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"The Arms Control Association’s work is an important resource to legislators and policymakers when contemplating a new policy direction or decision."

– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Russia

Russia Finishes Weapons Reductions in Moldova

On November 14, Russia completed the destruction or withdrawal of all its tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), and heavy artillery from Moldova, fulfilling a pledge it made in conjunction with the November 1999 overhaul of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty.

Beating its end-of-2001 deadline by more than a month, Russia destroyed or withdrew from Moldova 364 weapons, including 108 battle tanks, 131 ACVs, and 125 pieces of heavy artillery. Of this total, Moscow destroyed all the tanks, 83 ACVs, and 48 pieces of heavy artillery.

Although completing its obligations regarding CFE-limited weapons in Moldova, Moscow still has an additional 42,000 tons of weapons and ammunition that must be withdrawn or destroyed as part of another November 1999 pledge to have no weapons or forces in Moldova by the end of 2002. In a November 22 statement to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, U.S. Ambassador David Johnson noted that “preparations are well underway” for Russia to withdraw and destroy the ammunition.

Russia also declared in early November that it had completed its withdrawal from a military base in Gudauta, Georgia, which would belatedly fulfill a separate November 1999 commitment to disband two Russian military bases in Georgia by July 1, 2001. But Georgia disputed the Russian declaration, claiming that several hundred Russian soldiers are still at the base. Moscow maintains the troops are peacekeepers.

The Unruly Hedge: Cold War Thinking at the Crawford Summit

Hans M. Kristensen

President George W. Bush’s announcement on November 13 that the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal will be reduced to 1,700-2,200 deployed warheads over the next 10 years raises important questions about the need for transparency of nuclear arsenals in the 21st century. No sooner had Bush said that the cuts involved “reducing and destroying the number of warheads to get down to specific levels” than national security adviser Condoleezza Rice corrected the record: “I believe that what the president was referring to is [that] we will not have these warheads near the places at which they could be deployed. In other words, they will truly not be deployable warheads. In that sense, their capability will not be accessible to the United States.”1

This glitch in the Bush administration’s first attempt to outline its new nuclear policy is no insignificant matter. It comes only a few weeks before Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is expected to announce the results of a review of nuclear forces and policy, and it indicates that the Bush administration will continue what is known as the “hedge,” a reserve of thousands of nuclear warheads permitted by arms control treaties that mandated the destruction of launchers but not warheads. The hedge is not included in the future “operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads” referred to by Bush, but it nonetheless makes up an increasing portion of the total stockpile.

This article presents new information about the hedge that has recently been declassified and released under the Freedom of Information Act. Newly available documents demonstrate that the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), which is responsible for U.S. nuclear forces, repeatedly warned during the 1990s that increased transparency of the nuclear arms reduction process was more important after START II than new cuts, suggesting that Bush’s inclusion of only operationally deployed strategic warheads in the new round of cuts is unwise because it will contribute to the hedge and therefore the opacity of U.S. forces.

Although the details of Bush’s cuts will not become known until Rumsfeld completes the Nuclear Posture Review in December, the size of the remaining force also suggests that the reductions largely follow already established force structure analysis conducted by STRATCOM back in the early to mid-1990s. This means that President Bush’s “new strategic framework” is based on the old strategic assumptions about the triad, credible deterrence, and counterforce targeting that guided Cold War nuclear policy.

Origins of the Hedge

The hedge of thousands of active and inactive nuclear weapons that the United States maintains outside arms control agreements and public scrutiny was conceived in the late 1980s and formally approved by the 1994 Nuclear Posture Review. All of the warheads in the hedge, which are maintained at various levels of readiness, are retired warheads from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty and the 1991 START I accord, which required destruction of delivery vehicles (bombers and missiles) but not warheads.

The hedge—composed of an “active reserve” and an “inactive reserve”—has grown substantially as START I has been implemented, and it continues to grow as the United States makes other changes to its nuclear force posture. For example, the United States currently deploys 18 Trident nuclear submarines, each of which carries 24 Trident I or Trident II missiles with eight warheads per missile, for a total of 3,456 warheads. The Navy has finally begun to implement the 1994 Nuclear Posture Review by reducing the number of submarines to 14, and it plans to decrease the number of warheads per missile to five to stay below the START II limit of 1,700 SLBM warheads. Most of the surplus warheads will not be destroyed but rather will be moved to the hedge.

The warheads in the hedge are designed to serve several purposes. Some are designated as replacements for warheads destroyed each year in routine reliability and safety tests. More are intended to safeguard against catastrophic failure of operationally deployed weapons. For example, one force structure study published by Strategic Air Command in September 1991 described three ways that a leg of the U.S. nuclear triad could fail: a communications failure could force U.S. ICBMs to “ride out” a full attack; a breakthrough could make the ocean transparent to satellites, thus rendering submarines and their missiles vulnerable; or a design flaw in the Minuteman III or Trident II missiles or their associated warheads could render the systems inoperable.2 In any of these cases, reserve warheads from the hedge would be used to replace defective warheads or to compensate for the loss of a delivery system by increasing loadings on other launch platforms.

Most warheads in the hedge, however, are intended to provide the capability to increase the size of the operational arsenal quickly by “reconstituting” or “uploading” retired warheads onto nuclear missiles and bombers in case Russia returns to a hostile regime or some other threatening nuclear power appears on the horizon. Central to this concern has been the “breakout” potential that U.S. nuclear planners say Russia has because of its large warhead production capacity, which probably exceeds 1,000 warheads per year.3 The United States halted warhead production in 1992 (although small-scale reproduction was started in 1999) and has since determined that the service life of its modern warheads can be safely extended to maintain a reliable and enduring arsenal. Russian warheads, in contrast, were designed for a shorter life with less capability for extension, requiring a larger ongoing production capacity. Therefore, as Russia evolved from “the Evil Empire” to a partner and as arms control treaties dramatically reduced the size of deployed strategic nuclear forces, the United States saw the hedge as a prudent precaution against a dangerous and uncertain future.

However, no sooner had the Nuclear Posture Review endorsed the hedge than its contradiction with other U.S. policy goals became apparent. Following talks in 1994, President Bill Clinton and President Boris Yeltsin agreed in May 1995 to negotiate agreements aimed at increasing the “transparency and irreversibility” of nuclear arms reductions, a step that likely would entail subjecting each side’s nondeployed arsenals to international scrutiny and mandating that nondeployed warheads be destroyed so that a rapid reconstitution of nuclear forces would no longer be possible.4

This decision was made for several reasons. Partly it was due to concerns over the safety of Russian nuclear weapons and fissile material. The United States was anxious to learn what happened to the thousands of nuclear warheads Russia removed from operational status and to prevent dismantled nuclear weapons or fissile materials from being stolen or bought by “rogue” states, such as Iran, or terrorist organizations. The commitment to transparency and irreversibility was also prompted by increasing international pressure on the two superpowers to do more to fulfill their disarmament obligations under Article VI of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Clinton and Yeltsin issued their statement only two days before the end of the critical NPT review and extension conference in New York, where the nuclear powers were eager to assemble enough support for the indefinite extension of the treaty.

However, at the same time as he was working to open Russia’s nuclear infrastructure to greater scrutiny, President Clinton had also issued Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 37, a secret document that established four “first principles” to guide arms control efforts for nuclear reductions beyond START II: deterrence, stability, equivalence, and the hedge.5 Thus, despite the public pledge to pursue “transparency and irreversibility” in nuclear arms reductions, PDD-37 also endorsed a reserve of unaccountable nuclear warheads that could preserve the U.S. ability to reverse its nuclear arms reductions quickly.

This contradiction in U.S. policy was magnified when PDD-37 reached STRATCOM, where commander-in-chief Admiral Henry D. Chiles directed the Policy and Doctrine Branch to prepare a paper that outlined STRATCOM’s position on post-START II arms control. The resulting white paper was approved by the Strategy and Policy Division on September 16, 1996, and used the four “first principles” in PDD-37 to formulate five objectives for U.S. arms control efforts after START II:

• Protect U.S. strategic nuclear delivery vehicle force structure. There are currently no new platforms planned, so it’s important to retain as many of the existing ones as possible. Hedge
• Retain U.S. warheads at a level consistent with war-fighting needs. Deterrence
• Minimize the impact of those Russian systems, [deleted], that pose the greatest threat to U.S. interests. Deterrence, Stability
• Reduce and eliminate U.S. and Russian non-deployed warheads and fissile materials. Equivalence, Stability
• Address non-strategic nuclear forces as part of the overall effort to stem the proliferation threat. [deleted]. Equivalence, Stability6

The STRATCOM white paper assumed that “warhead elimination must be the centerpiece of post-START II arms control, and should come before further force structure reductions occur,” and the fourth objective called for reducing and eliminating nondeployed warheads. At the same time, however, the first objective emphasized the importance of retaining as many of the existing “delivery platforms” as possible to “ensure adequate hedge capability.” The reason for this inconsistency was that, as a nuclear war-fighting command, STRATCOM not surprisingly viewed the arms control process as a means of achieving strategic advantages. Cold War or not, STRATCOM’s foremost concern was to ensure that the United States would triumph in a nuclear clash. To that end, the hedge served to safeguard U.S. nuclear superiority, while transparency and warhead elimination helped bring Russian weapons under greater control.

