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"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT)

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

SALT I

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.

SALT II

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.”

START I

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.

START II

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.

New START

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
 SALT  I SALT IIINF TreatySTART ISTART IISTART IIISORT

New START

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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Presidents Need Flexibility on Nuclear Arms Reductions

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Description: 

President Obama announced on June 19 in Berlin that a new review of U.S. nuclear deterrence requirements found that "we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third" below the limits established by the 2010 New START Treaty. "And," the President added, "I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures."

Body: 

Volume 4, Issue 8, July 26, 2013

President Obama announced on June 19 in Berlin that a new review of U.S. nuclear deterrence requirements found that "we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third" below the limits established by the 2010 New START Treaty. "And," the President added, "I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures."

This is good news. As part of a long bipartisan tradition, further reductions to U.S. and Russian nuclear forces would be a welcome step toward making the United States safer, cutting the Russian arsenal, and redirecting U.S. defense dollars to higher priority needs.

It was President Ronald Reagan who, in 1986, shifted U.S. policy away from ever-higher nuclear stockpiles--which peaked at about 30,000 nuclear warheads--and started down the path of reductions that continues today. U.S. and Russian arsenals have now been reduced by more than two-thirds. U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all contributed to reducing the nuclear threat.

This impressive progress was made through a combination of formal agreements and informal understandings, as the situation required, some requiring congressional approval, some not. To get the results we want and need, such presidential flexibility on nuclear arms reductions must be preserved.

Congress Out of Step
But some Republicans in Congress are seeking to take this flexibility--which previous Republican Presidents enjoyed--away from President Obama. They have responded to the Berlin speech by demanding a firm commitment from the White House to seek Senate approval for any new agreement, while others accused the administration of pursuing "unilateral disarmament" and are seeking to block funding for any further nuclear reductions, even under New START.

For example, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Armed Service Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, introduced an amendment approved by the full House this week that would block funding for implementation of New START. He claims the treaty is "tearing down our nuclear deterrent" and that "the president must not be allowed to unilaterally weaken our defenses."

In fact, under New START the United States will keep over 1,550 nuclear warheads, and Russia is reducing faster than we are. Constraints on New START implementation would infringe on the Pentagon's flexibility to implement the treaty and could lead the U.S. to miss the treaty's 2018 implementation deadline, prompting Russia to rethink its own commitment to the treaty and build up its forces. Walking away from current efforts to reduce Russian nuclear stockpiles would be counterproductive.

The House also approved an amendment by Reps. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) and Rogers to prohibit funding for any nuclear weapons reductions that occur outside a legally-binding treaty or a congressional executive agreement, even though past Presidents have pursued nuclear arms reductions with and without formal agreements.

Congress deserves to be consulted, but it should not put unnecessary roadblocks in the way of more cost-effective and appropriately-sized U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, whether that is through existing treaties or new reductions.

Reality Check
There is nothing "unilateral" about the President's approach. President Obama made it very clear that he intends to seek "negotiated" cuts with Russia. In the report to Congress explaining the latest revisions to U.S. nuclear weapons employment guidance, the Pentagon notes that even though "Russia and the United States are no longer adversaries," the President and the Defense Department still "place importance on Russia joining us as we move to lower levels of nuclear weapons."

The President's stated goal is to reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear forces by up to one-third below the New START limit of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads. This is a very modest proposal and hardly a rush to global zero. Even at 1,000 strategic nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia would still maintain over 80% of the globe's nuclear weapons. And, as an Anniston [Ala.] Star editorial from July 25 notes, "even with proposed reductions we still have the capability to reduce enemy cities to rubble within a few hours."

In an attempt to cast doubt on further negotiated nuclear reductions with Russia, some congressional Republicans also claim that Moscow is not complying with the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. However, recent Pentagon and State Department reports find no evidence of Russian noncompliance with the INF Treaty.

Treaty or Informal Understanding?
The more serious concern, as recently expressed by 24 Republican senators in a June 19 letter to the White House, is whether or not the administration will produce a treaty "subject to the advice and consent of the Senate."

In the past, the United States has often reduced its nuclear forces through formal bilateral treaties (INF, START I, SORT, New START) and parallel, reciprocal measures.

The primary example of the latter is President George H.W. Bush's bold Presidential Nuclear Initiative in 1991 to remove thousands of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from forward deployment as the Soviet Union began to break up. Days later, Moscow reciprocated, reducing the risk that these weapons would fall into the wrong hands. No formal treaty was ever negotiated or signed, nor did the administration seek the approval of Congress.

Even in the case of the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT, or the "Moscow Treaty"), it is worth recalling that President George W. Bush initially set out to reduce U.S. forces without a formal agreement. As he said in 2001: "We don't need an arms control agreement to convince us to reduce our nuclear weapons down substantially, and I'm going to do it."

In their June 19 letter, the 24 Senate Republicans point out that in 2002 then-Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and then-Ranking Member Jesse Helms sent a letter to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell stating that: "With the exception of the SALT I agreement, every significant arms control agreement during the past three decades has been transmitted pursuant to the Treaty Clause of the Constitution ...we see no reason whatsoever to alter this practice."

President Bush ultimately agreed to negotiate and submit the SORT Treaty for Senate advice and consent in part because Russia wanted a treaty, even if it was a very simple one. Had Russia not wanted a formal agreement, Bush would likely have reduced U.S. nuclear weapons unilaterally, as his father did before him.

In their letter to the White House the 24 Senators also note that the resolution of ratification for New START states that "further arms reduction agreements obligating the United States to reduce or limit the Armed Forces or armaments of the United States in any military significant manner may be made only pursuant to the treaty-making power of the President..." (emphasis added).

This does not, however, rule out the option of mutual nuclear reductions in the absence of a formal agreement. First, the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have already determined that one-third of the U.S. strategic nuclear warheads now deployed are in excess of military requirements. Thus, such a reduction would not have a significant impact on U.S. security.

Second, an informal U.S.-Russian understanding that each side would reduce its nuclear forces would not be legally binding and is therefore not an obligation subject to congressional approval.

What Matters Is the Result
The bottom line is that the process of reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals is complex and Congress should be careful not to try to restrict the President's options to achieve results that are in the best interests of the nation, which is to reduce excess U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals in a stable and verifiable way. Treaties may be the best way, but they are not the only way.

As the State Department's International Security Advisory Board's Nov. 27, 2012 report suggests, Russia and the United States could seek additional reductions on the basis of a mutual understanding rather than a formal treaty. Such an understanding "can be quicker and less politically costly, relative to treaties with adversarial negotiations and difficult ratification processes," the board wrote.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell recently said that, "we can reduce nuclear weapons without having a negotiation."

Verifiable, reciprocal cuts in U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles will make every American safer by reducing the nuclear firepower that can be delivered within minutes across the globe, while allowing resources to be devoted to more pressing security needs. Further reductions would also improve the international consensus to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and enhance cooperation to address the threats from North Korea and Iran, and put pressure on other states--including China--to join in the reduction process.

Significant budget savings can also be achieved if President Obama eliminates the current "requirements" for Cold War-sized nuclear forces. An assessment by the Arms Control Association identifies about $40 billion in taxpayer savings over the next decade if the United States right-sizes its nuclear force to about 1,000 strategic deployed nuclear warheads.

For its part, Russia will be hard pressed to maintain 1,550 strategic warheads unless it continues its own expensive modernization of its aging nuclear delivery systems. Rather than induce Russia to build up, it is in the security and financial interests of both countries to eliminate their excess strategic nuclear forces.

The existing New START Treaty already provides a solid framework for verification and monitoring through intrusive inspection and data exchanges. Deeper, mutual reductions in deployed strategic nuclear weapons can be achieved through reciprocal actions made on the basis of the best national interests of each country.

As George Shultz, Bill Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn wrote in March: "A global effort is needed to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, prevent their spread, and ultimately end them as a threat to the world. It will take leadership, creative approaches and thoughtful understanding of the perils of inaction."

The White House needs flexibility to lead and be creative--a one-size-fits-all approach will not cut it. We must not let the process and politics get in the way of the substance: reducing nuclear dangers and increasing U.S. security.--TOM Z. COLLINA

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today

Senate Approves New START

Eight months after the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty was signed, the Senate debated it and approved it by a vote of 71-26, paving the way for approval by the Russian State Duma and entry into force early this year.

Tom Z. Collina

Capping an eight-month-long process and eight days of often intense floor debate, the U.S. Senate voted 71-26 on Dec. 22 to provide its advice and consent to ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). All 56 Democratic senators, the Senate’s two independents, and 13 Republicans voted to support the treaty, exceeding the two-thirds majority required.

