Event Transcript: START Follow-On Treaty: Assessing Progress on Nuclear Risk Reduction
December 9, 2009 from 9:30-11:00 am
Press Contacts: Tom Z. Collina, Research Director (202) 463-8270 x104; Travis Sharp, (202) 543-4100 x2105
(Washington, D.C.): U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are expected to sign a major nuclear arms control agreement this month. The two nations have been negotiating since April on a new treaty to replace the highly-successful 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expired Dec. 5.
On Dec. 4 Presidents Medvedev and Obama issued a "bridging" statement, which says in part: "Recognizing our mutual determination to support strategic stability between the United States of America and the Russian Federation, we express our commitment, as a matter of principle, to continue to work together in the spirit of the START Treaty following its expiration, as well as our firm intention to ensure that a new treaty on strategic arms enter into force at the earliest possible date."
On Dec. 9, three leading U.S. experts on nuclear weapons policy and arms control will review the legacy of START, analyze the importance of a new follow-on agreement, review the key issues of contention, and describe the likely outcomes.
ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION
START FOLLOW-ON TREATY:
ASSESSING PROGRESS ON NUCLEAR RISK REDUCTION
WELCOME AND MODERATOR:
DIRECTOR, NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION,
CENTER FOR ARMS CONTROL AND NON-PROLIFERATION
SENIOR FOREIGN POLICY FELLOW,
FORMER CHIEF U.S. NEGOTIATOR,
STRATEGIC ARMS REDUCTION TREATY
DARYL G. KIMBALL,
ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2009
Federal News Service
LEONOR TOMERO: Welcome everybody and good morning. My name is Leonor Tomero. I’m the director of nuclear nonproliferation at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. We’re a private, nonpartisan membership organization that supports prudent measures toward the elimination of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
I’m very happy to be here this morning, co-hosting this event on the new START agreement with the Arms Control Association. President Obama, on April 5, 2009, in Prague stated, “Today, the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of those weapons have not. In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up.”
Today, the president is receiving his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. So where are we headed in terms of the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, which account for about 20,000 nuclear weapons, which is about 95 percent of the total nuclear weapons in the world?
The 1991 START agreement, which mandated significant reductions from Cold War-era levels and mandated legally binding verification measures, expired on Saturday as negotiations for a new agreement between the United States and Russia, which began in April, go into the final stretch. With only a few but difficult issues of contention remaining between the two sides, we are hopeful that a new agreement will be finalized and submitted to the Senate in the next few weeks.
This new agreement for reductions in nuclear weapons, promised by President Obama as a first and necessary step and supported by the Congressional Commission on Strategic Posture of the United States, remains extremely important for the United States and international security.
It is especially important in the context of U.S.-Russian relations, the current U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Much is at stake. We have with us today three of the foremost leading experts on nuclear weapons and arms control to provide context, explain what we can expect from this new agreement, examine what’s at issue and what differences remain, and how the two sides may come together in a final agreement, and finally, why this agreement matters.
It’s my great pleasure to introduce Ambassador Steven Pifer, sitting in the middle. He is currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in their Center for the United States and Europe. His expertise in nuclear arms control and U.S. relations with Russia and states of the former Soviet Union stems from his service over two decades as a Foreign Service Officer in capitals including Moscow, London, Warsaw and Kiev, and on the U.S. delegation to the negotiations on intermediate-range nuclear forces in Europe.
He served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine as well as deputy assistant secretary of state and also special assistant to the President and senior director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia on the National Security Council.
We will then have the pleasure of hearing from Ambassador Linton Brooks. Ambassador Brooks is a former Navy officer and has decades of experience on nuclear arms control, and served as the chief negotiator on the Strategic Arms Reduction, START, agreement. Most recently, he served as under secretary of energy for nuclear security and administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration in the last administration.
Prior to joining NNSA, he was vice president and assistant to the president for policy analysis at the Center for Naval Analyses. His decades of leadership in government include posts relevant to nuclear policy, military strategy, technology, submarine programs and arms control. He is currently senior advisor in the project on nuclear issues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
And third, we will hear from Daryl Kimball. He is the executive director of the Arms Control Association, which is a private, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to public education and support of effective arms control measures pertaining to nuclear, chemical, biological and conventional weapons and it also publishes Arms Control Today.
Mr. Kimball has been a leading advocate on reducing the danger posed by nuclear weapons, having served at various nonprofit organizations and having headed several influential coalitions and campaigns, including for the testing moratorium in 1992, and the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty.
We will hear from the three speakers and have them make their presentations and then once they have concluded their presentations, we will open it up for questions-and-answer session. So without further ado, let me turn it over to Ambassador Pifer.
STEVEN PIFER: Well, thank you very much. It’s a pleasure for me to be here today and what I’m going to talk about are the prior agreements that governed U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces and give you a bit of a sense for the size of those forces and also some of the issues that I think are key to the negotiations, and then set up my colleagues’ comments on options for resolving those problems.
And I’ll begin by talking a little bit about the 1991 Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty, or START. The START agreement had limits on both launchers, heavy bombers, intercontinental ballistic missile launchers and submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers and warheads.
And I use the term “launcher” for ICBMs and SLBMs because the START treaty didn’t actually count missiles; it counted launchers. So for an ICBM, it would count the silos that sit out in South Dakota and Wyoming and Montana. And for a submarine-launched ballistic missile, it wouldn’t count the missile itself; it would count the tube on the submarine. That was for ease-of-verification purposes but when you saw a silo or a tube on a submarine, you assumed a missile was in there. And the main limitation here was that neither side could deploy more than 1600 strategic nuclear delivery vehicles, ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers.
The other set of limits applied to the number of warheads and they said that there could be no more than 6,000 warheads on those 1600 systems. And within that 6,000, there were a set of various sublimitations. But it’s important to note that here, the warheads were not counted directly, the START treaty used what was called an attribution rule.
So for example, the Russian SS-18 missile was counted as carrying 10 warheads. When you saw a silo that was designed for an SS-18, under the START rules, you’d assume there was an SS-18 and that then counted as 10 warheads. So the 308 SS-18s that the Soviet Union had back in 1990 were attributed as carrying 3,080 warheads. And that’s how you got the count towards the 6,000 warhead level.
The treaty was enforced from December 5 of 1994 until last Saturday. It was a 15-year treaty. The treaty also had very extensive verification measures. First of all, there was a provision that prohibited interfering with national technical means, NTM, for verification. And that’s a euphemism for things like surveillance satellites.
You couldn’t interfere with the other guy’s ability to watch your implementation of the treaty. It had a data exchange. It prohibited encrypting telemetry. This is the information that a missile broadcasts back to a ground station during a test shot. And basically, it required you to share that information. So the United States had a good understanding about Russian missile tests and the Russians had a good understanding about American tests.
The agreement required lots of notifications. You had to notify before you eliminated a system. And it had 12 types of inspections, including a permanent inspection presence at Votkinsk, which is where Russia built the mobile ICBMs.
This here is actually the START treaty and it’s a book. The treaty itself is only about 25 pages but most of this is the verification protocols, the notification requirements and the inspection requirements.
