After New START: What Next?
Assuming the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is ratified and enters into force, the question will be, “What next?” Speaking in
The political climate in the
Nevertheless, assuming that the New START Treaty is ratified, something presumably will follow. The next negotiation, however, will be a longer, more complex process than the one that produced New START. The
When signing New START this past April, Obama stated, “[G]oing forward, we hope to pursue discussions with
Other issues are bound to arise. The Russians may raise concerns about long-range conventional weapons, which they fear could threaten their strategic forces.
In light of these considerations, this article proposes that, in a negotiation on a New START follow-on agreement, U.S. negotiators seek a limit on all strategic and nonstrategic nuclear warheads, except for those retired and in the queue for dismantlement, of no more than 2,500 with a sublimit of no more than 1,000 deployed strategic warheads.
An agreement along these lines likely would entail a two-tiered verification system. The sides would have strong confidence in their ability to monitor the limits on deployed strategic systems and detect militarily significant violations of those limits, but weaker confidence as to verifying limits on nonstrategic and nondeployed strategic warheads. This would be preferable to having no limits on and no monitoring of Russian tactical nuclear weapons.
This new agreement would address
New START and Its Impact
New START limits U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces so that seven years after the treaty’s entry into force, each side will not exceed 700 deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and nuclear-capable heavy bombers; 1,550 warheads on deployed ICBMs and SLBMs and attributed to nuclear-capable heavy bombers; and 800 deployed and nondeployed ICBM and SLBM launchers and deployed and nondeployed nuclear-capable heavy bombers. New START counts the actual number of warheads on deployed ICBMs and SLBMs, but counts each nuclear-capable heavy bomber as just one warhead under the 1,550 limit, regardless of capacity or operational load. (Both sides thus will likely deploy somewhat more than 1,550 warheads.)
New START’s verification measures include data exchanges, unique identifiers, notifications, and on-site inspections in addition to reliance on national technical means of verification. The treaty also provides, as a transparency measure, that the sides exchange telemetry on up to five strategic missile launches per year. (Telemetry is the information a missile broadcasts during a flight test to report on its performance.)
U.S. strategic forces had 1,968 deployed warheads as of December 31, 2009. Although the Russians had fewer deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and bombers, they deployed an estimated 2,600 strategic warheads at the beginning of 2010. In implementing New START, the U.S. military intends to take full advantage of the limits, deploying 1,550 warheads on 240 Trident D-5 SLBMs, 400 to 420 Minuteman III ICBMs, and 40 to 60 nuclear-capable B-2 and B-52H bombers; the Pentagon will need to decide between 20 ICBMs or bombers to fit within the 700 limit. The Russians have not described their planned residual strategic forces yet; their original 2009 proposal for New START was for a limit of 500 strategic delivery vehicles.
Deployed Strategic Forces
Assuming an incremental approach to nuclear arms reductions, the Obama administration should consider proposing 1,000 as the deployed strategic warhead limit for the New START follow-on treaty. That would mean a significant cut below New START levels, but should be high enough so that third countries would not need to be included. A limit of 1,000 warheads should suffice to allow the
The next agreement should continue to use New START’s “actual load” rule for counting warheads on ICBMs and SLBMs, including conventional warheads on strategic ballistic missiles. The Pentagon has said that any deployment of conventional warheads would be a “niche capability,” suggesting a requirement measured in the tens. Although some analysts, as a matter of principle, oppose any limits in a strategic arms treaty that constrain conventional weapons, in practical terms, a few tens of conventional warheads would not cut deeply into a treaty allowance of 1,000 strategic warheads.
