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January 19, 2011

U.S. Officials Claim Russia Preparing for Nuclear Test

June 2002

By Philipp C. Bleek

In late April and early May, U.S. officials briefed select members of Congress on new intelligence that they believe indicates that Russia is preparing to conduct nuclear tests at its Novaya Zemlya test site, according to congressional sources.

Asked about the U.S. allegations at a May 13 briefing, a senior U.S. official said, “We expect the Russian government to carry out its pledge to refrain from nuclear testing.” The official said the situation illustrated why the administration feels the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is unverifiable, arguing that if a country seeks “to test in a deceptive manner…we might not be able to pick that up.” Ratified by Russia and signed by the United States, the treaty bans all nuclear weapons test explosions.

Questioned about the charges during a May 12 interview with Russia’s ORT television, Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Ivanov said he was surprised by the allegations, which he termed “ungrounded statements.” “There are still people in the United States who think in the categories of the Cold War,” Ivanov said.

A Foreign Ministry statement issued five days later said that Russia is “maintaining the readiness” of its test site but that reports claiming it is preparing to conduct tests are “totally at odds with reality.” The statement impugned U.S. motives, saying that the allegations were circulated “to divert the attention of the international community from the U.S. refusal to ratify the CTBT and the actual plans of the Pentagon to create a new generation of nuclear weapons that may require nuclear tests.”

In 1997, U.S. intelligence officials alleged that seismic and other data indicated that Russia had conducted a clandestine nuclear test in August of that year, leading the White House to issue a formal diplomatic protest to Moscow. The allegation was subsequently retracted when more careful analysis showed that the data was pointing to a seismic event, which was almost certainly a small earthquake, that had occurred beneath the sea floor some distance from Russia’s island test site. (See ACT, October 1997.)

Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA), who attended one of the highly classified congressional briefings, has successfully championed an amendment to the House version of the fiscal year 2003 defense authorization bill that calls for “joint visits by nuclear weapons scientists and experts” to U.S. and Russian nuclear test sites. The Senate version of the bill, which has not yet been finalized, does not contain a similar provision, and prospects for passage of Weldon’s amendment remain unclear.

At a November 2001 international conference on the CTBT, Russia proposed bilateral measures beyond those contained in the treaty to make test-site activity more transparent but indicated that Washington and Moscow should pursue such measures after the treaty has entered into force. (See ACT, December 2001.)

U.S. Officials Claim Russia Preparing for Nuclear Test

U.S.-Soviet/Russian Nuclear Arms Control


According to the United States, the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty reduces the number of “operationally deployed strategic warheads,” i.e., those warheads that are mated to their delivery vehicles and ready for launch. But the complete nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia include many other weapons. In addition to those deployed strategic weapons, both countries deploy tactical nuclear weapons—which are designed for battlefield use, are generally less powerful, and have a shorter range—and store thousands of additional warheads.

Currently, the total U.S. nuclear stockpile is estimated to consist of almost 11,000 warheads, including almost 7,000 deployed strategic warheads; more than 1,000 operational tactical nuclear warheads; and almost 3,000 reserve strategic and tactical warheads, which are not mated to delivery vehicles. (The United States also maintains thousands of nuclear warhead components that could be reassembled into functional weapons.)

The current Russian nuclear stockpile is estimated to include about 5,000 deployed strategic weapons, about 3,500 operational tactical nuclear weapons, and more than 11,000 stockpiled strategic and tactical warheads, for a total arsenal of about 19,500 nuclear warheads. Unlike the United States, Russia possesses these reserves at least in part because dismantling the warheads has proven prohibitively expensive. And unlike the United States, Russia continues to produce limited numbers of new nuclear warheads, largely because its warheads are designed to have far shorter operational lives and therefore must be replaced more frequently.

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control Agreements


Begun in November 1969, the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) had produced by May 1972 both the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which bans nationwide strategic missile defenses, and the Interim Agreement, an executive-legislative agreement that capped U.S. and Soviet ICBM and SLBM forces. Under the Interim Agreement, both sides pledged not to construct new ICBM silos, not to increase the size of existing ICBM silos “significantly,” and capped the number of SLBMs and SLBM-carrying submarines. The agreement ignored strategic bombers and did not address warheads, leaving both sides free to enlarge their deployed forces by adding multiple warheads to their ICBMs and SLBMs and increasing their bomber-based forces. The agreement limited the United States to 1,054 ICBM silos and 656 SLBM launch tubes. The Soviet Union was limited to 1,607 ICBM silos and 740 SLBM launch tubes.


In November 1972, Washington and Moscow agreed to pursue a follow-on treaty to SALT I. SALT II, signed in June 1979, initially limited U.S. and Soviet ICBM, SLBM, and strategic bomber-based nuclear forces to 2,400 delivery vehicles (defined as an ICBM silo, a submarine missile-launch tube, or a bomber) and placed a variety of other restrictions on deployed strategic nuclear forces. (The treaty called for reducing the limit to 2,250 delivery vehicles in 1981.) The agreement would have required the Soviets to reduce their forces by roughly 270 delivery vehicles, but U.S. forces were below the limits and could actually have been increased. However, President Jimmy Carter asked the Senate not to consider SALT II for its advice and consent after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, and the treaty was not taken up again. Both Washington and Moscow subsequently pledged to adhere to the agreement’s terms despite its failure to enter into force. But on May 26, 1986, President Ronald Reagan said that future decisions on strategic nuclear forces would be based on the threat posed by Soviet forces and “not on standards contained in the SALT structure.”


The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), first proposed in the early 1980s by President Ronald Reagan and finally signed in July 1991, required the United States and the Soviet Union to reduce their deployed strategic arsenals to 1,600 delivery vehicles, carrying no more than 6,000 warheads as counted using the agreement’s rules. The agreement limited deployed warheads by imposing limits on delivery vehicles and requiring the destruction of excess delivery vehicles. The destruction was verified using an intrusive verification regime that involved on-site inspections and regular exchanges of information, as well as national technical means (i.e., satellites). The agreement’s entry into force was delayed for several years because of the collapse of the Soviet Union and efforts to denuclearize Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus by making them parties to the agreement and consolidating their nuclear weapons in Russia. START I reductions were completed in December 2001, and the treaty will remain in force until December 2009 unless extended by the parties.


In June 1992, Presidents George H. W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin agreed to pursue a follow-on accord to START I. START II, signed in January 1993, called for reducing deployed strategic arsenals to 3,000-3,500 warheads and banned the deployment of destabilizing multiple-warhead land-based missiles. START II would have counted warheads in roughly the same fashion as START I and, also like its predecessor, would have required the destruction of delivery vehicles but not warheads. The agreement’s original implementation deadline was January 2003, but a 1997 protocol extended the deadline until December 2007 because of Russia’s concerns over its ability to meet the earlier date. Both the Senate and the Duma have approved START II, but the treaty has not taken effect because the Senate has yet to ratify the 1997 protocol and several ABM Treaty amendments, whose passage the Duma established as a condition for START II’s entry into force.

START III Framework

In March 1997, Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin agreed to a framework for START III negotiations that included a reduction in deployed strategic warheads to 2,000-2,500. Significantly, in addition to requiring the destruction of delivery vehicles, START III negotiations were to address “the destruction of strategic nuclear warheads…to promote the irreversibility of deep reductions including prevention of a rapid increase in the number of warheads.” Negotiations were supposed to begin after START II entered into force, which never happened.


On May 24, 2002, Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin signed a treaty under which the United States and Russia will reduce their strategic arsenals to 1,700-2,200 warheads each. Although the two sides have not agreed and appear unlikely to agree on specific counting rules, the Bush administration has made clear that it will reduce only warheads deployed on strategic delivery vehicles in active service, i.e., “operationally deployed” warheads, and will not count warheads removed from service and placed in storage or warheads on delivery vehicles undergoing overhaul or repair. Russia disagrees with this interpretation of the treaty and hopes to negotiate stricter counting rules at a later date. The agreement’s limits are similar to those envisioned for START III, but the treaty does not require the destruction of delivery vehicles, as START I and II did, or the destruction of warheads, as had been envisioned for START III. The treaty has yet to be approved by the Senate or Duma.

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control Agreements

Deployed Warhead Limit
Limited Missiles, Not Warheads
Limited Missiles and Bombers, Not Warheads
Deployed Delivery Vehicle Limit

U.S.: 1,710 ICBMs & SLBMs; USSR: 2,347 ICBMs & SLBMS

Not Applicable
Not Applicable
Not Applicable
Never Entered Into Force
In Force
Never Entered Into Force
Never Negotiated
Signed, Awaits Ratification
Date Signed
May 26, 1972
June 18, 1979
July 31, 1991
January 3, 1993
Not Applicable
May 24, 2002
Date Entered Into Force
October 3, 1972
Not Applicable
December 5, 1994
Not Applicable
Not Applicable
Implementation Deadline
Not Applicable
December 31, 1981
December 5, 2001
December 31, 2007
December 31, 2007
December 31, 2012
Expiration Date
October 3, 1977
December 31, 1985
December 5, 2009
December 5, 2009
Not Applicable
December 31, 2012

Nonstrategic Nuclear Arms Control Measures

Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty

Signed December 8, 1987, the INF Treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to verifiably eliminate all ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Distinguished by its unprecedented, intrusive inspection regime, the INF Treaty laid the groundwork for the verification component of the subsequent START I agreement on strategic nuclear reductions. The INF Treaty entered into force June 1, 1988, and the two sides completed their reductions by June 1, 1991, destroying a total of 2,692 missiles. The agreement was multilateralized after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and current active participants in the agreement’s implementation include the United States, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are also parties to the agreement but do not participate in treaty meetings or on-site inspections. The ban on intermediate-range missiles is of unlimited duration.

Presidential Nuclear Initiatives

On September 27, 1991, President George H. W. Bush announced that the United States would remove almost all U.S. tactical nuclear forces from deployment so that Russia could undertake similar actions, reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation as the Soviet Union dissolved. Specifically, Bush said the United States would eliminate all its nuclear artillery shells and short-range nuclear ballistic missile warheads and remove all nonstrategic nuclear warheads from surface ships, attack submarines, and land-based naval aircraft. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev reciprocated on October 5, pledging to eliminate all nuclear artillery munitions, nuclear warheads for tactical missiles, and nuclear landmines. He also pledged to withdraw all Soviet tactical naval nuclear weapons from deployment. However, significant questions remain about Russian implementation of its pledges, and there is considerable uncertainty about the current state of Russia’s tactical nuclear forces.


Unfinished Business: Russia and Missile Defense Under Clinton

As recently as a few months ago, it looked as though the United States and Russia were entering the post-arms control era. That had seemed to be the hope of President George W. Bush, who came into office with a powerful bias against negotiated, ratified, legally binding treaties as a means of regulating the strategic nuclear balance. He regarded the legacy of START—including the treaty his father had signed with Boris Yeltsin eight years before—as baggage of the Cold War and an obstacle to the kind of military, technological, and strategic flexibility Bush believed the United States would need to deter and defeat new threats.

At the height of his post-September 11 domestic popularity and international prestige, Bush delivered a double blow to arms control. First, at a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Crawford, Texas, he refused to codify reductions in strategic offensive weaponry in a formal treaty. Then, he announced that the United States would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

Putin was so determined to accelerate and solidify his country’s orientation toward the West that he decided, over the objection of much of his military and political elite, that he could live without the ABM Treaty. But he persisted in his efforts to persuade Bush that he needed a treaty to bolster the appearance that, as Russia reduced its levels of strategic weaponry, a modicum of parity with the United States still obtained.

At their summit in May, Bush relented on the question of form and signed what he wanted to call the Treaty of Moscow. Neither in name nor substance was it a full-fledged successor to START II (my former colleague John Holum has an analysis of the new agreement on p. 7 of this issue). But at least it kept alive the enterprise of arms control by treaty.

In making that concession, Bush was re-establishing a degree of continuity with his predecessors—not just with his father but with Bill Clinton, which was no doubt more difficult for him to do, or at least to acknowledge. Clinton had wanted to build on the START II treaty that George H. W. Bush had signed with Yeltsin in January 1993 and, during his own presidency, to add several roman numerals to the process. Clinton was thwarted in that desire by the combination of Russian and American domestic resistance. The Duma refused to ratify anything with Yeltsin’s name on it, and later the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate had a similar distaste for anything bearing Clinton’s imprimatur. Yet for eight years, Clinton looked for ways to reach agreement with Yeltsin—and, in his final year, with Putin.

On offer was a two-part deal: the framework of a START III treaty that would reduce offensive levels well below those in START II, coupled with amendments to the ABM Treaty that would permit a limited national missile defense (NMD) against rogue state threats. Especially in the wake of a North Korean missile test in 1998 and the Iranians’ determination to develop missiles of their own (with considerable Russian help), the United States felt all the more strongly that the ABM Treaty had to be modified in order to survive.

For their part, however, the Russians were convinced that any relaxation of the limits on defense in the ABM Treaty would expose them to the danger of blackmail or even decapitation by the United States. In addition to fearing latter-day Star Wars technology, they worried that the United States could supplement its formidable nuclear offenses with exquisitely accurate conventional weaponry of the sort they saw so dramatically on display against targets in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Kosovo in the 1990s.

