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The Arms Control Association is an "exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size." 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
Greg Thielmann

Close the Verification Gap: Ratify New START

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Volume 1, Number 35, November 19, 2010

The United States is approaching the first anniversary of losing its treaty rights to inspect Russia's nuclear forces "up close and personal," which expired along with  the original Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) last December.  Given that the United States has an opportunity to restore those inspections under the New START treaty, one has to wonder why some U.S. Senators are reluctant to promptly approve ratification of New START. In a stunning upending of President Reagan's admonition to "trust, but verify," critics of the agreement appear not to want to take advantage of the treaty's intrusive inspections to assure compliance.

It is small wonder that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, is "extremely concerned" about the time that has already lapsed without inspections.

U.S. Strategic Forces Commander Gen. Kevin Chilton warned that: "If we don't get the treaty, [the Russians] are not constrained in their development of force structure and ... we have no insight into what they're doing... the worst of both possible worlds."

At the heart of the urgent pleas from senior military officers and security officials is an appreciation of the need to implement verification provisions in New START , which are crucial to the U.S. ability to monitor Russian strategic forces. There is no substitute for on-the-ground information gathered by treaty-authorized inspections. Satellites and other intelligence assets cannot look inside Russian missiles to see how many warheads they carry, but U.S. inspectors under New START verification provisions would do just that.

On-Site Inspections. New START allows up to 18 on-site inspections per year, including direct monitoring of Russian nuclear warheads, something no treaty has allowed before.  New START's "Type One" inspections, which occur at bases for deployed missiles and bombers, can achieve two goals at the same time (confirm data on delivery vehicles and on warheads), compiling as much data as two inspections under the original START agreement. Together with the eight "Type Two" inspections of non-deployed systems, the 18 New START inspections are essentially equivalent to the 28 inspections under START.

Moreover, the original START's 28 inspections had to cover 70 facilities in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, as Soviet strategic forces were spread across these four now-independent nations. Today, all former Soviet nuclear weapons and facilities have been centralized in Russia, and New START's 18 inspections need to cover only 35 Russian sites.

Telemetry. Telemetry, or missile flight test information, was needed under START I to determine the maximum number of warheads that might be loaded onto Russian ballistic missiles. Since New START requires data exchanges on the actual warhead loading of each deployed missile and allows direct on-site inspections to confirm this, telemetry sharing is no longer required.  Even so, New START provides for telemetry sharing on up to five missile tests per year as a confidence-building measure.

Mobile Missile Production Monitoring. Although the George W. Bush administration agreed in 2008 to end mobile missile production monitoring at Russia's Votkinsk plant, the new treaty requires Russia to notify the United States 48 hours before a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) leaves Votkinsk and when it arrives at its destination, which will facilitate monitoring by national technical means.

The updated system of information exchanges and enhanced on-site inspections established by New START would, in conjunction with "national technical means," allow the United States to verify compliance with the treaty's lower limits on deployed strategic nuclear warheads and delivery systems.

After hearing testimony in closed session from U.S. Intelligence Community witnesses, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) concluded in its October 1 report that "the New START Treaty is effectively verifiable."  A July 30 letter from Secretary of Defense Gates to the committee reported the same conclusion from the nation's defense leadership:

"The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Joint Chiefs, the Commander, U.S. strategic Command, and I assess that Russia will not be able to achieve militarily significant cheating or breakout under New START, due to both the New START verification regime and the inherent survivability and flexibility of the planned U.S. strategic force structure."

The longer New START remains in limbo, the wider will be the yawning gap in the collection of strategic information. Without New START in force, the U.S. Intelligence Community will not be able to predict with high confidence the status of Russia's nuclear forces, and both sides will be tempted to engage in more-costly force modernization and hedging strategies.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Agence France-Presse on Nov. 16: "I think the earlier, the sooner, the better. You know, my thing is, from an intelligence perspective only, are we better off with it or without it? We're better off with it."

Prompt ratification of the new treaty is the only way to close this  knowledge gap about  the only weapons that pose an existential potential threat to the United States. Failure by the Senate to approve New START would not only delay the re-establishment of an effective U.S.-Russian inspection and monitoring system, but it would undermine U.S. nonproliferation leadership and jeopardize U.S.-Russian cooperation in other fields, including joint efforts to contain Iran's nuclear program and support U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan.

The Time to Act Is Now, Not Later

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee performed due diligence in examining the treaty over a six-month period and voted its bipartisan endorsement by a 14-4 margin in September. Eighteen Senate hearings had been held and over 900 questions for the record had been answered. It is now time for senators on both sides of the aisle to come together to strengthen U.S. and global security by completing the process of "advice and consent" with a floor vote.

Senator Richard Lugar, SFRC ranking minority member, issued a clarion call to his colleagues on November 17 to finish the job in the lame duck session: "Every senator has an obligation in the national security interest to take a stand, to do his or her duty."  - GREG THIELMANN

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Volume 1, Number 35

The United States is approaching the first anniversary of losing its treaty rights to inspect Russia's nuclear forces "up close and personal," which expired along with  the original Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) last December.  Given that the United States has an opportunity to restore those inspections under the New START treaty, one has to wonder why some U.S. Senators are reluctant to promptly approve ratification of New START. In a stunning upending of President Reagan's admonition to "trust, but verify," critics of the agreement appear not to want to take advantage of the treaty's intrusive inspections to assure compliance.