Okay. This is the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, large-type version. It has a single limitation. It requires no more than – the sides can deploy no more than 1700 to 2200 warheads on their strategic systems. But it has no limits on strategic nuclear delivery vehicles. It has no counting rules. It has no verification provisions. It’s enforced until December 31 of 2012. But on its own, it really can’t be verified, and I’ll get into some of the complications that poses in just a moment.
This chart here shows how START-accountable strategic nuclear delivery vehicles were reduced over the last 20 years. And there really are three data points here. The red line there is the Soviet Union and then Russia. The green line is the United States.
The first point is September of 1990, which is when the United States and the then-Soviet Union made their first data exchange. The second data point is January of 2002. That’s 7 years after the treaty entered into force and that’s a key point because the START treaty required that all of the reductions be implemented within 7 years of entry into force.
And then the last data point on the right is July of 2009. That was the last data exchange that the United States and Russia conducted under the terms of the START treaty. And what you see here is basically that already by 1997, 1998, the United States and Russia have reduced to below the level of nuclear delivery vehicles, ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers required in the treaty – that 1600 limit.
This gives the same information for START-accountable warheads. And again, using those attribution rules, how many warheads do you attribute to those – intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and bombers. And again the three data points, September 1990, January of 2002 and July of 2009.
And what you see is both the United States and Russia, as required by January of 2002, had reduced to below 6,000 warheads. The Russians continued downward and today, they deploy about – or they had 4,000 accountable warheads under the treaty, whereas the United States stayed fairly close to the 6,000 number – although that’s an overstatement which I’ll explain right now.
Based on the data exchange that the United States gave to the Russians in July of this year and under that data exchange, the United States declared that it had 1,188 strategic nuclear delivery vehicles and that they were capable of carrying 5,916 warheads.
And this just gives you the breakdown by ICBMs, SLBMs and bombers. The numbers on the left are the numbers of launchers, and the numbers here are the numbers of warheads attributed to those systems. This right column here adds up to 5,916.
Now, earlier this year, the Pentagon let it be known that, in fact, the U.S. strategic nuclear force had reduced to the level required by the strategic offensive reduction treaty. It was less than 2200 warheads.
So how do we reconcile these two numbers? Twenty-two hundred and 5,916. And there are really three ways to do it. First of all, most, if not all, American intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles had been down-loaded, in that warheads have been removed.
So for example, the Minuteman-III ICBM was designed to carry three warheads. Many, if not most of them, have been down-loaded so they carry only a single warhead. Likewise, a lot of American Trident D5 missiles, which can carry up to eight warheads, some of them may be carrying only one and two warheads. So they’re carrying well below their maximum capacity.
A second difference is that a number of systems that were defined as strategic nuclear delivery vehicles by the START treaty have over the past 15 years been converted to conventional roles.
So for example, the B-1 bomber force here on the top, that’s been removed from the nuclear force. It now is converted to convention-only missions. And four of the 18 Trident missile submarines have been converted such that they pull the Trident missiles out, and into the tube they’ve inserted a canister that carries seven conventional cruise missiles.
So those systems still count under the START counting rules that were in existence until last Saturday because they had not been eliminated according to the very precise rules of START, even though they no longer had a part in the U.S. strategic nuclear plan.
And finally, there’s the issue of phantom systems, systems that have no military utility but still count under the agreement. And I’ll show you a picture of B-52s, both phantom and eliminated. These B-52s on the right, the ones that have had the fuselage cut into two places and then they’ve had their wings cut off, are eliminated. These two B-52s on the left, even though they’re not flyable – they have no engines, they have no landing gear, they’re actually sitting on hard stands – are still counted under START as a strategic offensive nuclear delivery vehicle because they had not been chopped according to the very rigorous requirements of START.
This is an MX silo out in Wyoming. There were 50 of these. The MX missiles were all pulled out in 2002 and 2003, and I’m told the only thing in there now is ground water that’s been seeping in over the last five or 6 years. But because the silo – and remember, the silo was the unit of account under the START treaty – the silo has not been destroyed, it’s still considered to have the MX missile inside with the MX missiles’ 10 warheads. There are 50 of these and that expands the U.S. count under START.
This is a picture of what a destroyed or eliminated silo looks like. There’s a very precise requirement in START to destroy the top 6-to-8 meters of the headwork, and it’s usually done explosively. But until “these” silos look like “this,” they still count it into the START rules.
Russian START-accountable forces in July of 2009 came out to 809 strategic nuclear delivery vehicles capable of carrying just under 3900 warheads. And while the Russians have not said where they are with regards to the SORT limit of 2200, I suspect that this number of warheads is probably an overestimate; that the Russian number is somewhat less than 3,000.
And that’s in part because a large number of the submarine-launched ballistic missiles are on submarines that the Russians appear to have decommissioned. They probably removed the missiles and the submarines are slated for dismantlement, but again, until those submarines have actually been physically dismantled or the missile tubes have been removed, they were still counting under the START books and therefore still had to be in this data exchange. So we don’t know exactly what the Russian number is, but 3897 is probably significantly overstated.
So just to sum up the START treaty which ended on Saturday – sort of what I would regard as three of its major contributions: First of all, it was the first treaty to reduce strategic arms.
The SALT agreements, the Strategic Arms Limitation signed back in the 1970s put a cap on launchers. But because it didn’t limit warheads – in fact, the United States and the Soviet Union then piled lots of warheads on those launchers so you had a dramatic increase.
In fact, under START, you’ve had a dramatic reduction in forces where both the United States and Russia had over 10,000 deployed warheads in 1989 and 1990, and that’s come down now to well below 6,000 – more, I think, in the range of 2200 to 3,000.
A second: The START treaty had very significant verification and transparency measures. As a result of this treaty, we knew and understood Russian strategic forces much better and that they had much more insight into our forces. And this included intrusive measures including on-site inspection.
And finally, and sort of the most, I think, important result, was it provided for a very stable U.S.-Russian nuclear relationship over the last 15 years.
Finally, just to set up the next talk, looking at what are probably the key issues that they’re grappling with now in Geneva in the context of the follow-on treaty, and these were the issues, as I understood to be at the beginning of the current round which began in November.
First of all, there was a difference between the sides on missile defense. And that question was if you took the July joint understanding between Presidents Obama and Medvedev, how would you actually encapsulate their agreement that there would be some language on the interrelationship between strategic offense and strategic defense?
Second, while the agreement in July, there was a fairly narrow difference between 1500 and 1675 with regards to the number of permitted strategic warheads, there was a large difference with regards to the number of launchers. The Russians proposed 500; the United States proposed 1100.
And I think if we can work out issues like those conventional systems that I mentioned – the B-1s and those four submarines – and treatment of the phantom systems, that probably reduces the U.S. requirement significantly below 1100 – maybe towards around 800, which might put us in range of the compromise.
Finally, the question, what about putting conventional warheads on ICBMs and SLBMs; there’s an American interest in this.
And then, as I think always happens with arms control treaties at the end, verification questions – defining a regime that allows you, on the one hand, to understand what the other side is doing in terms of compliance with the treaty, but also in a way that doesn’t provide usually expensive requirements that require adjusting operational practices and such.