Nonetheless, there was, during the Clinton administration, a shared premise in Washington and in Moscow, just as there had been for 40 years, that offense and defense were inextricably linked: only if anti-missile systems were constrained could missiles themselves be reduced without upsetting the balance of terror, or, as it was more politely known on the American side, “mutual deterrence” and, on the Russian side, “strategic stability.”

It was against this backdrop that President Clinton tried to get Putin to cut a deal on NMD and START in June 2000. Putin turned him down, preferring to see if he could do better with Clinton’s successor.

As it has turned out, he did worse: instead of amendments to the ABM Treaty, he had to settle for no ABM Treaty; and the strategic reductions treaty signed May 24 heavily tilted in favor of the Bush administration’s desire to retain in storage warheads taken out of operational deployment.

The following excerpt from my book The Russia Hand: A Memoir of Presidential Diplomacy recounts the previous administration’s efforts to grapple with these issues—and the frustration that President Clinton, along with John Holum, myself, and others, felt when Putin decided to wait until after the 2000 election to see what kind of a deal he could get from Washington.

National Missile Defense (NMD) was yet another in a series of American military programs that the Russians feared and opposed. In some ways, they found it even more objectionable than NATO enlargement or the air campaign against Yugoslavia. It therefore presented a timely and politically useful opportunity for President Vladimir Putin to demonstrate that he would define and defend Russian national interests in contradistinction to American plans and proposals.

For the U.S., NMD was the latest attempt to answer a question that had vexed presidents and their advisers for more than thirty years, since the 1960s, when Bill Clinton, Al Gore and George W. Bush were in college and Putin was in junior high school: when is self-defense a threat to the nuclear peace?
For most of the cold war, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were bound by a suicide pact. Safety, such as it was, resided in the knowledge that neither superpower could attack the other without suffering cataclysmic retaliation. This arrangement was known as mutual deterrence, or, sardonically, as MAD, for mutual assured destruction. According to this principle, defense was deemed dangerous. If one side feared its ability to retaliate could be thwarted by the other side’s defenses, it could be tempted to strike first with its full force. Such calculations on both sides would lead to a spiraling buildup in offensive capability. There was also an incentive for both to put their missiles on hair trigger, increasing the chance of an accidental Armageddon.

It took a while for practice to catch up with theory. While some nuclear strategists were making the case for limiting strategic defenses, the U.S. and the USSR began deploying them. In so doing they proved the theoreticians’ point. In the sixties, the Kremlin built a system that it claimed was for defense against high-altitude bombers. Suspecting that the facility could be used against American missiles, the U.S. developed offensive countermeasures, primarily multiple, independently targetable warheads, known as MIRVs. In American hands, these devices, with their ability to multiply the number of warheads each missile could hurl at the enemy, restored the U.S.’s confidence that it could penetrate the USSR’s defenses and hold Soviet power in check in a crisis.

Eventually, however, the Soviets learned how to MIRV their own missiles. The USSR’s MIRVed missiles figured, in American planning, as the principal instrument available to the Kremlin if its leaders ever decided to launch a surprise attack on the U.S. For their part, the Soviets worried that their own rocket force was now an even more attractive target for preemption if the U.S. ever decided to go first. Thus, MIRVing was the single most dangerous innovation since the mating of nuclear weaponry with ballistic rocketry.

In due course, both the U.S. and the USSR accepted the reality of MAD. Through the negotiations known as the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), they agreed to codify mutual deterrence, regulate the balance of terror, curb defenses and pave the way for reductions in offensive forces. In 1972, Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev signed the SALT I accords. One of these was the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty. It banned either side from having a “national” defense—that is, a system that protected the entire country—although each could have two ABM sites. Under an amendment in 1974, the superpowers cut back to one ABM site per side. The Russians maintained a system outside of Moscow, while the U.S. briefly kept one at a missile-launch facility in North Dakota.

In 1976, in a further acknowledgment of the primacy of deterrence and the futility of defense against an enemy armed with many thousands of warheads, the U.S. shut down its one ABM site. For the remainder of that decade, the principle that nuclear offense trumped defense remained unchallenged.


Then along came Ronald Reagan to challenge it. He was convinced that with enough Yankee know-how and dollars, a high-tech defense against ballistic missile warheads was not just possible but far preferable to MAD. The U.S., he proclaimed in 1983, must undertake a crash program to erect a space-based, impregnable, all-encompassing shield that would render all nuclear weapons, including the Soviets’ cherished Strategic Rocket Forces, “impotent and obsolete.”

Most American experts considered the Strategic Defense Initiative, as it was officially known, a wildly expensive and dangerous fantasy. Some nicknamed it “Star Wars,” in part because Reagan announced the program two weeks after giving a speech to an audience of evangelical Christians in which he’d denounced the USSR as “the evil empire.”

The Soviets were less dismissive. Because of their deep-seated sense of vulnerability and their awe of American technology, they could imagine that SDI might just work. If so, it would deprive them of the great equalizer in their otherwise unequal relationship with the U.S. Even if SDI didn’t live up to Reagan’s high hopes, it would still require massive expenditures for Moscow to offset.

Even after Reagan left office and the program was scaled back, SDI kept its hold on many conservative Republicans. For them, it was more than just a military program of great promise. They believed that the very prospect of SDI had served as a kind of deus ex machina at the end the cold war: so frightened and demoralized were the rulers of the evil empire by Reagan’s vow to turn American technology against them that they had simply thrown in the towel.


The next American president, George H. W. Bush, was as much a traditionalist as Reagan was a revolutionary. Bush believed in maintaining a stable balance of offensive weaponry through the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START), the successor to SALT.

But right-wing Republicans who had not given up on Reagan’s vision of a perfect defense didn’t want Bush do so either. They pressed the White House to continue funding development of an ambitious strategic defensive system and to link a START II treaty to a loosening of the restrictions in the ABM treaty.

In 1992, Boris Yeltsin wanted to do his friend George a political favor, and he also wanted to get a START II treaty since that would help him reduce his military budget. Therefore when he and Bush held their summit in Washington in June of that year, they instructed Dennis Ross, James Baker’s right-hand man, and Yuri Mamedov, a deputy Russian foreign minister with years of experience in arms control who was my principal counterpart, to initiate a “consultation” on a cooperative anti-missile plan to guard against missile attacks from radical regimes or terrorist organizations. As a result, Bush was better able to deflect complaints from pro-SDI Republicans who felt he was giving short shrift to defense.

The START II treaty that Bush and Yeltsin signed in early January 1993 set a ceiling of 3,500 strategic warheads for each side, a two-thirds reduction in the size of the Russian and American arsenals from their cold war highs. The treaty contained another landmark achievement in arms control: “de-MIRVing,” a prohibition on land-based missiles with multiple warheads. It was a rare case of the two sides stuffing a genie back into a bottle.


When Clinton came into office, there did not seem to be any reason to continue the dialogue that Ross and Mamedov had begun, since the new president had no enthusiasm for strategic defense. The Russians, too, were more than happy to let the subject drop, since they’d regarded the Ross-Mamedov talks largely as a sop to Bush. Both governments now intended to concentrate on further reductions in offensive weaponry. Each of Clinton’s predecessors since Nixon had achieved at least one major agreement limiting or reducing the U.S. and Russian strategic arsenals. Had START II been implemented in 1993, Clinton might have concluded a START III treaty with Yeltsin in his first term and been well into START IV by the second.

But before we could move ahead to START III, START I (which Bush and Gorbachev had signed in 1991) had to go into force, and that required the removal of Soviet-era nuclear weaponry from Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan—one of the Clinton administration’s highest priorities in 1993 and 1994. The bigger problem was the Russian parliament’s refusal to ratify START II. Yeltsin’s political enemies there, who were already defying him at every turn, now had one more chance to do so. As a result of these snags, strategic arms control went into a hiatus that lasted for eight years—and beyond.

Clinton and I talked from time to time about his regret and frustration. He noted the irony that a process that had begun in the depths of the Brezhnev era had gone into suspension largely because Russia was now a democracy. The U.S. was not just negotiating with a potentate in the Kremlin and his minions, but dealing with a pluralistic system that included an obstreperous legislative branch.

It bothered Clinton that because arms control had stopped dead in its tracks, the U.S. and Russia still had some 15,000 long-range nuclear weapons, primarily for use against each other.

“What’s going on here?” he demanded in a meeting on defense policy in the Cabinet Room in September 1994. “The cold war’s supposed to be over! What do we need this much overkill for? Are we stuck in some sort of time warp, or what?”

Clinton asked on several occasions why we couldn’t go further on our own in shrinking the size of our arsenal to take account of the dramatic changes in the former Soviet Union. The Defense Department was reluctant to cut back on the number of strategic weapons available for the conduct of World War III given the danger of what was sometimes called a “recidivist Russia.” A bigger obstacle was legislation that Congress had passed prohibiting unilateral cuts below the levels in START I in the absence of START II ratification by the Duma.


While arms control was stalled, the Pentagon continued to experiment with new technologies for defending against ballistic missiles. Clinton’s first secretary of defense, Les Aspin, shifted the focus of that program from national missile defense of a scope and capability that could shoot down Russia’s intercontinental rockets to “theater missile defense,” or TMD, against shorter-range rockets like the ones that Iran, Iraq, Libya and North Korea were beginning to develop.

There was nothing abstract about the threat posed by these so-called rogue states. The U.S. had lost twenty-eight soldiers in the Gulf War to an attack by an Iraqi SCUD missile. The prospect of nuclear-armed missiles in the hands of Iran’s radical Islamic regime had been a preoccupation for the U.S. for years and a major irritant in our relations with Russia, primarily because of the peril it posed to Israel. North Korea, under Kim Jong-il, the son of its founding dictator, was one of the most mysterious and menacing countries on earth. The prospect that it would be armed with both nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles threatened not only South Korea and the 37,000 American troops stationed there but Japan as well.

There was nothing in the ABM treaty that said the U.S. couldn’t defend itself or its allies against shorter-range ballistic missiles. At the same time, we didn’t want an anti-missile program intended to deal with non-Russian threats to provoke nationalistic fervor in Moscow during a period when the very survival of Russian democracy was in doubt. Therefore in several of his summits with Yeltsin during the first term, Clinton provided formal assurances that the U.S. would keep its testing of TMD systems compliant with the ABM treaty.

Clinton’s promise to adhere to the ABM treaty was a red flag to those still-powerful forces in Congress who remained faithful to Reagan’s vision of a world in which defense replaced deterrence. In 1994, the Republicans trumpeted that goal in their campaign to take control of both houses of Congress. Once they were in the majority, they began pushing legislation to require deployment of a national anti-missile system and, as a consequence, withdrawal from the ABM treaty.

Leading Democrats urged the White House to come up with an alternative NMD scheme that was compatible with the ABM treaty.

By Clinton’s second term, the administration was well on its way to refining a plan to develop a ground-based ABM so fast and accurate that it could home in on an enemy warhead and destroy it in flight. The U.S. cranked up a major program to develop and deploy this technology for TMD purposes and to test its potential against intercontinental-range missiles as well. To facilitate the high-priority TMD program, we initiated discussions with Russia aimed at agreeing on the dividing line, or “demarcation,” between TMD, which was permitted by the ABM treaty, and strategic defensive systems, which were sharply constrained by the treaty.

The Russians were wary about giving us any leniency, since they assumed that whatever we were up to was a stalking horse for an anti-missile system that would eventually be able to neutralize their deterrent.
The turning point came at the Helsinki summit between Clinton and Yeltsin in March 1997. The two presidents had an intense but inconclusive go at each other on this subject in the course of a longer conversation about NATO enlargement, then turned the issue over to their aides. For much of the rest of that day, U.S. and Russian officials, who had split into working groups, occupied every room on the first floor of the Finnish presidential residence, including the kitchen, the pantry, the dining room and President Ahtisaari’s study. Madeleine Albright and Lynn Davis, the State Department’s top arms control official, held three separate and contentious meetings with Yevgeny Primakov, then the foreign minister, and his team.

General Shalikashvili, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his Russian counterpart, General Victor Samsonov, sat at a coffee table poring over technical documents that the Pentagon hoped would assure the Russians that our TMD program was not an NMD either in disguise or in potential. The senior civilian from the Defense Department present, Jan Lodal, was on the telephone with Secretary of Defense Cohen back in Washington, apprising him of the problems as they arose in the negotiations and coaxing him into agreement with solutions as they emerged.

Yuri Mamedov and I, who had spent much of our careers on nuclear arms control—he as a diplomat, I as a journalist—had been hoping for four years we’d get a chance to sink our teeth into these subjects. We floated among the various working groups primarily to make sure that the right people were talking but also to help with the drafting of compromise language.

