious negotiation after the next election.

KIMBALL: But clearly, it's a long process that takes time, and planning and more than 12 months.

The gentleman who has the microphone, identify yourself and ask your question.

QUESTION: Chase Enright, researcher at Physicians for Social Responsibility. This is kind of a two-parter, but the NPT Review Conference is coming up very rapidly, what impact will probably the U.S. not renewing New START have upon, say, (inaudible) the NPT Conference?

And also have there been any motions for an all-five nuclear powers states multilateral treaty on arms control, getting China’s nuclear weapons to permanently (inaudible) that they have special different arsenal sizes, well, why wouldn’t the U.K. and France be involved?

KIMBALL: Why don't you take Alex Liebowitz’s question here in the front row, and then we'll address the questions.

LIEBOWITZ:

KIMBALL: All right, we’ve got about three questions on the table. So, I invite you to address whichever ones you’d like.

VERSHBOW: OK. Well, clearly if we are rejecting the extension of the New START Treaty, it would probably put us in the doghouse in the NPT Review Conference. And I think it would cause at least some strains with our allies. It’s not that I don’t think it would reach the point of putting NATO’s nuclear strategy at risk, but it’s still a risk for our position.

I am not up to speed on the idea of a five nuclear-armed states agreement. I made the point that it has been, sort of, very difficult in the past to get a (inaudible) on strategic nuclear weapons, and the Russians have resisted any dialogue, even, that might provide some transparency in what they have, so we have, I think, considerable uncertainty about the actual numbers.

We had very little leverage to change their positions since we – remember when we unilaterally reduced most of ours. In a different time, in a more hopeful time, the president’s nuclear initiatives (inaudible) our unilateral protections. So inducing the Russians to put them into one basket (inaudible) isn’t going to be easy, but there's going to be some lessons from the New START verification regime of what the Russians have is that the intrusive inspections under the (inaudible) checking the right number of nuclear weapons there. That kind of very (inaudible) transparency can be (inaudible).

SCHAKE: So first to your question about the NPT review conference. I seem to recall the last NPT Review Conference, we were near a rebellion by the non-nuclear powers that the nuclear member states were not upholding their end of the bargain. And I think that's only picking up speed, and the withdrawal from the START Treaty was certainly gas going into that fire. So I think you are observing it right. I actually don't know the answer about the P5. Beyond what Edelman and Miller said in their Wall Street Journal piece, my guess is that the French will believe that the great glory of France is ill-suited by this.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHAKE: And yet they would gain from it as well. And that's (inaudible) to have the argument.

On the non-strategic, unquestionably true, extraordinarily difficult to verify, and yet in a day when Bellingcat can tell you who shot down an airliner by tracking social media and production codes, I just can't believe that the Madelyn Creedons of the world cannot find a way that we can do this.

Moreover, it seems to me -- I just read a little bit of (inaudible) of having no leverage over the Russians on this. I think we have an enormous amount of moral leverage by virtue of the fact that the NATO allies reduced their non-strategic nuclear forces by over 90 percent, and Russia's made no corresponding cut.

And so -- again, I feel like we underuse shame in the international politics, because but reputations matter, and the Russians have painted themselves into a reputational corner, being the people who bombed hospitals after the Syrian government uses chemical weapons. And if they ever want to be out of that penalty box, we can offer them a way to be a good international citizen, and I think we ought to find a creative way to have that discussion.

(UNKNOWN):

CREEDON: I completely agree on the comments about the NPT. I won't belabor those for -- uh, you know, P5 do talk about things, on occasion, but in terms of, in terms of where -- where we go next in Treaty Land, there probably is room for one more bilateral treaty with Russia before it -- before we expand to others, mostly because of the discrepancy of the pure numbers, I mean, we have much more parity with Russia across the board, and I just think that would also really be a test in terms of how you verify these things.

