"...the Arms Control Association [does] so much to keep the focus on the issues so important to everyone here, to hold our leaders accountable to inspire creative thinking and to press for change. So we are grateful for your leadership and for the unyielding dedication to global nuclear security."
– Lord Des Browne
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative

U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Agreements at a Glance

June 2017

Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107; Kingston ReifDirector for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

Updated: February 2019

Over the past four decades, American and Soviet/Russian leaders have used a progression of bilateral agreements and other measures to limit and reduce their substantial nuclear warhead and strategic missile and bomber arsenals. The following is a brief summary.

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control Agreements


Begun in November 1969, by May 1972, the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) had produced both the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which limited strategic missile defenses to 200 (later 100) interceptors each, and the Interim Agreement, an executive agreement that capped U.S. and Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missile (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 SLBM launch tubes and SLBM-carrying submarines. The agreement ignored strategic bombers and did not address warhead numbers, leaving both sides free to enlarge their forces by deploying multiple warheads (MIRVs) onto 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 June 2002, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the ABM treaty.


In November 1972, Washington and Moscow agreed to pursue a follow-on treaty to SALT I. SALT II, signed in June 1979, limited U.S. and Soviet ICBM, SLBM, and strategic bomber-based nuclear forces to 2,250 delivery vehicles (defined as an ICBM silo, a SLBM launch tube, or a heavy bomber) and placed a variety of other restrictions on deployed strategic nuclear forces. 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. However, 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 "a flawed SALT II Treaty.”


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 required the destruction of excess delivery vehicles which was verified using an intrusive verification regime that involved on-site inspections, the regular exchange of information, including telemetry, and the use of 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 ensuing efforts to denuclearize Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus by returning their nuclear weapons to Russia and making them parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and START I agreements. START I reductions were completed in December 2001 and the treaty expired on Dec. 5, 2009.


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, ten years after signature, but a 1997 protocol moved this deadline to December 2007 because of the extended delay in ratification. Both the Senate and the Duma approved START II, but the treaty did not take effect because the Senate did not 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 II was effectively shelved as a result of the 2002 U.S. withdrawal from the ABM treaty.

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.

SORT (Moscow Treaty)

On May 24, 2002, Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT or Moscow Treaty) under which the United States and Russia reduced their strategic arsenals to 1,700-2,200 warheads each. The warhead limit took effect and expired on the same day, Dec. 31, 2012. Although the two sides did not agree on specific counting rules, the Bush administration asserted that the United States would reduce only warheads deployed on strategic delivery vehicles in active service, i.e., “operationally deployed” warheads, and would not count warheads removed from service and placed in storage or warheads on delivery vehicles undergoing overhaul or repair. The agreement’s limits are similar to those envisioned for START III, but the treaty did 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 was approved by the Senate and Duma and entered into force on June 1, 2003. SORT was replaced by New START on February 5, 2011.


On April 8, 2010, the United States and Russia signed New START, a legally binding, verifiable agreement that limits each side to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 700 strategic delivery systems (ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers), and limits deployed and nondeployed launchers to 800. The treaty-accountable warhead limit is 30 percent lower than the 2,200 upper limit of SORT, and the delivery vehicle limit is 50 percent lower than the 1,600 allowed in START I. The treaty has a verification regime that combines elements of START I with new elements tailored to New START. Measures under the treaty include on-site inspections and exhibitions, data exchanges and notifications related to strategic offensive arms and facilities covered by the treaty, and provisions to facilitate the use of national technical means for treaty monitoring. The treaty also provides for the continued exchange of telemetry (missile flight-test data on up to five tests per year) and does not meaningfully limit missile defenses or long-range conventional strike capabilities. The U.S. Senate approved New START on Dec. 22, 2010. The approval process of the Russian parliament (passage by both the State Duma and Federation Council) was completed Jan. 26, 2011. The treaty entered into force on Feb. 5, 2011 and will expire in 2021, though both parties may agree to extend the treaty for a period of up to five years. Both parties met the treaty’s central limits by the Feb. 4, 2018 deadline for implementation.

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control Agreements

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control Agreements


StatusExpiredNever Entered Into ForceIn Force*ExpiredNever Entered Into ForceNever NegotiatedReplaced by New STARTIn Force
Deployed Warhead LimitN/AN/AN/A6,0003,000-3,5002,000-2,5001,700-2,2001,550
Deployed Delivery Vehicle LimitUS: 1,710 ICBMs & SLBMs
USSR: 2,347
2,250Prohibits ground-based missiles of 500-5,500 km range1,600N/AN/AN/A700
Date SignedMay 26, 1972June 18, 1979Dec. 8, 1987July 31, 1991Jan. 3, 1993N/AMay 24, 2002April 8, 2010
Date Ratifed, U.S.Aug. 3, 1972N/AMay 28, 1988Oct. 1, 1992Jan. 26, 1996N/AMarch 6, 2003Dec. 22, 2010
Ratification Vote, U.S.88-2N/A93-693-687-4N/A95-071-26
Date Entered Into ForceOct. 3, 1972N/AJune 1, 1988Dec. 5, 1994N/AN/AJune 1, 2003Feb. 5, 2011
Implementation DeadlineN/AN/AJune 1, 1991Dec. 5, 2001N/AN/AN/AFeb. 5, 2018
Expiration DateOct. 3, 1977N/Aunlimited durationDec. 5, 2009N/AN/AFeb. 5, 2011Feb. 5, 2021**

*On Feb. 2, 2019, both the United States and Russia announced they were suspending their obligations to the treaty.

**New START allows for the option to extend the treaty beyond 2021 for a period of up to five years.

Nonstrategic Nuclear Arms Control Measures

Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty

Signed Dec. 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, including on-site inspections, the INF Treaty laid the groundwork for verification of the subsequent START I. 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 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.

Both the United States and Russia have raised concerns about the other side’s compliance with the INF Treaty. The United States first publicly charged Russia with developing and testing a ground-launched cruise with a range that meets the INF Treaty definition of a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km in 2014.