Thus, throughout the early and mid-1990s, the U.S. government and military faced a conflict between the desire to lower the overall number of nuclear weapons and improve relations with Russia while maintaining some sort of insurance against potential future challenges.

Today, the role of the hedge in protecting U.S. security by insuring against a vast Russian nuclear rearmament is less important, both because of a warming in U.S.-Russian relations and because of a contraction of Russia’s arsenal. Although Russia’s current inventory of unaccountable warheads is even larger than that of the United States, its arsenal is likely to shrink dramatically over the next decade. Of an estimated 20,000-25,000 nuclear warheads,7 some 9,000 are considered operational (5,600 strategic and 3,500 tactical),8 with approximately 13,500 warheads awaiting dismantlement. Unless significant numbers of Russian warheads are refurbished, remanufactured, and returned to operational forces, the stockpile may shrink to as few as 1,000 strategic and several hundred tactical warheads9 within the next 10 years.

With a Russian “breakout” becoming less likely, and concern that rogue states or terrorists could acquire warheads or fissile material increasing, a large reserve of unaccountable U.S. warheads is a growing liability to national security. If a large proportion of the U.S. arsenal remains opaque, it will be extraordinarily difficult to convince Russia to open its stockpile to inspection, especially in the absence of a more formal arms reduction agreement. U.S. interests would then be threatened as thousands of Russian warheads are removed from service to storage facilities whose security may have been weakened over the last decade by Russia’s poor economy. The result could be a failure to bring Russian unaccountable nuclear warheads and fissile material under control.

President Bush’s initiative to reduce only operational strategic nuclear forces will move thousands of U.S. warheads into the unaccountable hedge categories, and it completely ignores the proportionally increasing number of nonstrategic nuclear warheads. This perpetuates a dangerous transformation of the U.S. stockpile. Before START I, about 5 percent of the total stockpile was in the inactive category, but the current trend is that deployed (accountable) strategic warheads are a shrinking fraction of the stockpile. Present plans for the START II stockpile could increase that ratio to a 1:1 ratio, with the reserve constituting as large a stockpile as the deployed stockpile.10 Over the next 10 years, this trend could transform the composition of the U.S. nuclear stockpile to a predominantly clandestine posture, in which less than a quarter of all warheads are accountable.

Rather than bringing greater transparency to the nuclear arms reduction process when it is most needed, President Bush’s apparent continued endorsement of the hedge decreases transparency, undercutting incentives that Russia would have for disclosing the status of its thousands of non-operational tactical nuclear warheads.

The Bush administration’s aversion to a new formal nuclear-reductions agreement and its focus on operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads is also inconsistent with STRATCOM advice. In the past few years, STRATCOM—a strong proponent of a hedge force and of maintaining a nuclear war-fighting advantage over Russia, as indicated above—has repeatedly and publicly emphasized the importance of greater transparency and irreversibility of nuclear arms reductions. In connection with his nomination as commander-in-chief of STRATCOM, Vice Admiral Richard W. Mies stated in a written response to the Senate Armed Services Committee in June 1998:

Further reductions in strategic delivery systems beyond START III should be complimented by more comprehensive considerations of increased stockpile transparency, greater accountability and transparency of non-strategic/tactical nuclear warheads, limitations on production infrastructures, third party nuclear weapon stockpiles, the impact on our allies, and the implications of deploying strategic defensive systems. [With fewer weapons, these issues] become more complex and sensitive. Whereas at existing START I/II levels our deterrent forces are relatively less sensitive to “cheating.”

Even after President Bush issued National Security Presidential Directive 4 in early 2001,11 which ordered a review of U.S. nuclear offensive and defensive postures, STRATCOM continued to stress the need for transparency. Admiral James Ellis, the current head of STRATCOM, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in September that, as reductions to low levels are implemented, “issues such as disparity in non-strategic nuclear forces, transparency, irreversibility, production capacity, aggregate warhead inventories, and verifiability become more complex and more sensitive.”

Whether the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review reflects STRATCOM’s appeal will be apparent when the results are announced before the end of the year. So far, however, Bush’s cuts appear to favor protection of the hedge over greater transparency and irreversibility of nuclear arms reductions.

Conclusions

The Crawford summit promised a new era in U.S.-Russian relations, but with respect to nuclear policy issues it fell far short of expectations. Rather than moving toward a true “new strategic framework” that takes arms control beyond the Cold War paradigm, President Bush seems to be regressing to an early 1990s mentality that requires the United States to prepare for possible Russian rearmament, even as the president proclaims America’s new and growing friendship with Russia.

Indeed, even the size of the president’s proposed reductions ring of Cold War conflict. In the early 1990s, STRATCOM analysis established a “preferred force structure” that protected a triad of modern and flexible nuclear forces in a “stable nucleus,” while gradually reducing excess operational weapons. The analysis was the basis for START II, the 1994 Nuclear Posture Review, and the START III framework, which called for a 2,000-2,500 warhead level. This same thinking seems to be underlying Bush’s policy. Bush says that the goal continues to be to maintain a credible deterrent, but a continued deployment of about 2,000 warheads indicates that STRATCOM will adhere to the same concepts of triad, counterforce targeting, and flexible response as it did a decade ago. “I can guarantee you,” former STRATCOM commander-in-chief General Eugene Habiger said during an interview in 1998, that “our analysis and assessment will be based on an analysis of the threat, if you will, potential for threat, and not just on ‘well, 1,500 or 2,000 looks about right.’”12

Bush’s cut of operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,700-2,200 is not deep enough or different enough to indicate a shift in nuclear policy of the magnitude that he alluded to in his May 2001 speech at the National Defense University. His announcement provoked a tepid response from President Vladimir Putin, who issued only a vague promise that Russia would “try to respond in kind.” The summit simply reaffirmed how deeply rooted in Cold War nuclear planning the United States continues to be.

Bush’s pledge indicates that, despite its frequent criticism of arms control, the Bush administration has not moved beyond the most significant shortcoming of treaties: the fact that they have counted only operational strategic warheads while ignoring reserve warheads and non-strategic weapons. This means that thousands of non-operational nuclear warheads placed in reserve and thousands of tactical nuclear weapons continue to be unaccounted for by the arms reduction process. If Bush wants to move nuclear arms control out of the Cold War, he must end the distinction between operational and non-operational warheads and seek ceilings on total warheads.

The hedge is a dangerous signal of intent that connotes deceit in our relations with Russia. There seems to be no better way to undermine the very trust that President Bush has said should be the basis for a new U.S.-Russian strategic relationship than to keep thousands of nuclear warheads hidden in secret bunkers in case it turns out that Russia needs to be destroyed after all. If Bush wants to transform our strategic relations with Russia, he must make the entire stockpile accountable.

President Bush could have used the November summit with Putin to increase the transparency and irreversibility of the nuclear arms reduction process. Instead he seems to have taken a step back from the START III framework and complicated efforts to reduce the currency of nuclear weapons in the U.S.-Russian relationship. There now rests a great responsibility with the forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review to create clarity and transparency on the nuclear posture.

The B-1 Bomber: Not ‘Conventional-Only’

The B-1 bomber is one of the most dramatic examples of how weapons in the hedge can be quickly reactivated to increase the U.S. nuclear punch, demonstrating the ease of reversing arms reductions and the difficulty of preserving predictability and stability.