There is, I think, an advantage of having some further discussions with Russia on what the treaty would look like, because we tend to disagree with having these conversations with Russia. There's a lot to be said just for having the conversations. Historically, just the act of these conversations provided a lot of insight into what were real concerns or fears or desires in the Middle East to actually move forward with a treaty.

I know the administration has had, I think, at least two strategic stability discussions with Russia. Those are certainly good things. We've agreed it's going to prevent more (inaudible) than track twos. I know NTI has tried to do some track twos with Russia. I mean, those are the things that would keep this ball rolling and going forward. But I think we have a long way to before we actually get to the five-way, and on the five-way side is probably where you want to do non-treaty weapons and that gets us into the transparency, confidence-building measures and those sorts of things.

SCHAKE: For anybody talking to the folks in the administration who are frothing at the mouth in fury about Britain's 5G Huawei decision, it would be a great time to suggest that five -- five-power Security Council arms control treaty. That would give the administration something constructive to focus their ire on.

(LAUGHTER)

KIMBALL: Well, just a quick additional comment about this -- the Russian response to the Trump administration's proposal that there's a trilateral nuclear arms control negotiation with the Chinese is well, we should involve the British and the French arsenals into the conversation. To which I've not heard a Trump administration response, but this is just an example of what I think -- you know, the American policy with respect to what follows onto New START has to be thought through carefully. The planning in my estimation has not yet been done.

And this a long-term process, unfortunately, that is not going to bear fruit within 12 months, which is -- which brings me back to underscoring one of the main points of the discussion today, which is that none of these more ambitious options, however, whatever shape or form they take, at whatever pace, are not going to be possible in the absence of this foundational U.S.-Russian strategic nuclear arms control agreement without which all of these things become incredibly more complex.

So we had a couple other questions out there. Let's go to some of the good people in the middle and the back, with this gentleman right here in the middle. Please. Yes, stand up. Identify yourself and ask us your question.

QUESTION: Dave Crandall, retired from the Department of Energy, where Madelyn was my boss at one time, and independent consultant now. Just trying to keep up with things. My experience trying to work with trilaterals with UK, France, etc., was never going to work. And it feels to me like a trilateral with China and Russia would take as much as five years, assuming you get New START renewed. (inaudible) What's -- what is realistic? When you talk about bilaterals with China and Russia, you talk about trilaterals, you talk about (inaudible) Russia. What is your opinion about what's realistic?

KIMBALL: Hold that question in your mind, we're going to take two more questions. And why don't we go here, and then we have Greg in the back.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) international (inaudible). Could you make more comments on the impact of exotic hyper-velocity weapons? When will you start modernizations (inaudible)? (Inaudible) are all of you (inaudible)?

KIMBALL: Okay. All right. Let me take this two. What is realistic in terms of a follow on to New START, as I understand your question. And how do we deal with these Russian exotic systems that Vladimir Putin is scaring everybody about?

SCHAKE: So I want to take a shot at what is realistic. I am old enough to remember the NBFR negotiations and the PFB negotiations that had, definitely (inaudible).

So if you actually want to get something done, it is possible to get it done in large numbers. It requires leadership. It requires common purpose. It requires a whole bunch of time, but I don't share your view that the U.S. and two close allies are an impossible troika to get anything done with.

KIMBALL: OK. Other thoughts?

(UNKNOWN):

VERSHBOW: On the P5, what can be accomplished? I mean, you should be able to find a way to deal with our British and French allies, and I think the Russians are going to absolutely insist if we go to any kind of multilateral arrangements that would bring China in, the British and French would have to be brought in as well. And the French will resist, but I there are going to be ways, depending on us, how directly (inaudible) on limits, there may be technical limits on U.S. and Russia as the big boys, and some kind of no-increase (inaudible) transparency would apply to France or maybe China.

If they have a strategic modernization plan that people (inaudible) doubles (inaudible) that the Russians getting a no-increase commitment to this year's (inaudible) a few years ago might be better than seeing it just continue to grow.