Russia denies that it is breaching the agreement and has raised its own concerns about Washington’s compliance. Moscow is charging that the United States is placing a missile defense launch system in Europe that can also be used to fire cruise missiles, using targets for missile defense tests with similar characteristics to INF Treaty-prohibited intermediate-range missiles, and is making armed drones that are equivalent to ground-launched cruise missiles. On Oct. 20, 2018 President Donald Trump announced his intention to “terminate” the agreement citing Russian noncompliance and concerns about China’s missiles, and on Dec. 4, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Russia in “material breach” of the treaty. The Trump administration provided official notice to the other treaty states-parties on Feb. 2, that it would both suspend its obligations to the treaty and withdraw from the agreement in six months—per the treaty's terms—and "terminate" the agreement. The administration has stated that it may reverse the withdrawal if Russia returns to compliance by eliminating its ground-launched 9M729 missile, which the United States alleges is the noncompliant missile which can fly beyond the 500-kilometer range limit set by the treaty. 

Presidential Nuclear Initiatives 

On Sept. 27, 1991, President George H. W. Bush announced that the United States would remove almost all U.S. tactical (nonstrategic) 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 Oct. 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. Under these initiatives, the United States and Russia reduced their deployed nonstrategic stockpiles by an estimated 5,000 and 13,000 warheads, respectively. 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. The Defense Department estimates that Russia possess roughly 2,000 non-strategic nuclear weapons and the numbers are expanding. The United States maintains several hundred nonstrategic B61 gravity bombs for delivery by short-range fighter aircraft. 

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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START I at a Glance

February 2019

Contacts: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107

Updated: February 2019

Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) I was signed July 31, 1991, by the United States and the Soviet Union. Five months later, the Soviet Union dissolved, leaving four independent states in possession of strategic nuclear weapons: Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. On May 23, 1992, the United States and the four nuclear-capable successor states to the Soviet Union signed the Lisbon Protocol, which made all five nations party to the START I agreement. START I entered into force Dec. 5, 1994, when the five treaty parties exchanged instruments of ratification in Budapest. All treaty parties met the agreement's Dec. 5, 2001 implementation deadline. START I expired on Dec. 5, 2009.

On 31 July 1991, the US President, George Bush (sitting on the left), and General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev (sitting on the right), sign the START I Agreement for the mutual elimination of the two countries’ strategic nuclear weapons. (Photo: Susan Biddle/Bush Library)Basic Terms:

  • 1,600 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy (long-range) bombers for each side.
  • 6,000 "accountable" warheads on ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers, of which no more than 4,900 may be on ICBMs and SLBMs, 1,540 on heavy missiles (the Soviet SS-18), and 1,100 on mobile ICBMs (RSM-12M Topol).
  • Ballistic missile throw-weight (lifting power) is limited to 3,600 metric tons on each side.

Counting Rules:

  • Heavy bombers equipped only with bombs or short-range attack missiles (SRAMs) are counted as carrying one warhead each.
  • U.S. heavy bombers may carry no more than 20 long-range air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) each. The first 150 of these bombers count as carrying only 10 ALCMs each.
  • Soviet heavy bombers may carry no more than 16 ALCMs each. The first 180 of these bombers count as carrying only eight ALCMs each.
  • No more than 1,250 warheads may be "downloaded" (removed from) and not counted on existing multiple-warhead ballistic missiles.

Other Provisions:

  • START I ran for 15 years with an option to extend for successive five-year periods. Based on commitments made at the March 1997 Helsinki Summit, the sides agreed in principle to negotiate an agreement making the START treaties unlimited in duration.
  • Separate "politically binding" agreements limit each side to 880 sea-launched cruise missiles with ranges above 600 kilometers and the Soviet Backfire bomber to 500 kilometers.

For more Nuclear Arms Control Agreements between the U.S. and Russia, see: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/USRussiaNuclearAgreements 

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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Mr. President, 'Yes, We Can'

July/August 2015

By Daryl G. Kimball

Barack Obama came into office with a deep understanding of the dangers of nuclear weapons and a strong commitment and a plan to address them. On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the nuclear age, it is time for him to rejuvenate U.S. leadership on nonproliferation and disarmament.

President Obama’s stirring April 2009 Prague address on steps toward a world without nuclear weapons kicked off a busy and successful phase. He promptly negotiated and won Senate approval of the modest but important New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia. U.S. diplomats helped win consensus on a detailed action plan to strengthen the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2010. Obama initiated a series of nuclear security summits to accelerate global efforts to lock down nuclear materials. He launched a new and fruitful policy of pressure and engagement with Iran to secure verifiable constraints on that country’s sensitive nuclear activities.

But aside from progress in the Iran nuclear talks since 2013, the president’s efforts have lost focus and momentum, only in part because the Republicans have seized the majority in the Senate and tensions with Russia have worsened.

In his Prague speech, Obama pledged an “immediate and aggressive” effort to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, but has not followed through, despite having a strong technical and military case for the 1996 pact.

Since 2011, the U.S.-Russian nuclear disarmament dialogue has atrophied. Obama announced in 2013 that the U.S. arsenal could be cut by one-third more and still meet deterrence “requirements.” He proposed renewed talks with Russia to slash both countries’ arsenals further. Unfortunately, Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected that proposal and has failed to offer a substantive alternative.

At the same time, Obama and Putin are pursuing plans for massive nuclear force modernization to preserve their excessive strategic capabilities for decades to come. Although senior Pentagon leaders warn that key elements of the $350 million, 10-year U.S. plan are “unaffordable,” Obama’s team has failed to pursue more-practical, cost-saving options.

Meanwhile, South Asian rivals India and Pakistan continue to amass more fissile material and deploy new nuclear delivery systems, China has begun to put multiple warheads on its arsenal of 75 long-range missiles, and North Korea has tested nuclear weapons and amassed more bomb material as Pyongyang and Washington haggle over the conditions for resuming talks.

Such developments led former Defense Secretary William Perry to warn last month, “We are about to begin a new round in the nuclear arms race unless some brake is put on it right now.”

Worse still, Russian officials are reverting to dangerous Cold War rhetoric and veiled nuclear threats. Washington must not reciprocate. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said June 21 on his way to a NATO meeting, “We all understand the gravity of nuclear dangers. We continue to deter, to have a strong deterrent and prepare to respond.”

Respond? With several hundred nuclear weapons available for striking targets within minutes of a launch order, there is no response that would not risk the total annihilation of both countries and the United States’ NATO partners. Obama’s team must lower, not increase, nuclear tensions even as it counters Russian meddling in Ukraine, beginning with the resumption of military-to-military contacts with Russia. At the same time, Obama must actively pursue new proposals to halt nuclear buildups elsewhere around the globe.         