The aircraft is widely reported to have been converted from a nuclear-strike bomber to one delivering conventional weapons. STRATCOM officially removed the B-1 from nuclear-strike missions in support of the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) and Limited Nuclear Options on October 1, 1997. As a result, the Air Force’s white paper on long-range bombers states, “B-1s are no longer tasked to perform nuclear missions.”1 The aircraft is now, according to a 1998 fact sheet signed by the secretary of the Air Force’s legislative liaison director, “a conventional-only platform.”2

Not so. Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the Air Force maintains the B-1 bomber in a Nuclear Rerole Plan intended to return the aircraft to nuclear-strike missions within only six months if necessary. Under the B-1 Nuclear Rerole Plan, which was approved in October 1998—exactly one year after the B-1 was removed from SIOP—“spare” B61 and B83 nuclear bombs are maintained outside arms control treaties in STRATCOM’s secret active reserve stockpile, which is part of the hedge.

Development of the plan began shortly before START II was signed in early 1993, but it was kept secret. When the Nuclear Posture Review was announced in September 1994, then-Deputy Secretary of Defense John Deutch assured the Senate Armed Services Committee that “we would have no nuclear capability maintained for the B-1 bomber.” In truth, however, the NPR decided that “reorientation [of the B-1 to a conventional aircraft] will not preclude the return of the B-1 fleet to a strategic nuclear role.” The plan was formally enshrined into the FY 1999-2002 Defense Planning Guidance by then-Secretary of Defense William Cohen in 1998.3

Portraying the B-1 as conventional-only served several purposes for the Pentagon. First, it relieved the aircraft of its image as a nuclear relic of the Cold War. The expensive B-2 program had already been cut back to only 21 aircraft, and shifting the B-1 to conventional missions increased its utility in real-world operations. Soon, B-1s began flying around the globe and conducting conventional bombing training in Egypt and South Korea. Behind the scene, however, Air Combat Command (ACC) and STRATCOM were tasked by the Air Force to ensure that the conventional upgrades “would neither preclude future nuclear capabilities (if necessary) nor demand the high cost to maintain an immediate nuclear capability.” So when the B-1 was officially relieved of its SIOP commitment in 1997, the aircraft maintenance procedures did not change, and the nuclear hardness and surety was maintained alongside the Conventional Mission Upgrade Program.

“Hiding” the B-1’s nuclear capability was also important for treaty reasons. START I credited each B-1 with one bomb (a total of 91 bombs for the entire fleet), but the counting rules changed under START II so that each aircraft was credited with 16 bombs. This meant that the B-1 fleet would “cost” almost 1,500 bombs and compete with other more important weapons under the total treaty limit, such as the B-2s and B-52s, which serve as backup to strategic submarines and ICBMs. A one-time nuclear rerole permission was worked into the START II language, and the B-1 was excluded from the treaty. Six months later, ACC and STRATCOM reached formal agreement on how to retain a secret nuclear capability for the B-1.

Maintaining the B-1 in a rerole plan—as opposed to keeping it in nuclear service full-time—also saved money. Achieving full nuclear capability is an inherently expensive and cumbersome process that places a significant additional burden on crew and equipment otherwise needed for conventional missions. ACC’s operational resources were so strained in the 1990s that the command occasionally was forced to ask STRATCOM to be relieved from participating in nuclear exercises. The B-1 Nuclear Rerole Plan removed the B-1s from nuclear exercises and relieved crew from the nuclear weapons certification inspections.

The B-1 Nuclear Rerole Plan is legal under START II, but it makes a mockery of the nuclear arms reduction process, undermining the trust and transparency necessary for advancing a new U.S.-Russian strategic framework.
—H.M.K.

NOTES
1. Department of the Air Force, “U.S. Air Force White Paper on Long Range Bombers,” March 1, 1999, p. 18.
2. Secretary of the Air Force, Legislative Liaison, “1998 Air Force Congressional Issue Paper,” n.d. [1998], p. 5.
3. “HQ Air Combat Command B-1 Nuclear Rerole Plan (U),” October 30, 1998, p. 1. This document is available at http://www.nautilus.org/nukestrat/USA/bombers/b1rerole.html.

NOTES
Support for research used in this article was provided by the Ploughshares Fund and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Editor’s note: Many of the documents referenced in this article can be found on the Nautilus Institute’s Web site, www.nautilus.org. Direct links can be found in the Web version of this article at www. armscontrol.org.
1. Bush quote: The White House, “President Bush and President Putin Talk to Crawford Students,” November 15, 2001. Rice quote: “Press Briefing by National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice on Visit of President Putin,” U.S. Newswire, November 15, 2001.
2. U.S. Strategic Air Command/XP, n.t. [“The Phoenix Study”], September 11, 1991, p. 32. Available on the Internet at http://www.nautilus.org/nukestrat/USA/Force/phoenix.html
3. Department of Defense, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology, “Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Nuclear Deterrence,” October 1998, p. 48. Available on the Internet at http://www.nautilus.org/nukestrat/USA/advisory/dsb98.pdf
4. The White House, “Joint Statement on the Transparency and Irreversibility of the Process of Reducing Nuclear Weapons,” May 10, 1995.
5. U.S. Strategic Command, “White Paper: Post-START II Arms Control,” September 18, 1996, pp. 1, 2.
6. Bulleted points are a direct quotation from the “White Paper: Post-START II Arms Control,” pp. 1, 2. Underlining in original.
7. U.S. Strategic Command, “Statement of General Eugene, United States Air Force, Commander in Chief, United States Strategic Command, Before the Senate Armed Services Committee,” March 13, 1997, p. 3. The Defense Department reported in January 2001 that the Russian nuclear stockpile “was estimated [in December 2000] to be well under 25,000 warheads, a reduction of over 11,000 warheads since eliminations began in 1992.” Office of the Secretary of Defense, Proliferation: Threat and Response, January 2001, p. 55.
8. Hans M. Kristensen and Joshua Handler, “Appendix 6A: Tables of Nuclear Forces, 2001,” in SIPRI Yearbook 2001: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 466. Available on the Internet at http://projects.sipri.se/nuclear/06A.pdf
9. William M. Arkin, Robert Norris, and Joshua Handler, “Taking Stock: Worldwide Nuclear Deployments 1998,” Natural Resources Defense Council, March 1998, pp. 2, 13, 27.
10. “Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Nuclear Deterrence,” p. 48.
11. Federation of American Scientists, “National Security Presidential Directives [NSPD] George W. Bush Administration,” http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/nspd/index.html
12. General Eugene E. Habiger, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Strategic Command, interview with Defense Writer’s Group, Washington, D.C., March 31, 1998.


Hans M. Kristensen is a senior program officer with the Nautilus Institute in Berkeley, California. He is a contributor to the SIPRI Yearbook and co-author of the “NRDC Nuclear Notebook” in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

 

 

Bush, Putin Pledge Nuclear Cuts; Implementation Unclear

Philipp C. Bleek

On November 13, President George W. Bush pledged to reduce the deployed U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads over the next 10 years, prompting Russian President Vladimir Putin to say that Russia would try to “respond in kind.”

The cuts, announced at the beginning of a three-day U.S.-Russian summit held in Washington, D.C., and Crawford, Texas, would represent a substantial reduction in the deployed U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals, which currently consist of about 6,000 warheads each, as agreed under the START I accord.

Deploying only 1,700-2,200 strategic warheads would bring the U.S. arsenal below the proposed START III limit of 2,000-2,500 warheads, agreed to by Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin in 1997, and well below the 3,000-3,500 ceiling formalized in START II, which has not entered into force. Bush’s proposed level of strategic warheads also falls beneath the 2,000-2,500 range that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had previously suggested was the lowest level they could support.

The promised nuclear cuts would fulfill a key campaign pledge by the president. As a candidate, Bush promised to move beyond “Cold War nuclear targeting,” saying he would pursue “the lowest possible number [of warheads] consistent with our national security,” which he characterized as “significantly” below START II levels. (See ACT, September 2000.)

It is not yet clear what the United States will do with the thousands of warheads to be removed from service. In Crawford on November 15, Bush told a group of high school students, “We are talking about reducing and destroying the number of warheads to get down to specific levels.”

But national security adviser Condoleezza Rice subsequently indicated that the warheads might not actually be destroyed. “We will not have these warheads near the places at which they could be deployed,” she said, adding that specific disposition plans remain to be “worked out.” If they were not dismantled, the warheads could be placed in the United States’ “active reserve” stockpile, which currently contains about 2,500 warheads.

Also at issue is whether the reductions will be formalized in a treaty. Announcing the cuts from the White House, Bush indicated that the “endless hours of arms control discussions” that led to the START agreements were no longer needed because the United States and Russia have “a new relationship based on trust.”