Country Resources:

New START: A Missile-Defense-Friendly Treaty

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Volume 1, Number 31, November 16, 2010

One of the biggest ironies in the debate over ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is that critics use the agreement's treatment of missile defense as an excuse to oppose Senate approval. In reality, New START is conspicuous for its lack of significant constraints on strategic ballistic missile defenses. The Barack Obama administration's negotiation of a missile-defense-friendly-treaty is particularly remarkable considering that missile defense constraints appear to have been an important objective of the Russian negotiators.

Missile Defense Myths About New START

That this barking dog did not bite has not stopped some advocates of strategic missile defenses from complaining loudly about "unilateral constraints on missile defenses." Yet the only missile defense constraint of any kind is the treaty's Article V prohibition on converting intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers for use as launchers of missile defense interceptors. With regard to this provision, Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, has testified to Congress that retaining the silo conversion option was not sought by the United States because there were no plans to exercise it; if any new missile defense launchers were needed, they could be more quickly and less expensively acquired through the construction of new silos. None of the critics have explained how this provision limits U.S. missile defense options in the real world.  Moreover, Gen. O'Reilly told a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year that: "The New START treaty actually reduces constraints on the development of the missile defense program [present in the 1991 START agreement]." START I prohibited the launch of missile defense target vehicles from airborne and waterborne platforms.

Some missile defense acolytes have also complained about New START's non-binding, preambular language recognizing the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms and that this interrelationship will become more important as strategic nuclear arms are reduced. Yet including this simple truism in the preamble did not lead to any numerical or qualitative limits on missile defenses in the treaty itself. Moreover, the preamble continues with the assertion that "current strategic defensive arms do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the Parties" - a striking acknowledgement by Russia that the 30 strategic ballistic missile interceptors currently deployed by the United States do not threaten Russia's strategic nuclear retaliatory capability.

A final complaint of critics stems from the unilateral "Statement of the Russian Federation Concerning Missile Defense." Following a practice used by both parties to past strategic arms treaties, Russia provided a formal warning that New START "may be effective and viable only in conditions where there is no qualitative or quantitative build-up in [U.S. missile defense system capabilities]" and that a build-up in U.S. missile defense capabilities that "would give rise to a threat to [Russia's strategic nuclear force potential]" is one of the "extraordinary events" mentioned in Article XIV of the treaty, which could prompt Russia to exercise its right of withdrawal.

In response to Russia's statement, the United States issued its own unilateral statement explaining that U.S. missile defenses "are not intended to affect the strategic balance with Russia," and that the United States intends "to continue improving and deploying its missile defense systems in order to defend itself against limited attack...." This language will undoubtedly provoke criticism in the Duma's consideration of the treaty, but is not expected to prevent ratification.

Put simply, New START would mandate verifiable reductions of Russian and U.S. strategic offensive nuclear forces without placing limits on strategic defensive forces. Moreover, the United States has made clear in its unilateral statement that the treaty would not prevent it from improving and deploying missile defense systems. The subsequent adoption of President Obama's Phased Adaptive Approach has provided a clear and logical conceptual roadmap for U.S. development and deployment of future missile defense systems in Europe during the treaty's duration. Obama's cancellation of plans for deploying unproven, strategic missile interceptors in Poland constituted a shift in emphasis to regional, non-strategic systems, more responsive to present and near-term missile threats from Iran. Russian civilian and military leaders have indicated that they do not feel threatened by U.S. theater missile defense systems based in Europe.

Missile Defense Politics vs. U.S. National Security

That the critics' line of argument is so contrary to the facts cries out for explanation. Most of these critics probably know full well that New START protects rather than jeopardizes U.S. missile defense options during the next decade. They realize that the treaty has broad support among present and former senior military and security officials. They should also understand that without New START in force, the U.S. intelligence community would not be able to predict with high confidence the status of Russia's nuclear forces, and both sides would be tempted to engage in more-costly force modernization and hedging strategies.

However, since missile defense programs are so popular in Congress, rallying to their defense is a convenient subterfuge. Spurious charges and snipe hunts for imaginary secret understandings between U.S. and Russian negotiators to curb missile defenses are useful excuses for delaying the Senate vote. Ideological opponents of arms control hope that likely Senate approval may be derailed by stalling a Senate vote until the 112th Congress convenes or by provoking a negative Russian reaction. Some missile defense enthusiasts worry that future compromises with Russia might limit U.S. programs. They find that withholding support for treaty approval now increases leverage with Congress to secure future budgets and to insert qualifying language in the Senate's resolution of approval, which builds firewalls against negotiating future limits on missile defenses.