After lunch, Clinton and Yeltsin sent Albright, Shali and Lodal off with Primakov, Mamedov and Samsonov with instructions to come up with an agreement based on a draft that Lodal and Mamedov had prepared. In the end, the Russians agreed to a detailed technical demarcation between permissible TMD programs and prohibited ABM ones. The inducement for them to do so was a willingness by the U.S., engineered primarily by Shali, to set a ceiling for offensive systems in START III that would be nearly a third lower than the one in START II, thereby making it easier for Russia to afford a nuclear arsenal roughly equal in size to that of the U.S.

The Helsinki summit had moved the Russians closer to an important threshold: they seemed prepared to consider adjusting the strategic equation, letting the U.S. add defense against certain kinds of threats, while continuing to subtract offense—as long as the smaller arsenal Russia ended up with would still be able to penetrate whatever defenses the U.S. eventually deployed.

We never had a chance to test that proposition because the Duma still refused to ratify START II after Helsinki and our own law continued to prevent unilateral cuts in the U.S. arsenal.


Meanwhile, the juggernaut on Capitol Hill in favor of NMD gathered momentum. In mid-July 1998, a congressionally appointed commission chaired by a former (and future) Republican secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, issued a report predicting that rogue states could have ballistic missiles capable of reaching the U.S. sooner than the U.S. intelligence community believed. Six weeks later, on August 31, 1998, the North Koreans tried and failed to launch a small satellite. The shot demonstrated they had the ability to launch multi-stage rockets.

As much as anything, the North Koreans were probably pursuing the political goal of increasing their leverage over the U.S. and Japan in future negotiations to increase international assistance to their economy, which was in desperate shape. But in the U.S., the launch was seen as presaging a new military threat to the American homeland. The North Korean rocket was believed to be the prototype of a ballistic missile that might, if perfected, be able to hit American territory. In March 1999, the Senate passed, by a margin of 97-3, a bill mandating a U.S. policy to “deploy as soon as technologically possible an effective” anti-missile system capable of “defending the territory of the United States.” Therefore NMD was, by definition—by virtue of the “N” for National in its initials—a violation of the ABM treaty’s prohibition against a national anti-missile system. The House overwhelmingly approved a similar measure in May.

The administration was more in danger than ever of losing control of a key feature of defense and foreign policy. We’d had to deal with demands from Congress in the past, notably over Russia’s relations with Iran and the Duma’s passage of a restrictive religion law in 1997. But those earlier disputes within the U.S. government were essentially over tactics. The executive had as much desire as anyone in Congress to end the leakage of Russian technology to Iran and to promote religious tolerance in Russian society.

We had a deeper disagreement with the more extreme advocates of strategic defense in the Congress. They had already made up their minds that the U.S. would be safer with an unfettered defensive system than it was with existing arms control agreements, while we saw NMD as a research-and-development program that should be continued but that had a long way to go before it was ready for deployment. Even if the technology proved itself, the system should be designed to meet the rogue-state threat but to stay within the bounds of the ABM treaty, although those bounds might have to be adjusted through amendment in order to accommodate new threats and new technologies.

There was little room for these considerations in the NMD bill that Congress had passed by a veto-proof margin and that was now heading toward the president’s desk. That left us with a dilemma. If we said we were committed to preserving the ABM treaty without regard to its constraints on NMD, we’d spend the rest of the administration in a what would very likely be a losing fight with Congress, since the Republicans had the votes to block our policies. If, on the other hand, we acceded to congressional pressure and decided to pursue NMD without regard to its implications for the ABM treaty, we’d have a blowup with the Russians—and very likely a split with our allies, who tended to see NMD as a return to the concept of Fortress America and an abandonment of thirty years of strategic arms control.


Never did Sandy Berger, the president’s national security adviser, have more reason to evoke the myth of Scylla and Charybdis—which he often said captured the dilemmas so common in diplomacy—and never did he do a more masterly job steering between the two. Almost single-handedly, in an intense round of brainstorming and logrolling, he cobbled together a compromise on NMD that balanced military, diplomatic and political considerations.

One challenge was to make sure that when the president signed the bill he wasn’t also signing away his prerogatives and responsibilities. Sandy crafted a White House statement stipulating a set of criteria that the president would apply when it came time a year or so later to decide whether to go forward with deployment. The two key variables were whether the technology of the system under development proved itself in tests still to be conducted, and whether proceeding with NMD contributed to the overall security of the U.S., including in its impact on arms control.

This latter criterion, which had the support of key Senate Democrats, allowed the president to evaluate missile defense in a larger context. Even if the bugs could be worked out, American and allied experts were justifiably skeptical about whether NMD would be as effective against enemy warheads as its proponents believed, given the possibility of countermeasures to defeat the defense. Moreover, NMD was useless against suitcases, knapsacks, balloons, oil drums in the holds of tramp steamers and other low-tech “delivery means” for attacking the U.S. with high explosives or weapons of mass destruction (no one, as far as I know, predicted the use of hijacked commercial aircraft for kamikaze attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon).

The president also must be able to weigh the benefits of NMD against the negative consequences that going ahead with the program might have for relations with our allies, Russia and other countries as well as the implications for arms control.

Sandy’s next task was to get the administration to close ranks behind a version of NMD that had enough political support to keep our congressional opponents at bay, enough military and scientific plausibility to deal with the potential threat we faced from rogue states, and enough compatibility with the ABM treaty to be the basis for a new round of discussions with the Russians.

After weeks of quiet intramural diplomacy with the Pentagon, Sandy presented Clinton with a plan at a meeting on August 18, 1999, in the Cabinet Room. In order to meet the requirement for covering all fifty states, there needed to be two anti-missile sites, one in Alaska and the other probably in North Dakota, with a total of 250 interceptors, as well as a network of highly sophisticated radars on the ground (including outside the U.S.) and sensors in space that would track enemy warheads and help our interceptors home in on them. The full system wouldn’t be in place until well into the next decade—sometime between 2005 and 2010. The first step would be a site in Alaska that could have some initial capability by 2005 to counter what was perceived to be the most immediate threat, the one posed by North Korea. To meet that schedule, construction of a radar on Shemya Island off Alaska would have to begin in the spring or summer of 2001. To have the equipment and material in place by then, the president would have to decide on deployment a year beforehand, by the summer of 2000.

That itself was a perverse bit of timing, since the presidential election campaign would be moving into high gear—never a good time for the U.S. government to face politically controversial and strategically important decisions. If the president gave a go-ahead to preparations for the Alaska site, he would in effect be putting Russia and the world on notice that the U.S. was pulling out of the ABM treaty—unless we could persuade the Russians to amend the treaty to permit that first step toward deployment.

Since we had about ten months to negotiate amendments to the ABM treaty, we decided to seek only those changes that were necessary to permit deployment of the first phase of an NMD system, the Alaska-based part of the system required to deal with the North Korean threat. The second site with additional interceptors and more radars would be the subject of further negotiations a few years down the road. As an inducement to the Russians to go along with this plan, we were prepared to share with them early-warning data and new interceptor technologies, and engage in other measures intended to make anti-missile defense a cooperative venture.

Sandy called the goal a trifecta, since it would allow us to advance—and reconcile—three objectives: first, we would be able to proceed with preparations for a limited NMD appropriate to the new threat we faced from the rogues without violating the ABM treaty; second, by amending that the ABM treaty, we would be making it more relevant and durable in a world where the U.S. and Russia were cooperating against proliferation; and third, we would be able to achieve deep cuts in offenses as part of an accompanying START III agreement that would have some prospect of approval by the Senate.


Like Sandy, I believed the trifecta was a long shot, probably coming too late in the Clinton presidency to be achievable either diplomatically or politically. It was worth trying for but not betting the ranch on. We should make an all-out effort at getting a deal while leaving the president a range of choices about what to do if the Russians refused.

There was a difference between this challenge and the ones we’d faced over NATO enlargement and Kosovo. In those cases, the U.S. negotiating position had been simple, unbending and, largely for that reason, successful. “Table and stick” we’d called it: go straight to your bottom line and stick with it; wait until the other side bends. We’d been able to look the Russians in the eye and tell them that we were going forward with or without them.

In the case of NMD, the president might decide in mid-2000 that he should go forward with the program in the face of Russian objections, but he might instead decide to defer deployment for reasons unrelated to the Russia factor, such as poor performance of the system in the tests.

Therefore in pressing the Russians to join us in changing the ABM treaty we couldn’t credibly adopt the table-and-stick strategy. Instead, we tried to get them to look at the choice they faced in terms of the devil they knew versus the one they didn’t. We understood that the Russians didn’t want the U.S. to undertake any serious missile defense at all. But that position was unrealistic as well as unreasonable. Sooner or later, the U.S. was going to need some form of missile defense to cope with the rogue states. Russia would probably want one too, since it was closer to all three rogues than we were. We were offering Moscow a chance to adjust to that unavoidable reality cooperatively and within the framework of mutually agreed constraints, starting with an understanding in 2000 to amend the ABM treaty enough to permit a limited missile defense against rogue-state threats of the kind we were proposing.

The Russians, we contended, could safely join us in that step, since their Strategic Rocket Forces, even if substantially reduced under a prospective START III, could easily overwhelm a limited American defense that was designed to cope with a very small number of missiles from North Korea or Iran. Therefore NMD was a devil they knew and ought to be able to live with.

The devil they didn’t know was the possibility that the next president—regardless of whether it was Al Gore or George Bush—would, at a minimum, build the system we were proposing and, because of the timetable for construction in Alaska, have to withdraw from the ABM treaty in order to proceed. In the case of a Bush presidency, that devil would be all the less appealing to the Russians, since Bush was in favor of a bigger NMD and no ABM treaty.

We based the case that our proposed system did not threaten the Russian deterrent on simple arithmetic: the first phase of NMD, even when fully deployed sometime after 2005, would have only 100 interceptors, while the Russians, under any imaginable variant of START III, would have more than a thousand warheads, as well as various techniques for confusing and overwhelming our defense. Mutual deterrence would remain alive and well.


Yuri Mamedov and I, accompanied by military and civilian experts, conducted a series of meetings on ABM/NMD that lasted nearly a year and brought us together in Moscow, Washington, New York, Rome, Helsinki, Oslo and Okinawa. We treated the talks as a spin-off of the Strategic Stability Group that we had established seven years before, in the spring of 1993. (In the context of strategic arms control, both sides used the term “strategic stability” as a synonym for mutual deterrence, and as a euphemism for MAD.)

For months, terminology was just about the only thing on which we were able to agree. On the core issue of whether the proposed American plan for NMD threatened the Russian deterrent, we might as well have been debating whether the earth was round or flat. The Russians based their position on a worst-case scenario that cast the U.S. in the role of nuclear aggressor or at least nuclear blackmailer. By their calculations, the U.S. would have the offensive capability to knock out ninety percent of Russia’s strategic arsenal using our nuclear forces and precision conventional weapons of the kind they’d seen so spectacularly on display in Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan in September 1998, after Osama bin Laden was determined to be behind the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa. The surviving ten percent of their force—say, a hundred warheads—might be within the capacity of NMD to shoot down before they reached their targets.

What the Russians feared most was the “architecture” that would eventually be associated with NMD—sophisticated radars deployed around the world, complemented by constellations of space-based sensors all coordinated by an elaborate command-and-control network. Once that whole system was in place, they said, the U.S. could easily expand the number of interceptors well beyond what we were presenting as the full extent of our program. The Russians knew that nuclear war with the U.S. was unthinkable, but they worried nonetheless that the combination of a substantial American first-strike capability and an NMD system to back it up might leave them vulnerable to nuclear intimidation in a political crisis—similar, perhaps, to the one that they’d just been through at Priština airport, which the Russian military had seized at the end of the Kosovo war, triggering a fleeting but worrisome confrontation with NATO.

So adamant were the Russians in opposing NMD that they refused even to call the talks a negotiation, since that would have implied that what we were asking for was negotiable. Instead, they characterized the year-long marathon of the Strategic Stability Group as a “consultation.” Even the term that the Russians used for NMD, “national ABM,” was a way of underscoring that it was inherently a violation of the treaty.


Throughout the fall of 1999, the Russian military was more assertive and confident in stonewalling us on NMD than it had been over NATO enlargement and Balkan peacekeeping. Every time my colleagues from the Pentagon, Ted Warner and Rear Admiral Joseph Enright, would put on a slide show, with maps and charts, to demonstrate that Russia had nothing to fear, General Nikolai Zlenko, the Ministry of Defense representative on Mamedov’s team, would make a detailed presentation of his own showing how the U.S. could either decapitate the Russian rocket forces or checkmate the political leadership in a crisis.

On the eve of several of our sessions, General Kvashnin, the chief of defense who had been the driving force behind the Russian dash to Priština in June and was now leading the charge in Chechnya, publicly warned the Russian foreign ministry not to make any compromise. There were hints that he and others in the defense ministry were making plans to re-MIRV their missiles in order to counter NMD, thereby brushing aside a key provision of START II and undoing one of the signal accomplishments of arms control.

Soon after Putin became acting president at the turn of the year, the Russian military’s role in the talks became, if anything, even more conspicuous than before and its position even more intractable. The generals no longer had to worry that Yeltsin and his friend Bill would cut some last-minute deal over the military’s objections.


