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START Anew: The Future of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty

For Immediate Release: May 12, 2008
Contact: Wade Boese, Research Director, Arms Control Association, (202) 463-8270 x104

With U.S. and Russian efforts to negotiate a follow-on agreement to an expiring arms reduction treaty stalled largely because of the Bush administration’s opposition to new weapons limits, Daryl G. Kimball today offered recommendations on how the next U.S. administration should revive the U.S.-Russian nuclear weapons reduction process. Kimball is the executive director of the Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan organization that promotes policies to curb global weapons dangers.

Speaking at the Moscow Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Kimball urged the next U.S. president to meet early in 2009 with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to declare their intentions to “dramatically reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons by working closely together to negotiate a new ‘START-plus’ treaty that puts each nation on course to achieve far deeper, verifiable, and legally-binding reductions…with the goal of completing the new agreement by 2010.”

Negotiated and signed in 1991, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) is scheduled to expire on December 5, 2009. Under that accord, the United States and Russia have significantly reduced their number of nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles and continue to use the accord’s extensive verification regime to stay informed about each other’s nuclear forces. If START expires without replacement verification measures, a former U.S. verification official has warned that the two countries will be “flying blind” in their nuclear relations. Kimball suggested that rather than agreeing to “halfway measures,” Medvedev and the next U.S. president should “announce that they will unilaterally but reciprocally continue to observe START until they can conclude negotiations on the new START-plus agreement.”

Kimball said that negotiations on a START-plus agreement should focus on four key objectives:

  • Mutually acceptable ceilings on the number of delivery vehicle systems and warheads that they carry according to common and verifiable counting rules;
  • Ensuring that non-deployed warheads are not available to quickly increase the size of either nation’s deployed strategic stockpile;
  • Establishing a streamlined START-style verification protocol; and
  • Accounting for any strategic ballistic missiles that are converted from a nuclear to a conventional “prompt global strike” mission.

The United States and Russia are committed through the May 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) to reduce their operationally deployed strategic nuclear forces down to 1,700-2,200 warheads apiece by the end of 2012. But those limits lapse the same day that they take effect and SORT lacks verification measures.

The full text of Kimball’s address is available at http://www.armscontrol.org/events/20080512_Start_anew.asp. More information on the U.S.-Russian strategic reductions process is available at http://www.armscontrol.org/subject/sr/ .

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