There is a legitimate debate to be had over the chances of reconciling post-New START reductions in nuclear weapons with a build-up in U.S. strategic defenses at some point in the future. But the critics' distortion of New START as hostile to missile defense only raises suspicions that they fear an honest debate on the merits of this treaty and a frank discussion about the real opportunity costs of pursuing unconstrained strategic missile defenses in the future. - GREG THIELMANN

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Volume 1, Number 31

One of the biggest ironies in the debate over ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is that critics use the agreement's treatment of missile defense as an excuse to oppose Senate approval. In reality, New START is conspicuous for its lack of significant constraints on strategic ballistic missile defenses. The Barack Obama administration's negotiation of a missile-defense-friendly-treaty is particularly remarkable considering that missile defense constraints appear to have been an important objective of the Russian negotiators.

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Latest Critique of New START Verification Misses Mark

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Volume 1, Number 19, August 19, 2010

Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged prompt Senate consideration and approval of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) which would return to the path established by the original START agreement toward lower, equal, and verifiable limits on the strategic nuclear forces of Russia and the United States. Without the new treaty, Clinton emphasized, "our ability to know and understand changes in Russia's nuclear arsenal will erode," resulting in increased uncertainty and unpredictability.

In a front-page article published August 17, The Washington Post outlined why Republican and Democratic national security experts are concerned about the inability to inspect Russia strategic nuclear bases for the first time in 15 years, following the expiration of START last December.

The danger of delay in ratifying the follow-on treaty was succinctly highlighted by General Kevin Chilton, U.S. Strategic Forces commander, in Senate testimony June 16: "Without New START, we would rapidly lose insight into Russian strategic nuclear force developments and activities, and our force modernization planning and hedging strategy would be more complex and more costly."

This week, in response to new expressions of urgency, Paula DeSutter, George W. Bush's assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance, tries to attack the adequacy of verification provisions in the New START agreement.  DeSutter's latest jabs not only miss the mark, but achieve new heights of chutzpah given her role in the Bush administration's failure to utilize earlier opportunities to maintain and update the U.S.-Russian strategic nuclear weapons verification regime.

Remember SORT?

DeSutter was the senior verification official of the administration that negotiated and promoted the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), a treaty with no definitions, no counting rules, and no verification provisions whatsoever. SORT required the United States and Russia to meet the treaty ceiling of 2,200 on strategic deployed warheads by December 31, 2012, the same day that treaty would expire. When SORT was presented to the Senate, the Bush administration claimed that SORT verification could be achieved indirectly through the ongoing implementation of START verification provisions, even though these provisions, along with the rest of START, were due to expire three years before the SORT limits went into effect.

At the time, DeSutter was highly dismissive of the need to extend START or to negotiate a START-type verification accord in the post-Cold War era. In a March 12, 2004, interview, DeSutter declared: "I don't see any problems at this point that would require us to [extend START beyond its 2009 expiration date]."

In 2007 she reiterated: "We don't believe we're in a place where we need to have the detailed lists [of weapons] and verification measures."  Although the Bush administration informed Russia (and the three other ex-Soviet parties to the treaty) that the United States did not require an extension of START, DeSutter now avers that it was the Obama administration that "let START expire," blithely suggesting Obama could have simply extended the original agreement until New START was ratified.

On-Site Inspection

In an effort to provide a substantive excuse for opposition to New START, DeSutter has also criticized the on-site inspection provisions of the treaty, arguing that "they represent nothing new."

In reality, the procedures, expectations, rules, and goals are indeed new and promise to be very effective. They are streamlined, less costly, and tailored to the specific limits of the new treaty. Moreover, they are more efficient, with each New START inspection permitting not only monitoring of the warhead loading of a deployed missile chosen by the inspecting party but also confirmation that the declared data on the number and types of deployed and nondeployed strategic offensive arms at an inspected base are accurate.

DeSutter mischaracterizes New START's innovative creation of "unique identifiers" for missiles and heavy bombers by stating that warheads would also have unique identifiers, which is not the case. She complains of the lack of warhead loading limits on individual missiles - knowing full well that this aspect of the treaty was sought by the U.S. military in order to be able to retain a hedge for uploading warheads without further reducing the number of Trident missiles and submarines. The greater "flexibility" of the deployed warhead unit of account in SORT was commonly highlighted by the Bush administration as an advantage over the attributed warhead framework used in START. DeSutter also fails to acknowledge that any exploitation of missile warhead upload opportunities by Russia under New START would mean that it would be allowed to deploy fewer missiles and bombers under the treaty's aggregate warhead limits.

The Role of Telemetry

DeSutter also contends that the less stringent telemetry provisions of the new agreement would result in a decline in U.S. insight into Russian strategic nuclear forces. This assertion ignores the fact that telemetry is no longer required to verify the New START limits, which are different from the throw-weight, missile-type, and warhead-counting rules of START. DeSutter's concern here is intelligence, not verification. If one is really worried about losing insight into Russian strategic nuclear forces, then one should consider the insight being lost every day that treaty opponents delay the entry into force of the extensive on-the-ground inspection provisions incorporated into the New START agreement.