On January 18, 2000, the American anti-missile system failed an important test when the infrared sensor on board the interceptor malfunctioned. Many domestic critics rejoiced, including (quietly) some within the administration who had doubts about the wisdom of the program.

I regarded the failure of the test as a setback for our diplomacy. The performance of our system in the testing program was, after all, one of the criteria that the president had specified when he signed the NMD bill into law. New questions about the technology of NMD made it harder for me to persuade the Russians that Clinton might proceed with deployment even if they refused to amend the ABM treaty. Therefore I needed an additional incentive to get the Russians to budge.

In preparation for another round of talks with the Russians in late January, I asked the White House and the Pentagon for authority to sound out Mamedov on whether lowering the ceiling on offensive weapons in START III well below what Clinton and Yeltsin had agreed in Helsinki might induce Moscow to alter the ABM treaty enough to permit the beginning of construction of the Alaska radar site in 2001.

The Russians, Yuri replied, did indeed want lower offensive levels in START III but not at the price of higher levels of American defense. He quoted Reagan to me—not Ronald but Nancy. “On NMD,” he said, “you’re dealing with a country and a new president whose motto is, ‘Just say no.’”


The naysayer in chief was careful not to make himself the heavy on NMD. Putin spent nearly three hours with Secretary Albright on February 2, 2000, exuding reasonableness and good will.
“We want to find formulas that allow us to meet new threats while preserving the ABM treaty and achieving deep cuts under START III,” said Madeleine.

“I like that approach!” Putin replied, as though it were a eureka moment. It was actually a classic Putinism. When we followed up through diplomatic and military channels, we were told that the only way to preserve the ABM treaty was not to change one word or punctuation mark in it.


In February, Sandy Berger made a run at persuading the new head of the Russian security council, Sergei Ivanov—a former KGB officer close to Putin—that Moscow would be smart to do a deal with us on NMD rather than take a chance on our successors. One way or another, Sandy said, NMD was almost certain to proceed. It was a variation on the devil-you-know-versus-the-one-you-don’t sales pitch of our position.

The Russians were never impressed by that argument since they calculated—again, not unreasonably—that they could get either a quick deal or a postponement of construction out of Al Gore, while George W. Bush wouldn’t be bound by anything he inherited from us.

I had my next crack at Yuri Mamedov the second week in March, when he and I arranged to rendezvous in Rome. My wife Brooke accompanied me on the trip and Yuri brought along his wife, Katya, whom I’d never met before. Putting aside work one Saturday, the four of us traveled into the countryside. After strolling around a hill town, we wandered into the opera house, where a competition was under way among amateur sopranos from all over Europe. We then had lunch in a country inn by a river.

We returned to Rome that evening in a U.S. embassy van that careened along mountain roads trying to keep up with its escort of motorcycle-mounted carabinieri. While Brooke and Katya snoozed in the seat in front of us, Yuri and I got back to business. Our principal concern was managing NMD at the first Clinton-Putin summit, which we expected would take place in the late spring or early summer.

I hadn’t entirely given up on reaching a deal, nor did I want the Russians to discount the possibility that Clinton might order the start of construction in Alaska even in the absence of a deal. Yuri was equally careful not to box in his own president. He left open the possibility that Putin might come to agreement with Clinton during their first summit or at one of the several other encounters they would have later in the year.

But Yuri doubted that would happen, and so did I. Therefore we concentrated on an interim arrangement that would avoid a breakdown on NMD/ABM at the summit even if the two presidents couldn’t achieve a breakthrough.

For some months, we’d been privately exploring the possibility of a joint presidential statement as a provisional measure in the spring that would set the scene for a final agreement later in the year, or at least lay the ground for progress later. We called it “the principles document” since it would assert a number of tenets on which the two sides could agree in the near term and that might help guide them to an eventual settlement. One principle was the assertion that both countries remained committed to strategic stability. Translation: neither side would deprive the other of its deterrent capability. We would, in that context, explicitly cite the role of the ABM treaty in maintaining stability and creating the confidence in mutual deterrence necessary to reduce offensive forces.

That was what the Russians wanted to hear from us, and we were glad to say it since we believed it.
The principles document would go on to assert that the world had changed since 1972, when the ABM treaty was signed. It would identify the growing threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missiles to deliver them as a significant change in the strategic situation, and it would note a provision in the ABM treaty anticipating that such changes might be grounds for amendment. That way Russia would be on record accepting a key premise of the U.S. position and, accordingly, retreating from its refusal to consider changes in the treaty.

In the American view, the most important line in the principles document was one in which the two presidents would agree to develop “concrete measures” that would allow both sides to “take necessary steps to preserve strategic stability in the face of new threats.”


While Yuri and I would meet often during the months that followed, the principles document was our last major piece of collaboration. It was also the quintessential example of how the two of us had worked together for seven years. We sometimes compared our own personal diplomacy to win/win chess. Each of us had as his principal obligation the advancement of his own government’s interest. But since we were trying to respect each other’s interests, we would, as we put it, “play both sides of the board,” explaining what we were doing, and why, and occasionally even suggesting what move the other should make.

It was in that spirit that Yuri and I put our heads together on the principles document as we bounced through the Umbrian countryside toward Rome in the dusk that Saturday evening. Even if Clinton and Putin could not break the impasse over how to amend the ABM treaty, at least they would have established that the treaty could be amended, and, by implication, why it should be. That agreement would provide the next American administration with a basis for resuming negotiation on an ABM deal as it made up its own mind about how to proceed with missile defense.


When the Russians went to the polls on March 26, 2000, to elect their second president, it was an anticlimax, especially compared to the election four years earlier, when Yeltsin came from far behind and had to go into a second round to be reelected. This time Putin won outright with 53 percent of the vote, defeating ten opponents….

One of Putin’s many advantages in the accelerated timetable of the election was that it allowed him to assume the presidency before the war in Chechnya flared anew with the coming of spring. The rebels, who had regrouped in the mountains during the winter, stepped up their hit-and-run attacks on Russian forces. By the end of April, Moscow acknowledged that nearly two thousand Russian soldiers had died in the seven months of fighting.

Yet even when the fighting resumed, there appeared to be no slackening of public support for Putin’s determination to deal harshly with “bandits and terrorists.”

Much the same was true of his explicitly tougher domestic policies. During the campaign, Putin had promised a “dictatorship of laws,” a telling variation on the more common phrase “rule of law.” It suggested a tightening of the screws not just on crime and corruption but on the media and society in general. Putin’s slogan raised eyebrows in the West and among Russian liberals, but apparently not with the rank and file.

Putin’s popularity with the people translated instantly into clout with the Duma. In mid-April, he accomplished with relative ease what Yeltsin had been unable to do for seven years: he rammed through ratification of START II. But in doing so, Putin promised the legislature—and his own military—that if the U.S. decided to “destroy” the ABM treaty, Russia reserved the right to “withdraw not only from the START II treaty but also the whole system of treaties on limitation and control of strategic and conventional weapons.”

In the U.S., political pressure was building against compromise on NMD. Governor Bush seized on missile defense as a demonstration of what he portrayed as an approach to national security that was more hard-headed than Clinton’s and Gore’s. Bush promised that, if elected, he would override Russian objections, discard what he called an outmoded ABM treaty and launch an effort to develop an effective anti-missile system. While vowing to proceed unilaterally with NMD, he promised to slash American offensive forces, on the grounds that “Russia is no longer our enemy.”

The problem with Bush’s position, I believe, was that it seemed to assume that the Russians, confronted with an administration that was more “serious” about deploying NMD, would accept a world with no agreed limits on American defenses and join the U.S. in offensive reductions and restraints. Yet Putin’s vow to the Duma suggested otherwise. Rather than sitting still, the Russians might take a range of countermeasures (including re-MIRVing) that would represent a net setback to American and international security.

But as a campaign tactic, Bush’s move was clever. He had, in a single stroke, positioned himself to the administration’s right on an anti-missile system (“we’ll do whatever is necessary to defend America”) and to its left on disarmament (“we don’t need so many of these weapons”—something Clinton himself had felt for a long time).

At the end of April, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov came to Washington and, in addition to a meeting with Secretary Albright, paid a call on Governor Bush. The two chatted jovially in Spanish, which Ivanov had mastered as ambassador to Spain in the late eighties. During the meeting, Bush professed total confidence of victory in November. On NMD, Bush told Ivanov not to worry; he was sure he’d be able to “sit down with President Putin and work something out.”


The Russians attached no substantive importance to the exchange—they doubted Bush had anything in mind beyond wanting to appear affable and statesmanlike—but they welcomed the opportunity to scoff at us for urging them to do a deal with our administration rather than leave themselves to the mercy of the NMD superhawks if Bush won.


America’s allies were, without exception, apprehensive about NMD. Along with a number of my colleagues from the State Department and Pentagon, I made frequent trips to allied capitals and NATO headquarters in Brussels to brief them on the program and on the discussions with the Russians. We encountered deep skepticism about every aspect of our policy—the technology, the implications for arms control and transatlantic defense, and the extent to which short-term political considerations might drive a decision of long-term strategic consequences. The allies’ resistance to our argument was of operational significance, since the plan we were asking them to endorse required at least two of them, Britain and Denmark, to let us use their territory for radar facilities integral to the NMD system.


When I boarded Air Force One for the flight from Germany to Moscow, I joined Clinton, Sandy Berger and Steve Sestanovich, the head of the State Department office dealing with the former Soviet Union, in the president’s private cabin for a quick review of where we stood. I had given a lot of thought to my principal message for the president, and it required me to be a bit stern with my boss—not my favorite role. I’d heard him say several times about Putin that he hadn’t “broken the code on this new guy.” He was going into the meeting uneasy about his host. I was concerned that he might try to counter the Putin chill with an excessive display of the Clinton warmth. Whatever Clinton did or didn’t accomplish on the substance of the agenda, I said, he had to set the right tone, and that should be one of reciprocal wariness. That meant resisting his natural temptation to get too chummy.

It was particularly important to get the atmosphere right, since a breakthrough on substance was highly unlikely. Clinton himself called NMD a “giant banana peel.” While he had yet to make up his mind on deployment, he was strongly inclined to defer construction of the radar site in Alaska. There were problems with NMD well beyond Russian obstinacy. That made it all the more important that Clinton not make the decision before he sat down with Putin, in anticipation of a rebuff, or, for that matter, immediately afterward. When the time came to make the call on NMD later in the summer, he ought to be free to do so on the basis of the full array of criteria he’d laid out a year earlier when he signed the missile defense bill into law. He would treat Russian opposition as a significant factor but not necessarily as the dispositive one. On this point, Sandy, who had been letting me use the time available for the briefing, weighed in to support me, since he’d been making much the same pitch to Clinton for days.

Whatever else happened in Moscow, I concluded, circling back to the question of public perception, Clinton could not go home with people saying he’d tried to get an arms agreement at any cost or was too eager to buddy up to Putin. It would be a minor but useful accomplishment if we could get the press to write after the summit was over that there had been a noticeable reserve in Clinton’s handling of Putin.
“For starters,” I said, “don’t call him Vladimir.”

Sometimes when I gave Clinton advice he didn’t particularly want to hear or that had an implication of criticism, he pushed back or waved me off (although he never slapped me down). On this occasion, though, he took it all in and nodded pensively when I was done.

“Got it,” he said. “Bottom line, I can’t go in there and take a dive or box myself in for what I decide later. I’ve got to go in there and give this thing my best shot on the merits and then do the right thing when the time comes.”


The summit began with a private dinner in the presidential quarters of the Kremlin on June 3. As I entered the room behind Clinton, Putin welcomed me as though I were an old pal and a fellow weekend warrior, wounded on the battlefield of middle age: I was on a cane after knee surgery, the result of an injury on top of too many years of running. Putin sympathized, saying he’d been finding it hard to stay fit and was therefore more prone to pulling a muscle, which would then throw off his whole “physical culture” regimen. Part of the problem, he added, with just the slightest hint of a smile, was that now that he was the president of the country, no one wanted to be his judo sparring partner.

Turning his attention to Clinton, Putin asked solicitously how Chelsea had adjusted to life in the White House (his own teenage daughters were isolated because of all the security, he said); how Hillary was faring in her campaign for the Senate in New York (Clinton expressed cautious optimism); and how Al Gore was doing in his race (recent polls showed him running slightly behind Bush). Clinton predicted that the election would be extremely close. He explained that George W. Bush’s strategy hinged on convincing the voters that “he’s a slightly more conservative version of me. Missile defense is one of the issues on which he’s trying to tell the people, ‘I’m different than Clinton—I’m better because I’m tougher.’”

Putin laughed appreciatively, as though to show he knew all about the virtues of running as the tough guy. Then he remarked, “Well, it’s important not to let the best become the enemy of the good.” The watchword on both sides, he added, was “do no harm.”

Careful student that Putin was of his visitor’s file, he probably knew that Hippocrates’ famous counsel was one of Clinton’s own favorite adages. (I’d heard him use it nine years before, in August 1991, when he was trying to decide how not to complicate Gorbachev’s and Yeltsin’s lives during the Soviet coup—and many times since.) This one cryptic comment seemed to be as much as Putin wanted to say about missile defense. Clinton let the subject slide for the time being.