So with that background, I’ll turn it over to Ambassador Brooks to talk about where we think the current talks may be going.
LINTON BROOKS: All right. Let me outline for you where I think we will probably end up, and first let me make an important point. The fact that the treaty wasn’t done on the 5th of December is a fact, but it’s not a problem. They started in April; that’s eight months ago. My treaty started 9 years before I watched it being signed.
So while this is a less – I hope – complicated treaty, it is certainly not surprising that they haven’t finished things. And you can see in the nature of the statement the two governments issued about continuity until it’s finished that this is going to be a fairly short period. I don’t know what a fairly short period means – weeks, not months, not years.
Now, what are the, sort of, plausible solutions for the problems that Steve has suggested? Let’s take missile defense first because it’s the easiest.
It is certainly not going to be a treaty which somehow falls back in significant limits on ballistic missile defense. What the president said was that the treaty would acknowledge that there’s a relationship between defense and offense. The easiest way to do that is in the preamble, as a fairly traditional arms control way. You know, in the very beginning of the treaty – the part nobody ever reads – it goes through a litany of why we’re doing these things and recalls our obligations under the nonproliferation treaty. And that’s the place where you might see it.
You might see something in general provisions and, finally, you might just see something that’s in some kind of side statement. I think it is very unlikely that this treaty will constrain in any way ballistic missile defenses, first because I think that would complicate ratification enormously in this country, but secondly, because I don’t think the Russians are interested in doing that at this stage.
The number of launchers – the SNDV limit that Steve mentioned. My guess is that what we will have is we will have two limits in the treaty. We will have a limit that will cover things that actually have the ability to be used for strategic forces. And then we’ll have an additional limit for all these other things that will have relatively little operational meaning, but it will allow the Russians to say that they captured all of those systems and that the United States couldn’t go build a bunch more empty silos and somehow get a breakout capability.
The exact number in the middle will be somewhere between 700 and 800, and where it’ll be in there depends a little bit on what options the United States needs to preserve for force structure. Nuclear posture review is not out yet; nuclear posture review could go in several directions. If you keep all 450 of the current ICBM force, that puts you in one bunch. If you reduce that, then you reduce total number of launchers, you keep all the submarines and simply remove warheads from missiles. That puts you in one situation. So more than 700, less than 800 and probably not a hard problem.
My guess is that the conventional warheads issue is a strange issue because it has the Russians concerned about something we haven’t actually decided to do yet, which is to have a significant program that is called prompt global strike, the ability to deliver, within an hour, a conventional strike anywhere in the world. It’s a very narrow but potentially very useful capability. The last administration sought to embed that capability on ballistic missile submarines. Congress was unimpressed. There is now talk about embedding it in a newly designed missile.
My guess is that the easiest way to handle this is to simply say that such missiles count against the launcher limit because it’d be pretty hard to sort out which ones do and don’t have conventional warheads.
And then they’ll do something for the warhead limit. It’s a relatively easy problem to solve because even if you are a strong supporter of the U.S. deploying such a system, the numbers will be very small.
That leaves verification and I share Steve’s view that most of the time that my colleagues and friends in Geneva are spending, they’re spending on verification details. To give you an example, the summit in 1987 agreed between President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev on essentially all the numbers you saw in Steve’s first slide. We signed the treaty 4 years later and essentially all of that time was verification. Now, more complicated treaty, greater suspicion, scenarios we don’t worry about anymore – nonetheless, it suggests that what stretches this out is verification.
So what are the verification issues that are probably going to be difficult and how will they come out? I would suggest to you that there are probably three that they’re working on. One is telemetry. An important way that we know about developments in Russian strategic ballistic missiles is that any missile test you take telemetry and you send it down. It measures the pressure in the firing chamber. It measures all the various signals to the control services. And START requires that that be uninterrupted and that there be an exchange of information on how to interpret. The Russians have argued that we’re not developing any new missiles so this is unfair because only they are developing new ballistic missiles. It’s an interesting argument but it’s the argument they make.
My guess is that what we will do is continue the telemetry but probably simplify the exchange of interpretive data. First of all, we’re less likely to need it because we’ve been interpreting this stuff for 15 years. And secondly, START was written to be very precise, which means that it enshrines old technology and old ways of interpreting data. My guess is that the Russians know this is important to the United States; it will be one of the last things agreed on, but it will be agreed with telemetry.
Second issue, I don’t quite understand why people think it’s an issue. Steve mentioned that one of the many types of inspections was the ability to monitor missiles – count missiles, essentially – as they came out of a production facility at a place called Votkinsk. And there’s been some handwringing in various comments recently that that will probably not be preserved.
And I agree that will not be preserved. The Bush administration had decided it didn’t want to preserve it; it doesn’t serve any useful purpose. I mean, the right way to do verification is figure out what the limits are and then see what you need to verify them.
The continuous monitoring at Votkinsk was done at a time when we were worried about large numbers of spare launchers and large numbers of spare missiles that could be brought together, and that has proven not to be a genuine worry. The Russians have not done anything like the number of spares they were allowed under START-I. Further, the whole philosophy under that was for enduring or continuing a protracted nuclear war, which to the best of my knowledge, nobody in the world believes in anymore. So I don’t think that continuous monitoring will be in the final treaty and I don’t think that’s a very big deal.
Finally, one of the things that they are working on in verification, which is simple in principle, but probably complicated because it doesn’t draw directly on existing language, is numbers of warheads. Steve told you that the way the START treaty works is you see a missile and you just assume how many warheads are on there because the START treaty was designed to limit the maximum capability of strategic forces.
This treaty, like the treaty of Moscow – the SORT treaty – is designed to measure what the actual forces are. And as Steve told you, those can be quite different. So either you have to have all new attribution rules or you have to say no, well, what we’re going to count is real, no-joke warheads, and then you have to have a way to verify that.
My guess is we’re going to count warheads and my guess is that the procedures for verifying that – it’s not that there’s any blinding new breakthrough that’s necessary – but drafting the procedures to verify not the maximum number, but the actual number will be time consuming.
For security reasons, for example, we put a big shroud with a bunch of bumps in it so you can count how many warheads could be on that missile, but you don’t know how many really are. Well, that won’t work if you’re actually interested in what’s really there. So that is what I think.
Now, this is not a deal-breaker; this is not something, frankly, that will find its way into any story on START, but this is why it didn’t get finished by the 5th of December because working out these procedures, I think you can expect – Steve held up two treaties. Look for this one to be somewhere between the two in size – I don’t know, 50, 60 pages – I made that up, but that’s a reasonable number.
So that’s where I think we’re likely to come out. None of the things that I have talked about strike me as particularly hard or particularly deal-breakers. I share my colleague’s view that we’re within a couple of weeks from actually being able to read this thing.
MS. TOMERO: Thank you. So we’ll hear next from Daryl Kimball.
DARYL KIMBALL: Thank you, Leonor, and thank you to Linton and Steve for being here and sharing their insights. We really do have the two top people here on this subject. And I just want to come back to something that Leonor said at the top.