Criticism of the Value of New START Rings Hollow

Unfortunately, President Bush and his team, including Paula DeSutter, did not seek to negotiate a new treaty before leaving office or even to extend START's verification system to bridge until 2012 when the SORT limits would apply. As a result, President Barack Obama was handed a strategic arms control verification regime scheduled to self-destruct before the end of his first year in office. The Obama administration wasted no time in negotiating New START within only one year and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee leadership also moved expeditiously to examine the treaty on its merits. It is now up to the rest of the Senate to complete the job, allowing U.S. inspectors to regain on-the-ground access to Russian strategic nuclear deployment sites.

If DeSutter is expected to lead the attack on the verification provisions of New START, she will first have to get her facts straight and then hope that no one remembers the negotiating record of the administration she last served. In the meantime, the fact remains that until New START is approved by the Senate, insight into the only potential existential threat the United States faces will continue to diminish. - GREG THIELMANN

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Volume 1, Number 19

In response to new expressions of urgency by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the need for ratifying the New START agreement, Paula DeSutter, George W. Bush's assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance, tries to attack the adequacy of that treaty’s verification provisions.  DeSutter's latest jabs not only miss the mark, but achieve new heights of chutzpah given her role in the Bush administration's failure to utilize earlier opportunities to maintain and update the U.S.-Russian strategic nuclear weapons verification regime.

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The Iran Nuclear NIE of 2007: Revise, Reject, or Reiterate?

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Volume 1, Number 18, August 12, 2010

Comments by senior U.S. officials in 2010 have continued to endorse the principal conclusions of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities." This may come as a surprise for those accustomed to seeing that earlier document described by pundits and journalists as "flawed," or "erroneous." In fact, from the moment the NIE's sanitized Key Judgments were released in late November 2007, the estimate has been subject to virulent criticism, particularly by those who regret that it did not provide justification for a preventive attack on Iran's nuclear program.

Many critics have impugned the motives of its authors. Former CIA Director James Woolsey has called the NIE "deceptive."1 Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Ranking Minority Member (and former Chairman) of the House Intelligence Committee has called it "a piece of trash."2 There is some considerable irony in hearing such criticism from those intimately familiar with the inner workings of the intelligence community, who seemed to have sleep-walked through the serious professional lapses of the 2002 NIE on Iraq WMD.

It is time to take another close look at the claims made by the Iran Nuclear NIE in light of the critical choices now confronting policy makers.

The most important conclusions from the fall of 2007 still obtain:

  • Iran had been working steadily on the facilities and expertise for enriching uranium, which would eventually allow it to make fissile material for a bomb, if it chose.  (Making fissile material is generally considered the most technically demanding and time consuming hurdle to developing a nuclear weapons capability.)
  • For many years, Iran had had a government-directed and clandestine nuclear weapons program (defined as: "nuclear weapon design and weaponization work and covert uranium conversion-related and uranium enrichment-related work"), but Tehran halted it in the fall of 2003 and the halt lasted at least several years.
  • The estimate indicated that the Department of Energy and the National Intelligence Council were less certain that the halt to these activities represented a halt to Iran's entire nuclear weapons program.
  • Iran still faces significant technical problems operating its uranium enrichment centrifuges at Natanz, but would probably be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) for a weapon sometime during the 2010-2015 time frame.
  • Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it decides to do so. Only an Iranian political decision to abandon a nuclear weapons objective would plausibly keep Iran from producing nuclear weapons.

There has been no retreat from the key historical judgment that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and no advance to a conclusion that Iran had decided to develop nuclear weapons. According to open source information, foreign intelligence services have suggested that some level of nuclear weapons program activity has been underway since 2003. (See, for example, Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, June 28, 2010). It is reasonable to conclude that Iran wants at least to develop the capability to build nuclear weapons.

Yet Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, Jr., Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said in early 2010 that: "The bottom line assessments of the NIE still hold true. We have not seen indication that the (Iranian) government has made the decision to move ahead with the program."3 The State Department's July 2010 Compliance Report stated flatly that: "Iran had a comprehensive nuclear weapons development program that was ordered halted in fall 2003."4

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair reached a similar conclusion in his Annual 2010 Threat Assessment: "We continue to assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that bring it closer to being able to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons."5

If a decision is made to manufacture and deploy nuclear weapons, CIA Director Leon Panetta claims that it would probably take a year for Iran to enrich sufficient uranium from its current stockpile of LEU (following the expulsion of IAEA inspectors) "and another year to develop the kind of weapon delivery system in order to make that viable."6

It would appear then that the long-anticipated "Memorandum to Holders," which is expected to update the 2007 NIE, is likely to revise it rather than revoke it by acknowledging that some kind of ongoing research on nuclear weapons is occurring, without questioning the validity of the 2003 halt that was detected or concluding that Iran has definitively decided to build a bomb. Iran's secret construction of a uranium enrichment facility near Qom, exposed and effectively neutralized in September 2009, deepened suspicions that Iran was interested in developing at least a breakout capability for clandestinely producing fissile material for weapons, independent of its existing LEU stockpiles, which are monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. However, if there were shocking discoveries of unambiguous nuclear weapons intent in the revelations of defectors like Asgari and Amiri, one would have expected to see an alteration in the phraseology used by senior U.S. intelligence officials to describe Iran's nuclear program. This has not happened.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Government has decided to withhold from the American people even the bottom line judgment of the next estimate on this critical issue for U.S. security policy. This means that we will have to do our best to divine what our government thinks it knows and when it is making an educated guess. This also means that the public and the press will continue to be vulnerable to careless or deliberate misinterpretations of estimates by pundits with an axe to grind. - GREG THIELMANN