But the Frank Miller-Eric Edelman idea, I think, might be adapted to also think about combined START-INF type of limits, that’s with the supplements (inaudible), makes verifications easier, and that may create some...

SCHAKE: (inaudible) Madelyn’s problem of acknowledging the cheating --

VERSHBOW: Well, they'd have to make the 9M729 subject to this agreement. But this would be reduced from actual symmetry, or closer to symmetry, because the Chinese have a lot of INFs, numerous strategic weapons, (inaudible) what’s in it for us. But there’s a kind of incentive in terms of, you know, the leverage points. We're threatening (inaudible) definitely on their corners, they might be willing to negotiate (inaudible).

KIMBALL: And what is this -- let me push you on, what is this -- what is in this discussion for the Chinese, for instance? I mean, I would think that if I were a Chinese negotiator, I might say, not only am I concerned about U.S. conventional forces in the South China Sea, but with this missile defense system that threatens our retaliatory capabilities. So...

VERSHBOW: They think it does.

KIMBALL: Well, whether they think it does or not, it actually does -- that's another conversation. But I think it's quite likely, they're going to ask for something. That's my point. So far none of you have addressed the question, what is in it for the Chinese? What could we give to induce them to...

VERSHBOW: The Russians have always said they're going to bring up missile defense again, if we ask them to go one warhead lower than the New START requires.

KIMBALL: Okay. All right.

SCHAKE: I like Madelyn's idea as an asymmetric treaty acknowledgment and participation. I mean, the U.S. should ratify a lot of this (inaudible) anyway. Not only do we comply with it, we enforce it on other people, and the other administration had just been willing to roll our sleeves up and get the congressional votes, my own Republicans as well as Democrats.

So we should try to do that. It's a good thing. We're going to want it a lot more. You don't want to be in a position the Lincoln administration was in during the Civil War, where all of a sudden you desperately want compliance, where everybody (inaudible) this treaty you've been unwilling to ratify.

So it is really (inaudible) as the Chinese threat continues to increase in the South China Sea, that we embrace the treaty that we led, we signed, and we are compliant with, and we enforce the terms of that, and anything that you get from the Chinese, so that would be fabulous.

Then I am a lot less skeptical than you, that there are things China wants that the United States has in (inaudible), transparency on freedom of navigation, schedules, the prospects for a mutual and balanced force reductions between China and the United States, they're all there. So if we could persuade them that if you would make the time and effort, that it would require patience, that it requires to make progress on this. But as you said, they're just not even trying.

KIMBALL: Madelyn, the hypersonic systems.

CREEDON: Before I get to those, you know, even things like crisis stability mechanisms with China. I mean we don't have a real hotline with China. You know, even some very basic things that we might want to talk about that would seem to be of mutual -- of mutual benefit going forward. I guess -- you know, I guess my problem is realistically, all of this is going to be extraordinarily difficult and none of them will be easy. And it will take leadership. I mean it will just take leadership to figure out what -- what it is that we would like to pursue.

On the -- on the other Russian systems, so Sergey Lavrov has, of course, recently said that the Sarmat, which is the heavy ICBM, and Avangard, which is the hypersonic system which apparently was, could be launched on an ICBM, just because of those relationships as to ICBMs, they would naturally fall under New START and they would be in types, so there really is flexibility on the new types to preempt these sorts of systems. The ones that are way more problematic, of course, are the nuclear -- nuclear torpedo and the nuclear cruise missile. They both feel -- even though they have great distance, they certainly both feel like things that we would bring on to strategic systems historically, but it's a good place to start in terms of what the intentions could be, how their doctrine applies to them, these would be sort of the transparency discussions that one would want to have on these systems.

