Senate Approval of New START Moves Nuclear Arms Control Forward

By Hans M. Kristensen

The Federation of American Scientists today applauded the Senate’s ratification of the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) between the United States and Russia.

The Senate voted 71 to 26 in favor of ratification of the treaty.

The approval of the treaty is a victory for common sense and an impressive achievement for the Obama administration in overcoming stubborn opposition from Cold Warriors to modest nuclear arms reductions.

New START does not require destruction of a single nuclear warhead, but it reduces the limit for how many of them can be deployed on long-range ballistic missiles and heavy bombers.

The United States and Russia possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons and will continue to do so when the treaty limit is reached seven years from now.

During the past year and in an effort to ensure Congressional support for New START, the administration has committed to significant increases in spending on modernizing nuclear weapons and the production complex over the next decade: well over $100 billion for modernization of missiles and bombers, and more than $85 billion for modernizing warheads and production facilities.

This modernization will have to be balanced against the other important goal of U.S. nuclear policy: securing international support for strengthening non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials. Demonstrating clear intensions to reducing the number and role of nuclear weapons will be essential to winning support for this agenda.

Despite its limitations, the approval of the New START treaty brings U.S-Russian strategic relations back on track, reestablishes a vital on-site inspection regime, and potentially opens the way for negotiations on additional reductions in the future.

Those negotiations must establish limits on and verification of U.S. and Russian non-deployed and non-strategic nuclear weapons, and prepare the ground for broadening nuclear arms control to the other nuclear weapons states.

This publication was made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

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3 Responses to “Senate Approval of New START Moves Nuclear Arms Control Forward”

  1. Lorne Marr December 22, 2010 at 5:49 pm #

    The treaty will definitely be helpful in dealing with the hottest issues in the area of nuclear non-proliferation one of them being the limitation of nuclear power in countries that can pose a threat to the whole international community. Now even the return to six party talks with North Korea seems more probable than it seemed a few days ago.

  2. ed December 22, 2010 at 5:58 pm #

    At least the democrats and the republicans appear to agree that the US and Russia should lead the way in nuclear arms control.

  3. Jay Banks December 23, 2010 at 5:21 am #

    Unfortunately, the US Senate failed to understand that by signing the treaty, American defensive weapons capabilites remain static and unable to deal with new threats (NK, Iran). Limiting abilities to adapt to new threats defensively as well as limits on sub launced cruise missles, while allowing the Russians to continue with its advantage in conventional [tactical ?] nuclear weapons is not general negotiation.

    Reply: Your comment suggests the New START puts limits on US missile defense programs, but that is a misunderstanding. One can argue about how much and what kind of missile defense is needed or possible, but US defensive programs are far from “static and unable to deal with new threats” but set to evolve in an effort to do precisely that. Nor does the treaty pose any “limits on sub launched cruise missiles” or defense against them.

    As for Russian tactical nuclear weapons (I believe that is what you intended to say), their numerical advantage is irrelevant to US and NATO security, unless one views these matters through Cold War lenses. The US military has for the past two decades unilaterally eliminated most of its tactical nuclear weapons precisely because they no longer matter. It is important to try to limit and eventually eliminate the remaining weapons, for sure, and now that New START has been approved the next round of arms control negotiations seem scheduled to try to do just that. HK

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