FOOTNOTES:

1-R. James Woosley, "Too Much Mr. Nice Guy," New York Times, May 6, 2010,
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/07/opinion/07iht-edwoolsey.html.
2-Eli Lake, "Review: Iran never halted nuke work in '03," Washington Times, January 19,
2010,
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jan/19/review-says-iran-never-halted-nuke-work-in-2003/.
3-Gary Thomas, "US Defense Spy Chief: Iran Undecided on Nuclear Bomb," VOANews.com,
January 12, 2010,
http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/middle-east/US-Defense-Spy-Chief-Iran-Undecided-on-Nuclear-Bomb-81256887.html.
4-State Department, "Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation,
and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments," July 2010, p. 66.
5-Dennis C. Blair, "Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community for the
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence," February 2, 2010,
http://www.dni.gov/testimonies/20100202_testimony.pdf.
6-Leon Panetta, Interview with Jake Tapper on ABC News: This Week, June 27, 2010.

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Volume 1, Number 18

Comments by senior U.S. officials in 2010 have continued to endorse the principal conclusions of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities." This may come as a surprise for those accustomed to seeing that earlier document described by pundits and journalists as "flawed," or "erroneous." In fact, from the moment the NIE's sanitized Key Judgments were released in late November 2007, the estimate has been subject to virulent criticism, particularly by those who regret that it did not provide justification for a preventive attack on Iran's nuclear program.

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Prompt New START Ratification Essential to Reducing Nuclear Threat

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Volume 1, Number 14, July 30, 2010

The signing of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between the United States and Russia in April was an important step toward reducing the dangers posed by Cold War-era nuclear weapons, but the potential benefits to U.S. security can only be realized if the treaty is ratified. Until it is ratified, our focus on the most lethal potential threat to our nation will become increasingly blurred.

Consideration of New START by the U.S. Senate and Russia's Duma are well under way, but we are now in a race against the clock to get the job done. Ever since the original START expired in December of last year, the United States has been losing ground in understanding Russian strategic forces through the window of that treaty's comprehensive verification regime. In order to regain access to such vital information and to further reduce the huge nuclear arsenal left over from the Cold War, New START must be ratified.

The U.S. Constitution requires that two-thirds of the Senate concur in treaties made by the executive branch. Always daunting, this requirement is especially so in light of the highly partisan climate currently afflicting the Congress. The Foreign Relations Committee has the lead in providing Senate "advice and consent." Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Ranking Minority Member Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) have presided over a series of thorough and balanced hearings on all aspects of the treaty. A long list of current and former senior security officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations have delivered testimony in support of ratification of the agreement, including President George H.W. Bush's Secretary of State James Baker and George W. Bush's National Security Advisor Steve Hadley, as well as former Defense and Energy Secretary James Schlesinger.

New START has bipartisan support because the treaty would keep Washington and Moscow on track to reduce their bloated Cold War nuclear arsenals by about 30 percent below current limits, continuing negotiated reductions launched in 1991 under START. New START would still leave a powerful and flexible U.S. nuclear force, more than enough to deter the extremely unlikely possibility of a nuclear attack by Russia or any other nation. Under New START, neither Russia nor the United States would deploy more than 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads - hundreds below Russia's current level.

New START would also enhance U.S. and global security by re-establishing a robust system for verifying each side's warhead and missile deployments. Gen. Kevin Chilton, U.S. Strategic Forces commander, explained in Senate testimony June 16 that: "Without New START, we would rapidly lose insight into Russian strategic nuclear force developments and activities, and our force modernization planning and hedging strategy would be more complex and more costly."

In a July 14 letter to senators, seven former U.S. military commanders of U.S. Strategic Command or its predecessor, Strategic Air Command, wrote that they "strongly endorse [New START's] early ratification and entry into force" and that "we will understand Russian strategic forces much better with the treaty than would be the case without it."

These hard-headed military assessments are very much in accord with my own conclusions from analyzing Russian strategic forces in the State Department's intelligence bureau and monitoring U.S. intelligence capabilities as a senior staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee. For following Russian nuclear forces, there is no substitute for the information acquired through implementation of strategic arms control treaty verification provisions.

Moreover, approval of New START will maintain the momentum behind U.S.-Russian cooperative programs to secure nuclear weapons-usable material and open the way for reductions of Russia's arsenal of smaller, more portable battlefield nuclear bombs, which are the most vulnerable to theft or loss to terrorist organizations.

The Senate should complete its careful examination of the treaty before coming to judgment, but it should not succumb to delaying tactics motivated by partisan politics. The benefits of New START for U.S. national security are too important. - GREG THIELMANN

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Volume 1, Number 14

The signing of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between the United States and Russia in April was an important step toward reducing the dangers posed by Cold War-era nuclear weapons, but the potential benefits to U.S. security can only be realized if the treaty is ratified.