As we look at this new treaty, we have to keep in mind that we’re two decades beyond the fall of the Berlin Wall, and still, the United States and Russia deploy more than 2,000 strategic nuclear warheads, many of which are on a high-alert status. And most of these weapons, the vast majority, exist simply to deter their use by the other country.
To their credit, Presidents Obama and Medvedev have recognized that the nuclear status quo is neither desirable nor is it sustainable, and they directed their negotiators to get to work, beginning last April, to try to conclude a new START deal by the end of the year.
And as Linton just said, the deal is obviously not done. I would agree that we are within days, if not a couple a weeks, of a conclusion. It’s important for both sides to drive hard to reach the finish line before the U.S. and the Russian winter holidays set in. And obviously, the deal should be done well, but it needs to be done. This is a long overdue step, especially because START – the 1991 START treaty – expired and the verification provisions are technically no longer with us.
Now, once this treaty is completed and delivered, there is going to be debate in the United States Senate. It is going to consider whether to provide advice and consent for ratification. And that debate needs to be thorough. There’ll be a lot of good, legitimate questions, and there’ll be some others that are not so serious.
And the debate has really already begun. And so what I’m going to do for the next few minutes is to briefly review and respond to some of the most common criticisms and concerns that have come up. Linton has indirectly addressed some of these that are coming up. I’m not going to cover the same ground but focus on some others. And I’d note that many of these are based on misinformation or a misperception about what this treaty is, and these are criticisms about what this treaty is not going to be.
So one of the criticisms that we’ve heard for some months now – and this was most recently expressed in a September 30 Senate Republican Policy Committee paper – is the idea that it is imprudent to agree to lower levels of strategic nuclear warheads unless Russia’s relatively larger stockpile of nonstrategic warheads is also reduced.
Indeed, Russia is believed to have a larger and sizeable tactical warhead force, perhaps as many as 3,000 bombs; nobody knows exactly how many. And it should be verifiably reduced – mainly to decrease the risk of terrorist acquisition in the future.
But we also have to keep in mind as we look at Russia’s tactical force that, just like their strategic force, not all of these are deployed, not all of these are in top operational condition and independent experts believe that maybe only a few hundred are in any condition that could be utilized in a real-world military situation. And even at lower strategic force levels – well below what the two countries are contemplating for this agreement – those tactical warheads do not give Russia any meaningful military advantage and should not be allowed to impede the modest but very important reductions in strategic arsenals under a new START treaty.
Another thing to consider is that there has never been a U.S.-Russian treaty that addresses tactical warheads. And given the short timetable the negotiators have had to deal with this new START agreement, taking on the challenge of tactical warheads in this round of talks, I think, was simply impractical. And the best way to address this problem is to finish this agreement and to begin the next round of more comprehensive U.S.-Russian talks and to do, as the Obama administration has suggested – Hillary Clinton said this in her confirmation hearing testimony back in January – the next round of U.S.-Russian talks could and should address not just strategic but nonstrategic tactical warheads and not just deployed, but nondeployed warheads. There’s something in that negotiation for both the United States and Russia. And that is the best way to go forward to deal with tactical warheads.
Another frequently enunciated criticism is that lower U.S. strategic nuclear deployments will undermine U.S. deterrence capabilities and invite peer competition. We saw this argument coming out of a resolution put forward by the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Relations Committee just this week.
In my view, these kinds of claims are counterfactual and they just don’t make sense. I mean, first of all, U.S. security commitments to our NATO and Asian allies do not depend on maintaining more than 2,000 strategic nuclear warheads on more than 800 strategic nuclear delivery vehicles. Our allies support deeper, verifiable U.S.-Russian strategic reductions as a contribution to disarmament and strengthening the global nuclear risk reduction and nonproliferation effort.
And third, there is no other country aside from the United States and Russia that is believed to possess more than 300 nuclear warheads. And that next country is France. China, often cited as a potential peer competitor has, perhaps, up to 300 warheads. But they only have 30 to 40, perhaps, deployed on long-range ballistic missiles. So China has never sought to nor is it likely to even begin thinking about increasing its stockpile in the coming years if the United States and Russia make further verifiable, modest reductions in their still extremely large strategic arsenals.
And finally, as I said before, because the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals are still sized to deter one another, if the United States and Russia work in parallel to reduce their stockpiles together, it does not affect strategic stability, our alliance commitments and it is a net contribution to the global nonproliferation effort.
Now, another argument that has come up is that given the short timetable for these talks, it would be imprudent to rush into a new agreement, and that in the haste to reach a new deal by the December 5 deadline, the Obama administration might make concessions to Russia that negatively affect U.S. security. And those people who’ve argued that, including Sen. Jon Kyl on the Senate Republican Policy Committee, have argued that a simple extension of the 1991 START treaty would be in order.
The problem with that argument is that a simple extension of START is a non-starter. That is not going to happen. START formally expired on December 5. Russia is not and has not been interested in a simple extension of START, in part because that would prohibit their ability to replace their older ICBM systems with newer systems and make it impossible for them to maintain a strategic force that is roughly equivalent in numbers to the United States, nor would the United States necessarily want to have all of the various limits and sublimits that START imposes continue for another 5 years.
And what’s more, if we simply extended START, the effect would be that Russia could and probably would try to maintain a larger, deployed strategic nuclear warhead force – above 2,000 warheads – on their 500, 600 strategic delivery vehicles, than they would under this new START treaty, which aims to bring down those deployed warhead numbers to 1500 to 1675.
So finally, one of the arguments that has been brought up is that it would be imprudent for the United States to further reduce its strategic arsenal without a condition in the resolution or ratification to modernize U.S. strategic nuclear forces and warheads.
Now, we have to keep a couple of things in mind. The United States’ strategic nuclear delivery force is modern, it is reliable and there are ongoing programs to maintain the Minuteman-III force as well as the D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile force. And there are plans in the works to replace the submarines that carry those submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
Finally, there have been a lot of debates about whether the United States needs to quote, unquote, “modernize” its nuclear warheads. There is a bevy of scientific analysis – independent scientific analysis – about the success of the current program to life-extend existing nuclear warhead types.
There is a recent report by the independent JASON Group that found that the lifetimes of today’s nuclear warheads could be extended for decades with no anticipated loss in confidence. And that doesn’t mean that there don’t have to be targeted, focused investments in the right areas to maintain that capability, but the fact is that there is no modernization gap. There is nothing that Russia is doing with its stockpile that necessitates a wholly different approach on the part of the United States to maintain existing missile, bomber and warheads.
So bottom line, from my perspective and I think from all of us here, is that the new START treaty, as we’re calling it – there still is no official name that I’m aware of, right? We might have a contest later this week to figure out what the new name should be. But the new START treaty is essential to maintaining U.S. and Russian strategic stability, to maintaining the essential verification provisions that Linton and his colleagues first worked out in the 1991 START Treaty, it is important for establishing new, lower limits on U.S. and Russian stockpiles which are still way out-of-line with current-day realities.
And progress on the part of the United States and Russia on verifiable nuclear disarmament is going to help them win broader international support in the coming weeks and months, and especially at the May 2010 NPT Review Conference, for tougher measures to strengthen the beleaguered nonproliferation system with respect to safeguards and compliance and enforcement.