In the long, meandering discussion that followed, Putin would occasionally drop in a phrase of English, usually to underscore agreeableness or deference (“okay” or “excuse me”). He seemed to be following much of what Clinton said even before it was interpreted.

It was all very friendly. As in earlier encounters, only when the subject of Chechnya arose did Putin’s eyes narrow and his manner become more hard-edged. The Chechens were terrorists, and Russia was going to deal with them as such. He scoffed at reports of “alleged, mythical atrocities by the Russian army.”

Eventually, seeing that Putin was not going to return to the subject of NMD, Clinton circled back to it himself. He laid out the political argument that Sandy had used with Sergei Ivanov: if Bush won the election, it would be harder for him to undo a done deal than to walk away from unfinished business. The compromise the U.S. was proposing, he said, “will be a strong precedent for establishing that any future missile defense would have to be based on mutual agreement.” He added the promise of lower START III numbers than he’d agreed to with Yeltsin in Helsinki.

Clinton concluded with a fervent appeal for Putin to worry less about the vulnerability of Russia to American nuclear attack and worry more about the danger both countries faced from proliferation. “We’re caught in a time warp here,” said Clinton. “Thirty years from now people will look back on the cold war and the U.S.-Russian nuclear stand-off as ancient history. Our countries will be working together against new threats—rogue states that are menacing the world with chemical and biological weapons and suitcase bombs, new threats deriving from religious and ethnic conflict and religious extremism. How do we get on the right side now for that point in the future? How do we make sure that we’re part of the same system working together? How do we not let ourselves be trapped in the cold war mentality while at the same time keeping mutual deterrence strong between us until we come up with something better? And how do we take advantage of the opportunity and the responsibility we have to bring levels of nuclear weapons much lower? I believe we can have a helluva lot of mutual deterrence with smaller arsenals.”

“It may surprise you,” replied Putin, “but I agree with you—in contrast to some of my colleagues, including several in the Ministry of Defense. In the future, suitcase bombs are a much bigger threat.”
Listening to this, I thought to myself that this was the best example yet of a Putin wind-up for a curve ball. Sure enough, Putin went on to say, “Now, there are some points where I might take slight issue with you. For example, you’re saying, ‘We have to do this now.’ I think it would be better to focus on the threats we’ll face thirty years from now…”

Clinton, who rarely interrupted, did so at this moment, and with an uncharacteristic sharpness in his voice: “Listen, I’ve got to focus on threats a lot sooner than that.” He was referring to the missile programs of North Korea and Iran.

Putin, who wasn’t expecting a push-back, did a slight double-take. “Okay, okay,” he said, “I understand perfectly well that the U.S. isn’t getting ready to launch a nuclear strike on Russia, but we’ve got to treat the balance between us very carefully, with an eye to the future as well as to the present.”

Putin went on to say that a few blocks away, at the Ministry of Defense, Russian officials were frantically planning countermeasures to NMD that could cause problems for the U.S. and its allies. (He was referring, we believed, to such steps as the vigorous deployment of shorter-range nuclear missiles that would threaten Europe, a return to reliance on multiple warheads, or MIRVs, atop Russia’s intercontinental missiles and the sharing of MIRV technology with the Chinese.)

The logic of the U.S. position, Putin continued, might have a certain legitimacy, but there was another logic that he found more compelling. Clinton had been president of the U.S. while a new Russia was coming into being. He’d done a great deal to help Russia and strengthen the bilateral relationship. In that sense Clinton was one of the leading citizens of the world. But that made it all the harder for Putin to imagine how Clinton could make a mistake that endangered international security. Apart from the pressures of American domestic politics, Putin didn’t see any basis for a decision that would violate the physician’s oath to do no harm. (There it was again.) Of course, Putin stressed, his preference was to come to terms with Clinton. But they needed to do so on genuinely common ground. The principles document they were going to sign later during the summit met that standard. It helped identify a path forward that would allow Clinton to avoid spurring a new arms race and plunge the U.S. and Russia back into the mutual mistrust of the bad old days.

In trying to argue Clinton out of NMD, Putin claimed to be speaking not just for Russia. If he and Clinton failed to find a way out of their impasse, other countries—he probably had China principally in mind—would react as well in ways that would be bad for the whole world. How would that look? he asked.

He concluded by urging Clinton to keep everything he’d said in mind before making a decision.

Putin’s peroration was typical of what we’d now come to expect from him. He had lavished praise on Clinton as camouflage for a rebuff and a warning. By my count, Putin had uttered nearly two hundred words, but they boiled down to one: “no.”

As though to make clear that it was also the last word on the subject, he rather peremptorily terminated the discussion and suggested a tour of the Kremlin residence before dessert. He showed us a sumptuous duplex library with a bust of Pushkin prominently on display, a private chapel with a baptismal fount, his personal gym with a universal weight machine and a massage table. Then, on our way back to the dining room, he stopped for a moment to point out a darkened chamber no longer in use. It was, he explained, the clinic for “the previous resident.”

That gave Clinton a chance to mention that he would be paying his respects to Boris Yeltsin on Monday, just before leaving Moscow. He asked if Yeltsin was still in the same dacha where he’d resided as president.

“Yes,” said Putin, “I let him stay there.”


The remainder of the summit was desultory, in large measure because on NMD, which everyone knew was Topic A, there wasn’t much more to be said. The two presidents signed the principles document in a public ceremony on Sunday afternoon, June 4. Answering questions from the press after the signing, Clinton stressed that he had not made a decision on deployment. “I do not believe,” he said, that the U.S. program constituted “a threat to strategic stability and mutual deterrence. The Russian side disagrees. But we had a lot of agreement here,” and it had been captured, he added, in the principles document.

“I do not want the United States to withdraw from the ABM regime because I think it has contributed to a more stable, more peaceful world. It has already been amended once [in 1974, when each side agreed to have only one ABM site], and its framers understood that circumstances might change and threats might arise which were outside the context of U.S.-now Russian relations.” He and President Putin, he added, “acknowledge that there is a threat; it needs to be met; and we’re trying to bridge our differences. And I think that’s where we ought to leave it.”


The next morning, Clinton held a farewell meeting with Putin in the ceremonial office at the Kremlin that Yeltsin had renovated with statues of the various czars and the one empress who epitomized Russia’s greatness in the past.

Clinton, making small talk, commented on each of the statues—Peter’s founding of Putin’s hometown, Catherine’s aggrandizement of Russian territory, Alexander II’s assassination.

“You know Russian history very well,” said Putin. “You could be the president of this country. Or maybe we could switch places.”

Then, to Clinton’s surprise and mine, Putin, for no apparent reason, returned to the subject of NMD, as though to make sure that his guest understood the Russian refusal to go further than the principles document.

Putin said he wanted to talk to Clinton not just in his capacity as the president of the U.S. but as a human being whom Putin liked and whom the Russian people liked, someone who’d earned a reputation not just for being well-spoken, as Clinton had demonstrated several times during his visit, but who was a good listener too—someone who paid attention to “the other guy’s point of view.” Could he speak to Clinton on that basis? he asked before continuing.

“Sure,” said Clinton, a tad warily.

Why then, asked Putin, did Clinton keep pushing national missile defense so hard? Putin recognized that there were threats on the horizon that the U.S. and Russia should be preparing to deal with. They had two choices: they could counter those threats jointly, or each side could take steps on its own. Putin knew that there were some in America who thought the U.S. should take the latter course; that America didn’t need Russia’s permission or cooperation; that the U.S. could do whatever it wanted; that Russia was too weak to do anything about it—too weak to launch another spiral in the arms race.

“But please believe me,” he said, speaking very slowly and softly: Russia was capable of an “adequate response” and always would be. That would be true regardless of who the president of Russia was. If NMD went forward, there would be reciprocal action—“maybe quite unexpected, probably asymmetrical”—that is, measures intended not to mimic American high-tech programs but to thwart them. Whatever action Russia took would threaten the territory of the United States.

“I know you’ve got your own decision to make, and your successor’s got his decision to make,” Putin continued. Perhaps, according to the American logic, the rest of the world would just swallow what the U.S. president decided, whatever it was. But Putin was putting Clinton on notice what to expect. Or actually, he added, correcting himself, he was warning Clinton that the result might be quite unpredictable and therefore all the more dangerous.

“Look,” said Clinton, trying to suppress what I could see was his annoyance, “I’ve worked hard to make this a good meeting for both of us, including on the security issues. I told you I thought we’d dealt with a difficult problem about as well as we could. I’m determined, if possible, to find a way forward together. I don’t think that the U.S. has the unique power to do whatever it wants and to say to hell with the rest of the world and to hell with what anyone else thinks. I’m trying to find a way to work with you on adapting the existing security system to tomorrow’s threats without doing harm with regard to what’s happening elsewhere. Where your point of view and mine come together is on the principle that we should adapt to new threats and”—he added after a pause, so that Putin knew that Clinton too listened carefully to his partner and knew when his own lines were being played back to him—“do no harm.”

After the meeting came to a close, there was some milling around while Russian security and protocol called for Clinton’s motorcade to position itself for the departure. While Putin conferred with several of his aides in hushed tones in a corner of his outer office, Clinton and I had a brief moment to ourselves.
“I guess that guy thought I didn’t get it the first time,” he said under his breath. “Either he’s dense or thinks I am. Anyway, let’s get this thing over with so we can go see Ol’ Boris.”

Putin rejoined Clinton, took him by the arm and, with me tagging along behind, led him down the long red-carpeted corridor and out through the Czar’s Entrance to the Grand Kremlin Palace, where they paused for a moment to shake hands and say good-bye in the sunshine.


Bill Clinton still had more than seven months of his presidency ahead of him, but his work with Russia was mostly done. It has always been difficult for an administration to accomplish much its final year in office. Doing business with Russia in 2000 was further stymied by the lingering dispute over national missile defense, which had, for nearly a year, taken its toll on the political will and diplomatic energy necessary to deal with other issues.

In another test of the NMD system in early July, the “kill vehicle” that was supposed to guide itself into the path of a dummy warhead in space failed to separate from the booster rocket, strengthening the argument for deferring deployment on technical grounds. Three weeks later, on a visit to Pyongyang, Vladimir Putin heard from Kim Jong-il a vague though intriguing proposal that North Korea might suspend its ballistic missile program in exchange for international assistance in launching satellites into orbit. Perhaps the North Koreans really were, as some experts had previously believed, more interested in getting the world’s attention and money than in mounting a serious threat to Japan or the U.S. If so, they might be open to verifiable restrictions on their missile program.

On September 1, in a speech at Georgetown University, Clinton announced that he was putting on hold plans to begin construction of the radar site at the tip of the Aleutian Island chain in Alaska—the step that government lawyers believed would have breached the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. Clinton reviewed the criteria he’d specified the year before as the basis for a decision. The tests to date, he said, did not provide sufficient confidence in the technology and operational effectiveness of the system for him to move forward with deployment. While NMD would continue as a research-and-development program, Clinton was leaving to his successor the decision of whether to field it as an active part of American defenses and, if so, whether to seek Russian agreement to adjustments in the ABM treaty.


A few hours before Clinton’s speech, I called Yuri Mamedov to urge that the Russian government resist the temptation to pop the corks of champagne bottles in public, since celebrating, to say nothing of gloating, wasn’t justified. Deferral of NMD deployment did not mean cancellation. The logic for altering the strategic equation to take account of threats from rogue states was still compelling. The need to reconcile more capable defenses with an amended ABM treaty was unfinished business that the Putin government would have to take up with the next American administration. If George W. Bush won, the Russians would find themselves dealing with an American president who was enthusiastic about a far more ambitious anti-missile program than the one Clinton had proposed. Moreover, Bush was pushing an unfettered missile defense not just to destroy enemy warheads but also as a way of scuttling the ABM treaty.

The Russians’ official response to Clinton’s Georgetown speech was appropriately muted, but our allies’ sigh of relief could almost be heard across the Atlantic.

In the U.S., Clinton’s decision seemed anti-climactic. Objective observers saw the case for deferral as a no-brainer, while gung-ho advocates of NMD had long since discounted the Clinton version of the program as militarily puny and strategically objectionable precisely because it was designed to be as compatible as possible with the ABM treaty.

Strobe Talbott, who served as deputy secretary of state from 1994 to 2001, is the founding director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization and will assume the presidency of the Brookings Institution in July. His book was published in May by Random House, and the excerpts here are reprinted with his permission.


Assessing the New U.S.-Russian Pact

John Holum

The Bush administration should be congratulated for completing an arms control treaty and for doing so in a timely manner. This new treaty further defines an important truth: the Cold War is long over and the United States and Russia are no longer adversaries.

As compared to previous administrations, including those of President Reagan and the first President Bush, it is fair to say that the current administration is not generally enamored of formal arms control. This is not an observation that anyone in the administration would dispute, and it is reflected in the administration’s approach to the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention protocol, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and UN efforts to control small arms.