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The UN Sanctions' Impact on Iran's Military

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Issue Brief - Volume 1, Number 7, June 11, 2010

Note chart below on Russian and Chinese Equipment Subject to U.N. Sanctions

One of the most significant aspects of the latest round of UN Security Council sanctions against Iran has received the least attention - the ban on major weapons deliveries. Yet the weapons embargo is likely to have the most consequential impact of all on Iran's national power and prestige by promising to significantly reduce Iran's military capability in the months and years ahead.

Some initial media coverage of the P-5 agreement to sanction Iran did not even mention the resolution's embargo on the transfers of heavy weapons, their spare parts, and related training and maintenance assistance.[1] The overall verdict of pundits and press commentators on the June 9 sanctions resolution has been largely negative, with most of the public discussion focused on efforts by Russia and China to "water down" provisions favored by the United States[2] and the ultimate absence of stringent measures to target Iran's energy sector.

Yet the Russians and Chinese, along with ten other members of the UN Security Council, voted to subject Iran, for the first time, to an embargo on creating and maintaining the most import sinews of military strength. UN Security Council Resolution 1929 directs all states to "...prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to Iran...of any battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems... or related materiel" and "shall prevent the provision to Iran...of technical training, financial resources or services, advice, other services or assistance related to the supply, sale, transfer, provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of such arms and related materiel..."[3]

This prohibition affects not only the ballistic missiles, which are the presumed delivery vehicle for any future Iranian nuclear weapons, but also the submarines, aircraft and anti-ship missiles, which pose the most significant threats to the safe operation of shipping through the Persian Gulf. The embargo on tanks, artillery, and armored combat vehicles also affects directly the strike elements of any Iranian forces posing an invasion threat to Iran's neighbors.

History Lessons
History provides a dramatic illustration of the potential impact on Iran of a weapons embargo. During the reign of the Shah, Iran's military was largely equipped with U.S. and British weapon systems. With the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, this relationship came to an abrupt end and the Iranian military - including the second most powerful air force in the Middle East - began rapidly to atrophy. However, in those days, the Soviet Union and China were willing to step into the breach, essentially re-equipping the military forces of the Islamic Republic.[4]

After providing significant numbers of fighter aircraft, armor, artillery, and three modern diesel submarines, Russian transfers have tapered off in recent years. Russia was active through most of the past decade in selling air defense systems and in 1998 had licensed Iranian construction of 2,000 anti-tank missiles over a ten-year period. The last direct transfer of equipment from Russia to Iran was the 2006-2007 delivery of 750 SA-15 Gauntlet short-medium range surface-air missiles and 29 more advanced SA-15s (Tor-M1s). Russia's 2007 deal to supply the sophisticated and longer-range S-300 air defense system has not been carried out. Although exclusion of this system from mandatory sanctions has been described by critics of Resolution 1929 as a "loophole," that resolution also "calls upon all States to exercise vigilance and restraint over ...all other arms" as well.[5] There are strong indications that, accordingly, Moscow's freeze on the S-300 transaction will continue.[6]

China was also an important supplier of tanks and artillery to Iran during the 8-year Iraq-Iran War and, in the last two decades, has been the source of ten missile-firing fast attack boats and 565 C801/802 anti-ship cruise missiles, which the U.S. Department of Defense describes as "an important layer in Iran's defense of or denial of access to the (Persian) Gulf and Strait of Hormuz."[7] Indeed, Iran's potential to interfere with crucial oil shipments through the Persian Gulf is of more acute concern to the international community today than any threat of an Iranian invasion.

Iran needs Russian and Chinese Military Assistance
Today, Tehran remains principally dependent on Russia and China for manufacturing and maintaining the most sophisticated core of Iran's arsenal for offensive military operations. It is all the more significant then, that in the latest round of negotiations on UN Security Council sanctions, Russia and China agreed to a total cutoff of these  weapons for Iran - including spare parts and technical training.

Iran has been creative and energetic in mitigating the impact of past supply chain cut-offs on its front line weapons systems through black market acquisitions and shifting to the use of asymmetrical tactics. With its oil wealth, it can offer large incentives for countries and individuals to circumvent sanctions. Therefore, it will not only be important for states to abide by the arms embargo, but to also use the resolution's own enforcement mechanisms to inspect and seize shipments suspected to be in violation of the embargo.

UN blockage of Iran's traditional sources of weapons will be politically and economically costly for Tehran. Finding a substitute for its principal suppliers will not be easy. It will be forced to adopt compensatory measures requiring more time and more money, and probably to less effect. To be rebuffed in this way by the two countries on which Iran has relied for protection on the UN Security Council is a political as well as a military blow to the regime, raising domestic questions about the government's competence in managing foreign affairs.