First, Obama should invite Putin into an arrangement under which the two leaders would jointly accelerate the pace of reductions under New START and cut their respective strategic arsenals to 1,000 deployed warheads and 500 delivery vehicles. In addition, Obama could offer to resume formal talks on missile defense capabilities and deployments to assuage Russian concerns, real and imagined. 

Second, Obama must rein in the Pentagon’s Strangelove-ian nuclear force modernization scheme. To start, he should halt plans for 1,000 to 1,100 new, air-launched cruise missiles, which would cost some $20-30 billion and are designed for nuclear war-fighting, not deterrence. The White House should also put the brakes on Air Force plans to spend $62 billion on a new fleet of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Third, Obama should help initiate a new global nuclear restraint and disarmament dialogue. He should call for other nuclear-armed states to freeze the overall size of their stockpiles as the United States and Russia reduce theirs. He should signal support for high-level summits on multilateral nuclear disarmament involving nuclear-armed and non-nuclear-weapon states. Such a process could begin in Hiroshima, where Japan will host the 2016 Group of Seven summit.

In his final months, Obama must also try to reinforce the nuclear test ban by seeking support from the UN Security Council for a resolution that determines that nuclear testing by any state is a threat to international peace and security.

He cannot do it alone. But with more energy and creativity and the backing of congressional allies, international partners, and the many constituencies that support the “Prague vision,” Obama can still achieve important breakthroughs to reduce nuclear dangers.

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the nuclear age, it is time for [President Obama] to rejuvenate U.S. leadership on nonproliferation and disarmament.

The Lisbon Protocol At a Glance

March 2014

Contact: Kingston ReifDirector of Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

Updated: March 2014

A pervasive fear surrounding the collapse of the Soviet Union was the uncertain fate of its nuclear arsenal. In addition to Russia, the emerging states of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine inherited a significant number of nuclear weapons, raising concerns that the Soviet Union would leave four nuclear weapon successor states instead of just one. Aside from increasing the number of governments with their finger on the proverbial nuclear button, the circumstances simultaneously raised concerns that those weapons might be more vulnerable to possible sale or theft. The Lisbon Protocol, concluded on May 23, 1992, sought to alleviate those fears by committing the three non-Russian former Soviet states to return their nuclear weapons to Russia. In spite of a series of political disputes that raised some concerns about implementation of the protocol, all Soviet nuclear weapons were eventually transferred to Russia by the end of 1996.

When the Soviet Union officially dissolved in December 1991, the newly-independent states of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine inherited more than 3,000 strategic nuclear weapons (those capable of striking the continental United States), as well as at least 3,000 tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons. In 1991, the United States and the Soviet Union announced the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives to substantially reduce their respective tactical nuclear weapons arsenals. All dispersed Soviet tactical weapons were reportedly back on Russian soil by the end of 1992, but the strategic weapons posed a larger problem.

The United States and Russia reached a solution to this complex problem by engaging Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine in a series of talks that led to the Lisbon Protocol. That agreement made all five states party to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which required Washington and Moscow to each cut their deployed strategic nuclear forces from approximately 10,000 warheads apiece to down below 6,000 warheads on no more than 1,600 ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), and long-range bombers. The protocol signaled the intentions of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine to forswear nuclear arms and accede to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as non-nuclear-weapon states, a commitment that all three fulfilled and continue to abide by today.


Estimated Warheads in Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine in 1991



Strategic Warheads

Tactical Warheads










Sources: Robert S. Norris, “The Soviet Nuclear Archipelago,” Arms Control Today, January/February 1992, p. 24 and Joseph Cirincione, et al., Deadly Arsenals, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005, p. 366.


Basic Timeline and Provisions:

  • July 31, 1991: The United States and the Soviet Union sign START.
  • Dec. 31, 1991: The Soviet Union officially dissolves, delaying entry into force of START.
  • May 23, 1992: Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and the United States sign the Lisbon Protocol.
    • Under the protocol, all five states become parties to START.
    • Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine promise to accede to the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states “in the shortest time possible.”
  • July 2, 1992: Kazakhstan ratifies START.
  • Oct. 1, 1992: The U.S. Senate ratifies START.
  • Nov. 4, 1992: The Russian State Duma refuses to exchange START instruments of ratification until Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan accede to the NPT.
  • Feb. 4, 1993: Belarus ratifies START.
  • July 22, 1993: Belarus submits its instrument of accession to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state.
  • January 14, 1994: The Trilateral Statement is signed by Presidents Clinton, Yeltsin, and Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine, allowing Ukraine to observe the transfer of weapons from its territory to Russia and the dismantlement of certain systems. It also commits Russia to send some of the uranium extracted from the returned warheads back to Ukraine for fuel.
  • Feb. 14, 1994: Kazakhstan submits its instrument of accession to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state.
  • Dec. 5, 1994: Ukraine submits its instrument of accession to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state.
    • The five START parties exchange instruments of ratification for START, which enters into force.
  • April 24, 1995: Kazakhstan transfers its last strategic weapon to Russia.
  • June 1996: Ukraine transfers its last strategic weapon to Russia.
  • November 1996: Belarus transfers its last strategic weapon to Russia, marking completion of Lisbon Protocol obligations.

Ratification and Implementation:


When the Soviet Union dissolved, the newly-established Republic of Belarus found itself in possession of roughly 800 total nuclear weapons deployed within its borders. Although Russia retained the warhead arming and launch codes, many worried that Belarus might attempt to take control of the weapons. Moreover, President Alexander Lukashenko twice threatened to retain some weapons if NATO deployed nuclear weapons of its own in Poland. However, when a constitutional crisis erupted in November 1996, Lukashenko was finally compelled to finalize the transfers.

Minsk signed the Lisbon Protocol on May 23, 1992, ratified it on Feb. 4, 1993, and deposited its instrument of accession to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state on July 22, 1993. By November 1996 all nuclear warheads in Belarus had been transferred to Russia.


After gaining independence, Kazakhstan with extensive U.S. technical and financial assistance disposed of the strategic nuclear weapons that it inherited from the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan’s 1,410 strategic warheads were deployed on several different systems, including SS-18 ICBMs and cruise missiles carried by Bear-H bombers.