The administration’s wariness of arms control is also reflected in its initial approach to strategic offensive nuclear arms reductions. The Bush team originally wanted to reduce the number of deployed offensive arms by unilateral decisions and to confirm these decisions with a handshake rather than a legally binding agreement. As reflected in January’s nuclear posture review, the administration also apparently sees a larger and more durable role for nuclear weapons in international affairs. For example, the review explicitly suggests their use in response to non-nuclear attacks.

In that context, this new treaty, to some extent, represents a reversal of the administration’s unilateral approach. However, the treaty does not point to a major reversal. Aside from the number of warheads and delivery vehicles each side actually mates up and deploys, the treaty essentially regards each side’s nuclear posture as its own business. It is also up to each side whether they will actually eliminate any of the nuclear weapons they remove from deployment.

The new treaty sets aside some arms control gains in START II. That treaty would have eliminated all remaining land-based missiles with multiple warheads, most significantly more than 150 Russian SS-18 heavy missiles with 10 warheads each, long considered a potential first-strike weapon. With the new treaty, the administration is effectively abandoning START II and this key limit on multiple-warhead ICBMs.

Because the new treaty gives Washington and Moscow until 2012 to get down to the 1,700-2,200 warhead range, the number of warheads deployed in the interim are likely to be higher than they would have been under START II. Even as extended in 1997, that treaty would have taken the two sides down to 3,500 warheads by 2007, and relevant delivery vehicles would have been deactivated by 2003. Under the new treaty’s timetable and the nuclear posture review, the United States will still have some 3,800 warheads in 2008.

Furthermore, it is disappointing that in the closing days of the discussions on the new treaty, efforts to adopt new transparency measures that may have helped to get a handle on the large numbers of Russian tactical nuclear weapons were apparently dropped. Washington and Moscow had agreed to address these weapons in the context of START III negotiations, which have also now been abandoned.

On the flip side, the advantages the United States can claim from the treaty fall principally in the realm of military flexibility. The Pentagon can develop its nuclear force structure without requirements to meet detailed treaty limitations, and, of course, there is no longer any link between strategic reductions and constraints on missile defenses, as there would have been with the agreements linked to START II’s entry into force.

The treaty should go down fairly well in Russia. President Putin came to the negotiating table with virtually no leverage. He could not bargain warhead numbers down because it has long been obvious that Russia cannot afford to maintain its existing forces and, in fact, Moscow has for years been pushing for a lower number than the United States would accept. Previously, Putin’s main leverage to extract lower numbers and other concessions had been his ability to withhold amendment of the ABM Treaty, but that card evaporated last December when President Bush gave notice of U.S. withdrawal from that treaty.

But, in the end, Putin gained important concessions from Washington. First, he got a legally binding agreement, in place of the easily reversible unilateral cuts President Bush initially proposed. Second, he has the appearance, at least, of parity, with the United States coming down to the same range of deployed warheads that Russia is economically capable of sustaining. Third, with START II now defunct, Putin has greater ability to maintain the numbers allowed by the treaty, and so preserve equality, because he can keep land-based MIRVed missiles; Russian SS-18s could account for more than 1,500 warheads by themselves. Fourth, Russia will be able to glean savings since it will not have to get rid of delivery vehicles that START II would have eliminated. So, despite some early criticism from both countries’ legislatures, a relatively smooth path to ratification by both the Duma and the Senate seems assured.

Aside from these more narrow pros and cons, there are two broader areas that need to be closely considered: the agreement’s nonproliferation ramifications, which is a much greater worry than an arms race or military conflict with Russia, and how the agreement will impact elsewhere.

The first concern is a practical one. To the extent that both the United States and Russia keep large numbers of extra warheads and bombs around, there is a greater risk that dangerous materials will fall into the wrong hands. And although they do not have to be interdependent, formal arms control has been an important channel to press Russia in the threat reduction area. It has also been used to pressure Moscow to live up to other obligations, such as not assisting countries like Iran in their pursuit of nuclear weapons and missile technology.

The second concern is a political one. The international community will have a hard time figuring out why the United States pressed to keep so many weapons on the shelf. Washington says that Russia is not an adversary; and China, the country with the next highest number of nuclear weapons, has less than two dozen nuclear weapons that can reach the United States. The non-nuclear-weapon states see the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as a bargain under which they agree to forgo nuclear weapons entirely and the nuclear-weapon states agree to negotiate the ultimate elimination of their nuclear stockpiles. A treaty billed as an arms reduction agreement but under which most of the weapons will be retained could be a hard sell, at least absent a compelling explanation of the need.

In the same vein, non-nuclear-weapon states have relied on assurance received in 1978 and 1995 that nuclear weapons would not be used against them unless, essentially, they attacked a nuclear country in alliance with another nuclear-weapon state. Together with a nuclear posture review that undercuts those assurances, a treaty that allows the retention of thousands of weapons will be questioned as other countries consider how serious they should be about the NPT, the chemical and biological weapons conventions, and other measures that constrain them.

Terrorists, of course, do not join these regimes. But to the extent that the regimes are weakened or undercut and the atmosphere is permissive, terrorists will have an easier time gaining access to weapons of mass destruction. In the end, therefore, perhaps the biggest open question about this new agreement must be, will it help address the dominant security challenge of proliferation, or could it hurt nonproliferation efforts?

John Holum is vice president for international and governmental affairs at Atlas Air, Inc. During the Clinton administration, he served as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security and as director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.


Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty and Joint Statement

The United States of America and the Russian Federation, hereinafter referred to as the Parties,

Embarking upon the path of new relations for a new century and committed to the goal of strengthening their relationship through cooperation and friendship,

Believing that new global challenges and threats require the building of a qualitatively new foundation for strategic relations between the Parties,

Desiring to establish a genuine partnership based on the principles of mutual security, cooperation, trust, openness, and predictability,

Committed to implementing significant reductions in strategic offensive arms,

Proceeding from the Joint Statements by the President of the United States of America and the President of the Russian Federation on Strategic Issues of July 22, 2001 in Genoa and on a New Relationship between the United States and Russia of November 13, 2001 in Washington,

Mindful of their obligations under the Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms of July 31, 1991, hereinafter referred to as the START Treaty,

Mindful of their obligations under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of July 1, 1968, and

Convinced that this Treaty will help to establish more favorable conditions for actively promoting security and cooperation, and enhancing international stability,

Have agreed as follows:

Article I

Each Party shall reduce and limit strategic nuclear warheads, as stated by the President of the United States of America on November 13, 2001 and as stated by the President of the Russian Federation on November 13, 2001 and December 13, 2001 respectively, so that by December 31, 2012 the aggregate number of such warheads does not exceed 1700-2200 for each Party. Each Party shall determine for itself the composition and structure of its strategic offensive arms, based on the established aggregate limit for the number of such warheads.

Article II

The Parties agree that the START Treaty remains in force in accordance with its terms.

Article III

For purposes of implementing this Treaty, the Parties shall hold meetings at least twice a year of a Bilateral Implementation Commission.

Article IV

1. This Treaty shall be subject to ratification in accordance with the constitutional procedures of each Party. This Treaty shall enter into force on the date of the exchange of instruments of ratification.

2. This Treaty shall remain in force until December 31, 2012 and may be extended by agreement of the Parties or superseded earlier by a subsequent agreement.

3. Each Party, in exercising its national sovereignty, may withdraw from this Treaty upon three months written notice to the other Party.

Article V

This Treaty shall be registered pursuant to Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations.
Done at Moscow on May 24, 2002, in two copies, each in the English and Russian languages, both texts being equally authentic.


Source: White House

Joint Statement

The United States of America and the Russian Federation,

Recalling the accomplishments at the Ljubljana, Genoa, Shanghai, and Washington/Crawford Summits and the new spirit of cooperation already achieved;

Building on the November 13, 2001 Joint Statement on a New Relationship Between the United States and Russia, having embarked upon the path of new relations for the twenty-first century, and committed to developing a relationship based on friendship, cooperation, common values, trust, openness, and predictability;

Reaffirming our belief that new global challenges and threats require a qualitatively new foundation for our relationship;

Determined to work together, with other nations and with international organizations, to respond to these new challenges and threats, and thus contribute to a peaceful, prosperous, and free world and to strengthening strategic security;

Declare as follows:

A Foundation for Cooperation

We are achieving a new strategic relationship. The era in which the United States and Russia saw each other as an enemy or strategic threat has ended. We are partners and we will cooperate to advance stability, security, and economic integration, and to jointly counter global challenges and to help resolve regional conflicts.

To advance these objectives the United States and Russia will continue an intensive dialogue on pressing international and regional problems, both on a bilateral basis and in international fora, including in the UN Security Council, the G-8, and the OSCE. Where we have differences, we will work to resolve them in a spirit of mutual respect.

We will respect the essential values of democracy, human rights, free speech and free media, tolerance, the rule of law, and economic opportunity.

We recognize that the security, prosperity, and future hopes of our peoples rest on a benign security environment, the advancement of political and economic freedoms, and international cooperation.
The further development of U.S.-Russian relations and the strengthening of mutual understanding and trust will also rest on a growing network of ties between our societies and peoples. We will support growing economic interaction between the business communities of our two countries and people-to-people and cultural contacts and exchanges.

Political Cooperation

The United States and Russia are already acting as partners and friends in meeting the new challenges of the 21st century; affirming our Joint Statement of October 21, 2001, our countries are already allied in the global struggle against international terrorism.

The United States and Russia will continue to cooperate to support the Afghan people’s efforts to transform Afghanistan into a stable, viable nation at peace with itself and its neighbors. Our cooperation, bilaterally and through the United Nations, the ‘Six-Plus-Two’ diplomatic process, and in other multilateral fora, has proved important to our success so far in ridding Afghanistan of the Taliban and al-Qaida.

In Central Asia and the South Caucasus, we recognize our common interest in promoting the stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of all the nations of this region. The United States and Russia reject the failed model of “Great Power” rivalry that can only increase the potential for conflict in those regions. We will support economic and political development and respect for human rights while we broaden our humanitarian cooperation and cooperation on counterterrorism and counternarcotics.

The United States and Russia will cooperate to resolve regional conflicts, including those in Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Transnistrian issue in Moldova. We strongly encourage the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia to exhibit flexibility and a constructive approach to resolving the conflict concerning Nagorno-Karabakh. As two of the Co-Chairmen of the OSCE’s Minsk Group, the United States and Russia stand ready to assist in these efforts.

On November 13, 2001, we pledged to work together to develop a new relationship between NATO and Russia that reflects the new strategic reality in the Euro-Atlantic region. We stressed that the members of NATO and Russia are increasingly allied against terrorism, regional instability, and other contemporary threats. We therefore welcome the inauguration at the May 28, 2002 NATO-Russia summit in Rome of a new NATO-Russia Council, whose members, acting in their national capacities and in a manner consistent with their respective collective commitments and obligations, will identify common approaches, take joint decisions, and bear equal responsibility, individually and jointly, for their implementation. In this context, they will observe in good faith their obligations under international law, including the UN Charter, provisions and principles contained in the Helsinki Final Act and the OSCE Charter for European Security. In the framework of the NATO-Russia Council, NATO member states and Russia will work as equal partners in areas of common interest. They aim to stand together against common threats and risks to their security.

As co-sponsors of the Middle East peace process, the United States and Russia will continue to exert joint and parallel efforts, including in the framework of the “Quartet,” to overcome the current crisis in the Middle East, to restart negotiations, and to encourage a negotiated settlement. In the Balkans, we will promote democracy, ethnic tolerance, self-sustaining peace, and long-term stability, based on respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the states in the region and United Nations Security Council resolutions. The United States and Russia will continue their constructive dialogue on Iraq and welcome the continuation of special bilateral discussions that opened the way for UN Security Council adoption of the Goods Review List.

Recalling our Joint Statement of November 13, 2001 on counternarcotics cooperation, we note that illegal drug trafficking poses a threat to our peoples and to international security, and represents a substantial source of financial support for international terrorism. We are committed to intensifying cooperation against this threat, which will bolster both the security and health of the citizens of our countries.

The United States and Russia remain committed to intensifying cooperation in the fight against transnational organized crime. In this regard, we welcome the entry into force of the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters on January 31, 2002.

Economic Cooperation

The United States and Russia believe that successful national development in the 21st century demands respect for the discipline and practices of the free market. As we stated on November 13, 2001, an open market economy, the freedom of economic choice, and an open democratic society are the most effective means to provide for the welfare of the citizens of our countries.

The United States and Russia will endeavor to make use of the potential of world trade to expand the economic ties between the two countries, and to further integrate Russia into the world economy as a leading participant, with full rights and responsibilities, consistent with the rule of law, in the world economic system. In this connection, the sides give high priority to Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization on standard terms.

Success in our bilateral economic and trade relations demands that we move beyond the limitations of the past. We stress the importance and desirability of graduating Russia from the emigration provisions of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974, also known as the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. We note that the Department of Commerce, based on its ongoing thorough and deliberative inquiry, expects to make its final decision no later than June 14, 2002 on whether Russia should be treated as a market economy under the provisions of U.S. trade law. The sides will take further practical steps to eliminate obstacles and barriers, including as appropriate in the legislative area, to strengthen economic cooperation.