Wider Impact
Two of the world's most pressing proliferation challenges, Iran and North Korea, are now subjected to nearly comprehensive arms embargoes and a variety of other restrictions in response to their behavior. These actions by the UN Security Council help to send a message to potential future proliferators that they can expect a similar response, and would need to weigh a risky nuclear weapons program with the degradation of their overall military capabilities. - GREG THIELMANN, with MATTHEW SUGRUE

1 See, for example: David E. Sanger and Mark Landler, "Major Powers Have Deal on Sanctions for Iran," New York Times, May 18, 2010.
2 See, for example: Christopher R. Wall, "Weak Tea; The U.N. sanctions against Iran have been watered down to almost nothing." June 8, 2010
3 UN Security Council Resolution 1929 (S/2010/283), paragraph 8
4 North Korea also played a role in providing ballistic missile help during the last two decades, but Iran's indigenous ballistic missile technology is now generally superior to what North Korea has to offer.
5 UNSC 1929, paragraph 8
6 See, for example: Anna Malpas, "Russia moves to scrap Iran missile sale," AFP, June 11, 2010
7 "Unclassified Report on Military Power of Iran," Department of Defense, April 2010

Selected Russian and Chinese Equipment Subject to U.N. Sanctions (June 2010)[i]

Russia Russia flag

Designation

Description

Amount[ii]

Year(s) Delivered[iii]

Navy

Type-877E/Kilo

Submarine

3

1992-1993; 1996

Aircraft

MiG-29/Fulcrum-A

Fighter Aircraft

~34

1990; 1991

Su-24MK/Fencer-D

Bomber Aircraft

~12

1991

Mi-8/Mi-17/Hip-H

Helicopter

~47

2000; 2000-2001; 2002-2003

Su-25/Frogfoot-A

Ground Attack Aircraft

6

2006

Ground Forces

BMP-1

Infantry Fighting Vehicle

~400

1986-1989

BMP-2

Infantry Fighting Vehicle

~413

1993-2001

T-72M1

Tank

~422

1993-2001

D-30 122mm

Towed Gun

~100

1998-2002

BTR-60PB

Armored Personnel Carrier

~200

1986-1987

Missiles

R-27/AA-10 Alamo

Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile

~150

1990-1991

China Russia flag

Designation

Description

Amount

Year(s) Delivered

Navy

Hudong

Fast Attack Craft (Missile)

10

1994-1996

Aircraft

F-6

Fighter Aircraft

~16

1982-1984

F-7A

Fighter Aircraft

~5

1986

F-7M Airguard

Fighter Aircraft

30

1993; 1996

Ground Forces

Type-59-1 130mm

Towed Gun

~626

1982-1984; 1985-1986; 1987; 1992

Type-63 107mm

Multiple Rocket Launcher

~550

1981-1987; 1986-1990

WZ-120/Type-59

Tank

~300

1982-1984

D-74 122mm

Towed Gun

~100

1985-1986

HY-2 CDS

Coastal Defense System

~7

1986-1987

WZ-121/Type-69

Tank

~500

1986-1988

WA-021/Type-88 155mm

Towed Gun

~15

1991

CSS-8 TEL

Surface-to-Surface Missile Launcher

~30

1990-1994

WZ-501/Type-86

Infantry Fighting Vehicle

~90

2001-2009

Missiles

C-801/CSS-N-4/Sardine

Anti-ship Missile

~245

1987; 1995-1998; 2006-2009

HY-2/SY-1A/CSS-N-2

Anti-ship Missile

~150

1986-1987; 1988-1994

M-7/CSS-8

Surface-to-Surface Missile

~200

1990-1994

C-802/CSS-N-8

Anti-ship Missile

~320

1994-2009

Fl-6

Anti-ship Missile

~205

1999-2009

TL-6/C-704

Anti-ship Missile

~10

2005


i System designations, types, amounts and years derived from SIPRI arms transfer database, http://armstrade.sipri.org/armstrade/page/trade_register.php.

ii Amount represents the total number of systems delivered from 1980-2009. Figures preceded by a “~” are estimates.

iii Years separated by semi-colon indicate separate transaction periods.

Description: 

Volume 1, Number 7

One of the most significant aspects of the latest round of UN Security Council sanctions against Iran has received the least attention - the ban on major weapons deliveries. Yet the weapons embargo is likely to have the most consequential impact of all on Iran's national power and prestige by promising to significantly reduce Iran's military capability in the months and years ahead.

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New START Verification: Up to the Challenge

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May 17, 2010
By Greg Thielmann

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The multilayered limits of the original Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and the elaborate verification measures flowing out of them were born of the difficult negotiations conducted in the waning days of the Soviet Union. The streamlined verification measures in the New START agreement, finalized in April 2010, are an appropriate response to the replacement treaty’s specific limits, which are designed to address post-Cold War realities. Combining proof-tested measures from 15 years of START implementation with new approaches to contemporary challenges, New START verification provisions are well suited to fulfill their core function. These provisions promise to permit the same high confidence in compliance achieved when the original START was in force, but will do so with more focused and up-to-date methods, including innovative verification provisions for monitoring deployed warhead ceilings.

Description: 

The multilayered limits of the original Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and the elaborate verification measures flowing out of them were born of the difficult negotiations conducted in the waning days of the Soviet Union. The streamlined verification measures in the New START agreement, finalized in April 2010, are an appropriate response to the replacement treaty’s specific limits, which are designed to address post-Cold War realities. Combining proof-tested measures from 15 years of START implementation with new approaches to contemporary challenges, New START verification provisions are well suited to fulfill their core function. These provisions promise to permit the same high confidence in compliance achieved when the original START was in force, but will do so with more focused and up-to-date methods, including innovative verification provisions for monitoring deployed warhead ceilings.