But speaking at the Russian embassy later that day, Putin aired a different view, saying, “The world is far from having international relations that are built solely on trust, unfortunately. That’s why it is so important today to rely on the existing foundation of treaties and agreements in the arms control and disarmament areas.”

Some observers had predicted that Washington might agree to formal strategic reductions with Russia in exchange for concessions to allow more robust missile defense testing under the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which bans nationwide strategic ballistic missile defenses. Putin has recently signaled a willingness to amend the ABM Treaty and has long called for a formal agreement on bilateral reductions to 1,500 deployed strategic warheads, but Bush administration officials continue to reiterate their desire to “move beyond” the treaty and have resisted negotiations on offensive reductions.

Nonetheless, Bush did show some willingness to formalize the cuts. “If we need to write it down on a piece of paper, I’ll be glad to do that,” he said. Rice expanded on this point during a November 15 briefing, indicating that codifying the reductions in a less drawn-out manner than previous strategic arms agreements remained under discussion. She also suggested that “verification procedures out of former treaties” could “perhaps” be utilized.

On the Senate floor November 15, leading Democrats sharply criticized the administration’s reluctance to negotiate a treaty to formalize the nuclear cuts. Citing former President Ronald Reagan’s dictum, “Trust but verify,” Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, pointed out that “a simple handshake leaves many questions unanswered.” Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said that “a new START III treaty would not be difficult to draft [and] would ensure not only rigorous verification but also proper respect for the constitutional role of the Senate regarding international agreements.”

Before the reductions can be implemented, Congress must overturn a law prohibiting the president from reducing U.S. nuclear forces below START I levels until START II enters into force. The language, first inserted in the 1998 defense authorization act by Republican lawmakers, prohibits spending funds on “retiring or dismantling” designated strategic delivery systems, which correspond to a START I-compliant force.

The Senate version of the fiscal year 2002 defense authorization bill would repeal this language, but the House version essentially maintains it. The bill is currently under discussion in a House-Senate conference committee, which is expected to adopt the Senate language.

No Bush-Putin Agreement on ABM Fate and Missile Defenses

Wade Boese

During three days of mid-November talks held in Washington and Crawford, Texas, President George W. Bush failed to secure an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin that would let the United States move forward with its missile defense plans without potentially violating the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

Despite what seems to be a growing rapport between Bush and Putin and separate pledges by both presidents to cut their deployed offensive strategic nuclear forces by roughly two-thirds, the two did not appear to narrow their differences over how to reconcile U.S. pursuit of nationwide strategic ballistic missile defenses with the 1972 ABM Treaty, which prohibits such defenses. The Bush administration has made clear that it prefers unilateral or joint withdrawal from the treaty in order to pursue missile defenses unfettered, whereas the Kremlin wants to preserve the accord or at least keep in place some limits on future strategic missile defenses.

Speaking on November 13, the first day of Putin's visit, Bush acknowledged, "We have different points of view about the ABM Treaty."

Two days later, little had changed. When asked by Bush to respond to a student's question about missile defense, Putin told a school audience, "We differ in the ways and means" of addressing future threats.
Yet, the U.S. side downplayed the differences, contending that the U.S.-Russian relationship cannot be undermined by a dispute over a single issue. Bush said, "Our disagreements will not divide us." Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told reporters November 15 that the missile defense issue "is a smaller element of the U.S.-Russia relationship than it was several months ago" and that "it's not going to have an effect on the relationship as a whole."

Although speculation existed before the summit that Russia might agree to a deal to modify or suspend the ABM Treaty's prohibitions on testing sea- and air-based components of strategic defenses to forestall a possible U.S. withdrawal from the accord, no such agreement was concluded. The presidents, however, pledged to continue their discussions, and Putin sounded confident about the possibility of reaching an agreement, saying, "One can rest assured that whatever final solution is found, it will not threaten…the interests of both our countries and of the world."

Before traveling to the United States, Putin told U.S. journalists at a November 10 press conference that Moscow is ready to compromise and that a deal can be struck, but he said Russia needs specific U.S. proposals first. For example, with regard to the ABM Treaty, Putin asked, "What exactly [does the United States] want changed? What exactly hinders the implementation of the [missile defense] project devised by the U.S. administration?" Putin explained that Russia needs this type of information "in the practical proposals of our American partners."

While commenting that he "partially" agreed with U.S. officials that the ABM Treaty is a Cold War relic, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said November 3 that "before scrapping one agreement or another…we believe that this should be better done only after something has been created in the ways of replacement."

Ivanov's comment underscored a key hurdle impeding the two countries from finding common ground on missile defense. Russia wants to fashion the new U.S.-Russian relationship through treaties in which obligations and responsibilities are clearly spelled out and legally binding, whereas the Bush administration asserts that such treaties are unnecessary between countries that are no longer enemies.

No Change in U.S. Missile Defense Plans

U.S. officials indicated that, despite the lack of a summit agreement, the administration plans to push ahead with its missile defense testing program.

While reiterating in her November 15 post-summit briefing that the United States would not violate the treaty, Rice stated, "The testing program is going to eventually have to commence in a way that we believe is inconsistent with the treaty."

Last July, the administration outlined potential plans, which could violate the treaty, to employ ABM and air-defense radars concurrently in a February 2002 missile defense test and to start construction next spring on a new missile defense "test bed" at Fort Greely, Alaska. When The New York Times questioned Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on November 14 on whether the Pentagon was still preparing for these activities, he said, "You bet."

Unless the ABM Treaty's constraints on missile defense testing are relaxed or eliminated before these events take place, it is likely they will have to be postponed because there is not enough time for the Bush administration to free itself from the treaty by unilaterally withdrawing, which requires six-month notice. The Bush administration has repeatedly said it will not violate the treaty.

Bush has warned that the United States would unilaterally withdraw from the treaty if an agreement with Russia to "move beyond" the accord could not be reached, but it is unclear if and when that might happen. Bush gave Putin no deadline for when an agreement would have to be concluded, although Rice said the Russians "understand that we're soon going to run up against certain constraints of the treaty."

Days before Putin's visit, nine Republican senators-including minority leader Trent Lott (R-MS), Jesse Helms (R-NC), and Jon Kyl (R-AZ)-wrote a letter to Bush encouraging him to withdraw from the treaty. The senators argued that it is not "plausible" to reach an agreement with Russia to permit "full" U.S. missile defense testing while keeping the treaty intact. Trying to give the treaty "flexibility" to allow U.S. testing would "only give continued life to an obsolete agreement which has become the most significant obstacle to improved relations between the United States and Russia," the senators wrote. They concluded by telling Bush that he had their "full support" to withdraw from the treaty.

Top Democrats have offered alternative counsel to Bush. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden (D-DE) warned in a November 15 speech that a unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the treaty would be a "tragic mistake." Biden described himself as "very happy" that Bush appears "not to be intent at this moment on withdrawing from the ABM Treaty."

Earlier, in a November 5 speech, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) said that working with Russia to modify the ABM Treaty to permit missile defense testing would be "far better for [U.S.] security than acting in a unilateral manner that could be perceived by Russia as undermining its security." Levin warned that a unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the treaty could lead Russia to stop dismantling its nuclear forces, compel China to increase the size of its nuclear arsenal, and strain relations with U.S. allies in Europe and Asia.

Open Skies Treaty to Enter Into Force

On November 2, Russia and Belarus deposited their instruments of ratification for the Open Skies Treaty, triggering the 60-day countdown for the accord’s entry into force on January 1, 2002.

Negotiated by NATO and former members of the now-defunct Warsaw Pact and signed in 1992, the Open Skies Treaty permits countries to conduct unarmed reconnaissance flights over the territories of other treaty parties. Aircraft used in the flights will have to meet certain specifications and will be equipped with sensors, such as cameras and infrared devices, sensitive enough to enable the observing party to distinguish between tanks and trucks on the ground.

The treaty allocates each state-party a quota of flights that it must permit over its territory annually. For example, the United States and Russia, which shares its quota with Belarus, each have a quota of 42 flights, while smaller countries, such as Spain and Bulgaria, have to allow only four flights per year.

Under the treaty, however, states-parties only need to permit up to 75 percent of their flight quota from the date of entry into force to the end of the following year. Thus, states-parties will have until the end of 2003 to conduct the first round of reduced annual flights.

Treaty signatories have been conducting practice flights, and more than 350 trial missions have taken place since 1996, according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Kyrgyzstan is the only country of the 27 treaty signatories that has not ratified the treaty, but its ratification is not required for the accord’s entry into force. For the first six months after entry into force, other OSCE members not party to the treaty may apply to join the accord, and after that any country may request to accede to the treaty. Finland and Sweden, both of which are OSCE members, announced on November 5 that they want to join the treaty.

