On March 26, President Obama announced that after nearly a year of tough negotiations, the U.S. and Russia have reached agreement on the Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures to Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (the “New START Treaty”). Presidents Obama and Medvedev will sign the new agreement on April 8 in Prague, Czech Republic.
New START is a modest but critically important and necessary step toward reducing the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. The treaty enhances U.S. security by verifiably reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles and ensuring a stable and predictable U.S.-Russian nuclear relationship.
Moreover, it will allow the U.S. to maintain a robust and flexible nuclear deterrent and will not limit development of U.S. missile defenses or advanced conventional weapons systems … //
While New START draws upon much of what was in START I, the new treaty contains new limits and rules. New rules and limits in turn require verification provisions that are actually pegged to those new rules and limits. For example, the agreement contains provisions that allow for the monitoring and verification of actual warhead loadings, which would be a first for a strategic arms control treaty. As Secretary of Defense Gates noted: “The verification measures for this treaty have been designed to monitor compliance with the provisions with this treaty.”
The new agreement is rooted in the facts that: (1) U.S. defense planning is no longer guided by many of the scenarios vis-à-vis Russia (e.g. think protracted nuclear war) that dominated our thinking during the Cold War; (2) the U.S. is starting with a lot more information about Russia’s strategic forces now than it did in the late 1980s and early 1990s when START I was negotiated and signed (thanks in large part to 15 years of experience implementing START I), and; (3) our own national technical means of monitoring and verification have vastly improved.
Consequently, New START contains an updated and streamlined system of verification procedures that are tailored to the new limits, reflect the realities of the current U.S. and Russian arsenals, and, most importantly, will allow the U.S. to effectively verify Russia’s compliance with the treaty. As Gates put it: “I think that when the testimony of the intelligence community comes on the Hill, that the DNI and the experts will say that they are comfortable that the provisions of this treaty for verification are adequate for them to monitor Russian compliance, and vice versa.”
New START also contains a simplified and less demanding provision on telemetry. START I stated that “telemetric information…assists in verification of Treaty provisions concerning, for example, throw-weight and the number of reentry vehicles.” However, the very purposes for which the telemetry provision was crafted in START I likely no longer exist in the new treaty. According to Gates, “we don’t need telemetry to monitor compliance with this treaty.” That the U.S. negotiating team was still able to secure an agreement to exchange telemetric information on up to five missile launches a year is a nice win for transparency and confidence-building.
MISSILE DEFENSE: … (full text).