We have established a new dynamic in our economic relations and between our business communities, aimed at advancing trade and investment opportunities while resolving disputes, where they occur, constructively and transparently.

The United States and Russia acknowledge the great potential for expanding bilateral trade and investment, which would bring significant benefits to both of our economies. Welcoming the recommendations of the Russian-American Business Dialogue, we are committed to working with the private sectors of our countries to realize the full potential of our economic interaction. We also welcome the opportunity to intensify cooperation in energy exploration and development, especially in oil and gas, including in the Caspian region.

Strengthening People-to-People Contacts

The greatest strength of our societies is the creative energy of our citizens. We welcome the dramatic expansion of contacts between Americans and Russians in the past ten years in many areas, including joint efforts to resolve common problems in education, health, the sciences, and environment, as well as through tourism, sister-city relationships, and other people-to-people contacts. We pledge to continue supporting these efforts, which help broaden and deepen good relations between our two countries.

Battling the scourge of HIV/AIDS and other deadly diseases, ending family violence, protecting the environment, and defending the rights of women are areas where U.S. and Russian institutions, and especially non-governmental organizations, can successfully expand their cooperation.

Preventing the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Non-Proliferation and International Terrorism

The United States and Russia will intensify joint efforts to confront the new global challenges of the twenty-first century, including combating the closely linked threats of international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. We believe that international terrorism represents a particular danger to international stability as shown once more by the tragic events of September 11, 2001. It is imperative that all nations of the world cooperate to combat this threat decisively. Toward this end, the United States and Russia reaffirm our commitment to work together bilaterally and multilaterally.

The United States and Russia recognize the profound importance of preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and missiles. The specter that such weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists and those who support them illustrates the priority all nations must give to combating proliferation.

To that end, we will work closely together, including through cooperative programs, to ensure the security of weapons of mass destruction and missile technologies, information, expertise, and material. We will also continue cooperative threat reduction programs and expand efforts to reduce weapons-usable fissile material. In that regard, we will establish joint experts groups to investigate means of increasing the amount of weapons-usable fissile material to be eliminated, and to recommend collaborative research and development efforts on advanced, proliferation-resistant nuclear reactor and fuel cycle technologies. We also intend to intensify our cooperation concerning destruction of chemical weapons.

The United States and Russia will also seek broad international support for a strategy of proactive non-proliferation, including by implementing and bolstering the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the conventions on the prohibition of chemical and biological weapons. The United States and Russia call on all countries to strengthen and strictly enforce export controls, interdict illegal transfers, prosecute violators, and tighten border controls to prevent and protect against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Missile Defense, Further Strategic Offensive Reductions, New Consultative Mechanism on Strategic Security

The United States and Russia proceed from the Joint Statements by the President of the United States of America and the President of the Russian Federation on Strategic Issues of July 22, 2001 in Genoa and on a New Relationship Between the United States and Russia of November 13, 2001 in Washington.
The United States and Russia are taking steps to reflect, in the military field, the changed nature of the strategic relationship between them.

The United States and Russia acknowledge that today’s security environment is fundamentally different than during the Cold War.

In this connection, the United States and Russia have agreed to implement a number of steps aimed at strengthening confidence and increasing transparency in the area of missile defense, including the exchange of information on missile defense programs and tests in this area, reciprocal visits to observe missile defense tests, and observation aimed at familiarization with missile defense systems. They also intend to take the steps necessary to bring a joint center for the exchange of data from early warning systems into operation.

The United States and Russia have also agreed to study possible areas for missile defense cooperation, including the expansion of joint exercises related to missile defense, and the exploration of potential programs for the joint research and development of missile defense technologies, bearing in mind the importance of the mutual protection of classified information and the safeguarding of intellectual property rights.

The United States and Russia will, within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council, explore opportunities for intensified practical cooperation on missile defense for Europe.
The United States and Russia declare their intention to carry out strategic offensive reductions to the lowest possible levels consistent with their national security requirements and alliance obligations, and reflecting the new nature of their strategic relations.

A major step in this direction is the conclusion of the Treaty Between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Strategic Offensive Reductions.

In this connection, both sides proceed on the basis that the Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms of July 31, 1991, remains in force in accordance with its terms and that its provisions will provide the foundation for providing confidence, transparency, and predictability in further strategic offensive reductions, along with other supplementary measures, including transparency measures, to be agreed.

The United States and Russia agree that a new strategic relationship between the two countries, based on the principles of mutual security, trust, openness, cooperation, and predictability requires substantive consultation across a broad range of international security issues. To that end we have decided to:

• establish a Consultative Group for Strategic Security to be chaired by Foreign Ministers and Defense Ministers with the participation of other senior officials. This group will be the principal mechanism through which the sides strengthen mutual confidence, expand transparency, share information and plans, and discuss strategic issues of mutual interest; and

• seek ways to expand and regularize contacts between our two countries’ Defense Ministries and Foreign Ministries, and our intelligence agencies.


May 24, 2002.


A Beginning, Not an End

Daryl G. Kimball

The May 24 signing of the new Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty by Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin is a welcome, though incomplete, step toward reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear dangers. In their zealous pursuit to maintain strategic nuclear flexibility well into the next decade, U.S. negotiators have spurned a historic opportunity to verifiably eliminate excess nuclear weaponry, leaving behind numerous dangers that demand further action.

The new agreement is short. It requires each side to reduce its number of deployed strategic warheads to no more than 2,200 by 2012. It places no restrictions on strategic missiles and bombers and allows each side to determine the composition of its deployed nuclear forces. The treaty does not spell out what is to be done with warheads removed from service.

The White House asserts that this formulation suits the more amicable U.S.-Russian relationship. But the treaty’s limited scope and lack of detail reflect the fact that negotiators simply could not agree on core issues, including how to count deployed warheads. On the whole, the new treaty does not significantly alter the number of existing nuclear delivery systems and therefore only marginally affects the residual nuclear potential of the United States and Russia. The allowance for storage of thousands of reserve warheads undercuts the treaty’s verifiability and makes it more difficult to forecast future force levels. The agreement’s emphasis on flexibility detracts from its predictability, lessening its value in building a more stable and secure U.S.-Russian relationship.

As the Senate reviews the treaty in the coming weeks, it will surely applaud the treaty’s mandate for deployed nuclear force reductions. But the Senate should also press the administration to explain the gaps left in the treaty text and seek action from Bush on a more comprehensive and effective nuclear risk reduction strategy vis-à-vis Russia.

First, the Senate should examine why the old premises of Cold War nuclear targeting continue to dictate the size of the U.S. arsenal. Clearly, the United States and Russia are no longer enemies and have no reason to go to war, but the Bush administration’s proposed nuclear force size and posture are still very much based on deterring and defeating Russia’s nuclear and conventional military forces. As a result, the condition of mutual assured destruction persists. Absent such requirements, there is no plausible threat scenario that requires the deployment of more than a few hundred nuclear warheads, let alone 2,200, with thousands more available for rapid redeployment.

If Putin follows Bush’s policy of warehousing, rather than eliminating, excess warheads, the long-term burden of safeguarding Russia’s already vast and insecure nuclear weapons complex will only grow. The United States should pursue a policy of minimizing reserve forces and offering Russia more assistance to safeguard and demilitarize their excess warheads and nuclear materials.

The treaty promises to remove some but not all strategic warheads from ready launch status. Consequently, the Senate should press the administration to seek further operational changes in the alert status of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces to guard against the risk of accidental launch or miscalculation.

Though verification provisions from the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty will remain in effect until 2009, the new treaty provides no additional verification or transparency measures. Proposals to expand data sharing and improve monitoring of treaty compliance were on the table, but the two sides failed to close a deal. Senators should task U.S. negotiators to work with Russia on new mechanisms to enhance transparency and establish a better baseline on weapons holdings through the Bilateral Implementation Commission established by the new treaty.

Given the pursuit of nuclear weapons by terrorist organizations, it is troubling that Russia retains thousands of poorly accounted-for tactical warheads, which are relatively more vulnerable to theft or diversion than strategic warheads. For now, tactical nuclear weapons are not a top Bush administration priority. Meanwhile, the administration is contemplating the development of new types of—and new uses for—tactical nuclear weapons, a policy that only makes the control of such weapons more challenging. Negotiations leading to the verifiable elimination of tactical nuclear weapons should be high on the U.S.-Russian agenda.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice has said that the new treaty is “a transitional measure to a day when arms control will play a very minor role in U.S.-Russian relations, if a role at all.” But because this treaty fails to lock in strategic nuclear reductions and does not address the vast array of other Cold War-era dangers, that day remains far too distant. The task now is for the United States and Russia to pursue the much-needed next steps with a more comprehensive and lasting nuclear risk reduction strategy.

The Jury Is Still Out

Wade Boese and J. Peter Scoblic

If ratified and implemented, the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty signed May 24 by Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin will reduce the number of U.S. and Russian deployed strategic nuclear warheads by nearly two-thirds over a 10-year period.

More than a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the treaty aims to demonstrate the decreasing hostility and budding friendship of the two former rivals, continuing the trend of reducing U.S. and Russian deployed strategic arsenals through codified agreements—a process that began with the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I). Indeed, the new treaty’s warhead limits go below those of START II and are equivalent to those in the framework established for START III negotiations. In this sense, the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty represents progress.

At the same time, the treaty, which totals less than 500 words, repudiates key arms control principles and achievements, eschewing predictability and compounding the proliferation dangers from Russia’s unsecured nuclear weapons complex. Furthermore, when the reductions are completed, each side will still deploy and store thousands of strategic nuclear warheads whose only purpose is presumably to target the other. Despite Bush administration statements that the United States no longer needs to match Russia warhead for warhead and that mutual assured destruction is being left behind, the number of weapons left in play by this treaty suggests otherwise. Bush’s triumphant claim that the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty “liquidates the Cold War legacy of nuclear hostility” is decidedly premature.

Warhead Deployments

The treaty calls for the United States and Russia to deploy no more than 2,200 strategic warheads each by the end of 2012. Unfortunately, the treaty does not specify which warheads count toward the 2,200 limit, and the United States and Russia remain at odds over the issue.

The treaty does state that the warhead limit is based on previous Bush and Putin statements, including comments made at a November 13, 2001, joint press conference. That day, Bush said the United States would reduce its “operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads to a level between 1,700 and 2,200.” Putin later replied that Russia would “try to respond in kind.”

The Bush administration has said that “operationally deployed” refers to those warheads assigned to ICBMs, bombers, and submarines that are in active service but not to warheads associated with delivery vehicles that are being overhauled or undergoing repairs. Under the Bush administration’s counting rules, the United States can deploy delivery vehicles that can carry several warheads, but only those warheads actually mated to the delivery vehicle at any given time will count toward the treaty’s limit. For example, a 10-warhead ICBM with only one warhead actually on it would count as only one warhead even if nine warheads stored nearby could be loaded onto the missile relatively quickly.

Russia agrees that the limit refers to deployed (as opposed to stored or reserve) warheads, but it had sought rules that would count warheads according to the maximum number any deployed delivery vehicle could carry, provisions similar to those in START I. For example, a deployed missile that could carry 10 warheads would count as 10 warheads regardless of how many warheads were actually on it.

The treaty does not address the counting issue, effectively allowing the United States to pursue its more liberal interpretation. The Russian Foreign Ministry has explicitly stated that it does not believe the treaty refers only to operationally deployed strategic warheads and has indicated that Moscow expects the issue to be discussed further in the implementation commission created by the treaty. The United States, however, apparently considers the matter closed.

If only operationally deployed warheads are counted, meeting the 2,200 limit will require both countries to take approximately 3,000-4,000 warheads out of service, meaning they must either be dismantled or be stored apart from their ICBMs, bombers, and submarines.

The chief value of reducing the number of deployed warheads is that it lowers the number of warheads ready for quick use, thereby lessening the risk of unauthorized or accidental launch. This is a significant advance, given that Russia’s deteriorating early-warning capability could someday lead the Kremlin to mistakenly believe it is under nuclear attack and therefore launch a “retaliatory” strike. Even Russia’s simple awareness of its decreased ability to detect an attack accurately could cause heightened tension during a crisis.

Little Predictability

During the roughly six months of treaty negotiations, the United States insisted that each country be free to do what it wants with its warheads and delivery vehicles to preserve the flexibility to field larger nuclear forces in the future if warranted or desired. For its part, Russia sought measures to make the reductions more permanent by calling for warhead and delivery vehicle destruction.

The Bush administration’s position prevailed. The treaty does not specify what the United States and Russia are to do with the warheads removed from service or the delivery vehicles from which they are separated. Moreover, under the May 24 agreement, the two countries will be permitted to retain as many delivery vehicles as they like—without exceeding START I limits, which will remain in force until 2009—and, thereby, the capability to reload warheads from storage rapidly onto existing delivery vehicles. In fact, the Bush administration plans to keep at least 2,400 warheads in ready reserve, some of which could be redeployed in weeks or months and all of which could be redeployed within three years.