Kazakhstan’s parliament ratified START on July 2, 1992. All tactical nuclear weapons had been withdrawn to Russia by January 1992. The parliament approved accession to the NPT on Dec. 13, 1993, and deposited the state’s NPT instrument of ratification on Feb. 14, 1994. The last of the Kazakh-based strategic nuclear weapons were transferred to Russia by April 24, 1995.


When the Soviet Union dissolved, Ukraine became the third-largest nuclear weapons power in the world behind the United States and Russia. Ukraine’s 1,900 strategic warheads were distributed among ICBMs, strategic bombers, and air-launched cruise and air-to-surface missiles. Although President Leonid Kravchuk signed the Lisbon Protocol on May 23, 1992, Ukraine’s process of disarmament was filled with political obstacles. Many Ukrainian officials viewed Russia as a threat and argued that they should keep nuclear weapons in order to deter any possible encroachment from their eastern neighbor. Although the government never gained operational control over the weapons, it declared “administrative control” in June 1992, and, in 1993, claimed ownership of the warheads, citing the potential of the plutonium and highly enriched uranium they contained for creating peaceful energy.

A resolution passed by the Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, on Nov. 18, 1993, attached conditions to its ratification of START that Russia and the United States deemed unacceptable. Those stated that Ukraine would only dismantle 36% of its delivery vehicles and 42% of its warheads; all others would remain under Ukrainian custody. Moreover, the resolution made those reductions contingent upon assurances from Russia and the United States to never use nuclear weapons against Ukraine (referred to as “security assurances”), along with foreign aid to pay for dismantlement.

In response, the Clinton and Yeltsin administrations intensified negotiations with Kyiv, eventually producing the Trilateral Statement, which was signed on Jan. 14, 1994. This agreement placated Ukrainian concerns by allowing Ukraine to cooperate in the transfer of the weapons to Russia, which would take place over a maximum period of seven years. The agreement further called for the transferred warheads to be dismantled and the highly enriched uranium they contained to be downblended into low-enriched uranium. Some of that material would then be transferred back to Ukraine for use as nuclear reactor fuel. Meanwhile, the United States would give Ukraine economic and technical aid to cover its dismantlement costs. Finally, the United States and Russia responded to Ukraine’s security concerns by agreeing to provide security assurances upon its NPT accession.

In turn, the Rada ratified START, implicitly endorsing the Trilateral Statement. However, it did not submit its instrument of accession to the NPT until Dec. 5, 1994, when Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States provided security assurances to Ukraine. That decision by the Rada met the final condition for Russia’s ratification of START, and subsequently brought that treaty into force. For more information, see Ukraine, Nuclear Weapons and Security Assurances at a Glance.

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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Disarmament Efforts Get New Impetus

Cole Harvey

In a major disarmament step, Russia and the United States appear poised to negotiate a significant new agreement on strategic arms reduction as the clock ticks toward the December 2009 expiration of the 1991 START. At the same time, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued a report detailing proposed steps for an eventual ban on all nuclear weapons.

Speaking at the 45th Munich Conference on Security Policy Feb. 7, Vice President Joe Biden reiterated the Obama administration's commitment to a new strategic arms agreement with Russia. The two countries should "renew the verification procedures in the START...and then go beyond existing treaties to negotiate deeper cuts in our arsenals," he said.

The Russian response to Biden's address and to other overtures from the Obama administration on the issue has been largely positive. After meeting with Biden in Munich Feb. 8, Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov said that the new administration's stance "inspires optimism." Ivanov agreed with Biden that Russia and the United States should extend the START verification procedures and agree to reduce their nuclear arsenals.

Working out the details of a new arms agreement between Russia and the United States promises to be a thorny process. Ivanov, in his address to the Munich conference, argued that any new agreement should limit delivery vehicles as well as warheads and should ban the deployment of strategic weapons beyond national borders. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in her Jan. 13 confirmation hearing that the Obama administration "will seek deep, verifiable reductions in all U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons-whether deployed or nondeployed, strategic or nonstrategic."

U.S.-Russian relations have been strained by the Bush administration's plan to install elements of a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, presenting an obstacle to any new arms deal. In his Munich speech, Ivanov claimed that the European sites of the U.S. missile defense program are part of a system "aimed at deterring Russia's nuclear missile potential." U.S. officials have maintained that the system is intended to counter a potential nuclear attack from Iran.

Obama administration officials have not explicitly backed away from deploying missile defenses in Europe but have indicated that the previous administration's policies are up for review. In his Munich address, Biden declared that the United States will continue to develop missile defense capabilities "provided the technology is proven to work and cost effective."

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, in a Feb. 13 interview with Interfax in Moscow, held out the possibility of a revised missile defense policy in exchange for Russian cooperation on Iran's nuclear program. Burns stated that the Obama administration could reevaluate the need for missile defense systems in Europe if "through strong diplomacy with Russia and our other partners, we can reduce or eliminate [the Iranian] threat." Burns also declared that the administration is open to the possibility of "new missile defense configurations" that incorporate Russian assets as well as those of NATO allies.

In a joint press conference with the Czech foreign minister on Feb. 10, Clinton reiterated that the United States reserves the right to develop a missile defense capability in Europe if the threat from Iran continues to mount. "If the Iranians continue on this path," she said, "one of the options of free countries...is to defend ourselves."

Separately, the British Foreign Office released a report Feb. 4 detailing proposed steps to rid the world of nuclear weapons. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, noting that Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Obama have each pledged to work toward a world free of nuclear weapons, wrote that the time has come to move from "a decade of deadlock to a decade of decisions."

The British report lays out six "attainable" steps toward abolishing nuclear weapons. These steps are designed to curb proliferation, decrease stockpiles, and build confidence.

The international community must agree to more stringent measures to prevent proliferation, according to the report, while working with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to help states develop peaceful nuclear technology.

Next, the report urges Russia and the United States to make substantial reductions in their total nuclear stockpiles, not simply in deployed weapons. IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei echoed this call in a Feb. 16 editorial in the International Herald Tribune, suggesting that Russia and the United States could reduce their stockpiles to as few as 500 warheads each.

Fourth, the British Foreign Office calls for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which the Obama administration supports. In her Jan. 13 testimony, Clinton said that she and President Barack Obama are "strongly committed to Senate approval of the CTBT and to launching a diplomatic effort to bring on board other states whose ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force." The CTBT has been ratified by 148 countries, but the United States and eight other specific states must still ratify the treaty before it can take effect.