The vote paves the way for Russian ratification and the treaty’s entry into force. The lower chamber of Russia’s parliament voted 350-58 in support of New START Dec. 24, but final approval is not expected until January or later. On-site inspections under the treaty could begin two months after that.

President Barack Obama, who fought a high-profile battle with Senate Republican leaders to hold a vote in the postelection session rather than wait until 2011, told reporters after the vote that the treaty will reduce superpower nuclear arsenals and “advance our relationship with Russia, which is essential to making progress on a host of challenges, from enforcing strong sanctions on Iran to preventing nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists.” Obama also said the treaty will enhance U.S. leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek a world without them.

New START would lower treaty limits on both sides’ deployed strategic warheads by about 30 percent and resume verification that lapsed when the original 1991 START expired in December 2009. The new treaty would supersede the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which is still in force and mandates reductions of deployed strategic warheads to no more than 2,200 by 2012, but provides no verification mechanism. New START caps each country’s deployed strategic warheads at 1,550 and deployed nuclear-capable delivery systems at 700 over the next decade. Under the treaty, both sides will have to take hundreds of nuclear warheads out of deployment within seven years of its entry into force.

Like previous bilateral arms control agreements, New START received broad support. Backers included U.S. military leaders and national security officials from preceding Republican administrations, including former President George H.W. Bush and six former secretaries of state: Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Lawrence Eagleburger, James A. Baker, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice.

New START was approved despite the active opposition of the Senate’s two top Republicans, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.). In addition, many potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates, including former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and Sen. John Thune (S.D.), came out against it.

The opposition was based on process as well as substance. As McConnell explained on the Senate floor Dec. 21, “[A] decision of this magnitude should not be decided under the pressure of a deadline.” Some Republican senators said the treaty should not be debated in a postelection session at all, and others wanted the Democrats to shelve plans for votes on more partisan issues such as the DREAM Act, which deals with immigration policy, and repeal of the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay and lesbian service members. On substance, McConnell said the treaty “does nothing to significantly reduce the Russian Federation’s stockpile of strategic arms, ignores the thousands of tactical weapons in the Russian arsenal, and contains an important concession linking missile defense to the strategic arms.” Opponents also said the treaty was unverifiable, questioned the administration’s commitment to modernization of the nuclear stockpile, and expressed concern that New START would be the first step on the road to the elimination of nuclear weapons.

As a result, the treaty did not pass by as wide a margin as previous agreements, such as President George W. Bush’s SORT, which was approved 95-0.

Predicting that the heightened partisanship in the Senate would not allow a large margin of victory for New START, Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) told reporters Dec. 21, “70 votes is yesterday’s 95.” He made the comment after a procedural vote that indicated the likely level of support.

Courting Kyl

The Dec. 22 ratification vote ended a high-stakes political battle pitting the Obama administration and its Senate allies against Senate Republican leaders. After months of debate, including more than 20 Senate hearings and briefings, the outcome was in doubt until just days before the vote.

The treaty, which Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed on April 8 in Prague, was formally submitted to the Senate May 13. The administration’s Senate strategy, led by Vice President Joe Biden, initially sought to avoid a partisan fight by courting the Republican leadership’s support for the treaty. Biden and his staff had numerous discussions with Kyl on the issue of funding for modernizing the nuclear weapons production complex. According to a Nov. 17 White House timeline, administration officials met or talked with Kyl or his staff about the treaty at least 30 times since August 2009.

Kyl made it clear early on that his position on New START would hinge on the administration’s ability to convince him that the budget for the nuclear weapons complex was adequate.

In a clear attempt to satisfy Kyl, the administration pledged in May to increase funding for the weapons complex by $10 billion over 10 years, leading many to expect that Kyl would ultimately support the treaty or at least not actively oppose it.

Before November, according to administration officials, it was unclear whether Kyl’s support for the treaty was a real possibility or if he actually was seeking to block ratification or delay a vote until 2011. Kyl led the successful campaign to block ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1999. But in the Nov. 2 elections, Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives and picked up six seats in the Senate.

Kyl announced on Nov. 16 that he “did not think” the treaty could be completed in the postelection session given the “complex and unresolved issues related to START and modernization.” (See ACT, December 2010.) The announcement came just after senior administration officials had flown to Arizona Nov. 12 to meet with Kyl and his staff to pledge an additional $4.1 billion for weapons complex modernization. Based on that meeting, senior officials said they thought they had a deal to bring the treaty up for a vote.

Kyl’s Nov. 16 statement marked a critical turning point and showed that after the elections, “the price for New START just went up,” a Senate staffer told Arms Control Today. The Kyl announcement “was one of the lowest moments of our time in government,” a senior administration official told The Washington Post Dec 23.

“A Gutsy Choice”

The next 24 hours were pivotal to the ratification effort. Obama had to choose between waging a high-profile, uncertain campaign to win the treaty without Kyl’s support or delay the vote until the next Congress. The administration and its Senate allies said that delaying the vote could put off ratification of the treaty by six to 12 months or more.

In addition to facing more, potentially hostile Republican votes, the treaty would have had to be reapproved by the Foreign Relations Committee, whose new members could have requested new hearings. “Endless hearings, markup, back to trying to get some time on the floor…[i]t will be some time before the treaty is ever heard from again,” Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the committee’s ranking member, told The Cable Nov. 17.

On the other hand, given Kyl’s presumed authority within his caucus, for the White House to win a ratification vote without Kyl’s support was seen at the time by observers inside and outside of the administration as a daunting and uncertain prospect. Treaty supporters needed at least nine Republican votes, in addition to the 56 Democrats and two independents, to reach the 67 required for Senate approval. The day after Kyl’s announcement, the administration decided to double down on its campaign to secure the votes it needed without Kyl’s help. “This is not a matter that can be delayed,” Obama told reporters Nov. 18 while flanked by a group of Republican former national security officials, including Baker, Kissinger, and former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft. “Every month that goes by without a treaty means that we are not able to verify what’s going on on the ground in Russia,” he said.

“The president made a gutsy choice,” Kerry told The Washington Post Dec. 23. “He decided he was prepared to lose the treaty, but he thought it was important to fight for,” Kerry said.

Floor Debate Begins

When it resumed work Nov. 29 after its Thanksgiving break, the Senate spent the next two weeks debating tax policy and other issues and did not begin debate on New START until mid-December. At that point, the only Republican senators who had announced support for the treaty were Lugar, Olympia Snowe (Maine), and Susan Collins (Maine).

With a key procedural vote expected the next day, Kyl tried to delay debate on New START by arguing that it would force the Senate to work through Christmas. “It is impossible to do all of the things that the majority leader laid out ... without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians and the families of all of the Senate, not just the senators themselves but all of the staff,” he told reporters Dec. 14.

An exasperated Biden took issue with Kyl’s reluctance to work through Christmas. “Don’t tell me about Christmas. I understand Christmas. I was a senator for a long time, and I’ve been there many years where we go right up to Christmas,” Biden told MSNBC Dec. 15. “There’s 10 days between now and Christmas. I hope I don’t get in the way of your Christmas shopping, but this is the nation’s business. This is the national security at stake. Act.”

Other commentators said that if the U.S. military could work through the holidays, with troops deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, senators could spend more time in Washington.

To begin floor debate on New START, the Senate had to pass a “motion to proceed” by majority vote. This was the first real test of Republican support for the treaty, as well as the first test of how far opponents would go to block a vote. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) told Fox News Dec. 15 that, to delay the process, he would demand that the entire treaty text be read aloud. “If they bring this up, they’re going to read it. And it’ll take them a day and a half or two to read this. Again, we’re trying to run out the clock,” DeMint said.

In response, the White House issued a press statement Dec. 15 that said, “It is the height of hypocrisy to complain that there is not enough time to consider this Treaty, while wasting so much time reading aloud a document that was submitted to the Senate months ago.”

In a victory for treaty proponents, the Senate voted 66-32 to begin debate on New START, with nine Republicans in support. Although the measure required only a simple majority to pass, the tally was important because it suggested that the treaty had the two-thirds majority needed for approval. Moreover, the Republican leadership decided not to ask for the treaty to be read aloud. Momentum was growing, but how senators voted on a procedural issue was not a guarantee of how they would vote on the treaty itself.

Debate on the treaty continued for two days before the first amendments to the treaty were filed. The Senate spent the next few days debating a series of Republican amendments dealing with missile defense, verification, and tactical, or short-range, nuclear weapons. All of them were rejected, as treaty supporters successfully made the case that they were unnecessary and that any changes to the treaty text itself would kill the agreement because such changes would have to be approved by Russia.

