ACA’s journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent.

– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General


Cancel Russia Copter Deal, Lawmakers Say

While President Barack Obama seeks economic sanctions against Russia for its military intervention in Ukraine, the Defense Department is continuing to fulfill a $554 million contract with Russia’s arms export agency to supply military helicopters to the government of Afghanistan.

Jefferson Morley

While President Barack Obama seeks economic sanctions against Russia for its military intervention in Ukraine, the Defense Department is continuing to fulfill a $554 million contract with Russia’s arms export agency to supply military helicopters to the government of Afghanistan.

Some members of Congress are objecting. In a March 19 letter, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and four other House members urged Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to cancel the contract with Rosoboronexport, citing a recent executive order by Obama that imposes sanctions on persons “in the arms or related material sector of the Russian Federation” in response to the Russian invasion of Crimea.

In the past, the Pentagon has supported the Afghan military’s use of the Russian-made, battle-tested Mi-17 helicopter. In 2012, James Miller, acting undersecretary of defense for policy, said the Russian-made aircraft had “proven operational capabilities in the extreme environments of Afghanistan.” Cancellation of the contract would “complicate the maintenance, sustainment, and supply systems required to support the fleet” of the embattled Afghan armed forces, the Pentagon said in response to criticism from Congress and human rights advocates over Rosoboronexport supplying weapons to the Syrian government as it waged a bloody civil war.

When Congress prohibited dealings with Rosobornonexport in 2013, the Pentagon invoked a national security waiver provision in the law and extended the contract, triggering more criticism from Congress.

In November, the Defense Department dropped plans to purchase 15 to 20 additional helicopters from Rosoboronexport. Pentagon officials said at that time they would fulfill the original contract, calling for 30 helicopters to be delivered in batches of six. The second batch arrived in Afghanistan in late February, according to the Itar-Tass news agency, with three more deliveries scheduled before the end of 2014.

When asked for comment, a Defense Department spokesman said in a March 21 e-mail that “the government ensures that termination is authorized in all contracts by including the appropriate termination clauses in each contract” and cited the “requirement to use those termination clauses,” suggesting that termination because of Rosoboronexport’s trade with Syria or Russia’s intervention in Ukraine is not permitted under the contract.

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U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Agreements at a Glance

April 2014

Press Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107; Tom Z. Collina, Research Director; (202) 463-8270 x104

April 2014

Over the past four decades, American and Soviet/Russian leaders have used a progression of bilateral agreements and other measures to limit and reduce their substantial nuclear warhead and strategic missile and bomber arsenals. The following is a brief summary.

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control Agreements

Begun in November 1969, the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) produced by May 1972 both the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which limited strategic missile defenses to 200 (later 100) interceptors each, and the Interim Agreement, an executive agreement that capped U.S. and Soviet ICBM and SLBM forces. Under the Interim Agreement, both sides pledged not to construct new ICBM silos, not to increase the size of existing ICBM silos “significantly,” and capped the number of SLBM launch tubes and SLBM-carrying submarines. The agreement ignored strategic bombers and did not address warhead numbers, leaving both sides free to enlarge their forces by deploying multiple warheads (MIRVs) onto their ICBMs and SLBMs and increasing their bomber-based forces. The agreement limited the United States to 1,054 ICBM silos and 656 SLBM launch tubes. The Soviet Union was limited to 1,607 ICBM silos and 740 SLBM launch tubes. In June 2002, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the ABM treaty.


In November 1972, Washington and Moscow agreed to pursue a follow-on treaty to SALT I. SALT II, signed in June 1979, limited U.S. and Soviet ICBM, SLBM, and strategic bomber-based nuclear forces to 2,250 delivery vehicles (defined as an ICBM silo, a SLBM launch tube, or a heavy bomber) and placed a variety of other restrictions on deployed strategic nuclear forces. The agreement would have required the Soviets to reduce their forces by roughly 270 delivery vehicles, but U.S. forces were below the limits and could actually have been increased. However, President Jimmy Carter asked the Senate not to consider SALT II for its advice and consent after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, and the treaty was not taken up again. Both Washington and Moscow subsequently pledged to adhere to the agreement’s terms despite its failure to enter into force. However, on May 26, 1986, President Ronald Reagan said that future decisions on strategic nuclear forces would be based on the threat posed by Soviet forces and not on "a flawed SALT II Treaty.”