Russia, India Conclude Nuclear Reactor Deal

Over U.S. objections that Moscow would violate its commitments under the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Russia and India concluded a deal committing Russia to construct two 1,000-megawatt, light-water, pressurized reactors at Kudankulam in southern India, according to a Russian source.

The deal was signed November 6, during Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s state visit to Moscow. India and the Soviet Union initially agreed to the deal, reportedly worth $2.6 billion, in 1988, although New Dehli had previously been unable to finance the project.

The Pioneer, an Indian newspaper, reported that the first of the two reactor units are expected to be completed by December 2007, and “site-related activities” have already commenced, according to Rajagopalan Chidambaram, chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission.

The United States has long opposed the project, citing Russian obligations as a member of the NSG, a group of 39 countries that have agreed to restrict their exports of nuclear equipment and technology that could be used for weapons purposes. In 1992, NSG members agreed not to sell nuclear technology to non-nuclear-weapon states, such as India, that do not accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards at all of their nuclear facilities.

Russia has disputed Washington’s assertion, citing a clause in the 1992 agreement that exempts the arrangement from applying to “existing agreement and contracts.” But a State Department official said that no specific contracts or financial arrangements were concluded in 1988 and that the deal cannot therefore be exempted under this clause.

The official added that Washington’s concerns stem not from a belief that the reactor project would allow India to divert nuclear technology or materials to its weapons program but rather that the United States sees the deal as inconsistent with Russia’s commitments as an NSG member.

Experts Available for Analysis on Bush-Putin Summit to Discuss Missile Defense and Nuclear Cuts

Sections:

Body: 

For Immediate Release: November 8, 2001

Contacts: Daryl Kimball or Wade Boese, ACA, 202-463-8270 or 202-421-0371 (cell)

(Washington, D.C.) President George W. Bush is scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin from November 13-15 to discuss missiles defenses, the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, and strategic nuclear cuts.

Expectations are growing that Bush and Putin will agree to permit additional U.S. missile defense testing that is currently ruled out by the ABM Treaty without a unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the accord-an action which Russia opposes. As further inducement for Russia to accept U.S. missile defense testing plans, Bush is expected to follow through on planned unilateral reductions in the deployed U.S. strategic arsenal. Putin has long-called for U.S. and Russian reductions down to 1,500 deployed strategic warheads apiece, but Bush has not yet revealed U.S. plans. Just months ago, the popular assumption was that the Bush administration would unilaterally withdraw from the ABM Treaty, but now it appears that Bush may be seeking a deal rather than acting unilaterally in order to keep Russia as a partner in the international coalition against terrorism.

Yet a deal is not certain. Russian officials have recently downplayed expectations for an agreement, contending too many issues remain unresolved. On the U.S. side, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice cautioned reporters November 1 against "expecting any particular deal at any particular time."

The following Arms Control Association experts are available before and after the summit to comment on the future of U.S.-Russian strategic relations and to analyze the ramifications of an agreement on strategic offenses and defenses:

Lee Feinstein, Visiting Scholar, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Resident Fellow, The German Marshall Fund of the United States; former principal deputy director of the Secretary of State's policy planning staff, phone: (202) 939-2398.

Raymond Garthoff, Senior Fellow (ret.), Brookings Institution; former executive officer on the SALT I delegation, phone: (301) 249-3233 or (202) 797-6035.

Morton Halperin, Senior Fellow, Washington Program of Council on Foreign Relations; former director of the State Department policy planning staff, phone: (202) 518-3406.

Jack Mendelsohn, Vice President, Lawyers Alliance for World Security and Senior Associate, Center for Defense Information; former member of the U.S. delegations to the SALT II and START I negotiations, phone: (202) 745-2450 or (202) 965-4595.

For expert analysis and background information see the ACA resource page at http://www.armscontrol.org/subject/spec/usrussum.asp.

-- 30 --

The Arms Control Association is an independent, non-profit membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies.

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What If the New Strategic Framework Goes Bad?

Joseph Cirincione and Jon B. Wolfsthal

Events since the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington could fundamentally change the U.S.-Russian relationship. A sustained military and diplomatic campaign against terrorism will necessitate a broad international coalition and the close cooperation of nations bordering terrorist operational bases. Russian support and intelligence could prove vital to the success of allied air and ground operations against camps in Afghanistan. In return for such aid, Russia appears to expect that the United States will reciprocate in some fashion, perhaps by compromising on security issues that have recently stressed the relationship.

However, Russian expectations for this new relationship may outpace the willingness of the Bush administration to adapt its positions on key issues. For example, although Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgi Mamedov continues to maintain that Moscow’s strategic partnership with Washington “must be based on strengthening the architecture of treaties,” it is unclear whether President George W. Bush agrees.1 Bush argued during a October 11 press conference that deployment of missile defenses is an urgent issue but said, “We’re restricted from doing that because of an ABM [Anti-Ballistic Missile] Treaty that was signed during a totally different era.... The case is more strong today than it was on September 10th that the ABM is outmoded, outdated, reflects a different time.”

How the United States and Russia work out these delicate issues may well determine if the new warmth in U.S.-Russian relations is truly a sea change or merely a brief lull in ongoing tensions. If the relationship returns to a mixture of cooperation on some issues but antagonism on others, Russia might respond to U.S. deployment of missile defenses—or other provocative actions, such as NATO expansion—more confrontationally than it might have without the current increase in expectations. Even if an adverse reaction is not seen right away, it is important to recognize that Putin has already moved out ahead of Russian military and security thinking by aligning so closely with the anti-terrorism coalition. If his high expectations of the benefits of his new pro-Western policies are not met, there could be a backlash in Moscow over the next few years. For the United States to understand fully the risks of its policies, it is important to detail Russia’s options.

In the run-up to the Washington-Crawford summit meeting in November, the Bush administration will make tough decisions on a host of issues that will affect the future of the U.S.-Russian relationship, including the future of offensive arms reductions and missile defenses. It appears that top officials, including the president, are basing their decisions and their approach to the summit on a series of best-case assumptions on how Russia will react to ABM Treaty withdrawal and unilateral offensive reductions. However, the president would be well served to consider also some worst-case scenarios that, among other things, might result in Russia maintaining larger nuclear forces than would otherwise exist, keeping or expanding the use of multiple warheads on its missiles, operating these forces at a dangerous high-alert status, and perhaps curtailing cooperation in vital non-proliferation matters.

A New Strategic Framework?

Administration officials believe that U.S. nuclear security can be enhanced by adopting a new framework for U.S.-Russian relations that would replace formal, tedious arms control agreements with informal or political understandings. Negotiations would be replaced by consultations and buttressed by economic incentives. Obsolete treaties would be discarded and only vital treaties would remain intact. Not only would such steps enhance U.S. security in the near to midterm, they would also allow ties between Washington and Moscow to grow unfettered by Cold War-type interaction.

Condoleezza Rice, the president’s national security adviser, argues, “The arms control treaties of the 1970s and 1980s came out of a peculiar, abnormal relationship between the United States and Russia…. [Today] Russia is not a strategic adversary of the United States. We are not enemies. So the process can look different.”2 Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld explains, “You negotiate a treaty to try to control hostility between two parties…. We don’t have negotiations like that for treaties to not be hostile with Mexico or Canada or France or England”3 Or, more succinctly, “Arms control treaties are not for friends.”4

Pursuit of this less formal strategy, it is argued, would enable the administration to take steps on offenses and defenses that would bolster U.S. security in ways not allowed by the current web of agreements.

First, the administration could withdraw from the ABM Treaty and deploy missile defenses—ostensibly without provoking Russia. Not only would this permit the United States to develop a defense against rogue-state ballistic missiles, it would also cleanse the “balance of terror” from the U.S.-Russian relationship. The administration maintains that, by codifying a relationship of mutual assured destruction between the United States and Russia, the ABM Treaty perpetuates an enmity that hinders the improvement of relations.

Second, the administration believes that it no longer needs to size its offensive nuclear forces against Russia’s and that the formal START negotiation process is simply impeding further strategic reductions. The Bush administration would prefer to reduce dramatically the number of U.S. nuclear weapons to levels based on its own strategic assessments. Although no targets for these reductions have been announced, forces could be reduced below the START III level of 2,500 deployed warheads, depending on the new strategic guidance developed by President Bush for the Strategic Command. The scale of the reductions and the process to be followed could be announced as early as the Bush-Putin meeting in Crawford.