The first amendment, offered by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), would have removed a paragraph from the treaty’s preamble that recognized “the existence of the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms,” which some senators were concerned could limit U.S. missile defense options. The amendment was defeated 59-37 Dec. 18. Other amendments followed, from Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) on including tactical nuclear weapons in the treaty, from Thune on increasing the allowed number of delivery vehicles from 700 to 720, from James Inhofe (R-Okla.) on increasing the number of on-site inspections, and from Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) defining rail-mobile missiles. All failed by margins similar to the one on McCain’s. There was never a real chance these amendments would pass, as only a simple majority was needed to defeat them.

The battle lines were drawn the week of the vote, when McConnell and Kyl declared their opposition to the treaty. Asked on Fox News Dec. 19 if he would oppose the treaty, Kyl said “Absolutely, yes. This treaty needs to be fixed. And we are not going to have the time to do that in the bifurcated way or trifurcated way that we’re dealing with it here, with other issues being parachuted in all the time.” McConnell said on the Senate floor Dec. 20, “Our top concern should be the safety and security of our nation, not some politician’s desire to declare a political victory and host a press conference before the first of the year.”

Just two days before the vote, the outcome was still uncertain, with only a handful of Republican senators, now including Scott Brown (Mass.), openly supporting the treaty.

On Dec. 20, Kerry released a letter from Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen stating that New START is “vital to U.S. national security” and that “the sooner it is ratified, the better.” Supporters of the treaty highlighted the letter to make the point that, for Republicans to oppose New START, they would have to oppose the U.S. military as well.

The same day, Scowcroft told ABC News, “I just don’t understand the opposition” and that “to play politics with what is in the fundamental national interest is pretty scary stuff.”

“A Dismaying Rout”

After six days of debate on the treaty and with Christmas on the horizon, the tide began to shift Dec. 21. That morning, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates released a statement saying, “I strongly support the Senate voting to give its advice and consent to ratification of the New START Treaty this week.” Then, additional support began to emerge after Republican Conference Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) announced he would vote for the treaty. Alexander, the third-ranking Senate Republican, said New START “leaves our country with enough nuclear warheads to blow any attacker to Kingdom Come.”

Alexander’s endorsement was followed quickly by Republican Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), George Voinovich (Ohio), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), and Robert Bennett (Utah), providing more than enough Republican support to pass the treaty.

Corker, a key Republican swing vote, said on the Senate floor, “I firmly believe that…ratifying this treaty, and that all the things we have done over the course of time as a result of this treaty are in our country’s national interest, and I am here today to state my full support for this treaty.”

By late morning, the National Review, a conservative journal, declared that “Republican opposition to New START is collapsing” and predicted that the vote for ratification could go as high as 75. The Review said, “At least Jon Kyl was able to get more money for modernization and that letter from President Obama making assurances on missile defense. Otherwise, this is a dismaying rout.”

The article was referring to a Dec. 18 letter from Obama to McConnell in response to Republican concerns that, out of deference to Russia, Obama might not deploy all four phases of U.S. missile defense plans for NATO. Obama assured McConnell that the administration would deploy all four phases of the Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense in Europe. “I will take every action available to me to support the deployment of all four phases,” wrote Obama.

In a key step to ratification and a reflection of the growing bipartisan support, late on Dec. 21 the Senate voted 67-28, with the support of 11 Republicans, to invoke cloture, leading to the end of debate and a final vote on New START the next day. The cloture vote made it clear that New START would pass; the only real remaining question was how many Republicans would vote for it.

Nevertheless, Kyl continued to question the outcome. “I honestly don’t know what all of my colleagues are going to do,” Kyl said at a Dec. 21 press conference after the cloture vote. “We believe this process has not enabled us to consider this treaty in the serious way it should have been considered. I hope a lot of our colleagues would agree with that.”

Appearing with Kyl, DeMint, who opposed the treaty in the Foreign Relations Committee, said, “It’s clear with this treaty that [the administration is] trying to cram something down the throats of the American people under the cover of Christmas…. They’re not looking at politics right now, they’re celebrating their holy Christmas holiday, and the fact that we’re doing this under the cover of Christmas … is something to be outraged about.”

Final Vote

After the Dec. 21 cloture vote, the Senate had a maximum of 30 hours to consider any remaining amendments.

Unable to alter the treaty text, Republicans began to offer amendments to the resolution of advice and consent, which had passed the Foreign Relations Committee Sept. 16. (See ACT, October 2010.) Changes to the resolution would not alter the treaty itself and thus had a chance to pass. Four such amendments were ultimately accepted by voice vote, after being modified.

Two amendments by Kyl sought to accelerate funding for modernizing the weapons complex and ensure modernization of nuclear delivery systems. Another amendment, by Sens. McCain, Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), and Corker sought assurances that Obama would deploy all four phases of the phased approach to missile defense in Europe. An amendment by Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) stated that prior to the entry into force of New START, the president must certify that he will seek negotiations with Russia within one year of entry into force “to secure and reduce tactical nuclear weapons in a verifiable manner.” The LeMieux amendment may prove particularly significant as it represents a Republican endorsement of tactical arms reduction talks with Russia.

There was speculation that if his amendment were accepted, McCain would vote for the treaty and bring another three or four Republican votes with him. Although his amendment was approved, McCain voted “no” on final passage. The treaty ultimately won the support of 56 Democrats, 13 Republicans, and the two independents.

Biden, in his role as president of the Senate, took the rare step of presiding personally over the vote, reflecting the treaty’s symbolic importance for Obama’s presidency. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton—like Biden, a former senator—was on the Senate floor as well.

After the vote, Kerry, who led the floor fight for the treaty, said the vote will reduce the risk of nuclear catastrophe. “The winners are not defined by party or ideology,” he said. “The winners are the American people, who are safer with fewer Russian missiles aimed at them.”

Kyl denounced the Senate’s refusal to amend the treaty, even though it accepted some of his changes to the resolution. “The precedent here that we’re establishing is that the Senate really is a rubber stamp,” he said. “Whatever a president negotiates with the Russians or somebody else we dare not change because otherwise it will have to be renegotiated to some great detriment to humanity.”

But in the end, Kyl could convince only 26 of the 39 Republicans who voted on the treaty to vote with him. Corker told The New York Times Dec. 22, “There’s no question in my mind that this [treaty] is in our country’s national security interest.” The vote on New START “is not one of those votes where you wonder,” he said. “This is not even a close call.”

In addition to Corker, the Republican senators voting for the treaty Dec. 22 were Alexander, Bennett, Brown, Thad Cochran (Miss.), Collins, Judd Gregg (N.H.), Isakson, Mike Johanns (Neb.), Lugar, Murkowski, Snowe, and Voinovich.

Next Steps

Once the United States and Russia exchange instruments of ratification and the treaty formally enters into force, the two sides have 60 days to prepare for the first on-site inspections under New START. Within 45 days of entry into force, the two sides are to exchange data on the current status and deployment locations of strategic nuclear forces, consisting of intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers. Inspections could begin by April.

Referring to the LeMieux amendment on tactical weapons, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemoeller said in a conference call with reporters after the vote, “The Russians have a larger number than we do of these systems, and there has been some particular, I would say strong, urging from Capital Hill that we move out” and seek an agreement with Russia to reduce these forces. Gottemoeller noted that Obama has said that the next step after New START would be a treaty that would address tactical nuclear weapons, as well as strategic and nondeployed weapons.

The Obama administration intends to “carry out the requirements of the [U.S. ratification] resolution by seeking to initiate negotiations with Russia on tactical nukes within one year of New START’s entry into force,” White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said following the Senate’s vote.

In a Dec. 21 interview in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Gary Samore, White House coordinator for arms control and nonproliferation, said that multilateral negotiations to ban fissile material production for weapons and Senate ratification of the CTBT are on his agenda. The United States is “trying to reinstate negotiations [on the fissile material treaty] at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and will launch an initiative next year,” he said. On the CTBT, Samore said, “We will present our arguments next year, but we do not know if they will have the desired effect.”

 

U.S., Russia Poised for Arsenal Cuts

President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Nov. 15 they expect to sign a new arms control treaty to replace START by the end of December.

The arsenal limits under discussion would lead to substantial reductions in Russian and U.S. strategic nuclear forces. The two sides had not reached final agreement as of press time.

Tom Z. Collina

President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Nov. 15 they expect to sign a new arms control treaty to replace START by the end of December.

The arsenal limits under discussion would lead to substantial reductions in Russian and U.S. strategic nuclear forces. The two sides had not reached final agreement as of press time.