New START attributes each nuclear-capable bomber with one warhead under the 1,550 warhead limit, even though some can carry as many as 16 to 20 air-launched cruise missiles. Negotiators justified that approach by long bomber flight times (eight to 10 hours); aircraft do not pose the same threat of surprise attack as ICBMs or SLBMs, which have flight times of 15 to 30 minutes. In the next negotiation, the sides should consider increasing the number, perhaps to three to four warheads per aircraft, which would maintain the logic of “discounting” while reducing the amount. An alternate approach, which would entail no discount, would count all nuclear weapons stored at heavy bomber bases under the deployed strategic warhead limit. This would require inspection measures at weapons storage facilities that would be very difficult to negotiate. Since neither side’s air force maintains nuclear weapons onboard bombers, a third approach would treat all nuclear weapons for bombers as nondeployed and thus not counted under the 1,000 deployed strategic warhead limit suggested above. Such a rule, however, might prove unacceptable to the Russians and to the U.S. Senate, which could question a counting method that did not count any bomber weapons as deployed.
A new agreement would presumably maintain a limit on deployed strategic delivery vehicles (ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers) and a limit on deployed and nondeployed ICBM and SLBM launchers and heavy bombers.
The Russians, however, will almost certainly press to lower the strategic delivery vehicle limit. As noted above, they originally proposed a cap of 500, and some experts believe that current trend lines have the Russians going to an even lower level. Moscow also may seek a lower strategic delivery vehicle limit as a means to constrain U.S. “upload” capacity, as the United States could not return warheads to missiles that were no longer deployed.
Because a strategic delivery vehicle limit of 500 apparently could accommodate planned Russian strategic forces, any reduction in the limit below 700 would initially fall solely on the
Assuming the sides could agree on some level as the limit on deployed strategic delivery vehicles, the related issue of the limit on deployed and nondeployed ICBM and SLBM launchers and nuclear-capable heavy bombers should not prove difficult to resolve.
Nonstrategic Nuclear Warheads
Obama has indicated that the
Moreover, any limits that would affect
Nondeployed Strategic Warheads
Another issue will be how to treat nondeployed strategic nuclear warheads, i.e., those warheads that are not captured by the limit on strategic delivery warheads. Both countries will want to maintain some number of nondeployed warheads as spares. In addition, the
Given that the
A limit in the range of 1,000 to 1,500 would result in a reduction in the current number of
An alternative but less ambitious approach would not apply a numerical limit to nondeployed strategic warheads, but simply limit them to certain locations, ideally away from ICBM, ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), and heavy bomber bases. The approach also might require data exchanges and updates. The goal would be to facilitate detection of any effort to move nondeployed warheads to ICBM, SSBN, or heavy bomber bases.
A Single Nuclear Warhead Limit?
If the next negotiating round addresses nonstrategic and nondeployed strategic nuclear warheads as well as deployed strategic warheads, the sides might consider negotiating a single limit to cover all nuclear weapons, except for those retired and in the dismantlement queue. There is logic to such an approach. In most cases, a principal difference between a strategic warhead and a nonstrategic or tactical warhead turns on the range of the delivery vehicle rather than on characteristics of the warheads themselves. The B61 bomb, for example, has both a strategic and tactical variant.
One possibility would be to have a single limit on all nuclear warheads with a sublimit on deployed strategic warheads. This would allow the sides the freedom to choose what mix of nonstrategic and nondeployed strategic nuclear weapons they would maintain over and above the limit on deployed strategic warheads. For example, if the sides agreed to an overall limit of 2,500 nuclear warheads with a sublimit of 1,000 deployed strategic warheads, the
The Russians could raise the issue of long-range, conventionally armed precision-guided weapons, other than conventional warheads on ICBMs and SLBMs, which would be captured by New START, and their impact on the strategic balance. The Russians will closely track
The monitoring provisions of any new agreement should build on New START. A new agreement thus should provide for a detailed data exchange; notifications; unique identifiers for ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers; and on-site inspections.
If the sides agreed on limits on nonstrategic nuclear warheads or nondeployed strategic nuclear warheads, monitoring those limits would pose daunting challenges, as the task would be to confirm numbers of warheads not associated with (more easily detected) delivery systems.