The Bush administration further maintains that negotiated reductions are no longer needed because in the coming decades Russia will rapidly decrease its number of strategic offensive weapons for its own strategic and financial reasons. Current projections estimate that the Russian deployed strategic arsenal will consist of fewer than 1,100 warheads by 2010. (See Table 2.) U.S. officials have even signaled that they would not object to Russia maintaining (and expanding the future deployment of) multiple warheads on its land-based intercontinental missiles as assurance that the Russian force could overwhelm any U.S. defensive systems.

The U.S. announcement of deep reductions, it is believed, should demonstrate to Russia and the world the U.S. commitment to decreasing its reliance on nuclear weapons and should help advance non-proliferation goals. Free of treaty constraints, the United States will be able to adjust its nuclear forces upward, should the need arise, without accusations of breaking treaties.5 Moreover, this flexibility to go up as well as down should deter others, particularly China, from challenging U.S. dominance or seeking strategic parity.

Thus, by reaching agreement with Russia on the elimination of the ABM Treaty and the unilaterally implemented (but bilaterally arranged) reduction of offensive nuclear forces, the United States and Russia would actually accelerate the arms reduction process beyond that envisioned by the START agreements. Although both sides would retain robust nuclear capabilities—Russia’s would be sufficient to overwhelm envisioned U.S. defenses—the nature of the relationship would prevent any concerns about nuclear build-ups, breakout, or strategic instability.

Going beyond purely bilateral aspects, other benefits could accrue from this approach. By the administration’s rationale, beginning deployment of defensive systems, however imperfect at first, will also deter potential rogue state challengers by reducing the attractiveness of ballistic missiles and increasing the perceived likelihood of U.S. response to regional crises, even if the regional powers have weapons of mass destruction. Thus, defense will strengthen, not replace, nuclear deterrence. Within this new, assertive security policy, U.S. allies should, so the argument goes, be reassured that the United States will remain engaged and will not be deterred from its regional security commitments. Far from being an isolationist policy, these measures will ensure continued U.S. military strength and global engagement for decades to come.

In short, the best case is that, by clearing the underbrush of extraneous and counter-productive treaties and negotiations, the United States will be better positioned to construct a new strategic paradigm over the coming years that will preserve its security and allow U.S.-Russian relations to truly move beyond the Cold War.

A Worst-Case Analysis

Of course, things rarely work out as planned. Unilateral withdrawal from the ABM Treaty and deployment of missile defenses by the United States could lead to a deterioration of the U.S.-Russian relationship and could lead Russia to take unilateral steps of its own to ensure its ability to overwhelm any such system or future systems.

Obvious steps include deploying countermeasures and maintaining as many warheads on active platforms as possible. Moreover, Russia could withdraw from those arms control treaties that place constraints on its deployed nuclear arsenal, including START I and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Although Russia could not rebuild its forces to Cold War levels, it could greatly increase the number of weapons it otherwise would likely deploy at the end of the decade. Russia could also slow or end its cooperation with U.S. threat reduction programs and hinder U.S. non-proliferation efforts.

Expanding the Arsenal

Current projections show Russia’s deployed strategic arsenal declining to just over 1,000 weapons by the end of the decade. However, through a variety of means, Russia could maintain a deployed arsenal almost four times larger than actually planned, with a variety of associated concerns for security and strategic stability. Russia could accomplish this by accelerating production of new MIRVed missiles, slowing the pace of dismantlement of current systems, and implementing extraordinary measures to extend the operational life of these systems.

By the end of 2010, given current conditions, Russia’s ICBM force would likely consist of about 230 SS-27s if production immediately increased to 20 missiles per year from 2001 through 2010 (fewer if production stayed at the current 10 per year). Under current conditions, Russia would not field any SS-18s in 2007 and only 72 SS-19s, with only one warhead on each.

However, ABM Treaty withdrawal by the United States would end any chance that START II, which bans the deployment of ICBMs with multiple warheads, would come into force. Without the constraints of START II, Russia could MIRV its growing number of SS-27 missiles, expand production to 50 per year (the limits of current facilities), and—in the extreme—take extraordinary measures to extend the service life of the SS-18 (with 10 warheads each) and the SS-19 (with 6 warheads each). It is therefore possible that, by the end of 2010, Russia could field 440 SS-27s with 1,320 warheads;6 72 SS-19s with 432 warheads; and perhaps as many as 90 SS-18s with 900 warheads (this would require cannibalizing parts from other SS-18s slated for destruction). This is not a prediction of the future force, merely a description of the physically possible force, given sufficient finances.

The obvious question is, so what? Why should the United States care how many warheads Russia deploys, or vice versa? Does it matter if somehow Russia manages to deploy 3,850 rather than 1,000 warheads? The Bush administration argues that the nuclear arsenals of each state have little if any bearing on the deployments of the other and that, because the United States and Russia are not enemies, the United States should deploy those nuclear forces it deems necessary without consideration of the Russian arsenal.

In reality, however, the nuclear arsenals of both countries do affect one another. The reluctance of the U.S. Strategic Command to agree to a deployed nuclear arsenal much below the proposed START III level of 2,500 deployed strategic warheads is based primarily on its nuclear exchange calculations vis-à-vis Russia’s nuclear arsenal and its requirement to hold Russia’s nuclear and military targets at risk.7 Likewise, Russia, even in a cooperative environment with the United States, will continue to view U.S. deployments (offensive and defensive) as the primary factor in sizing its future force.

There are real dangers associated with large, deployed forces. Missiles with multiple warheads are considered high-value targets. In order to protect these assets, military commands in both countries keep such missiles on high alert, ready to launch within minutes. Given the poor and degrading state of the Russian early-warning system, the continued deployment of MIRVed ICBMs poses a major risk of accidental launch or launch-in-error, even during periods of strategic stability. Such risk could rise exponentially if U.S.-Russian relations deteriorate.

The United States has offered to assist Russia with enhancing its early-warning capabilities—and may offer again. But progress to date in this area has been poor, and security, bureaucratic, and political obstacles to major progress remain. It is unlikely that Russia’s early-warning network is likely to improve in the near to midterm. Reductions in the number of Russian missiles, maintaining the START II ban on MIRVed land-based missiles, and encouraging the de-alerting of the majority of the forces would substantially decrease serious, existing nuclear threats to the United States.

In addition, there are serious concerns about the physical security of Russia’s nuclear weapons. Currently, deployed weapons are guarded by elite troops and considered highly secure, but the same cannot be said of nuclear materials in storage, despite U.S. cooperative threat reduction efforts. A larger deployed Russian arsenal requires Moscow to maintain larger numbers of reserve warheads and nuclear materials, with security concerns growing in direct proportion to the size of those assets. The storage of warheads, assembled plutonium “pits” for warheads, and supplies of nuclear materials outside of weapons continue to pose a major security risk. Only dismantling the weapons and permanently disposing of the materials will eliminate this threat.

The End of Threat Reduction?

This threat from a large, inadequately secured Russian arsenal would be significantly compounded if the deterioration in strategic U.S.-Russian relations led Moscow to slow or even stop its participation in cooperative threat reduction programs.

The dramatic reductions in the Russian arsenal under the START I agreement have been carried out, in large part, through the successful implementation of U.S. cooperative threat reduction programs, which provide financing and equipment for Russia and other former Soviet states to fulfill their arms reduction obligations and dismantle unwanted weapons. As of mid-2001, these programs had resulted in the elimination of 423 ballistic missiles, 383 ballistic missile launchers, 85 bombers, 483 long-range nuclear air-launched cruise missiles, 352 submarine missile launchers, 209 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and 19 strategic missile submarines. (See Table 3.)

But a significant amount of work remains, and a slide in the relationship might lead Russia to rethink its participation in these programs—particularly those that directly reduce the size and flexibility of the Russian nuclear arsenal, such as ICBM, SLBM, and bomber elimination. Although Russia could extend the service lives of some systems, such as the SS-18, to some extent now, they could extend them further by cannibalizing parts from some missiles to sustain others. However, this could not be done if missile systems were eliminated, as is now planned under cooperative threat reduction. The same is true of the schedules to decommission strategic submarine launchers, which could remain active—in port if needed.