After meeting with Medvedev at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore, Obama said, “Our goal continues to be to complete the negotiations and to be able to sign a deal before the end of the year. And I’m confident that if we work hard and with a sense of urgency about it that we should be able to get that done,” according to a White House transcript.

Speaking after Obama, Medvedev said, “I hope that, as was agreed initially during our first meeting in London, [and] was reaffirmed during later meetings, we will be able to finalize the text of the document by December.” He added, “[T]he world is watching.”

The current START expires Dec. 5.

The latest and possibly final round of Russian-U.S. talks began in Geneva Nov. 9. Obama will travel to Oslo to receive his Nobel Peace Prize Dec. 10, and the White House would like to have a new treaty ready for signature by that time, according to administration officials.

If agreement is reached, the new treaty would significantly tighten bilateral limits on the number of strategic nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles each side can deploy. Under START and the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), Russia and the United States are limited to deploying 2,200 strategic warheads (by 2012) on 1,600 long-range land-based missiles, sea-based missiles, and bombers. The new treaty would reduce the warhead limit from 2,200 to possibly 1,600, a cut of 600 (27 percent). The launcher limit would drop from 1,600 to possibly 800, a cut of 800 (50 percent).

The launcher reduction is larger in part because the previous limit (1,600) has not been revised since 1991, when START was signed. The previous warhead limit (2,200), by contrast, was agreed to a decade later in SORT, which was signed in 2002, and is thus a more accurate reflection of current deployments. (For comparison, START limits both sides to 6,000 “accountable” warheads, i.e., warheads that are associated with delivery systems but not directly counted.)

With regard to deployed strategic warheads, the Department of State reported in July 2009 that the United States had met its SORT limit of 2,200 three years early. Russia is believed to have about 2,800 warheads, according to independent estimates. Thus, comparing current warhead stocks to the likely new treaty limit (1,600), the United States would have to reduce by 27 percent and Russia by 42 percent.

The likely new limit of 800 strategic delivery vehicles (long-range missiles and bombers) will not directly affect current forces because Russia and the United States are at or below these limits already. The United States is believed to deploy about 800 (the same number allowed under the new treaty) while Russia deploys about 620, according to independent estimates. The difference is due in part to the U.S. preference to keep more missiles with fewer warheads loaded on each one. Russia, due primarily to budget constraints, chooses to deploy fewer missiles with more warheads on each. Reflecting these preferences, Russia originally proposed that the two sides agree to keep only 500 launchers apiece, while the United States first proposed 1,100.

In 1991, before START was signed, Russia and the United States each had roughly 10,000 deployed strategic warheads. If the START follow-on is completed, the bilateral arms control process will have reduced Russian and U.S. deployed strategic warheads by more than 80 percent over the last two decades. If the START successor is not implemented, both sides would be free to increase their nuclear forces after START expires this month and SORT expires Dec. 31, 2012 (see graph).

Even if the text of the START follow-on is finalized by Dec. 5, the new treaty cannot enter into force until ratified by the U.S. Senate and Russian Duma. To cover this interval, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who supports a new treaty and is concerned that inspectors from each side will lose their access to the other’s facilities when START expires, has introduced legislation that would give Obama authority to allow Russian inspectors to continue to monitor U.S. facilities. Michael McFaul, special assistant to the president for national security affairs and senior director of Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council, told reporters at a Nov. 15 White House press briefing that negotiators are working on a “bridging agreement” to extend elements of the current START until the new treaty has been signed and ratified. “We do need a bridging agreement no matter what,” McFaul said. “The key thing there is verification. We just want to preserve the verification.”

Indicating that the negotiations may continue until Dec. 31, McFaul said, “But we’re not at the endgame yet, we’re not at the end of the year.” McFaul added, “We still have some fairly major things to finish.”

Origins of New START

Signed in 1991 and brought into force in 1994, START still provides far-reaching inspections and data exchanges on which both sides depend to determine the size and location of the other’s nuclear forces. The United States has conducted more than 600 inspections in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine while Russia has conducted more than 400 inspections in the United States, according to the State Department. START was signed by the Soviet Union and includes all the former Soviet republics that hosted nuclear weapons at that time. All former Soviet nuclear forces are now controlled by Russia.

SORT, which entered into force in 2003, calls for both sides to retain no more than 2,200 “operationally deployed” strategic warheads, expires the same day the treaty limit takes effect, and provides no additional verification provisions.

Motivated by START’s pending expiration, U.S. and Russian officials agreed in March to negotiate a new treaty to establish lower, verifiable limits on strategic nuclear arsenals by year’s end. Talks on a new START began in April.

Obama and Medvedev agreed July 6 that the new treaty would limit each side’s deployed strategic warheads to a number between 1,500 and 1,675 and strategic delivery vehicles to a number between 500 and 1,100. They also agreed that the new treaty would include verification, monitoring, and information exchange provisions based on principles and practices established by START.

None of these treaties is designed to limit either strategic warheads taken out of service or tactical nuclear weapons. Those issues are expected to be addressed in talks on the next START, which may begin next year. Both sides are believed to have thousands of warheads in reserve (active and inactive) and awaiting dismantlement.

 

A Fresh Start? An Interview with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Russia's new ambassador to the United States, has assumed his post at a critical time in U.S.-Russian relations and at a point when presidential transitions are underway in both Moscow and Washington. Kislyak has served in a number of senior foreign policy positions in Moscow. Most recently, he served as Russia's deputy foreign minister where he played the lead role on arms control and nonproliferation issues. On November 14, Arms Control Today spoke with Ambassador Kislyak about his views on a number of issues in U.S.-Russian strategic relations, including missile defense, future strategic arms reductions, the status of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, and Russian views on how to deal with Iran's nuclear program. (Continue)

Interviewed by Daryl G. Kimball and Miles A. Pomper

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Russia's new ambassador to the United States, has assumed his post at a critical time in U.S.-Russian relations and at a point when presidential transitions are underway in both Moscow and Washington. Kislyak has served in a number of senior foreign policy positions in Moscow. Most recently, he served as Russia's deputy foreign minister where he played the lead role on arms control and nonproliferation issues. On November 14, Arms Control Today spoke with Ambassador Kislyak about his views on a number of issues in U.S.-Russian strategic relations, including missile defense, future strategic arms reductions, the status of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, and Russian views on how to deal with Iran's nuclear program.

ACT: One of the more immediate security challenges facing the United States and Russia is the December 2009 expiration of START, including its verification regime.[1] Obama has told this magazine that he wants to work with Russia to "make deep cuts in global nuclear stockpiles" during his first term and "extend the essential monitoring and verification provisions of START I prior to its expiration." Would Russia be willing to extend START if necessary?

Kislyak: It is difficult to say what you mean by "extend." Do we extend it the way it is, do we extend it for five years, do we extend it for two? All of these questions need to be discussed between our two teams.

If you ask me where we are currently, having discussed all these issues for quite a long period of time, I would say unfortunately I cannot report to you that we are satisfied with the level of agreement between us and the current administration of the United States on this particular issue. We have quite different views as to what the follow-on to START should be. We think there needs to be an extension of START, preserving the main systematic structure of the agreement, which does not mean we need to carbon-copy the agreement. It is large and had a strong emphasis on the destruction of weapons that have been fulfilled completely by the United States and Russia.[2] We need to focus on things that do provide guarantees for stability in the future. That would certainly include limitations on delivery vehicles. Also, we need to be sure deployment modes do not change in a way that will be threatening to each other. Those elements of START that can provide stability for the future, we want to preserve in the future agreements.[3]

With lowering levels, I am not discussing with you now what the exact numbers I think that need to be filled in. It is something that should be negotiated between the delegations. One should not negotiate through the press, but I am trying to help you to understand how we see the follow-on to START. Sometimes the treaty was criticized for being too lengthy and too complicated. I would say it was not too lengthy because it was addressing challenges that we had at the [time of] signing of the agreement. We were entering a process that was new to us, new to you. That was the first agreement to practically reduce strategic components of both sides.