In order to lay the groundwork for an eventual ban on nuclear weapons, the report also calls for the negotiation and implementation of a treaty banning the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for use in nuclear weapons.

Lastly, the report urges those states possessing nuclear weapons to begin a strategic dialogue to explore the political and security issues that would arise during the transition from low numbers of nuclear weapons to zero nuclear weapons. The British government has proposed a 2009 conference of the five nuclear-weapon states recognized in the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to discuss these issues.

As Russia and the United States seem prepared to negotiate substantial reductions in their nuclear arsenals and with the Obama administration supportive of the CTBT, there is an emerging consensus on many of the points listed in the British plan. As Ivanov noted in Munich, however, "[T]he devil is in the details."

In a major disarmament step, Russia and the United States appear poised to negotiate a significant new agreement on strategic arms reduction as the clock ticks toward the December 2009 expiration of the 1991 START. At the same time, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued a report detailing proposed steps for an eventual ban on all nuclear weapons. (Continue)

Obama Sets New Course on Arms Control

Cole Harvey

In recent public statements and congressional hearings, Obama administration officials have indicated that they will reverse Bush-era policies on a number of major arms control issues. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other Obama appointees have said that they will actively pursue ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as well as a new strategic arms agreement with Russia and have revised the U.S. approach to negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons.

The statements made clear that the new administration planned to press forward with the policies Obama advocated in an Arms Control Today survey and in other venues during last year's presidential campaign. (See ACT, December 2008.)

In response to written and oral questions posed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January as part of her confirmation process, Clinton confirmed the administration's intention to win Senate ratification for the CTBT, which the Senate rejected in a 51-48 vote during Bill Clinton's presidency. (See ACT, September 1999.) In order to win the two-thirds majority needed for Senate passage, Clinton pledged that the Obama administration would work "intensively" with senators to reassure them on such technical issues as the verifiability of a test ban. Clinton also stated that the administration would ask Congress to fully fund the U.S. contribution to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization's (CTBTO) International Monitoring System, a system of sensors and other technologies designed to detect even low-yield nuclear tests. Although the Bush administration abided by a moratorium on nuclear testing, it opposed the CTBT and did not fully fund its monitoring system.

The Bush administration also refused to fully fund the U.S. contribution to the CTBTO itself. The Obama administration "will want to ensure that [the CTBTO] is adequately funded," Clinton said, but she stopped short of saying that the administration will ask Congress for the full amount of the U.S. assessed contribution.

Clinton and other officials have said that the United States will pursue new reductions in nuclear arms with Russia, in advance of the expiration of the START this December. In her Jan. 13 confirmation hearing, Clinton identified nuclear nonproliferation and negotiations on START as her "very highest priority." She echoed Obama's position, taken during the campaign, that the United States would seek to reduce its total nuclear arsenal, including deployed and nondeployed weapons, in conjunction with Russia. Negotiations on an agreement to replace START foundered in the last months of the Bush administration. (See ACT, October 2008.)

The most important element of any new agreement, according to testimony by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy at a Jan. 15 hearing, is the continuation of the START monitoring and verification procedures. The administration has not taken a position on a Russian proposal to limit strategic delivery vehicles as well as warheads.

The Obama administration also intends to revive negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), which would outlaw the production of new fissile material-plutonium and highly enriched uranium-for use in nuclear weapons. Those talks have been stalled for more than a decade in the Geneva-based 65-member Conference on Disarmament (CD).

Clinton noted in her confirmation hearing that the Obama administration planned to break with its predecessor by restoring U.S. support for a negotiating mandate calling for an eventual FMCT to include international monitoring and verification procedures. In May 2006, the Bush administration proposed a draft FMCT that lacked verification mechanisms, arguing that such provisions would be too expensive, overly intrusive, and unlikely to dissuade determined cheaters. (See ACT, June 2006.) Other members of the CD, which conducts its business by consensus, opposed the U.S. stance. Clinton stated in her testimony that abandoning the previous administration's policy is an essential step to resuming FMCT negotiations.

In her Senate testimony, Clinton claimed that the difference between the current and former administrations is a philosophical one. She asserted that the Bush administration disparaged arms control treaties and believed, in her words, that "good people don't need them and bad people won't follow them." By contrast, she said, arms control and nonproliferation are "passionate concerns of the [new] president."

The Arms Control Association maintains a list of new administration members who will be advising President Obama on issues relating to arms control. Click here to see the full list of filled and vacant positions.

In recent public statements and congressional hearings, Obama administration officials have indicated that they will reverse Bush-era policies on a number of major arms control issues. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other Obama appointees have said that they will actively pursue ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as well as a new strategic arms agreement with Russia and have revised the U.S. approach to negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons. (Continue)

U.S.-Russian Strategic Dialogue in Limbo

Wade Boese

Several weeks after the Russian-Georgian military conflict and several weeks before the United States elects a new president, formal U.S.-Russian talks on nuclear weapons and anti-missile systems are languishing. Neither Moscow nor Washington seem eager to change the pace, suggesting the two capitals might be content simply to let the dialogue linger until the next U.S. administration takes power.

U.S. and Russian government experts apparently last met a few months ago to talk about their strategic nuclear weapons. John Herzberg, a Department of State spokesperson, told Arms Control Today Sept. 10 that the U.S.-Russian process is “under review.” The talks have been stalemated for some time, and President George W. Bush and then-President Vladimir Putin failed in April to make any breakthroughs at their last summit in Sochi, Russia. (See ACT, May 2008.)

Speaking to reporters at the United Nations Sept. 29, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov offered a glum assessment of the talks. “Negotiations between us and Washington to make sure that after START I treaty expires in December 2009 we have some meaningful strategic arms control regime, these negotiations are not so far heading anywhere,” Lavrov said.

Still, Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the two major parties’ presidential nominees, say they would pursue negotiations to reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear force levels. The U.S. strategic stockpile is estimated to be about 5,400 warheads; a little more than half of those weapons, 2,871, are reported by the Bush administration to be operationally deployed. Meanwhile, Russia reports some 4,100 strategic warheads as deployed under the terms of the 1991 START agreement.

The Kremlin has taken notice of the candidates’ statements. In a Sept. 15 article published in NG-Dipkuryer, Lavrov wrote that, “during the current U.S. presidential campaign, sensible voices have begun to be heard, particularly about the need to maintain real control over strategic offensive arms.”