The result is that the treaty offers each side a great deal of flexibility but little ability to predict the other country’s future force structure—a central purpose of arms control. Although neither START I nor START II, which never entered into force, mandated warhead destruction, both treaties required the dismantlement of delivery systems to make it harder for either superpower to redeploy warheads removed from service quickly. The START III framework that Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin agreed to in 1997 called for measures to destroy warheads to make reductions difficult to reverse.

The ability for either the United States or Russia to predict the other’s force level accurately will also be hampered by the lack of a schedule for warhead reductions. This could undermine confidence that either side intends to carry out the reductions in a timely fashion, or at all. Whereas START spelled out specific benchmarks by which progress could be measured during implementation, the new agreement merely sets out an ultimate objective. Moreover, the date that the treaty’s limit of 1,700-2,200 deployed warheads is to take effect—December 31, 2012—is also its expiration date.

Further undermining predictability is the uncertainty about how the reductions will be verified. The treaty states that START I, which has an intrusive and extensive verification regime, will remain in force. But the new treaty does not state that the START I verification regime will be used to confirm that the reductions are taking place.

In a May 24 joint declaration, the two presidents stated that START I will “provide the foundation for providing confidence, transparency, and predictability in further strategic offensive reductions, along with other supplementary measures, including transparency measures, to be agreed.” But U.S. officials report as of the end of May that there have been no decisions on which elements of the START I regime will be used to verify the new reductions.

In addition, START I and its verification regime are set to expire three years before the new reductions are to be achieved, leaving open the question of how final compliance with the new treaty’s terms will be verified.

More Drawbacks

One strategic concern is that the treaty allows multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) on land-based missiles, reversing a significant accomplishment of START II. U.S. negotiators had long sought a ban on land-based MIRVs because they are both lethal weapons and attractive targets—a single ICBM could be used to destroy many enemy targets, but a single enemy warhead could destroy many warheads on the ground if they were mated to a single MIRVed missile. The result is destabilizing because in a crisis either side would be tempted to attack pre-emptively, calculating that it had to use its nuclear forces first or else risk losing them.

Although current U.S.-Russian relations make such a crisis scenario unlikely in the near future, Russia is expected to rely increasingly on land-based MIRVs to field its 1,700-2,200 warheads. This force posture could give the United States the potential for a first-strike capability—or could simply give the Russians this perception—particularly if the United States successfully fields an effective national missile defense.

From a proliferation standpoint, the treaty compounds the post-Soviet danger of “loose nukes.” By permitting Moscow to store warheads removed from service rather than mandating their dismantlement, the treaty will add weapons to Russia’s vast complex of nuclear-warhead and weapons-usable-material storage sites, some of which lack modern security, have poor accounting methods, and are protected by underpaid guards. Adding more warheads to be watched, as well as maintained, will increase the demands on a system that is already financially and technically challenged and that is already considered a potential source of nuclear weapons for terrorists or rogue states.

Indeed, with Washington and Moscow working toward friendlier relations, the warheads Russia keeps in storage—not the ones it deploys on its ICBMs, bombers, and submarines—may well be the greater nuclear threat to the United States.

Destination Unknown

If the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty is assessed solely for what it is, it can be welcomed as another step in reducing deployed U.S.-Russian strategic nuclear arsenals. But it is difficult to ignore what the treaty is not, as well as what it could have been, given warming U.S.-Russian relations and the outlines for START III. And, as discussed above, the new treaty could have unintended consequences whose danger is difficult to gauge at this time.

The terms of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty allow for the accord to be extended and improved, and the treaty establishes a Bilateral Implementation Commission that will meet at least twice per year. This body could serve as a forum to address some of the treaty’s shortcomings.

Unfortunately, indications from the Bush administration, which initially opposed even codifying strategic reductions, suggest that this treaty will not be used as a stepping stone to further arms control and that the Bilateral Implementation Commission will not be used for much, at least not while George W. Bush is president. In fact, the Bush administration may see this treaty as its first and last arms control agreement. Commenting on the strategic reductions agreement and the upcoming U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, Secretary of State Colin Powell said May 15 that U.S.-Russian “strategic issues are taken care of now.”

How the treaty will be perceived within the context of the global nuclear nonproliferation regime is an important issue that is unanswerable for now. Completion of the accord could be seen as another step by the United States and Russia toward fulfilling their Article VI nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty commitment to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race.” Yet the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty’s lack of provisions for dismantling and eliminating warheads as well as delivery vehicles contradicts a pledge made by the nuclear-weapon states in May 2000 to apply the principle of irreversibility to arms control measures.

Whether the treaty proves to be a net gain or loss for U.S. security and international stability depends in large part on how Russia chooses to deploy its remaining forces, how secure the storage or dismantlement of its downloaded warheads are, and how the relationship between Washington and Moscow evolves. Until such questions can be answered, a final verdict on the treaty’s value will have to wait.

Pentagon Keeps Satellite System, Nixes New Naval Missile Defense

June 2002

By Wade Boese

A senior Pentagon official announced May 2 that a sophisticated satellite system for monitoring global ballistic missile launches would get a new lease on life, but a sea-based missile defense system cancelled last December would not be resurrected in any form.

Despite program troubles and climbing costs, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Edward Aldridge told reporters that the Space-Based Infrared System-high (SBIRS-high) satellite constellation, which is being developed to replace existing satellites first launched in the early 1970s, was “essential” to U.S. national security and would be continued.

Originally projected to cost $1.8 billion, the SBIRS-high program has experienced an approximately $2 billion increase in engineering and manufacturing development, which does not take into account future procurement and operational costs. The Air Force requested $814 million for the program in the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2003 budget request, but the Senate Armed Services Committee has proposed trimming that amount by $100 million.

U.S. law requires that Pentagon programs with projected per unit cost increases greater than 25 percent be reviewed and certified by the secretary of defense, if they are to continue receiving funding. To avoid cancellation, a program must be deemed “essential” to national security. It must also be determined that no cheaper alternative program exists, that the costs are “reasonable,” and that the program’s management structure will keep future costs in check.

To enable its certification by Aldridge on May 2, the SBIRS-high program had begun to undergo restructuring. Aldridge said that the program’s primary private contractor, Lockheed Martin, took action to correct its performance and management, which Aldridge said the company recognized as needing “some serious adjustment.” A Lockheed spokesperson explained May 22 that the company had “assessed all key positions and assigned new leadership.”

Appearing May 15 before the defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Secretary of the Air Force James Roche testified that SBIRS-high had been taken back to “square one.” He reported that an evaluation had revealed problems with the system’s “basics,” including its software and engineering.

Roche said the government would pay more attention to the program. Yet he cautioned senators that the program “is still in difficulty” and that he did not want them to believe “that we’ve got it fixed.”

Captain Dan Theisen, an Air Force spokesperson, said the first launch of a SBIRS-high satellite is scheduled to occur in fiscal year 2007 and that a fully operational system is expected to be in orbit around 2011. A completed system would be comprised of four satellites in geosynchronous earth orbit with additional sensors on two host satellites in a highly elliptical orbit.

Aldridge’s comments at his press briefing suggested a completed system is not guaranteed. He warned that if in six months SBIRS-high appeared to be “going south, I have no hesitation to pull the plug.”

Aldridge’s warning has credibility because he cancelled the Navy Area Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (NATBMD) system late last year for spiraling costs, poor performance, and schedule delays. The ship-based program aimed to destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles near the end of their flights.

Several days after killing the naval system, Aldridge said the Pentagon would develop a new system to perform the same mission, but on May 2 he said there would be no replacement program. One reason he offered was that a new program would be too expensive. “We do not need any more pressure on our budget resulting from a new start,” Aldridge explained.

Instead, the Pentagon will explore expanding the sea-based midcourse missile defense system, which is designed to strike short- and medium-range ballistic missiles while they are traveling through space, to perform the NATBMD mission.

The sea-based midcourse system is scheduled to attempt its first target intercept in June.

Pentagon Keeps Satellite System, Nixes New Naval Missile Defense

Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT)


This treaty required the United States and the Russian Federation to reduce their deployed strategic nuclear forces. It took effect and expired on Dec. 31, 2012. Both could then change the size of their deployed strategic nuclear forces.


The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) required both the United States and the Russian Federation to reduce and limit their strategic nuclear warheads to a certain number, determine the composition and structure of their offensive arms and agree that the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty I (START I) remain in force. SORT did not have any verification or compliance provisions. Yet, both states agreed to meet at least twice a year at the Bilateral Implementation Commission (BIC) for progress updates. The Treaty allowed for withdrawal upon 90 days of written notice.

Opened for Signature: 24 May 2002

Entry into force: 1 June 2003

Official Text: http://www.state.gov/t/isn/10527.htm

Status and Signatories: http://www.nti.org/learn/treaties-and-regimes/strategic-offensive-reductions-treaty-sort/

ACA Backgrounder: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/sort-glance

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Experts Call Nuclear Arms Treaty a Missed Opportunity, Urge Pursuit of Comprehensive Nuclear Risk Reduction Strategy



For Immediate Release: May 24, 2002

Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball (202) 463-8270 x107 or Philipp Bleek (202)
463-8270 x103

(Washington, D.C.): A leading American arms control and international security organization called today’s signing of the new U.S.-Russian “Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions” a modest step that unfortunately falls short of what could and should be done to move beyond the Cold War-era nuclear rivalry. Experts from the Arms Control Association called on Russian and American leaders to pursue more comprehensive steps to reduce the risks posed by residual Cold War nuclear arsenals.

“Reducing deployed strategic forces by roughly two-thirds is a welcome and long-overdue step, but President Bush has passed up an historic opportunity to verifiably eliminate excess Cold War nuclear weaponry for the sake of maintaining a U.S. capacity to quickly expand strategic nuclear forces in the future,” according to Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

The agreement requires each side to reduce its number of “operationally deployed strategic warheads” from today’s 5,000-6,000 to no more than 2,200 by 2012, when the treaty will expire. Under the treaty each side would reduce its deployed strategic forces by removing warheads from missiles, bombers, and submarines, while allowing the retention of those delivery systems. The treaty does not spell out what is to be done with warheads removed from service. Though verification provisions from the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) will remain in effect until 2009, the new treaty provides no additional verification measures. Either party may withdraw within three months notice.

“The new treaty does not significantly alter the number of existing nuclear delivery systems and therefore only marginally affects the residual nuclear potential of the United States and Russia,” observed Jack Mendelsohn, a former member of the U.S. Strategic Arms Limitations Talks and START negotiating teams. “It creates thousands of ‘phantom warheads’ undercutting its own verifiability, and it contains no reduction schedule, making it difficult to predict force levels over the next decade,” he added.

“The treaty’s content is consistent with the Bush administration’s goal of maintaining maximum strategic flexibility,” Kimball observed. “The agreement ’s emphasis on flexibility only detracts from its predictability, lessening the likelihood that it can play a role in building a more stable and lasting
U.S.-Russian relationship,” he added.

While the Bush administration has said it intends to dismantle some warheads, it also plans to maintain the capability to redeploy at least 2,400 warheads from its active reserves within three years of the conclusion of the agreement, giving the United States the capability to deploy at least 4,600 strategic warheads by 2015. Several thousand more warheads in lower stages of readiness could also be redeployed over a longer period of time. Russia is likely to follow the U.S. lead and seek to retain the capability to increase its nuclear forces if necessary.

“If Russia mirrors the U.S. policy of warehousing, rather than eliminating, these deadly weapon systems, Moscow will be adding warheads to a vast and insecure nuclear weapons complex, which already poses a significant proliferation risk,” said Wade Boese, research director for the Association.

The new agreement is a departure from past agreements. Unlike START I and START II, signed by the first President Bush in 1993, this treaty allows each side to maintain existing strategic bombers, submarine-launched missiles, and land-based intercontinental missiles, leaving each side with the capability to quickly reconstitute its current arsenal.

Consistent with the Pentagon’s nuclear posture review, this agreement permits each side to deploy over 2,000 strategic warheads, the majority of which will likely be ready for quick use. Leaked portions of the classified review state “in the event that U.S. relations with Russia significantly worsen in the future, the U.S. may need to revise its nuclear force levels and posture.”

The United States currently deploys approximately 6,000 strategic nuclear warheads on its strategic triad of land-based missiles, submarines, and bombers, and, in addition, it currently has over 1,000 tactical nuclear warheads and more than 5,000 total nuclear warheads in reserve stockpiles. Russia currently deploys an estimated 5,500 strategic nuclear warheads on its strategic triad of land-based missiles, submarines, and bombers. Russia also deploys an estimated 4,000 tactical nuclear weapons and is believed to stockpile another 13,000 strategic and tactical nuclear warheads.

“We encourage the Senate to carefully review the treaty and also secure assurances from the White House that it will pursue a more comprehensive nuclear risk reduction agenda with Russia. That agenda should include verifiable dismantlement of excess strategic warheads; accelerating the withdrawal of excess warheads from deployment; verifiable elimination of the thousands of remaining tactical nuclear weapons; and augmented efforts and resources to improve safeguards of Russian nuclear weapons storage and materials facilities,” Kimball said.

# # #

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

For more information on the Bush-Putin treaty and nuclear weapons, see the
Association’s Web site at www.armscontrol.org

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