But by now, after the treaty is almost completed, we have accumulated a wealth of experience on how to implement it. We are now concerned about taking pieces that we know how to implement and to import them in the follow-on agreement that would be providing guarantees for the stability of the future. One of the most important things for us is that [the START follow-on] addresses delivery vehicles because you have to be sure that the deployment modes of both sides would not be any more threatening than they are now. Hopefully, they will be less so, more predictable, and at a lower level. That has always been our philosophy and position on this issue, whereas the philosophy of the U.S. government is a little bit different. What our [U.S.] colleagues are suggesting basically is not a follow on to START but rather an extension or a follow-on to the Moscow Treaty.[4] Those are two different treaties, but they are mutually complementary. The Moscow Treaty, partially at least, was relying on the verification procedures and the system of mutual exchanges provided for in START. Those are two complementary things and not substitutes for one another. What we would like to see happening is that we have a follow-on to START that will be picking up those elements that are still important today and would provide extended stability in our relations, hopefully at the lower levels covering everything: delivery vehicles and [warhead] deployments. A Moscow Treaty plus the follow-on to START would do the trick.

ACT: A hybrid approach?

Kislyak: It is not a hybrid. The Moscow Treaty is there. It is valid until 2012. Currently, we have to resolve the issue on what is to succeed START. The first discussion on what we are going to have afterwards needs to be taken before December of this year. The treaty will expire unless anything else is created or decided in a year. If we do not have anything in January 2010, we will wake up, all of us, in a situation where there are no limits on delivery vehicles and no limits on anti-ballistic missile defense.[5]

I'm asking myself, are we going to be better off in terms of providing stability in our relations and in the world context? I think it would be a very unfortunate , if not dangerous, situation, because it is a kind of free-for-all of strategic arms and we might lose the mutual constraints provided for on a mutual basis by arms control agreements.

ACT: Can you be a little bit more specific in terms of what Russia is looking for in terms of which verification provisions from START should be continued? It was not clear if you wanted those in the future agreement.

Kislyak: Yeah, we do want the follow-on to be providing for verification, exchanges of information, and transparency. It is not that we favor just political declarations. We want to be sure that if we do have an agreement, the agreement needs to be verified and that the American side will be as compliant as we are.

As to the particularities of what we want-once again, I do not negotiate in the press.

ACT: Former President Vladimir Putin said at one point that Russia would be prepared to reduce its strategic forces down to 1,500 warheads or less.[6] That has been interpreted in different ways. What does that mean in terms of whether those warheads would be counted under the SORT [Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty] system or START? Can you provide any clarification of what he meant or what was meant in those comments?

In moving forward in talks with the United States on strategic systems, what is Russia's view about how best to deal with the United States' interest in converting some of the strategic systems that are armed with nuclear warheads to conventional warheads? How might that be taken into account in these future discussions?[7]

Kislyak: First of all, the numbers. We are certainly willing to go lower. That has always been our position, even at the time of negotiating the Moscow Treaty. The number of 1,500-there is nothing magic about it. Those are the numbers as a target that we are willing to negotiate with our American colleagues on. So whatever the mechanism is for arriving at this number, we are willing to be open and stick together. What we want to see happening is the mutual constraints provided for in START should not be lost because they do provide stability and are one of the important things that also should be preserved and should not be discarded.

As to the idea of converting nuclear strategic weapons into conventional weapons, we are very much concerned about this concept. We don't believe that, so far, that there is a mechanism that would ensure that it would not be destabilizing. We have been told that this conversion of strategic delivery vehicles into non-nuclear ones would not affect Russian security, but that's easily said. It is difficult to understand how it could be guaranteed; how one can be relaxed about a number of delivery vehicles that can be reconverted at any time, and secondly can have strategic missions. So, we do not agree in principle because we do not know of any guarantees that it is not going to be threatening to our security.

ACT: To date, U.S. and Russian arms control treaties have focused on strategic weapons. Yet, many analysts outside Russia have raised concerns about the size and security of Russia's stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons, as well as whether Russia has fulfilled past commitments to reduce these weapons.[8] Under what conditions would Russia be willing to provide a full accounting of these systems and start verifiably disposing of them?

Kislyak:
First and foremost, on the security of these weapons, this issue has been talked about many times. In my opinion, having been involved in negotiations, I do not know of a single case where there has been a real problem with the safety and security of Russian nuclear weapons.

The United States has to work more seriously on how it deals with this issue. The latest reports on these issues that we know of indicates that a lot of things need to be looked at in this country.[9] I saw statements by the secretary of defense on this issue suggesting that there were decisions made in order to reinforce control of your stockpile and your components, and situations where some elements of them would find themselves in different countries. It is not acceptable, and we are certainly looking forward to seeing more control in this country of your components. As far as we are concerned, certainly, one cannot be complacent at any time, but the system of protection of Russian nuclear weapons is very, very stringent.

I remember, I think it was in Bratislava, that both sides, the presidents and the staffers and the advisers, had discussed the issue of safety of components of nuclear weapons. They agreed there was a good level of protection in both countries.[10] But one of the ideas was that we should never be complacent about it. That is something that is the case in my country. So I take exception to the notion that our nuclear weapons are insecure. Our strategic forces can be considered as secured.

As to the scope of nuclear weapons in negotiations, I think we need to be aware that the nuclear weapons unfortunately do not exist in isolation. It is also [a] part of military culture on both sides. We see that we have difficulties to even negotiate a follow-on to START that regulates the strategic component of [U.S. and Russian] forces.

At the same time, when you come say to the European situation we see a lot of imbalances in conventional weapons. We see a very disappointing situation with the CFE [Conventional Armed Forces in Europe] Treaty. We still believe the CFE Treaty that was negotiated for the situation when two opposing military blocs existed still regulates the relations between two groups of countries. We see that one group is no longer and the other is expanding and taking bit by bit the quotas that were given to the group that is no longer there, suggesting that the treaty doesn't work. It is something that is so surreal and does not provide the sense of stability, that we were forced to send [for the Russian moratorium] a strong signal to our colleagues that this situation should be corrected.

Some years ago ... on the initiative of Russia, we started negotiating the [adaptation] to the CFE Treaty that provides a little bit different approach.[11] It is not an ideal document either, but at least it does provide more predictability in this field by providing for two networks of limitations, not on the basis of groupings, but on individual membership to the treaty. We did expect that this treaty would have been in force already, say, five years ago. And what happens? Nothing. The adapted treaty has not entered into force. Our colleagues in the United States and NATO have decided not to start ratification of the treaty. The conditions for ratification, as far as we are concerned, are official; and we think that, first and foremost, there was lack of [NATO] interest in seeing it enter into force.

However, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Belarus did ratify the [adapted] treaty, so we live in a very asymmetrical situation in terms of conventional buildups in Europe. I am not suggesting there are enormous buildups that are immediately threatening or deployed to prepare a tank attack, like we were concerned about in Cold War times. But the situation is that there is an expansion of conventional weapons in one grouping that is still there. The situation in conventional arms control is not satisfactory.

ACT: Is it fair to say then that the quantity of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe is not the main concern or the main motivation for why Russia would be prepared to retain its weapons?

Kislyak: It is one of them. We have always advocated the repatriation of all weapons to one's own territory. We do not keep nuclear weapons beyond the territory of Russia, and we have always advocated that it would be a good idea for the others to do the same.

ACT: If the United States was willing to withdraw those tactical nuclear weapons, would that change Russia's position on consolidating, reducing, or eliminating its tactical nuclear weapons?

Kislyak: It would certainly be a serious factor, but would it be enough? I think we need to have a little bit more complex discussion between us and the United States and between us and NATO on the security environment in Europe.

ACT: On the CFE Treaty, Russia last year suspended implementation of it.[12] When does Russia intend to resume implementation, and what actions will it take to bring the Adapted CFE Treaty into force?

Kislyak: Well, I do not believe that we are interested in resuming implementation of the current CFE Treaty [without it being adapted]. You know how the CFE Treaty works? You have the current CFE Treaty that is the old one, and we have an adapted treaty. The adapted treaty does not exist without the first one, so in order to have an adapted treaty in force, we have to have both (The old one to be adapted by the new one). So, the moment that the adapted treaty is in force, we will have both: the old one, as amended by the treaty of adaptation.

But legally speaking, we are already there. We have ratified the adapted treaty, so in a way, we are waiting for others to join us. It is not us blocking the treaty and implementation; it is us waiting [for the others].

ACT: The argument on the other side is that you have not fulfilled these political commitments.

Kislyak:
Yes we have. We have fulfilled everything that is applicable to the CFE Treaty implementation.

ACT: What about the withdrawals from Moldova and Georgia that were supposedly tied to the Adapted CFE Treaty?[13]

Kislyak: No, no, no, we have done everything that is related to the treaty, we have withdrawn all TLE [treaty-limited equipment] from Moldova in time. But there are political agreements between us and Moldova and us and the United States on the political environment there. They are bilateral understandings. Same with Georgia, on the withdrawal of our bases. Our bases are no longer there, we have withdrawn them. But the Georgians also were under commitment to do several things, and they have failed to do so. But in any way all this goes beyond what was required to implement the treaty.