Even if Russia wanted to continue cooperation with the threat reduction programs, continued U.S. funding would be highly questionable because Russia would be expending resources deploying up to 50 new missiles per year. Political support within the United States for these programs would likely dry up if such a confrontational and uncooperative relationship were to develop. Already skeptical of U.S. funds for cooperative threat reduction programs, key members of Congress would have an effective new argument to constrain cooperative efforts.

Beyond assistance to eliminate specific weapons systems, this loss of support would hamper other nuclear security matters covered by cooperative threat reduction. Besides the warheads and delivery systems themselves, hundreds of tons of Russian nuclear weapons-usable materials are at risk of being stolen or diverted. The immense task of disposing of excess nuclear materials has been a mixed success. More than 100 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) have been diluted and sold to the United States as part of the “HEU Purchase Agreement,” but an agreement between the United States and Russia to dispose of 34 tons each of weapons-grade plutonium is in great peril due to lack of funds and waning political support in Washington. Another potential threat lies with the tens of thousands of Russian workers who have knowledge in the production of, or potential access to, nuclear weapons and who are demoralized, underemployed, and underpaid.

International Implications

Beyond the immediate U.S.-Russian context, the maintenance of larger nuclear arsenals has other implications. The size of the Russian and U.S. arsenals directly and indirectly affect the size of nuclear arsenals in China, India, Pakistan, and potential nuclear weapons states, as well as nuclear weapons research and development programs and pressures to resume nuclear testing. Hard-liners in China will argue that the combined reality of U.S. missile defense deployments and still large U.S. and Russian deployed forces requires a dramatic expansion of China’s nuclear modernization programs. This will then have serious implications for India, which in turn will affect Pakistan, as well as Japan, the Koreas, and Iran.9

This cascading effect would undoubtedly weaken the already strained international non-proliferation regime. Article VI of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires all states to “negotiate in good faith” efforts toward nuclear disarmament. It can (and probably will) be argued that the United States’ refusal to negotiate with Russia on further arms reductions is a material breech of the NPT, a treaty the Bush administration supports. Some already believe the United States has reneged on its obligations under the NPT and the agreements reached at the 1995 and 2000 review conferences—for example, through the Senate’s rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1999. U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, followed by Russian withdrawal from the START and INF agreements, could seriously undermine confidence in and compliance with international arms control and restraints.

Proliferating Countermeasures

Russia also has the ability to complicate the potential effect of U.S. missile defense deployment in other ways. As an advanced nuclear-weapon state, Russia has developed significant expertise in the area of missile defense countermeasures. From systems as simple as wire “chaff” or reflective balloons to more complex designs, such as maneuverable or simulated warheads, Russia could deploy a wide variety of effective countermeasures to any U.S. system currently contemplated.

More serious for U.S. planners, Russia could decide to sell such systems to other missile-possessing states. It could also provide technical expertise to advise such nations on likely U.S. defensive systems and techniques for overcoming these defenses. Such a development could further complicate relations between the United States and Russia and have a direct negative effect on the utility of any U.S. missile defense system. Thus, in the worst case, Russia could thwart the effectiveness of a U.S. missile defense system not just against its own warheads but also against missiles fielded by other countries.

More Missile Sales

The United States has long been concerned that Russia has not adequately prevented its missile technology from benefiting states developing missile capabilities. The Russian government does not officially condone the transfer of ballistic missile technology and material to states such as Iran or North Korea, but the United States has imposed sanctions against Russian institutes and companies for allegedly engaging in just these sort of activities with Iran.

It is possible that Russia, in seeking to further complicate U.S. efforts to deploy an effective missile defense against such systems, might be even less inclined to enforce effective export controls on missile technology. Although unlikely, Russia might even adopt a more aggressive policy of expanding its direct involvement in missile programs in India, Iran, and other countries, possibly using the guise of aiding their development of space-launch vehicles.

U.S. appeals to Russian officials to constrain this sort of activity, now only marginally effective, could become even less so. Moreover, the United States is less likely to gain allied support for its overall export-control efforts in the ballistic missile field if it has unilaterally pursued a missile defense system at the expense of its relationship with Russia.

Increased Nuclear Reliance

By increasing Russia’s general sense of strategic unease, the U.S. decision to pursue missile defenses unilaterally could also further convince Russia of the need to increase its reliance on nuclear weapons for its current and future security. In part, this process may be inevitable in the near future. The decline of Russia’s conventional forces, as demonstrated in Chechnya, has led to an increased rhetorical reliance on the role of tactical nuclear weapons. This official position also reflects Russian concern over the eastward expansion of NATO, another round of which now appears likely.

What is not yet determined is how far this reliance on nuclear weapons will go. There are elements in Russia (as there are in the United States) that are pushing for the development, testing, and deployment of smaller nuclear weapons, often referred to as “mini-nukes.” There is nothing new about low-yield nuclear weapons; they have been developed and were even deployed widely in the 1950s and 1960s by both the United States and Russia. The possible return to such systems (now mated to precision-guided munitions) raises numerous concerns including the implications of resuming nuclear tests in Russia, the wider deployment of nuclear weapons and associated command and control issues, and possible threats to use—or the actual use of—nuclear weapons in battlefield situations.

Let’s Make a Deal

One cannot deny that it may be possible for the United States to withdraw from the ABM Treaty and contain the damage. It is possible that, as a Russian official recently said, the U.S.-Russian relationship could continue to improve and grow while both hold strongly differing positions on the value of the treaty or even in the treaty’s absence. It is also possible that after withdrawal missile defenses might remain constrained by technological challenges, serious operational difficulties, weak public and military demand, low threat, and high costs. Defenses may be deployed in very low numbers; deployed and then retired (as in the 1970s); or deployed only in specific theaters, not globally.

But there is no need to run the risks that withdrawal and related policies would bring. The worst-case scenario is completely avoidable. The United States and Russia could, while preserving the ABM Treaty, agree at Crawford to permit extensive testing of missile defense systems, leaving the question of large deployments a decade or more in the future. Russian officials and experts have indicated over the past few months that Russia could accept substantial modifications to the ABM Treaty along these lines.9

The outlines of a possible deal are simple. First, Russia and the United States could quickly negotiate a binding agreement for deep reductions to between 1,500 and 2,000 deployed weapons, relying on a modified set of START verification procedures. This likely could be accomplished in weeks, not years. There should be no need for long, drawn-out negotiations, given the history and knowledge both states have of verification measures. A new agreement would, in essence, replace the existing START I limit of 6,000 deployed strategic warheads with a new, lower target. Transparency and verification procedures (possibly streamlined) established by the treaty would continue, including exchange of nuclear force data and mutual inspections. A variety of associated issues could be quickly resolved.

Second, the ABM Treaty constraints on testing could be just as easily settled. The two sides could quickly agree to modify the ABM Treaty to permit expanded testing of land- and sea-based systems (such as the proposed tests of Aegis radars) needed to validate the feasibility of future missile defenses. Future decisions on the deployment of such systems can be safely deferred. With such an agreement, there is little that the Bush administration would like to do over the next five years that it cannot do within the ABM treaty.

Before September 11, President Bush had one major foreign policy priority: withdraw from the ABM Treaty and deploy missile defenses. After the attacks, the war on terrorism and the need to maintain an international anti-terrorism coalition are now at the top of the agenda. By pursuing an agreement with Russia that allows testing but preserves the ABM Treaty’s ban on wide-scale deployment of defenses, President Bush can pursue both priorities. Both nations can rightfully declare a diplomatic success. This course of action will also allow U.S.-Russian strategic reductions to proceed cooperatively and enhance prospects for further threat reduction initiatives

 


Table 1

Deployed Russian Strategic Weapons, 2001
ICBMs
Launchers
Warheads

SS-18

166
1,660
SS-19
150
900
SS-24 (silo)
6
60
SS-24 (rail)
36
360
SS-25
360
360
SS-27 (silo)
24
24
SLBMs
Launchers
Warheads
SS-N-8
36
36
SS-N-18
128
384
SS-N-20
100
1,000
SS-N-23
112
448
Bombers
Launchers
Warheads
Tu-96 (ALCM)
63
504
Tu-95 (Non-ALCM)
2
2
Tu-160
15
120
Totals
1,198
5,858

As 2001 draws to a close, Russia remains a major nuclear power, deploying some 5,800 strategic nuclear warheads on almost 1,200 delivery vehicles. The arsenal is well below its Cold War peak of more than 12,000 deployed strategic warheads and has been in decline since 1989. Further substantial reductions in the size of the arsenal are to be expected, given the life expectancy of those systems now deployed and financial and other constraints. The pace and severity of this decline, however, will depend on a number of factors—not the least of which is the overall strategic and political relationship with the United States.