So we look forward to your questions. I think Leonor will be fielding your questions and telling us who might answer them.
MS. TOMERO: Well, thank you so much. I think we’ve heard what the major issues are going to be in this new agreement, and how these differences might be resolved. And I think we’ve gotten a good overview of what the political pitfalls might be as the Senate takes up consideration for ratification of this agreement.
Why don’t we jump right into questions and answers and – I see one right here – and also, before you ask your question if you could please identify yourself? Thank you.
Q: My name is John Barry from Newsweek. Could I ask the two ambassadors what do they foresee as being the force modernization programs – I’m thinking in terms of delivery vehicles, bombers, submarines, missiles – that either side is likely to or wants to put in hand?
MR. BROOKS: The treaty is going to be explicitly based on the July joint summit statement between the two presidents that each side will be free to shape its own forces. Now, that sounds trivial but in fact for much of the Cold War, our goal in arms control was to nudge the Soviets away from land-based missiles with multiple warheads and toward what we perceived of as more stabilizing. As Daryl says, Cold War’s been over for a long time and so those concessions are less important, and they never were attainable even in the Cold War. So we will each decide for ourselves.
I think it’s very clear in the United States that this treaty will allow us to preserve the so-called triad – there will be ICBMs, there will be submarine-launched ballistic missiles, there will be bombers. Some of the reductions in this treaty will be taken by further lowering the number of warheads on submarines. What we don’t know – and it won’t be the treaty that will tell us; it will be the nuclear posture review – we don’t know whether there will be reductions in numbers of launchers.
There’s a lively debate, unrelated to the START treaty, about whether it would be prudent to reduce the number of ICBM launchers. There will probably, driven by the START treaty, be a look at whether you should reduce by one or even two of the submarines. So I think those are decisions we would make anyway. The START treaty will legitimize, enforce, the total numbers but will not, I think, drive us in a force structure.
With regard to the Russian Federation, they have set their modernization goals in progress but they are proceeding relatively slowly. And it appears that their vision of their future forces, first, is a new submarine called the Borey class – of which the first is in the water – carrying a new missile which they have had a fair amount of trouble with the development.
I assume that that’s a speed bump. I mean, the one thing the Soviet Union certainly could do was make ballistic missiles that flew. So I assume that they will work out these changes. That they speak of sometimes six, sometimes eight of the Borey class, and only got two under construction – so this is a very long – I mean submarine construction, the one that’s getting ready to deploy the yuri – yuri drulagu—the one that’s getting ready to deploy – (laughter) – has been under construction since the early ’90s. So I think it’s going to be a slow process. So that’s one strand.
One strand is the deployment of a missile that we call the SS-27 but is more commonly referred as the Topol-M. It’s a missile that comes in both a silo-based variant and a mobile variant. They’ve been producing these at a rate of about – of single digits per year. Not exactly sure whether that’s financial – there doesn’t seem to be any problem with the missiles – so they’re shifting to that missile.
A variant of it which they have said they will produce will carry multiple warheads. The numbers are not clear. Some Russian press has suggested six, although the missile is the lineal descendent of some missiles that, historically, were designed to carry three warheads. And one of the reasons that the Russian Federation would not have agreed to an extension of START is that they want to go ahead and produce this, and for complex rules that made sense at the time that don’t make sense now, that would have posed problems under START.
So I think what we’re going to see is they’ll preserve a number of their existing systems as long as they can but that won’t be a lot longer because their missiles are old. This family of missiles, the Topol-M, when in both a mobile and fixed variant will be much of what they will shift their ICBM force to, their submarine force will shift to the new Borey class and all of this will happen quite slowly based on what we see so far, although obviously, the Russian Federation, at one point, had a budget surplus that was greater than their defense budget. So if they chose, in the absence of, oh, say, an arms control agreement, to sprint and make this happen faster, they could.
MS. TOMERO: Mr. Pifer?
MR. PIFER: I just had one observation which is I think there is – and it’s important to bear in mind – there’s a different design philosophy on the part of the United States and Russia. The Russians tend to build a missile for 15, 20 years, the service life expires, and they replace it with a new missile.
So on that chart of Russian SNDVs, the SS-18s and the SS-19s will go away as the new SS-27, the Topol-Ms, come online. I think the U.S. philosophy is more – you build a basic missile frame and then you actually modernize it. So the Minuteman-III, which was introduced into the force in the early 1970s, is scheduled to still be in the force in 2030. And I think the Trident D5 which came on-line, I think, in the late 1970s, early 1980s, also to 2030.
So we take a missile frame and we modernize it, and we refurbish it, whereas the Russian practice is to take a missile, they use it for 15 years and then they replace it completely. So you’ll see new numbers coming up on the Russian side and you may think that, gosh, the Americans are still deploying these 1970s missiles. I suspect when they retire the last Minuteman III in 2030, it may have three of the original bolts on it from 1970 but it’s going to be a very different missile.
MS. TOMERO: A question here?
Q: Barry Schweid of AP. This may sound like a curious question but you’re an experienced negotiator and I’m asking particularly about current negotiations. It is no longer one-on-one Cold War, East against West – no question who the perceived enemy was on both sides. Do they ever in the course of these negotiations get into or dwell on what possible countries, what targets they need these missiles for? Or is this sort of mechanical work? It’s like redoing a kitchen; you assume it’s for food, for eating. Do they ever get into the realistic world of – why do you need these missiles or these weapons? Does a country have to defend itself, find itself pressed to explain why it needs multiple warhead missiles?
MR. BROOKS: In my experience, both when I was negotiating and in some of the discussions with the Russians since, they tend not to get into the areas you’re thinking of. Now, first of all, these are bilateral negotiations and there tends to be a mindset to look at the bilateral balance. So the Russians will explain, for example, why they worry that a conventional strategic ballistic missile could somehow threaten them and the Americans will explain why it’s being designed for another purpose. Same thing will be true for defenses. So that at that level, there will be discussions.
When I was doing it, there were some discussions early on about British and French systems. I don’t think those have occurred, except perhaps in a little rhetoric since that’s really a settled issue that we negotiate our forces versus their forces and the British and French are independent.
But in terms of what one might call the real nuclear issues of the day – what one does about Iran, what one does if there is a destabilization in Pakistan, what one does about nuclear terrorism – there are lots of discussions between the United States and the Russian Federation about those. But both sides have an incentive to keep those out of the negotiations.
One of my colleagues once said, think of negotiations like a giant contract law case. It’s not your job to think about what kind of world I might have where I don’t need this massive contract; it’s your job to get the massive contract done in a way that protects your interests while still reaching agreement. So I don’t think that you have very many of those.
Now, my successor – this is Secretary Gottemoeller – has a long history of knowing many Russians well. And I don’t rule out the possibility that at the end of sessions when you’re sort of decompressing and having a cup of coffee there are chats like that. But they don’t play any significant role in the negotiations in my experience.
MS. TOMERO: Yeah, Mr. Pifer.