The consolidation of most if not all nonstrategic and nondeployed strategic warheads at declared central storage sites could provide a monitoring opportunity. A treaty could require the United States and Russia to declare the location of each of their storage sites for nonstrategic and nondeployed strategic warheads—such information likely is already known by the two sides—as well as the number of nuclear weapons stored at each site. There could be an exchange of site diagrams showing the location of weapons storage bunkers, bays, or other chambers at each site, with provisions for on-site inspection. An inspection team arriving at a storage site would be told the number of nuclear weapons in each bunker, bay, or chamber and could then choose one or perhaps more for inspection to confirm the number. The sides would have to work out detailed procedures so that the number of weapons could be confirmed without exposing sensitive design information.
As for weapons outside of the storage sites, neither the U.S. nor Russian military is likely in the near future to be ready to accept an “anytime, anywhere” challenge inspection regime. National technical means might detect indications of nonstrategic nuclear weapons outside of storage areas, which would be a treaty violation unless prenotified, but the odds of detection would not be high.
The result of such monitoring provisions would be a two-tiered verification regime. The sides would have fairly high confidence in their ability to detect militarily significant violations of the limits on deployed strategic systems, including deployed strategic warheads. They would have less confidence in their ability to detect violations of limits on nonstrategic or nondeployed strategic warheads. In the end, accepting such an imperfect regime would provide for some constraints on and some monitoring of Russian tactical nuclear weapons. The experience gained in implementing such monitoring could provide a foundation for developing a more effective verification regime in the future.
Third-Country Nuclear Forces
Whether to include third-country nuclear forces, particularly those of
If third-country nuclear forces were to be included, there are several options for doing so. One would be to multilateralize the U.S.-Russian negotiations and bring in, initially,
Each of these approaches has difficulties. The most straightforward approach for the New START successor negotiation is to aim for an agreement limiting
In the New START negotiations, the Russians in the end settled for recording their concern about possible future
The Russians almost certainly would raise missile defense in the next negotiation, as a follow-on treaty could have a duration stretching to 2025 or 2030, well beyond the projected 2020 date for deployment of a U.S. Standard Missile-3 interceptor with capabilities against ICBMs. Although it has been long-standing
There is no indication that
To avoid getting boxed into a situation where the Russians demand constraints on missile defense that would provoke Senate opposition to a new treaty,
The next round of formal U.S.-Russian negotiations will not begin until New START enters into force, but
Once negotiations got under way, U.S. officials should aim for an agreement covering U.S. and Russian forces only, with four numerical limits: 2,500 nuclear warheads; 1,000 deployed strategic warheads; 700 deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and nuclear-capable bombers; and 800 deployed and nondeployed ICBM and SLBM launchers and nuclear-capable bombers. Depending on the other terms of the agreement, the
An agreement along these lines would offer a logical follow-on to New START. Although the reduction in deployed strategic warheads to 1,000 might not be as dramatic as some would hope, it would be in the context of a new, overall limit of 2,500. That would mean a 50 percent cut in
Like New START, this agreement would offer important benefits for
Steven Pifer is director of the Brookings Arms Control Initiative. For a more extensive discussion of the issues covered in this article, see “The Next Round: The United States and Nuclear Arms Reductions after New START” at www.brookings.edu/articles/2010/12_arms_control_pifer.
1. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by President Obama and President Medvedev of Russia at New START Treaty Signing Ceremony and Press Conference,” April 8, 2010, www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-obama-and-president-medvedev-russia-new-start-treaty-signing-cere.
6. For a discussion of allied views on the
8. See “Next Steps on U.S.-Russian Nuclear Negotiations and Non-Proliferation,” Brookings/IMEMO paper, n.d., www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/rc/papers/2010/10_nonproliferation_albright_talbott/10_nonproliferation_albright_talbott.pdf (recommendations from a meeting of Madeleine Albright, Strobe Talbott, Igor Ivanov, and Alexander Dynkin).
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