New START: It’s in the Bag!

The New START treaty is in the bag, approved by the US Congress and Russian Duma.

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By Hans M. Kristensen

The upper house of the Russian Parliament (Duma) earlier today approved the New START treaty signed by presidents Medvedev and Obama in Prague on April 8, 2010. This follows approval of the treaty by the U.S. Senate in December despite opposition from hard-liners.

The Russian approval was followed by optimistic statements by Mikhail Margelov, the chairman of the international affairs committee, who declared: “The arms race is a thing of the past. The disarmament race is taking its place.”

What Now?

Now that the treaty has been ratified by both countries, the next step will be an exchange of Instruments of Ratification, at which point the treaty formally enters into effect. When that happens, the Moscow Treaty from 2002 will expire. Within 45 days after entry into force, the two countries will have an initial exchange of data (an initial exchange of site diagrams occurred 45 days after the treaty was signed on April 8, 2010), and photographs of the strategic offensive arms covered by the treaty will be exchanged. After that the inspectors go to work.

No it Doesn’t

But the treaty does not, as the New York Times report mistakenly states, “require the United States and Russia to reduce their nuclear arsenals…to 1,550 warheads each, from between 1,700 and 2,200 now.” This is a misreporting that is frequent in the news media (see also RIA Novosti). In fact, the treaty does not place any limits on the total size of their nuclear arsenals — in fact, it doesn’t require destruction of a single nuclear warhead. Rather, New START reduces the limit for how many of their strategic warheads the two countries may deploy on long-range delivery vehicles at any given time. Both countries may – and do – have thousands of other nuclear warheads that are not deployed or not counted.

Of the estimated 5,000 and 8,000 US and Russian, respectively, nuclear warheads in their military stockpiles, New START affects how 1,550 can be deployed on each side. How to deal with the remaining thousands of non-deployed and nonstrategic nuclear warheads is the focus of the next round of US-Russian nuclear arms control efforts. In addition, both countries have thousands of additional retired but intact warheads awaiting dismantlement, for total estimated inventories of 8,500 US and 11,000 Russian warheads.

New START is in the bag but a lot of work remains to be done.

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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2 Responses to “New START: It’s in the Bag!”

  1. Julie Kinnear January 27, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    I remember the negotiations about SALT treaty back in 1979 when it all failed just because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. So I am very glad that now the two countries have finally reached this agreement and one of the most important treaties in the area of nuclear non-proliferation has come into effect.

  2. Scott Monje March 25, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    Actually, the Duma is the lower house of the parliament (Federal Assembly). It passed in the Duma by 350 to 96 with one abstention on January 25. It passed in the upper house (Federation Council) unanimously on January 26.

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