MR. PIFER: I’d just add two points. I mean, certainly in the negotiations on intermediate-range nuclear force in the 1980s, originally the Russians pushed very hard – or the Soviets pushed very hard – to try to bring in British and French systems. But after the walkout, and when the negotiations resumed again in 1985 and there was a more realistic approach, it was limited to U.S. and Soviet systems.
I think, though, it probably – and I don’t think Linton would disagree with me on this – if, in fact, this process of reducing U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces continues, at some point – and I can’t tell you whether it’s a U.S.-Russian deployment of a 1,000 warheads or 700 or what – at some point, I think, they will have to get into this discussion of third-country forces because there’ll just be some point where Washington and Moscow are not prepared to reduce further unless you begin to bring in the nuclear forces of other countries in some way.
MR. BROOKS: I agree with that, and those are important decisions. They aren’t likely to play much of a role in the discussions in Geneva because they’re not where the decisions will be made about things like that.
MR. KIMBALL: Let me just quickly, I mean, just add – your question varies about, kind of, the broader question of why do we have these weapons and why do we have the kind of force we have?
Q: (Inaudible, off mike.) Oh, sure. It sort of would have helped – if you can take anybody’s (word in this world ?) – to lay out what it is you’re trying to do, and why? Who is your target? Who is your concern?
MR. KIMBALL: Right. Well, I think as my two friends here just said, I mean, that’s not typically what is being discussed in the negotiations. But it is the issue that probably is – and if not, it has to be – part of the nuclear posture review discussions that are going on inside this administration right now.
And I just wanted to use this as a jumping-off point to say that it is critical for the president to think about these questions: Why do we have a force of this size given the threats that we perceive today, and is that force structure – those numbers – appropriate for today’s realities?
And so what I think we have to look forward to is the Obama administration’s assessment of some of those issues and that may change the calculus, to some extent, between the U.S. and Russia in the next round of talks because this negotiation is based on current nuclear force requirements that were set years ago.
And so that’s why I think some of the adjustments in the actual force levels are going to be relatively modest. There will not be a steep drop in the United States’ strategic nuclear delivery force. It’s not going to go much below 800 in my estimation. Even though the number of strategic deployed warheads may be 30-percent lower, we’re still going to have most of those strategic delivery systems.
So the fundamental questions need to be and should be addressed in this nuclear posture Review which is kind of the second chapter in the Obama administration’s agenda on nuclear weapons.
MR. BROOKS: But it’s important to recognize that at least in principle, there will always be something that the United States wants to do – for reasons unrelated to Russia – that could conceptually be seen by the Russians – who do have a kind of a worst-case analytic methodology.
And so how can arms control help in that? Well, two administrations ago, the United States and Russian Federation agreed on something called the Joint Data Exchange Center. The last administration tried to bring that into force but it ran into some stupid problems. And this would be sharing early warning.
If, in fact, there’s going to be any ballistic missile defense, it would be helpful if the Russians and the United States had a common understanding of where ballistic missiles might come from, and would avoid misinterpretation. And so Daryl’s organization has chided us in the last administration, with some justification, for not getting that done. And now he can chide the current administration.
It has not received the urgency it should because – I don’t care what the nuclear posture review says – just in principle, there’s always going to be something that a worst-case planner will say, oh, this is aimed at us. And even if it’s not, you need mechanisms to help reinsure it. So that’s where arms control would say, but we already got that agreement; that’s a question of actually getting it implemented.
MS. TOMERO: And I think also, I think the president has made clear that this is just a first step. And, as the speakers mentioned, a nuclear posture review, I think, will provide more answers, and that will hopefully be able to look to further reductions – or at least the initiation of negotiations on further reductions, hopefully, soon after this new agreement is ratified. Yeah, we had a question here in front.
Q: Thanks. My name is Andre Sitav Angustas (ph), the Russian News Agency. Actually, to follow up on what Barry was asking and what you were discussing right now, I think the Russians have been saying this for years now, that we first need to discuss the nature of the threats. We need to agree on the nature of the threats, especially on the missile defense issues. And then, proceeding from there, we need to see what we can do separately or together. But that’s an aside.
My question is about verification. I don’t know anything about the subject, so it’s a layman’s question, obviously. I just proceed from the layman’s logic that the Russians are in a weaker position at this point, and they should be more interested in stricter verification than the Americans; that they should be arguing for the right to come here and inspect everything you do.
And yet, it seems like they are complaining that the Americans have this old thinking, as they say, and they want to retain the strict verification procedures of the treaty that expired on December 5th. With all the intrusive measures and all of that with your Votkinsk, and they are not happy about that. They say, let’s do something simple. Why? Well, why do you think the Russians want to simplify the procedures?
MR. BROOKS: My experience in several arms control negotiations has been that detailed, verification ideas more often come from the U.S. side. In the Cold War, that was because of suspicion. I think now it’s just because of habit.
My experience has been that the Russian security services are much more worried about American inspectors than the American security services are worried about Russian inspectors. I don’t mean to say that both sides pay attention to meeting their obligations while not giving away secrets but if you look, for example, at the experience with the cooperative threat reduction program and the number of actually quite good projects that are in both sides’ interest that prove difficult to bring to fruition because of Russian unwillingness to have Americans in certain locations, I think it is simply a different security philosophy.
Finally, my experience with the Russians is that among the things they want to be equal is an equality of burden. If they have to do something that is cumbersome, they want to see the United States have to do the same thing.
An example from the START treaty that may or may not be carried forward in the new START: there were a number of notifications that we asked for and received with regard to mobile ICBMs. Because the United States didn’t have any mobile ICBMs, but because we moved bombers around much more than the Russians did, there are a parallel set of notifications about bomber movements.
If you sit down and say, what strategic purpose do those notifications serve, they don’t really serve much of a strategic purpose but they serve the broader purpose of the Russians being able to say to themselves, yes, some of this is a burden on us but it’s also a burden on America and that’s fair because it’s in the overall interest.
So I can’t give you a better answer than that. I think Americans wonder about that. But it is certainly my experience that the Russians see the burdens of having foreigners in closed locations much more clearly than they see the benefits of being able to go to locations.
Now, Americans like to say that’s because we’re so open and they don’t need to go there, but in fact, most of the things you’re finding out in verification are not things you’d find out without going. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have made the provision.
MR. KIMBALL: Yes, very quickly, I mean, I think some of what Linton is describing with respect to Russia, my perception is that it’s also based on a sense of vulnerability to Western military capabilities. And so a country that feels more vulnerable is often less interested in revealing its vulnerabilities.
Second, I think we also have to remember that – and I say this with no disrespect to Linton, in particular – but with some criticism about the last administration, there was not an ongoing discussion between the United States and Russia about how to enhance and advance verification and monitoring over the past several years.
The last administration correctly noted that some of these verification provisions were no longer necessary because we no longer fear an out-of-the-blue nuclear attack from Moscow. But at the same time, they have provided predictability and transparency and confidence about future intentions.
And many in the Russian military, in particular, I think, have gotten used to this American storyline that these verification-monitoring provisions are out-of-date, they’re a vestige of an earlier area and now there is, I think, a major – there has been a significant shift in the American position, but I think the Russian position, as a whole, has not adjusted quite as quickly over the last 12 months.