By the way, by the same token, one of the commitments of Istanbul for all of us, including the United States, was the ratification of the Adapted CFE Treaty. It is yet to be implemented [by the West].

ACT: The United States and Russia share the challenge of dealing with Iran's ongoing enrichment program, as well as Iran's construction of the Arak heavy-water reactor.[14] Just briefly, in your view, what do the United States and Russia and other members of the Security Council need to do in the near future to fortify the existing strategy or adjust the existing strategy to persuade Iran to suspend its enrichment program and comply with the IAEA investigation of its past nuclear activities?

Kislyak: Well, I do not believe we need to reinvent the strategy. This strategy has two basic components. One is based on decisions made by the IAEA Board of Governors enumerating for the Iranian government what needs to be done to return credibility to its program. The Security Council has adopted already four resolutions that are beefing up the requirements of the IAEA. So there have been strong but measured signals of the international community to Iran that it is expected to comply with the IAEA requirements. And that was reinforcing the latest [UN Security Council] resolution from September. It [the September resolution] was short but, I think, very important, with a serious message.

What needs to be done also is to try to engage in discussion with Iranian colleagues and work out the benefits, for them and for all of us, if they do cooperate with the requirements. The six [China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States] have produced a package of ideas which I think is a good one. It provides for the Iranians, if they choose to pick it up and to develop it with us through negotiations, an excellent opportunity to expand cooperation not only with us, but also with Europeans, with the United States, with China, on a very, very broad range of issues, including nuclear energy, even scientific research, and many other things that would help them to be more integrated into the world economy. That is an offer of cooperation by countries "from the Atlantic to the Pacific," to the Iranian colleagues. That is something we try to reinforce when talking with Tehran. We are very much interested in seeing the Iranian government understand that this package is an honest one. We are satisfied that the American government is more and more involved in promoting this package. We saw Bill Burns, together with us, at the Geneva meeting back in the summer, which I think was a good message reinforcing that if we do have an agreement on this package, the United States will be part of it.[15] That is a very important part.

There are a lot of concerns on both sides. There is a lot of mistrust on both sides that needs to be overcome. That is the track that, I think, is a little bit underdeveloped so far, and we need to work more on that.

ACT: Russia has asserted that the Bush administration has pursued several policies that threaten to upset U.S.-Russian strategic relationship and stability. Foremost among these is this administration's effort to base 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a new radar in the Czech Republic. Why is Russia concerned about 10 interceptors, and why does it keep threatening to target the proposed U.S. installations?

Kislyak: It is not about 10 interceptors per se. We certainly understand that these 10 interceptors and the radar stationed in Czech Republic are not isolated components. They are elements of strategic anti-ballistic missile deployment. We see this for the first time, as far as I understand in history, that the United States is planning to deploy strategic components of its forces in Europe. It is close to us. This is about destabilizing deterrence. There are several bases of strategic offensive force in the European part of Russia that will be within range of this system. What is planned to be deployed is not just an observation or [early] warning radar, this is a battle management radar. We understand that most probably it is not the last [planned] deployment in the region. There might be others. I do not know when or where. We see it not as 10 innocuous missiles being deployed. We see it as an element of a bigger picture. This picture seems to be increasingly destabilizing and potentially more destabilizing in the future. That is the concern.

ACT: What measures or actions could the United States take to mitigate Russian concerns about the proposed deployment?

Kislyak: We had proposed an alternative idea of cooperating against what was the stated goal for this deployment, and that is to offset the possibility that the deployment would appear threatening to other countries.[16]

ACT: Is there any possibility that your government and the Obama administration could build on this administration's proposals for joint threat assessment, limiting interceptor deployment, and pursuing a joint missile defense architecture?[17]

Kislyak: What we had proposed was to join our monitoring systems, including our radar station in Azerbaijan. There would be a system strategically located in the region that might be of service in the future of missile defense. What we were proposing was to create a joint monitoring system that would be giving all of us on a joint basis the possibility to monitor what is happening and what is not happening. That is equally important.
We also proposed that we will conduct a discussion as to what we can do and need to do together in order to offset any possible threat if and when it appears. We do not see a credible threat to the United States appearing any time soon, at least not in my opinion, to strike the United States from this region. To threaten the United States from that region one has to have missiles of 8,000 to 11,000 kilometers range, and I do not see an industry in this region that would be capable any time soon to produce that kind of system.

When it comes to arguments about the need to protect Europe, I do not believe Europe asked for protection. It was decided for Europeans without consulting Europeans. The problem is that we also have specialists on ballistics and trajectories and mathematics, and we understand that, had it been the goal to protect Europe, maybe we would have used a different scheme of deployment to protect all of Europe. So if this is not to protect the United States and it is not to protect Europe and if there is no threat to offset, then the only "clientele," as they say, for this system would be Russia. Russian territory is very close, and we have components of strategic deterrence there. That is the concern. We are concerned that this system is an added element (close to our borders) to the overall effort to undermine strategic deterrence. And we, you and us, have not yet abandoned strategic deterrence.

ACT: Bush discussed with Putin a few months back, I believe at Sochi, the possibility of limiting the scope of that deployment, in addition to the Russian proposal that you just outlined.[18] Is that a realistic area for future discussion because you did just say that the concern is not 10 interceptors per se, but the possibility of a broader and more robust missile defense capability of the United States?

Kislyak: No, these elements will be serving as part of a layered defense. Nobody was offering to us any limitation of the strategic missile defense of the United States. I never heard of any proposals of that kind. It is not nearly enough [to alleviate Russian concerns] because we have had that kind of discussion in the past and we have raised our concerns. To be honest, we have not seen those concerns always being taken seriously.

ACT: Russia is a strong proponent of negotiating an agreement to prevent an arms race in outer space.[19]

Kislyak:
Yes, we are.

ACT: U.S. officials contend there is no arms race in space and that Russia's proposals are neglecting to address the real danger of terrestrial based anti-satellite systems. What is Russia's response to the U.S. arguments, and why has Russia made outer space a priority?

Kislyak: We made it a priority because we are concerned if you start an arms race in outer space, you would not be able to disinvent it. It is going to be destabilizing if it is allowed to take place. The notion that there is no arms race in outer space does not sound to us credible because we are concerned that there will be programs in the future that might lead to deployment of striking weapons in outer space. That is a problem. I remember there were a number of statements, even by experts outside of the government here, that had begun to advocate that kind of program should be accelerated. We understand there is a lot of thinking about this and, at some point in the discussions about the strategic defenses in your country, there were ideas to deploy various versions of weapons into outer space.

So, this issue has not been withdrawn from the table. We are concerned if that happens, and if others would have to reciprocate, if we will bring the competition into outer space, it will become increasingly destabilized and, in the long term, strategically dangerous. It will undermine [also] the ability of countries to explore outer space for peaceful purposes. So, there are many components why one can be concerned. We are very much satisfied that a lot of countries supported us in a vote for resolutions at the United Nations. The appreciation of the problem seems to be almost universal. It is only the United States that does not join us yet. We will see what the future will bring to us.

ACT: Many former U.S. statesmen are now calling for a renewed emphasis on making progress toward the goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons. Do Russia's leaders see this goal as feasible? Do they share the views of Kissinger, Schultz, Perry, Nunn, and many others, that the nuclear-weapons states can and should move quickly on concrete steps to realize this goal?[20]

Kislyak: As the ultimate goal, yes, but in order to achieve this goal, a lot of things need to be done. Certainly the lower you go, the more complex the situation becomes. As we go down, we need to be sure that nuclear weapons are not going to appear in other countries. You need to work toward increasing the guarantees of nonproliferation at first. Secondly, we need to have all other [nuclear-armed states] on board. Third, we need to be sure that while we are moving toward this goal, how are the other components of security to be assured? It is complex. It is a very, very complex goal, but it is a noble goal. We can work toward this goal. It has always been our commitment in the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but we need to take first steps first.[21] The first priority for us and probably for you, today, is to decide what is going to follow-on to START. That would be a first step. That is a very good goal that needs to be worked on, I'm afraid, for a quite a long period of time.

Click here for a complete transcript of the interview.