Russia’s nuclear arsenal is deployed in a triad of weapons systems: land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and long-range bombers. All but one of the currently deployed systems (the land based SS-27), however, are older systems that are slowly being retired. Given current projections and adequate funding for weapons dismantlement, Russia’s arsenal could drop to less than 1,100 deployed strategic warheads by the end of the decade. However, although the number of delivery systems will decline, a large number of the warheads themselves (and the nuclear materials within them) will remain in storage. In addition, Russia is currently thought to possess more than 8,000 tactical warheads, and it is not clear how many such warheads Russia plans to maintain in the near future.


Table 2

Projection of Russian Nuclear Forces, 2010
Systems
Current Projections for 2010 Deployed Warheads
Upper Limits for 2010 Deployed Warheads
ICBMs
230
2,652
SLBMs
616
616
Bombers
240
582
Totals
1,086
3,850

Table 3

Cooperative Threat Reductions:
2001 and Planned
Systems
2001
Planned Total
Warheads Deactivated
5,366
9,881
ICBMs Destroyed
423
1,037
ICBM Silos Eliminated
383
565
Mobile ICBM Launchers Destroyed
0
250
Bombers Eliminated
85
93
Nuclear Air-Launched Cruise Missiles Destroyed
483
487
SLBM Launchers Eliminated
352
612
SLBMs Eliminated
209
661
SSBNs Eliminated
19
41
Nuclear Test Tunnels Sealed
194
194

Source: Defense Threat Reduction Agency


NOTES
1. Andrew Higgins, “Russia Watchers Ponder Whether Shift Toward West Is for Long Haul,” The Wall Street Journal, October 11, 2001.
2. Interview on CBS’s Face the Nation, July 29, 2001.
3. Interview on PBS’s The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, August 16, 2001.
4. Interview on Fox News’ Fox Special Report with Brit Hume, August 10, 2001.
5. For further discussion of this freedom of action, see “Rationale and Requirements for U.S. Nuclear Forces and Arms Control,” National Institute for Public Policy, January 2001.
6. Assumes the current force is 30 missiles and that the production rate increases to 20 per year in 2002, 40 in 2003, and reaches its maximum of 50 annually from 2004 through 2010.
7. See testimony of Admiral Richard W. Meis, commander-in-chief of U.S. Strategic Command, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, July 11, 2001.
8. For a more detailed discussion, see Joseph Cirincione, “The Asian Nuclear Reaction Chain,” Foreign Policy, Winter 1999.
9. Interviews with the authors.


Joseph Cirincione is senior associate and director of the Non-Proliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Jon B. Wolfsthal is an associate at the Non-Proliferation Project.


 

Events since the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington could fundamentally change the U.S.-Russian relationship. A sustained military and diplomatic campaign against terrorism will necessitate a broad international coalition and the close cooperation of nations bordering terrorist operational bases. Russian support and intelligence could prove vital to the success of allied air and ground operations against camps in Afghanistan. In return for such aid, Russia appears to expect that the United States will reciprocate in some fashion, perhaps by compromising on security issues that have recently stressed the relationship. (Continue)

Ukraine Meets START I Obligations

Ukraine destroyed its last SS-24 ICBM silo on October 30, making it the third START I party to complete its obligations under the accord.

Belarus and Kazakhstan both met their obligations under the agreement in late 1996. The United States and Russia are not yet in full compliance, according to the most recent information available, but they must become so by December 5. At that time, Washington and Moscow must each deploy no more than 6,000 treaty-accountable nuclear warheads on 1,600 strategic delivery vehicles.

The United States and the Soviet Union signed the START I agreement in July 1991, but the Soviet Union dissolved five months later, leaving four successor states in possession of nuclear weapons: Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.

In May 1992, these four countries, along with the United States, signed the Lisbon Protocol, which designating them as successors to the Soviet Union under START I. The protocol also obligated Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan to transfer their nuclear warheads to Russia and to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as non-nuclear-weapon states.

But Ukraine proved reluctant to give up its nuclear weapons and ultimately required additional inducement. Under a January 1994 agreement with the United States and Russia, Ukraine agreed to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for security assurances, compensation for the fissile material contained in its nuclear weapons, and financial assistance.

Ukraine announced in 1996 that it had finished transferring all its nuclear warheads to Russia, but it retained treaty-accountable strategic delivery vehicles, including bombers and ICBMs. The United States has assisted Ukraine with dismantling those delivery vehicles under the Defense Department’s Cooperative Threat Reduction program.

Will Prudence Prevail?

Daryl G. Kimball

This month, American and Russian leaders will try to resolve the decade-long impasse over further strategic nuclear reductions and the United States’ national missile defense ambitions. The opportunity for an agreement is close at hand, but success will require prudent adjustments in the White House strategy on missile defense and on the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, as well as fundamental changes in U.S. nuclear weapons requirements.

Ten years ago, Presidents George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the START I agreement. By December 2001, this treaty will have reduced each country’s 1990 levels of deployed strategic forces by more than 40 percent, to 6,000 warheads. Although both sides agreed to two more rounds of strategic reductions and to new guidelines on anti-missile testing, festering disagreements over missile defenses have blocked implementation of deeper arms cuts. As a result, the START process is in limbo, and the two sides maintain excessive Cold War-era nuclear arsenals, large portions of which remain poised for a quick and massive attack.

There now appears to be a genuine desire on both sides to reach an agreement on strategic offenses and defenses. President George W. Bush has adopted the language of arms control and disarmament proponents, calling U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons “expensive relics of dead conflicts.” Because the premises of Cold War nuclear targeting should no longer dictate the size and posture of the U.S. arsenal, he favors unilateral reductions of U.S. forces and removal of as many weapons as possible from hair-trigger alert. For his part, President Vladimir Putin supports reductions of deployed strategic forces to 1,500 warheads, using existing START verification provisions.

But after nine months of consultations, neither side has detailed negotiable proposals on strategic nuclear offenses and missile defenses. Until his October 21 meeting with Putin in Shanghai, Bush and his advisers insisted that the ABM Treaty must be discarded “within months” because it stands in the way of a robust national missile defense program. Administration officials gave the Russians the choice of joint withdrawal or unilateral U.S. withdrawal. To create additional pressure, the Defense Department has formulated missile defense program activities, including construction of a “test bed” in Alaska, designed to “bump up against” the ABM Treaty.

In Shanghai, Putin reiterated the importance of the ABM Treaty to strategic stability, though the Kremlin appears ready to allow more robust missile defense testing. To guard against worst-case scenarios, Russian leaders would prefer agreed legal constraints on strategic defenses commensurate with further cuts in strategic offenses. However, U.S. officials have thus far refused to offer or even discuss adjustments to the ABM Treaty and have not detailed planned U.S. nuclear reductions.

In reality, demonstrating the operational effectiveness of a nationwide anti-missile system will require many more years of tests, which can be pursued for a considerable time before final deployment and without violating the ABM Treaty. Rather than unilaterally withdrawing from the treaty in the near future, Bush could propose modifications of the ABM Treaty to permit a wider range of national missile defense work. Last month, the Pentagon announced its decision not to employ ABM Treaty-prohibited radars in the next round of missile defense tests. But if he is to reach a historic breakthrough this month or soon after, Bush must rein in hard-liners within his administration who are impatient to withdraw from the treaty.

President Bush also faces resistance from within his own administration to the fundamental changes in U.S. nuclear force doctrine that he has promised. Without U.S. nuclear reductions below 2,500 warheads, Bush will lose an important inducement to Russian flexibility on missile defense. A modest trimming of the nuclear target list, as some Pentagon planners might propose, or reassigning nuclear warheads from the active to inactive reserve stockpile, will do little to assuage Russian concerns or change Cold War nuclear postures. As a fundamental step toward his own goal of moving beyond the concept of mutual assured destruction and eliminating the mutual suspicion generated by large nuclear arsenals, Bush should direct the Pentagon to drop mass-attack nuclear war options and disarming first-strike capabilities. With this shift in presidential guidance, Bush could quickly secure a firm agreement with Putin, leading to phased reductions of each country’s strategic nuclear warheads—deployed and reserve—to 1,500 or less.

A historic agreement on deep nuclear reductions and missile defense research and development within the framework of the ABM Treaty is long overdue and would come at a crucial juncture in the U.S.-Russian relationship. If he makes the right choices, Bush can solidify the foundation for future cooperation, rather than confrontation, with Moscow.

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