MS. TOMERO: We have a couple of questions, so maybe we can get back to you after we’ve taken a few of the questions. Elaine?
Q: Hi, thanks. Elaine Grossman from the National Journal Group. I actually want to ask a question about verification, also. I’m wondering what the panelists might imagine could be verification provisions that might be carried out to verify deployed warheads, and how they might address the security concerns on both sides about seeing the warhead loading and seeing the warheads themselves.
MR. BROOKS: I think they’ll be drawn as closely as possible from START. The issues will be numbers of inspections and what kind of – three issues: How much detail do we exchange about loadings of individual missiles? The United States wants to be able to preserve flexibility on the number of warheads it carries on missile, and it certainly does. Then you’ll have to – if you go to an actual deployed standard, you’ll have to provide more detail than we have provided before. And exactly how that works without getting you into things that would cause security concerns will be hard.
Secondly, you’ll do the same spot check we did, except you’ll probably have to do a different approach to shrouding because you’ll be demonstrating the actual number of warheads rather than that it’s no more than a certain number. That’s fairly straightforward, I think.
And more than that, I don’t know the problem will be made easier depending on the degree to which the sides choose to have a common loading on all missiles. My guess is, for example, that the Minuteman-III will be an all single-warhead force by the time this treaty is implemented. And so then that’ll be easier because you can sort of look at any of them.
MR. PIFER: I’d just add a couple points on – under the START treaty, each side was allowed to do each year 10 warhead inspections where you could go to a submarine base and say, that submarine there, open up missile 2 number 17 and show me that there are no more than eight warheads on that submarine. And you could also do it at ICBM bases. I mean, that wasn’t enough to tell you the total number, but it was enough to create a significant risk that if you gambled and tried to put more warheads on there than you’d declared, you might get caught.
Now, the American side, I think because it wants to put different numbers of warheads on the Trident missiles, wants to move from that attribution rule towards an actual count rule. I’ve also heard from a number of people throughout the U.S. government that they understand that this may be more difficult to monitor and verify than using the attribute rule, and that they have said that they are prepared to accept more intrusive verification measures.
So one back-of-the-envelope idea I came up with – they probably have other smarter people who have smarter ideas – but if a Russian inspection team, say, went to Kings Bay, Georgia, and you had a provision where they could choose a submarine, and if we were prepared to be more open, we could tell the Russians, for those 20 missile tubes, here are the number of warheads on each missile. And then they could choose, you know, some number – three – maybe to inspect and confirm that.
Again, that creates a significant risk of being caught if you cheat. You don’t have to show them what’s on every missile. But it’s a mechanism, I think, that would allow you to have a workable monitoring regime. It would be a bit more intrusive and it would be a bit more difficult than the attribution rule, but this is a soluble problem.
And I think these are the sorts of things that they’re probably working on now, where it’s not so much an issue of principle; it’s just sort of getting that right balance between showing enough that allows you to monitor and verify the treaty while also not making it impossibly difficult for the submarine operators who have other things to do.
MS. TOMERO: We have time for one more question.
Q: My name is – (inaudible) – and I am a correspondent from Japan’s newspaper, Mainichi Shimbun. And I have also a verification question to Mr. Pifer. And you pointed out five main factors of the START treaty, and what will be changed or what will not be changed in that new treaty, and what will be the merit or – (inaudible) – for the United States?
MS. TOMERO: So a question for Professor Pifer. I saw actually two other questions in the back, so let’s take those two, and get Professor Pifer to answer this first question and then maybe have each of the speakers answer the last question.
Q: Hi, Matt Knight (sp) from the British Embassy. Just in warhead verification, counting numbers, are decoys in or out?
MS. TOMERO: And then you right here.
Q: Jim Manion from Agence France Press. Could you talk a little bit about potential obstacles to ratification of the treaty? I know that you mentioned missile defense, but are there others?
MR. PIFER: Let me take the first – of the five sets of provisions I had there, I would guess – I would suspect that there will be some provision that says you can’t interfere with the other side’s national technical means. That’s been fairly standard in arms controls treaties now, so that the other side is allowed to use its surveillance satellites in other ways for purposes of monitoring the treaty.
With regards to the other provisions, I think it remains to be seen. There was an agreement in principle by the sides that they would proceed – they would start with the basis of the START verification regime, but where possible, both sides wanted to simplify it and make it easier to implement.
And I suspect that over having now worked under this regime for 15 years, I think the United States has conducted, like, 600 inspections under it; the Russians have conducted over 400. So there’s a lot of experience. And I think one thing that the sides have been able to probably do is go and say, maybe these measures, we don’t really need.
As Linton said, I think the Votkinsk provision – to have a permanent presence at Votkinsk – perhaps at this point, we no longer need that. And so the verification provisions really need to be driven by the actual limitations that you agree to, and to the extent that you have different limitations than were in the START treaty, and I think in some ways this new agreement is going to be simpler than the START treaty. That may impose, in some ways, less demanding verification requirements. And that gives the side the opportunity, then, to eliminate the inspections if they make no contribution to the overall understanding of the other side’s compliance with the treaty.
MR. BROOKS: With regard to ratification, I assume that defenses will be dealt with as I suggested earlier, which is in language that does not impose any restrictions. Therefore, I think that defenses, which is one of the big deals for people who are worried about the treaty, will not be a bar to ratification.
I think that there will be some rhetoric about nonstrategic, but since it’s been clear since the April statement that the treaty wasn’t about nonstrategic, since there’s a possibility for perfect negotiations to deal with that, since the treaty it’s replacing didn’t deal with it, it’s hard for me to see that that will be a significant bar to ratification.
If you look at the resolution that was introduced, it has some curious features. It says that the intelligence community estimates that in 15 years, China could have 100 warheads capable of reaching the United States, and then, somehow seems to say that a treaty that has us with 1500 warheads now, that there’s an imbalance there. I don’t understand that. I think it’ll be a debate point because there’s a school of thought that is really worried about China, but there’s not a lot of data about a significant Chinese buildup.
Daryl commented on the ratification issue about maintaining a nuclear enterprise. In pure logic, that has nothing to do with this treaty. I mean, whatever we ought to do to maintain the nuclear enterprise, we ought to do whether we have this treaty or no treaty or an extension of START. I think that it is very clear that there’ll be an attempt to use START ratification to solidify some things, and exactly how that works, I don’t think it endangers ratification.
I think there will be a fair amount of negotiation both within the Senate and between the Senate and the administration. To some extent, you’ll have to see what’s in the nuclear posture review. The nuclear posture review is perceived by skeptics as calling for significant intent to maintain a capable nuclear weapons enterprise, whatever you think that means, then I think it doesn’t become a ratification debate.
I frankly think that this treaty is so clearly in our overall interest that there’ll be a lot of rhetoric, but I’d be extremely surprised if this is not ratified with the kind of majorities that we’ve seen in the past.
There are a couple of things we don’t know. We don’t know how it’s going to handle conventional. There are a handful of people for whom this conventional strike is very important, and they will be looking at that. But if you look at the arguments that have been made so far, there are mostly cautions not to do things that I don’t think the administration has any intention of doing. And so, I mean, if we banned ballistic missile defenses, that would hurt ratification, but since the administration has no intention of doing that, that’s not a terribly interesting worry.