ENDNOTES

1. START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) I calls for the reduction in the number of Russian and U.S. strategic nuclear arsenals of each party. Signed in July 1991, START I entered into force in December 1994. START I runs for 15 years with an option to extend the treaty for successive five-year periods. Extension provisions call for parties to meet at least a year before the treaty expires in December 2009. Neither the United States nor Russia supported a five-year extension. For a discussion on what might follow START I, see Alexei Arbatov and Rose Gottemoeller, "New Presidents, New Agreements? Advancing U.S.-Russian Strategic Arms Control," Arms Control Today, July/August 2008, pp. 6-14.
2. All member states to START I met the agreed December 5, 2001, implementation deadline.
3. The basic terms of START I call for reductions in delivery vehicles and deployment modes, so that seven years after the entry into force of START I and thereafter, numbers do not exceed 1,600 deployed ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers for each side. It also limits the number of warheads attributed to ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers. No more than 4,900 may be on ICBMs and SLBMs, 1,540 on heavy missiles, and 1,100 on mobile ICBMs.
4. The Moscow Treaty, also known as the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), was signed by Bush and Putin in 2002 and came into force in June 2003. SORT differs from START I in that it limits the number of operationally deployed warheads, whereas START I only limits "accountable" warheads attributed to their delivery vehicles. SORT calls for both parties to limit their nuclear arsenal to 1,700-2,200 operationally deployed warheads each.
5. The now-defunct Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty was signed by the Soviet Union and the United States on May 26, 1972, and entered into force on October 3, 1972. The treaty barred Washington and Moscow from deploying nationwide defenses against strategic ballistic missiles. The United States withdrew from the treaty on June 13, 2002.
6. See "Statement of Russian President Putin on Strategic Reductions and Preservation of the ABM Treaty," Arms Control Today, December 2000, p. 30.
7. The Global Strike Initiative is a Pentagon initiative that would convert some long-range SLBMs to deliver conventional warheads instead of nuclear ones. See Wade Boese, "Panel Endorses U.S. Global Strike Initiative," Arms Control Today, June 2007, pp. 34-35.
8. Collectively known as the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNIs), President George H. W. Bush and Premier Mikhail Gorbachev both announced unilateral strategic reduction measures in the fall of 1991. The United States alleges Russia still has not fulfilled all of its PNI destruction commitments, and Moscow opposes the continued stationing of hundreds of U.S. tactical nuclear gravity bombs in Europe, which the PNIs did not cover. See Oliver Meier, "NATO Mulls Nuke Modernization, Security," Arms Control Today, September 2008, pp. 37-39.
9. In August 2007, a B-52 flew from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, unknowingly carrying six nuclear warheads. See Zachary Hosford, "Congress, Pentagon Probe Nuke Overflight," Arms Control Today, October 2007, p. 48. Additionally, the Pentagon revealed in March 2008 that four classified fuses to nuclear weapons had been mistakenly shipped to Taiwan in August 2006. See Jeremy Patterson, "Taiwan Fuse Shipment Reveals Nuclear Security Gaps," Arms Control Today, May 2008, pp. 46-47. In response to the mishandlings, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates appointed a task force headed by former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger to review nuclear security and command and control and fired the Air Force secretary and chief of staff.
10. The Bratislava Initiatives were announced in a joint statement on nuclear security cooperation issued by Bush and Putin in February 2005. Both presidents reaffirmed commitments to making securing vulnerable materials a top priority, as well as to work together on energy, counterterrorism, and space cooperation. These initiatives have contributed to efforts to remove highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Poland and Libya, secure U.S.-origin HEU around the world, and convert HEU-fueled reactors to operate on low-enriched uranium (LEU).
11. The Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, signed in November 1990, set equal limits on the amount of tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters that NATO and the former Warsaw Pact could deploy between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains. With the breakup of the Warsaw Pact and the dissolution of the Soviet Union after the Cold War, CFE Treaty states-parties overhauled the treaty in November 1999. The Adapted CFE Treaty replaces the bloc and zone weapons limits with national and territorial arms ceilings, and Russia notified signatories of its intended suspension of the original CFE Treaty in July 2007.
12. See Wade Boese, "Russia Suspends CFE Treaty Implementation," Arms Control Today, January/February 2008, p. 46.
13. After three years of negotiations, the Adapted CFE Treaty was concluded and signed at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Istanbul in November 1999.

NATO members' concerns regarding Russian compliance to the adapted treaty imperiled the official signing of the agreement. Several states, including Russia, made last-minute political commitments in an package called the "Final Act" to quell these doubts. Under the agreements, several NATO members pledged not to increase their territorial ceilings of treaty-limited equipment (TLE), and Russia agreed to reduce its TLE in Georgia and withdraw its military presence from Moldova.

Only Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine have ratified the adapted treaty. The United States and NATO allies have conditioned their ratification of the Adapted CFE Treaty on Russia fulfilling its Final Act pledges. See Wade Boese, "CFE Adapted at OSCE Summit in Istanbul," Arms Control Today, November 1999, p. 23.
14. Iran has been making preparations for the construction of a 40-megawatt heavy-water research reactor near the town of Arak since the 1990s and began construction on the plant in 2004. The site was made public in 2002 by an Iranian dissident group, prompting an IAEA investigation at the previously undeclared site. Iran claims that the reactor will be used to produce medical isotopes, but the configuration of the reactor also makes it suitable for producing high-quality plutonium for nuclear weapons. Because of this concern, the UN Security Council has demanded that Iran suspend construction of the reactor. The IAEA has also requested that Iran provide updated design information for the reactor. Iran has not cooperated with the Security Council or the IAEA regarding these measures and continues construction of the plant, which is slated for completion in 2011. Iran completed construction of a heavy-water production plant to provide heavy water for the reactor at the same site in 2006.
15. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns participated in a July 19 meeting between the permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Germany and Iran to discuss proposals addressing Iran's nuclear program. Burns' participation marked a reversal of U.S. policy prior to the meeting in which Washington refused to send a representative to meetings with Iran until Tehran complied with UN demands.
16. See George N. Lewis and Theodore A. Postol, "European Missile Defense: The Technological Basis for Russian Concerns," Arms Control Today, October 2007, p. 13.
17. See Wade Boese, "U.S. Reaffirms Europe Anti-Missile Plan," Arms Control Today, July/August 2007, pp. 23-24; Wade Boese, "Report: No Progress on Missile Defense, Nukes," Arms Control Today, October 2007, p. 40.
18. See Wade Boese, "Bush, Putin Leave Arms Disputes Unsettled," Arms Control Today, May 2008, pp. 27-28.
19. Russia is a vocal supporter of an international agreement against the weaponization of space and has supported the creation of an ad hoc committee of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) to focus on the issue. In February 2008, Russia and China co-sponsored a proposal at the CD to ban weapons in space. See Wade Boese, "Russia Pushes Pacts as U.S. Kills Satellite," Arms Control Today, March 2008, pp. 50-51.
20. See George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, "A World Free of Nuclear Weapons," The Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2007, p. A15; George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, "Toward a Nuclear-Free World," The Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2008, p. A13. For a more in-depth discussion, see George P. Shultz, Sidney D. Drell, and James E. Goodby, eds., Reykjavik Revisited: Steps Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 2008).
21. Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligates nuclear-weapon states to work toward nuclear disarmament.

Bush Administration Sets Russian Arms Talks

With its time at the helm of U.S. nuclear policy dwindling, the Bush administration announced plans to discuss the expiring START agreement with Russia, which is pressing for a follow-on weapons-cutting treaty. But the outgoing Bush administration endorses a more modest approach and recently reiterated its case for revitalizing the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and developing a new generation of nuclear warheads. (Continue)

Wade Boese

With its time at the helm of U.S. nuclear policy dwindling, the Bush administration announced plans to discuss the expiring START agreement with Russia, which is pressing for a follow-on weapons-cutting treaty. But the outgoing Bush administration endorses a more modest approach and recently reiterated its case for revitalizing the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and developing a new generation of nuclear warheads.

The Department of State issued a statement Oct. 17 that the United States will hold talks with other START states-parties about that accord’s scheduled Dec. 5, 2009, expiration. The meeting is supposed to take place through START’s implementing body, the Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission, in mid-November in Geneva. The other states-parties are Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine, although Russia is the only former Soviet state still armed with nuclear weapons. Under the 1991 treaty, the United States and Russia slashed their deployed nuclear forces from more than 10,000 strategic warheads apiece to less than 6,000 each.

START obligates the states-parties to meet at least one year before its scheduled expiration date to discuss whether the agreement should be extended for another five years. John Rood, acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told a May 21 Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing that both Russia and the United States “do not wish to simply continue the existing START.”