Russia has been pressing the Bush administration to agree to lower force limits on strategic warheads and long-range delivery vehicles, including those that might carry non-nuclear warheads in accordance with U.S. plans to develop a so-called prompt global strike capability. (See ACT, June 2008.) Those plans, coupled with the Bush administration’s efforts to deploy 10 long-range missile interceptors in Poland, have roiled Russia. Lavrov charged in a Sept. 11 interview with the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza that the Bush administration is pursuing a path of “upsetting…parity and gaining a unilateral advantage in the strategic domain.”

The U.S.-Russian relationship has been further aggravated by Russia’s August military invasion and continuing occupation of Georgia, a former Soviet republic whose leadership is striving to pull free from Moscow’s orbit. Russia at the end of August recognized the independence of two breakaway Georgian regions, and Lavrov said Sept. 18 that Russia is setting up “military bases…and military contingents” in the disputed territories.

In his prepared remarks to a Sept. 17 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, William Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, declared that “Russia’s behavior raises serious questions about the future of our relations with a resurgent, nuclear-armed energy-rich great power.” Formerly a U.S. ambassador to Russia, Burns added that the United States does “not have the luxury of ignoring” Russia and said the two countries need to set a “good example for the rest of the world in managing and reducing our own nuclear arsenals.”

Russia and the United States are currently committed through the May 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) to reduce their operationally deployed strategic nuclear forces to 1,700 to 2,200 warheads apiece by Dec. 31, 2012, which is the same day that the limits lapse. SORT contains no measures to verify that progress is being made toward the treaty’s goal, so the two sides rely on the START verification regime to share information on and permit inspections of their nuclear forces. START, however, is scheduled to expire Dec. 5, 2009, three years before SORT is supposed to be fulfilled.

U.S. and Russian negotiations to explore a post-START arrangement, including possibly extending certain verification elements of the treaty, got underway in March 2007 but have stalled. Paula DeSutter, assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance, and implementation, told reporters Sept. 3 that “the post-START effort is very important to us and we’ll try to continue forward.” Russian sources contend that the United States has not supplied promised working papers necessary to move the process forward.

Similarly, Lavrov said Sept. 11 in Poland that Russia is “still awaiting concrete proposals from our U.S. colleagues” on easing tensions surrounding the planned anti-missile deployment, which Russia charges is aimed at it rather than Iran, as claimed by the United States. U.S. officials have at various times floated measures, such as permitting Russia inspection privileges at proposed U.S. bases, but apparently Russia is waiting on more formal proposals and answers to a set of questions it submitted to the United States on the anti-missile system.

Meanwhile, the United States and the Czech Republic Sept. 19 signed an agreement establishing the future legal status of U.S. personnel that will operate a Czech-based radar intended to provide missile tracking information to any future Polish-based interceptors. A week earlier in Moscow, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev explained that “Russia cannot feel comfortable in a situation where military bases are increasingly being built around it, and there are more and more missiles and anti-missile defense systems.”

Several weeks after the Russian-Georgian military conflict and several weeks before the United States elects a new president, formal U.S.-Russian talks on nuclear weapons and anti-missile systems are languishing. Neither Moscow nor Washington seem eager to change the pace, suggesting the two capitals might be content simply to let the dialogue linger until the next U.S. administration takes power. (Continue)

Bush, Putin Leave Arms Disputes Unsettled

Wade Boese

Meeting for their final time as presidents, George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin extolled their efforts to move the United States and Russia beyond their Cold War confrontation. Yet, the two leaders left unresolved arms disputes rooted in that competition that have been a constant source of friction for their two administrations.

Organized on short notice, the summit took place April 5-6 in Sochi, Russia, on Putin's initiative. He had called for the meeting following a March meeting in Moscow of the two countries' top defense and foreign policy officials. (See ACT, April 2008 .) Stephen Hadley, Bush's national security adviser, announced the trip March 26 and said its purpose was to "consolidate areas where we're cooperating together, maybe resolve some outstanding issues such as missile defense, and provide a platform for the relationship of the two countries going forward."

Agreements on the contentious issues of missile defenses, nuclear weapons, and conventional arms deployments in Europe, however, eluded the two presidents. Putin told reporters after the meeting that the "strategic framework" document the two leaders approved "does not provide any breakthrough solutions on a number of issues." In particular, he noted, "one of the most difficult issues was, and remains, the issue of missile defense in Europe."

Russia has blasted Bush administration plans to station 10 long-range ballistic missile interceptors in Poland and an advanced radar in the Czech Republic. Fearing that its nuclear forces are the true target, Moscow has dismissed U.S. assurances that the systems are to offset growing Iranian missile capabilities and warned that the proposed systems would be targeted by the Russian military. In Sochi, Putin reiterated that "our fundamental attitude to the American plans [has] not changed."

Still, Putin sounded a positive note about recent Bush administration proposals intended to ease Russian concerns about the anti-missile plan. He described the U.S. ideas as sincere and himself as having "certain cautious optimism," but he also trotted out the standard caveat that "the devil is in the details."

The specific U.S. proposals are secret, but their general nature is known. Among other measures, the United States has pledged to limit the systems it deploys to Europe and not activate them unless Iran demonstrates the capability to send a missile deep into Europe or against the United States. There also have been discussions of enabling Russia to keep tabs on the systems through sensors and Russian personnel at the U.S. deployment sites.

The latter proposal is an example of details potentially bedeviling a deal. Putin expressed interest in having Russian personnel at the proposed sites on a "permanent basis." But the Czech and Polish governments have indicated such an arrangement would be intolerable to the former Soviet satellites. The United States, meanwhile, has reportedly suggested that the Russian personnel could be liaison officers at the Russian embassies in the two countries and given access to the sites. How much access would be provided and under what conditions is unclear.

Bush and his advisers portrayed the meeting as a triumph on the missile defense issue, pointing to Russia's agreement to include a statement in the strategic framework document that if the U.S. proposals were "agreed and implemented," they would be "important and useful in assuaging Russian concerns." Bush described the outcome as a "significant breakthrough."

Pressed by reporters aboard the president's plane during the return trip to the United States, Hadley acknowledged that many details still must be worked out to soothe Russian concerns. He conceded, "[T]here's huge ifs here." Russian government experts have reportedly prepared dozens of questions for the Bush administration about its proposals.