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New START Verification: Fitting the Means to the Ends

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February 22, 2010
By Greg Thielmann

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The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) promises to lock in significant reductions in U.S. and Russian strategic arsenals by establishing lower ceilings on deployed weapons. The treaty’s verification provisions are means to that end--providing confidence that the sides are complying with those lower limits. Although the goal is to establish the high confidence levels maintained during the 15 years of the original START (1994-2009), the successor agreement will achieve that goal with more focused and up-to-date methods, including innovative verification provisions for deployed warhead ceilings. START’s multilayered limits and the elaborate verification measures flowing out of them were born of the Cold War. New START verification can be streamlined in accordance with the new, simplified limits and in response to post-Cold War realities. In assessing the new treaty, it is critical that verification provisions be judged by how well they fulfill their core function.

Description: 

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) promises to lock in significant reductions in U.S. and Russian strategic arsenals by establishing lower ceilings on deployed weapons. The treaty’s verification provisions are means to that end--providing confidence that the sides are complying with those lower limits. Although the goal is to establish the high confidence levels maintained during the 15 years of the original START (1994-2009), the successor agreement will achieve that goal with more focused and up-to-date methods, including innovative verification provisions for deployed warhead ceilings. START’s multilayered limits and the elaborate verification measures flowing out of them were born of the Cold War. New START verification can be streamlined in accordance with the new, simplified limits and in response to post-Cold War realities. In assessing the new treaty, it is critical that verification provisions be judged by how well they fulfill their core function.

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Dealing With Long-Range Missile Threats: It's All About Russia

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November 22, 2009
By Greg Thielmann

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The nearly 2,000 nuclear warheads on Russian ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles constitute the sole near-term existential threat to the United States. The U.S. response to this threat has been to maintain the nuclear war-fighting posture adopted during the Cold War. Yet, this posture does not lead toward an improvement in U.S. security; it merely reinforces Russia’s incentive to persist in its own anachronistic security calculus. The New START and a transformational post-Cold War Nuclear Posture Review would clear the path for major U.S. and Russian arms reductions, laying the foundation for a rejuvenated effort to halt nuclear nonproliferation and for engaging other nuclear-weapon states in arms control.

Description: 

The nearly 2,000 nuclear warheads on Russian ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles constitute the sole near-term existential threat to the United States. The U.S. response to this threat has been to maintain the nuclear war-fighting posture adopted during the Cold War. Yet, this posture does not lead toward an improvement in U.S. security; it merely reinforces Russia’s incentive to persist in its own anachronistic security calculus. The New START and a transformational post-Cold War Nuclear Posture Review would clear the path for major U.S. and Russian arms reductions, laying the foundation for a rejuvenated effort to halt nuclear nonproliferation and for engaging other nuclear-weapon states in arms control.

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ACA Event - Iran's Nuclear Challenge: Where to Go From Here? Full transcript now available

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Body: 

Arms Control Association Press Briefing
Thursday, October 22, 2009
9:30 - 11:00 A.M.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Choate Room
1779 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC

For the first time in several years, serious multilateral discussions with Iran over its nuclear program were held on October 1. The outcome of that meeting was an agreement, "in principle" that Iran would send about 80 percent of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to Russia for further enrichment, and then to France to fashion it into fuel for a safeguarded Iranian reactor. Another meeting is scheduled on October 19 to finalize the details of this arrangement. This tentative progress occurs in the context of revelations regarding a secret Iranian enrichment facility, which the International Atomic Energy Agency will visit for the first time on October 25. At this important juncture, ACA will host a panel of experts on Iran and its nuclear program to explain these developments, what they mean for efforts to address the Iranian nuclear challenge, and how to make progress moving forward.

Paul Pillar, Director of Graduate Studies, Center for Peace and Security Studies, Georgetown University. Pillar served for three decades as an analyst in the U.S. intelligence community, including most recently as the national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000-2005. He will discuss how current developments affect the U.S. intelligence community's assessments on Iran and the likely consequences of a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Greg Thielmann, Senior Fellow, the Arms Control Association. Thielmann was most recently a senior professional staffer of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and previously a U.S. Foreign Service Officer for 25 years, last serving as Director of the Strategic, Proliferation and Military Affairs Office in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. He will address how recent events may impact the timeframe in which Iran could develop a nuclear weapon and the time available for a diplomatic strategy to make progress.

James Dobbins, Director, RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center. In addition to serving in several senior diplomatic posts in the White House and State Department, Dobbins was the U.S. representative to the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan in 2001, which involved negotiating with Iranian officials on establishing the new Afghan government. Bringing his experience in negotiating with Iran, he will weigh in on what the initial talks have accomplished, what to expect from the Iranian negotiators, and where the U.S. diplomatic approach should go from here.

Peter Crail, Nonproliferation Analyst, Arms Control Association, Moderator

Description: 

Panelists: Paul Pillar, Greg Thielmann, and James Dobbins

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