And I think with time, we will continue to have -- I think in time we will have more leverage with respect to Russia as our -- as the U.S. modernization program progresses, I think we’ll actually get leverage at the moment. Obviously, Russia is -- of course, is winding up their modernization but they still have production lines, they still have the ability to make warheads. Things that we don't have at the moment. So as we move forward on our modernization programs and we get back into the business of making things again, certainly the new submarine is up front, but when we -- and when we get progress on the -- on the new ICBM, when we get more progress on the bomber, when we have more than one warhead life extended, if we ever get the capability back, these are all the things that will now enable us to have serious leverage over Russia, all of which argues that we need to maintain the stability between now and then, whenever then is. So, you know, it's just a -- it's just a stronger argument for getting New START extended right now.

KIMBALL: All right. We're going to take one final question before we conclude. Let me ask the... (inaudible) Greg, why don't we take Greg Thielmann’s question?

(UNKNOWN):

KIMBALL: OK. And then -- OK, go ahead Greg and then we'll take...

QUESTION: Greg Thielmann, board member of the Arms Control Association.

Through the years strategic arms control between the U.S. and Soviet Union, Russia, included both offensive and defensive systems. Russia still maintains that this is a very important part of the equation. In fact, implies that it cannot lower its number of offensive ordnance once the U.S. purses (inaudible) training the defenses. And even explicitly cites U.S. chief missile defenses as a reason for Putin's wunderwaffe.

So my question is, is this something that we will continue to be able to stiff the Russians on, or is there created space that somehow involves the transit system?

CREEDON: Well, right now, they're just -- I mean, I would say, there has to be some way to have these discussions, but there are a lot of statutory impediments right now to having these discussions. And I think one of the first steps is to get rid of some of these statutory impediments to these discussions, but somehow we have to -- we have to be able to talk about this.

SCHAKE: So the last 87 or so time (inaudible) that we’ve tried to have conversations with the Russians to reach agreement on something that is patently obvious, which is that limited ballistic missile defense systems are easily overwhelmed by ballistic missiles, by decoys, by chaff -- the Russians don’t believe it, and the Russians don't want to believe it, and I am a lot less sympathetic to the -- we all need to remain un-dependent in order to have strategic stability. I think strategic stability is more stable than the suggestion that limited missile defenses would unbalance it the amount that Russia may suggest.

VERSHBOW: I think the Russians are worried that some technological breakthrough that is not actually on the horizon, that somehow we might achieve that would give us a credible defense of the U.S. homeland of missile defense. I don't think that's attainable, and even with the technologies that we're looking ahead to in the next 10 or 15 years. And I think at the end of the day, they use this as a cudgel and a propaganda tool. At the end of the day, it's not a New START agreement without any constraints on missile defense. And their preambular language about the offense-defense relationship. I think they'll make that calculus again if we negotiate another agreement. But I think the limits provide the balance and if they still see U.S. as (inaudible) against the ones and twos and threes of (inaudible) large Russian (inaudible), next time we (inaudible).

KIMBALL: I want to thank all of our speakers for their insights and their comments. We're going to have to end it there. I want to thank all of you for being with us. The Arms Control Association is going to be posting in the next three or four days a transcript of today's discussion. We're going to have more on the future of the New START Treaty in the months ahead, as we discussed today, and the day's not over.

Congress is looking at this, and looking for discussion about the NPT Review Conference which begins April 27 on disarmament treaties, including New START. So thanks for being with us, and (inaudible).

(APPLAUSE)

We're adjourned.

Description: 

Former officials from the U.S. government outline the case for extending New START and address frequently asked questions about the treaty and the future of arms control.

Country Resources:

Russia Warns Time Running Out for New START | U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Watch

Russia Warns Time Running Out for New START Russian officials repeated in late December and early January President Vladimir Putin’s call for extending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) as soon as possible, though Washington continues to remain silent on the future of the accord, which is scheduled to expire in just over 12 months. Acting Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov commented in a Dec. 26 interview that “we might end up under intense time pressure” if the Trump administration maintains its silence on the future of the treaty. “We would not like to be forced to...

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