In the strategic framework document, Bush and Putin also endorsed exploring a broader anti-missile architecture that would involve Europe, Russia, and the United States as "equal partners." Putin, who said that effort should be given priority over other anti-missile projects, stressed that "equal democratic access to managing the system" would be essential.

How that would be made to work and how seriously both governments intend to pursue that option is uncertain. Proposals for Moscow and Washington to work together on missile defenses have been floated intermittently over the past decades but have yielded few results. The two countries, however, are planning to conduct a "high-level dialogue" to assess ballistic and cruise missile threats that fall below the long-range threshold and "inventory options for dealing with them."

The strategic framework also reiterates the two governments' standard pledge to enact nuclear weapons reductions "to the lowest possible level consistent with our national security requirements and alliance commitments." Yet, the two presidents failed to agree on a way ahead. Putin observed that "we do have certain differences still in our basic approaches."

Russia wants a new treaty that limits both strategic warheads and delivery vehicles, while the Bush administration prefers an agreement focused on codifying some verification measures to last beyond the scheduled 2009 expiration of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which has an extensive verification regime. Moscow also favors a future treaty that would rely on the START warhead accounting rules rather than the method introduced by the Bush administration in the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, which limits "operationally deployed strategic" warheads. Washington and Moscow have not reached a common understanding on what warheads are counted under that phrase.

Putin further noted that Russia and the United States remain at odds over the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, which Russia suspended implementation of last December. Putin, however, expressed some satisfaction that the United States was "listening" to Russian concerns and trying to respond to them with a package of proposals.

The presidents did not fulfill some expectations that they might finally sign an agreement for nuclear trade and cooperation between their countries that was first initialed in June 2007. Instead, the strategic framework vaguely states the two sides will sign the agreement in the "near future."

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Meeting for their final time as presidents, George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin extolled their efforts to move the United States and Russia beyond their Cold War confrontation. Yet, the two leaders left unresolved arms disputes rooted in that competition that have been a constant source of friction for their two administrations. (Continue)

Russia Wants Limits on Prompt Global Strike

Wade Boese

One divisive issue in U.S.-Russian talks on a future strategic weapons treaty is Russia's interest in having that agreement limit long-range missiles and delivery systems armed with non-nuclear warheads. The Bush administration is seeking such weapons to expand U.S. quick-strike options against targets around the world, but Congress and a recent government watchdog report have raised some concerns about the initiative.

Current U.S. efforts to develop long-range conventional-strike weapons grew out of calls for such a capability in the Pentagon's 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review and the Bush administration's Nuclear Posture Review the same year. (See ACT, January/February 2002 .) Administration officials contend that those weapons, now generally referred to as "prompt global strike" and intended to strike targets in less than an hour, would provide a military option when the United States might otherwise face the choice of using nuclear weapons or not acting against a potential danger. Officials acknowledge those moments might be rare, but they include scenarios such as terrorists meeting briefly in remote locations or foes preparing a missile launch threatening U.S. troops, allies, or satellites.

Russia objects, saying such weapons would be destabilizing because their use could be misconstrued as a nuclear attack against it, leading Russia to potentially launch nuclear weapons at the United States. U.S. officials maintain there are measures, such as pre-launch notifications or basing non-nuclear missiles separately from nuclear missiles, to minimize possible misperceptions. (See ACT, May 2006 .)

Still, Russian officials note that non-nuclear systems could be used to attack their country. In addition, a Russian government source May 15 indicated to Arms Control Today that another concern is that the United States could amass more potential long-range nuclear delivery vehicles than Russia by deploying unregulated non-nuclear delivery systems that could be modified quickly or secretly to carry nuclear warheads, undermining long-standing efforts to maintain U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear parity.

U.S. and Russian officials since March 2007 have been engaged in irregular and so far unproductive talks on a possible agreement to succeed the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) , which is scheduled to expire Dec. 5, 2009. (See ACT, May 2007. ) START imposes ceilings on U.S. and Russian deployments of nuclear warheads and strategic delivery vehicles: land-based ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers. At the Bush administration's insistence, the May 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) , which expires at the end of 2012, limits only warheads.

In the ongoing talks, Moscow is pressing for an agreement that sets limits on both warheads and strategic delivery vehicles, unlike SORT, and counts all such vehicles against the ceiling whether they carry nuclear or conventional payloads. A second Russian government source May 14 told Arms Control Today that his government's "firm position" is that "all strategic weapons, no difference [between] nuclear or conventional loads, must be under strict mutual treaty control." He contended that the "prompt global strike effort is extremely dangerous [because] you can never tell what the load [is] when a strategic missile is launched."

The first Russian government source, however, noted that the United States "is reluctant to speak about ceilings on carriers." Although publicly stating for the first time that the Bush administration is open to new warhead limits, John Rood, acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, acknowledged May 21 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Russia wants "a treaty with a broader scope, something which would also cover...conventional delivery systems." He said the administration opposes that position. In all likelihood, the question of whether to negotiate treaty limits on prompt global strike systems will pass to the next U.S. administration.

That administration also will face decisions on developing or deploying prompt global strike weapons. Congress rejected the Bush administration's initial two-year plan unveiled in 2006 to start substituting conventional payloads for nuclear warheads on two SLBMs on each of the 12 deployed U.S. ballistic missile submarines. Fearing that specific approach carried too much risk of Russian misinterpretation of launches, Congress called for further study of the general concept and more research into alternatives. (See ACT, January/February 2008 .)

In its February budget request for fiscal year 2009 starting Oct. 1, the Bush administration asked Congress for $117.6 million to fund a Prompt Global Strike program under the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics. The request includes funds to research a long-range, land-based Conventional Strike Missile and technologies for a submarine-launched system, as well as some funds for the Falcon project of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Those funds are in addition to a separate $25 million request by DARPA to pursue the Falcon program, which involves research on a hypersonic technology vehicle that, unlike a ballistic missile, would travel at a flatter trajectory, spend more time flying inside the atmosphere, and be able to maneuver toward a target. The Army has done research into a similar hypersonic glide vehicle that some lawmakers are pushing to make part of the broader Prompt Global Strike program.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), which conducts studies for lawmakers, released an April report charging that current prompt global strike efforts lack coordination. Observing that it had identified 135 projects and programs that could have applications for prompt global strike, the GAO contended that the Pentagon "has not yet established a prioritized investment strategy that integrates its efforts to assess global strike options and makes choices among alternatives." It further noted that key military stakeholders have different views about the global strike concept and how such future weapons might be used.