MR. KIMBALL: Well, I would agree with Linton’s overall assessment of the obstacles or the chances for the Senate providing advice and consent. I mean, I would just add a couple additional things.
As everyone can see, the Congress has a very full agenda and the administration has a very full agenda. I mean, one of the key issues regarding when this treaty is going to be evaluated and approved is, okay, when is the Senate Foreign Relations Committee going to hold hearings; when is Harry Reid going to provide floor time? It may not happen as fast as some of us think it ought to, but I think it will.
The administration, I would add, needs to put together a much more substantial, high-level effort to reach out to the Senate to talk about these issues because I think as you all recognize there hasn’t been much discussion about these nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons policy issues in many, many years. And there is a steep learning curve in Congress on these issues.
And so I think many in the Senate may be susceptible to some of these arguments that Steve and Linton and I are casually dismissing here, but might gain some traction in the Senate. So the administration is going to need to be very well-prepared in reaching out to the Senate.
And on one of those issues, I don’t think the key issue in this treaty ratification discussion is going to be about verification because there will be the superficial perception that this new START treaty is not like the last START treaty. It doesn’t have as robust a verification system, and that must be bad, right?
Well, as we’ve described, it is going to be a different verification system because this is a different time, there are going to be a more streamlined set of limits and requirements for each side and, ironically, some of those who right now are arguing and complaining about the loss of certain verification tools like Votkinsk – and this is Sen. Kyl – were the very ones who, in 2003, were criticizing START for being a 700-page behemoth that was out-of-step with current realities and they praised SORT for its brevity and its being streamlined. Now, we’ve come full-circle here.
I think we’ll see in the end that this is a treaty that – and the Senate will recognize – is a treaty that makes a lot of sense, it’s very modest in what it is actually reducing, it will provide continuity with the U.S.-Russian relationship, but it will also at the same time help move us towards much more rational limits on the two countries’ nuclear weapons arsenals. And so I would agree that it’s going to, in the end, be approved but it might be a longer and slower slog than many of us would like.
MR. BROOKS: Two other points –
MS. TOMERO: (Inaudible, off mike) – and Ambassador Brooks to provide some closing comments in maybe 90 seconds so that we don’t run out of time.
MR. BROOKS: Okay, and I’m going to use the first 30 of them for these two points. There’s one other issue that people have raised, which is the Russians need this treaty and we don’t. The basis for that argument is saying, look, the Russian forces are going to go down lower than their current level no matter what happens – probably true – and therefore, it’s not in our interest to have a treaty.
But in fact, as Daryl has pointed out, the only reason we set the levels we have now were to assure our allies, and we assure our allies by a second to none standard. So there’s no particular reason not to go forward with a treaty and it’s kind of facile to get into discussions about who needs it most in a technical sense. Remember my previous comment about who has the budget surpluses and who doesn’t – so whether you want to encourage an arms race right now is interesting.
Finally, I would point out – and we should have pointed out earlier – Daryl’s right – when will the Foreign Relations Committee take up the treaty? But don’t look for that to happen immediately because after the treaty is signed, there is a detailed article-by-article analysis that’s mechanical but burdensome because it becomes part of the shared understanding between the Senate and the administration. And this is a long treaty, and it’s been a while since we’ve done an article-by-article analysis of a long treaty. So if this treaty gets signed in the next two weeks, it still won’t get to the Hill until sometime in late February.
And I guess in closing, when we have the treaty, you’ll be able to look at it. I think that a lot of the reasons we did START-I don’t apply anymore. But predictability, transparency and something that regulates the overall political relationship, those are important, and those alone are enough to justify ratifying the treaty.
And then you add the questions about reclaiming our legitimate role as the leader in international nonproliferation, and so I think that – I am hopeful that this will be looked at thoroughly by the Senate because it ought to be looked at thoroughly by the Senate. But I think it will be ratified.
MR. PIFER: I would just second that comment. I think based on what we understand the treaty, how it’s shaping up – and obviously we do have to look at the actual text when it comes out – but based on what we’ve heard, it’s going to be manifestly in America’s national interest to go ahead and ratify this treaty. It will be good for having a stable nuclear relationship between the United States and Russia.
But it’s also going to be important, as Linton just mentioned, that the United States and Russia, which between them control 95 percent of the nuclear weapons in the world, are acting to fulfill their requirements under the nonproliferation treaty to move towards lower levels of weapons. That will be important when you have Washington trying to work next May at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference to try to tighten up the NPT regime.
Second point I would make is that I do think one of the reasons why the treaty will happen – I think it’s probably a matter of days or weeks – is that the Russians do want the treaty, in part because their forces are being reduced. But I think as Linton just said, we shouldn’t just assume that the Russians are going at any case.
If you look at Russia today, it is very important, I think, to the Kremlin – and I use this, now, of the Kremlin to include the White House, which is where Prime Minister Putin now works – it’s important to Russia to have some vestige of great power status. Strategic nuclear parity with the United States is really their major claim to being a superpower on par with the United States. And so I think we should not doubt that if the Russians believe they have to invest more to maintain nuclear parity with us, they will. And that will not be to the U.S. advantage.
The last observation I would make is to look at the Senate ratification debate, and I would recall that the Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty signed in 2002 was ratified in the Senate by – I think it was a 95-to-0 vote.
I think when you look at the limitations in the new treaty, they will be an improvement on the SORT treaty, but the reductions will be relatively modest – maybe a warhead limit of around 1600 in the new treaty as opposed to between 1700 to 2200 in the SORT treaty.
But what you will have in this new treaty, though, are an array of verification measures, array of transparency measures, so you’re going to have SORT with a slight reduction, but the verification, which SORT did not have. And I think it would be very hard for serious people who voted to ratify the SORT treaty in 2003 now to come around and say that this new treaty was somehow detrimental to American national security.
MS. TOMERO: Any other last words? I’d like to thank you for a very helpful and engaging discussion. I think we’ve been able to benefit from several decades of unique experience on these issues, including at the highest levels of government, to deal with these issues before us as we expect a new treaty in the next few weeks, and consideration by the Senate in the next few months.
I trust you grabbed a copy of the START briefing book. It’s also available on the front page of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation at our START center. The Web site is www.armscontrolcenter.org.
I’d like to thank you very much for your questions and your interest, and I’d also particularly like to express my appreciation to the Arms Control Association, to Daryl and particularly also to Tom Collina. And please join me in thanking our speakers. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
For further information, see:
- ACA's "Background Briefing for Reporters: The Follow-on to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty": http://armscontrol.org/pressroom/STARTFollowonBackgroundBriefing
- The latest news coverage from Arms Control Today on nuclear arms reductions: http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2009_11/START
- ACA's summary fact sheet on past and current U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control agreements: http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/factfilejune07
- "A New START," editorial in the December issue of Arms Control Today by Daryl G. Kimball: http://armscontrol.org/act/2009_12/focus
- START briefing book prepared by Center for Arms Control and
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