Moscow and Washington, however, have been engaged in periodic negotiations for the past two years on a post-START agreement. Although the United States put those talks on hold in the wake of Russia’s August conflict with Georgia (see ACT, October 2008), the administration in mid-October apparently delivered to Russia a draft post-START proposal that is expected to be discussed at the November meeting.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates Oct. 28 hinted at what a future compromise might entail. Speaking at a Washington conference, he contended a future agreement “could involve further cuts in the number of deployed warheads” and would “need…verification provisions.” He maintained that the goal should be a treaty that is “shorter, simpler, and easier to adjust to real-world conditions” than those negotiated in the past.

John Beyrle, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, told the Interfax news agency in a mid-October interview that it was “very unlikely” that the two sides would reach a new agreement before the Bush administration leaves office. But he said “we do hope to make some progress in explaining what the American position [is] and hearing how the Russian side sees the future START process in order for the new administration to be able to make as quick progress as possible on that.”

At an Oct. 10 speech in Evian, France, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said his government attaches “exceptional importance to concluding a new, legally binding Russian-American agreement on nuclear disarmament” to replace START. He further noted that “what we need is a treaty and not a declaration.”

Medvedev’s admonition stems from Russian unhappiness with the Bush administration’s apparent preference to simply continue the limits agreed to in the May 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT). (See ACT, June 2002.) Touted by the Bush administration for its simplicity, SORT requires Russia and the United States each to lower the number of their operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads to between 1,700 and 2,200 by Dec. 31, 2012, which is the date that the agreement also expires. To fulfill the reductions, no weapons have to be destroyed, only removed from active service.

In contrast to the Bush administration’s position, the Kremlin is advocating deeper cuts below the SORT warhead levels as well as caps on delivery vehicles, including any future long-range systems outfitted with non-nuclear warheads. The United States is exploring conventional weapons with extended ranges as part of the so-called prompt global strike initiative. (See ACT, September 2008.)

One area of general agreement is that a post-START arrangement should include some verification measures because SORT contains none. However, concerns that START will expire as scheduled without a successor agreement in place three years before the SORT reductions are to be completed have prompted some U.S. lawmakers, such as Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), to urge the administration to reach an agreement to extend START or at least some of its verification provisions.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the Democratic presidential candidate, stated in response to survey questions from Arms Control Today that he would seek “Russia’s agreement to extend essential monitoring and verification provisions of START I prior to its expiration.” The campaign of the Republican candidate, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), did not respond to the survey, but in a May 27 speech he supported pursuing deeper nuclear reductions with Russia and asserted that “we should be able to agree with Russia on binding verification measures based on those currently in effect under the START agreement.”

The Administration’s Nuclear Vision

The Bush administration’s public rationale for negotiating the pared-down SORT was that Russia was no longer an enemy so a Cold War-era START-style treaty was unnecessary. In its latest document setting out a future vision for U.S. nuclear weapons policies, however, the administration contends the United States must maintain “a nuclear force second to none” in part because “considerable uncertainty remains about Russia’s future course.” Medvedev noted in a Sept. 26 speech that Russia “must guarantee [its] capacities of nuclear deterrence” through 2020.

Released in September, the administration’s “National Security and Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century” is a follow-on report to a July 2007 letter sent to Congress by the secretaries of defense, energy, and state articulating the administration’s views on nuclear deterrence. Despite signing the previous letter, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did not attach her name to the recent report. A State Department official told Arms Control Today Oct. 15 that Rice “supports the paper’s conclusions” but elected not to sign it because it was more technical than the previous letter, focused on the actual force structure, and dealt with issues that she considered to be more in the purview of the secretaries of defense and energy.

Aside from a potentially more hostile Russia, the report argues the United States must maintain nuclear weapons to address “states of concern,” such as Iran and North Korea, that have developed nuclear forces or are allegedly trying to do so. In addition, the report cites the pursuit of unconventional weapons by nonstate actors as well as the modernization of China’s nuclear forces as potential challenges in which U.S. nuclear weapons might have some part. China has approximately 20 missiles capable of reaching the continental United States, while neither Iran nor North Korea has demonstrated such a capability.

Specific roles U.S. nuclear weapons play and will continue to play, according to the report, include reassuring friends and allies that they do not have to acquire nuclear weapons for their protection and deterring and, if necessary, defeating aggression by adversaries. The report further recommends that U.S. nuclear forces should be kept at levels high enough to dissuade potential peer competitors from engaging in arms races and discourage countries with fewer nuclear weapons from contemplating arms buildups to try to draw even.

Still, the report contends that the future U.S. nuclear force can be “smaller and less prominent than in the past.” To facilitate that goal, the administration argues the United States must revitalize its nuclear weapons production capabilities and introduce a new generation of nuclear weapons through the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program. Once that happens, the administration says, the United States can enact deeper cuts in its estimated nuclear stockpile of 5,400 warheads because there will be less need to preserve backup warheads when new warheads can be manufactured on an as-needed basis.

The RRW program, launched in 2004, is described by the administration as the “key enabler” for moving toward the so-called responsive infrastructure. Nominally, the program is supposed to produce new warheads that are safer, less vulnerable to theft, more easily maintained, and more likely to perform as planned than existing warheads. All of these goals are supposed to be achieved without breaking the U.S. nuclear testing moratorium initiated in 1992. Indeed, the administration asserts that the United States increases the possibility of having to resume nuclear testing if it stays on its present course rather than embarking on the RRW program.

But critics, including many lawmakers, remain unconvinced. They point out that current warheads continue to be certified as safe and reliable and that the current process of extending the lives of older warheads by replacing aging components is working. Moreover, critics argue that the United States should not be building new warheads until it determines how many will be needed in the future and for what missions.

The administration’s paper sought to answer those questions but apparently failed in the minds of skeptical lawmakers, who recently denied funding for the RRW program for a second consecutive year (see page 42). Although the document was released publicly in September, another version was sent several months earlier to Congress. In a June report on their preliminary funding bill for the nuclear weapons complex, House Appropriations Committee members argued they were worried that the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) “nuclear weapons programs have lost their direction.” They also observed that the United States “has the most destructive nuclear arsenal in the world, far more effective than those of all other nations combined.”

Meanwhile, the NNSA, the semiautonomous Department of Energy entity that manages the nuclear weapons complex, released Oct. 9 its preferred option for sizing and organizing future U.S. nuclear weapons activities and facilities. That plan was contained in a so-called environmental impact statement that has been subjected to public commentary and 20 public hearings since Jan. 11. The final product deviates little from the NNSA’s original concept, which does not close any of the enterprise’s existing eight facilities but seeks to consolidate nuclear materials and special operations at select sites.

One adjustment the agency made was to endorse a lower production rate for plutonium pits, the core trigger component of U.S. nuclear warheads. Instead of potentially making up to 80, the agency settled on a cap of 20 until the Pentagon completes a congressionally ordered review of the U.S. nuclear posture, which is supposed to happen next year.

The NNSA stated it plans to begin announcing incremental implementation steps for its overhaul of the complex in roughly a month, although Congress could still act to block certain moves through the annual budget process.

 

 

U.S.-Russian Strategic Dialogue in Limbo

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)

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.”

U.S. ICBM Cuts Completed

The United States over the past year reduced its land-based ICBM fleet by 50 missiles, leaving a force of 450 nuclear-armed Minuteman IIIs in silos spread across Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming. (Continue)

Wade Boese

The United States over the past year reduced its land-based ICBM fleet by 50 missiles, leaving a force of 450 nuclear-armed Minuteman IIIs in silos spread across Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

On June 29, 2007, the Air Force chief of staff ordered the deactivation of the 50 missiles, and Air Force personnel July 28 removed the final missile booster from its silo. The Air Force Aug. 15 officially "inactivated" the unit previously responsible for the missiles, the 564th Missile Squadron, which operated out of Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.

Current plans call for maintaining the 50 empty silos and five unmanned missile alert facilities in a "caretaker status," meaning that they will be sealed up but not destroyed. The warheads previously arming the missiles are scheduled for dismantlement by the Department of Energy's semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration, while the missile components have been sent to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, where they might be used in flight testing or as spares.

The Pentagon in 2006 revealed its intention to cut the missiles, a decision resisted futilely by Montana's congressional delegation. The reductions help fulfill the May 2002 U.S.-Russian Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which commits the two countries to lower their operationally deployed strategic forces to fewer than 2,200 warheads apiece by Dec. 31, 2012. The limitation, however, expires at the end of that same day.

The Department of State earlier this year reported to Congress that the United States was confident it would meet its SORT obligations, noting that there were 2,871 U.S. operationally deployed strategic warheads at the close of 2007. No total was provided for Russia, but the report stated that all indications suggest Russia also plans to meet its limit.

Russia Wants Limits on Prompt Global Strike

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)

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

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)

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.

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