The GAO also indicated that too much attention is being paid to the potential weapons and not "critical enabling capabilities." For instance, the report pointed out that officials with the Pentagon's Strategic Command, which is tasked with promoting and facilitating prompt global strike, say "current intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and command and control capabilities generally do not provide the persistent coverage, processing and sharing of information, and rapid planning required for compressed global strike time frames."

A panel of the National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council also referred in a report last year to "supporting enablers." The panel, which endorsed the general concept of prompt global strike (see ACT, June 2007 ), said it would provide a full analysis of those enablers in a final report on prompt global strike due this year to Congress. Although the panel estimated that report would be completed "by early 2008," a panel spokesperson April 28 e-mailed Arms Control Today that the report would not be out until "the later half of this year."

Corrected online September 3, 2008. See explanation.

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One divisive issue in U.S.-Russian talks on a future strategic weapons treaty is Russia's interest in having that agreement limit long-range missiles and delivery systems armed with non-nuclear warheads. The Bush administration is seeking such weapons to expand U.S. quick-strike options against targets around the world, but Congress and a recent government watchdog report have raised some concerns about the initiative. (Continue)

U.S., Russia at Odds on Key Arms Issues

Wade Boese

Top U.S. and Russian officials accentuated the positive after a recent high-level meeting, but the two sides remain deeply divided on developing anti-missile systems and managing their future nuclear weapons relationship.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates traveled to Moscow to meet with their respective Russian counterparts March 17 and 18, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s handpicked successor and the president-elect. The trip was the second of the “two plus two” talks agreed to last July by Putin and President George W. Bush as a channel for their governments to discuss security issues. The inaugural meeting occurred last October in Moscow. (See ACT, November 2007 .)

Rice explained to reporters March 17 that she and Gates took the atypical step of visiting Moscow for a second straight time instead of hosting a reciprocal visit by their Russian counterparts because of “the hope that we will be able to move on a number of issues.” The trip stemmed from a March 7 phone call between Putin and Bush, who subsequently sent Putin a letter touching on a raft of issues. Putin described the letter as a “serious document.”

Despite descriptions by both sides of the two-day visit as “fruitful” and “productive,” the two countries did not reach any agreements on what have been two of the most divisive issues: missile defenses and future strategic nuclear arms limits. Nonetheless, Bush plans to meet Putin in Sochi, Russia a couple of days after both leaders attend an April 2-4 NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania. National security advisor Stephen Hadley March 26 informed reporters of the short-notice trip and described it as a chance to “identify areas of cooperation [and] resolve some outstanding issues so that the relationship is in good shape to be handed over to their two respective successors.”

The U.S. plan to deploy 10 long-range ballistic missile interceptors in Poland and an advanced missile tracking radar in the Czech Republic has been the greatest irritant in the U.S.-Russian relationship over the past year. The United States claims the systems are intended to protect against a growing Iranian missile threat, but Russia alleges that Russian missiles could be the target. As Gates acknowledged March 17, “The Russians hate the idea of missile defense.”

Gates and Rice sought to soften Moscow’s opposition by reaffirming and fleshing out some previous U.S. proposals intended to reassure Russia that Iran is the true target of the anti-missile systems. For instance, Gates suggested the United States could refrain from activating the proposed systems until Iran conducts longer-range missile flight tests. He also volunteered Washington’s readiness to “negotiate limits” on the anti-missile systems to alleviate Russian fears of a “breakout,” meaning a significant increase in U.S. capabilities that could be used against Russia.

The proposals apparently were very similar to those initially discussed last October, on which Russia later accused the United States of reneging. (See ACT, January/February 2008 .) Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov both downplayed that incident.

Still, Russia requested the United States provide its latest proposals in writing so they could be studied more thoroughly, and Russian Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov reiterated that “our positions have not changed.” Indeed, Lavrov remarked that the “best way” for the United States to address Russian concerns would be to abandon its plan.

Another point of contention is what should be done about the scheduled Dec. 5, 2009, expiration of the 1991 START accord. Although that treaty’s nuclear weapons reductions were completed several years ago, the accord’s extensive verification regime is still used by each of the countries to keep tabs on the other’s strategic nuclear forces, including compliance with the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which lacks verification measures. That accord commits the United States and Russia to lower their operationally deployed strategic nuclear forces to 1,700-2,200 warheads apiece by Dec. 31, 2012, which also happens to be the day the limit expires. (See ACT, June 2002 .)

Russia wants to negotiate new warhead limits lower than those mandated by SORT, as well as restrictions on strategic delivery vehicles. The Kremlin also wants the continuation of some legally binding verification measures.

Although initially resistant to negotiating any new legally binding instrument, including continuation of START verification provisions, the Bush administration relented last October to that possibility. But the administration remains opposed to codifying new arms limits. Rice argued March 17 that the current U.S.-Russian relationship does not require “the kind of highly articulated, expensive limitations and verification procedures that attended the strategic arms relationship with the Soviet Union.”

Although unable to resolve their major disputes, the two sides vowed to continue work initiated last year on a “strategic framework document,” which Rice said would “record all of the elements of the U.S.-Russia relationship.” She cited as key examples joint projects to combat nuclear terrorism and provide nuclear fuel assurances to states forgoing uranium-enrichment and plutonium reprocessing capabilities that can be used to make nuclear bombs.

Ambassador Jackie Wolcott, a former U.S. representative to the Conference on Disarmament, will be responsible for advancing many of those projects in her new role as special envoy for nuclear nonproliferation. The Department of State announced her appointment March 14 and indicated her duties entail implementing the measures endorsed last July by Putin and Bush to promote nuclear energy worldwide and reduce proliferation dangers. Press reports indicate that one of the measures that may be signed during the trip is a nuclear cooperation agreement between the two countries that Putin and Bush initialed in July 2007, but have yet to sign, in part because of U.S. dissatisfaction with Russia’s policies toward Iran.

Top U.S. and Russian officials accentuated the positive after a recent high-level meeting, but the two sides remain deeply divided on developing anti-missile systems and managing their future nuclear weapons relationship. (Continue)


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