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), first proposed in the early 1980s by President Ronald Reagan and finally signed in July 1991, required the United States and the Soviet Union to reduce their deployed strategic arsenals to 1,600 delivery vehicles, carrying no more than 6,000 warheads as counted using the agreement’s rules. The agreement required the destruction of excess delivery vehicles which was verified using an intrusive verification regime that involved on-site inspections, the regular exchange of information, including telemetry, and the use of national technical means (i.e., satellites). The agreement’s entry into force was delayed for several years because of the collapse of the Soviet Union and ensuing efforts to denuclearize Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus by returning their nuclear weapons to Russia and making them parties to the NPT and START agreements.  START I reductions were completed in December 2001 and the treaty expired on Dec. 5, 2009.

In June 1992, Presidents George H. W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin agreed to pursue a follow-on accord to START I. START II, signed in January 1993, called for reducing deployed strategic arsenals to 3,000-3,500 warheads and banned the deployment of destabilizing multiple-warhead land-based missiles. START II would have counted warheads in roughly the same fashion as START I and, also like its predecessor, would have required the destruction of delivery vehicles but not warheads. The agreement's original implementation deadline was January 2003, ten years after signature, but a 1997 protocol moved this deadline to December 2007 because of the extended delay in ratification. Both the Senate and the Duma approved START II, but the treaty did not take effect because the Senate did not ratify the 1997 protocol and several ABM Treaty amendments, whose passage the Duma established as a condition for START II’s entry into force. START II was effectively shelved as a result of the 2002 U.S. withdrawal from the ABM treaty.

START III Framework
In March 1997, Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin agreed to a framework for START III negotiations that included a reduction in deployed strategic warheads to 2,000-2,500. Significantly, in addition to requiring the destruction of delivery vehicles, START III negotiations were to address “the destruction of strategic nuclear warheads…to promote the irreversibility of deep reductions including prevention of a rapid increase in the number of warheads.” Negotiations were supposed to begin after START II entered into force, which never happened.

On May 24, 2002, Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT or Moscow Treaty) under which the United States and Russia reduced their strategic arsenals to 1,700-2,200 warheads each. The warhead limit took effect and expired on the same day, December 31, 2012. Although the two sides did not agree on specific counting rules, the Bush administration asserted that the United States would reduce only warheads deployed on strategic delivery vehicles in active service, i.e., “operationally deployed” warheads, and would not count warheads removed from service and placed in storage or warheads on delivery vehicles undergoing overhaul or repair. The agreement’s limits are similar to those envisioned for START III, but the treaty did not require the destruction of delivery vehicles, as START I and II did, or the destruction of warheads, as had been envisioned for START III. The treaty was approved by the Senate and Duma and entered into force on June 1, 2003.  SORT was replaced by New START on February 5, 2011.

On April 8, 2010, the United States and Russia signed New START, a legally binding, verifiable agreement that limits each side to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 700 strategic delivery systems (ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers), and limits deployed and nondeployed launchers to 800. The treaty-accountable warhead limit is 30 percent lower than the 2,200 upper limit of SORT, and the delivery vehicle limit is 50 percent lower than the 1,600 allowed in START I. The treaty has a verification regime that combines elements of START I with new elements tailored to New START. Measures under the treaty include on-site inspections and exhibitions, data exchanges and notifications related to strategic offensive arms and facilities covered by the treaty, and provisions to facilitate the use of national technical means for treaty monitoring. The treaty also provides for the continued exchange of telemetry (missile flight-test data on up to five tests per year) and does not meaningfully limit missile defenses or long-range conventional strike capabilities. The treaty limits take effect seven years after entry into force, and the treaty will be in effect for 10 years, or longer if agreed by both parties. The U.S. Senate approved New START on Dec. 22, 2010. The approval process of the Russian parliament (passage by both the State Duma and Federation Council) was completed January 26, 2011. The treaty entered into force on February 5, 2011.

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control Agreements

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control Agreements


Status Expired Never Entered Into Force Expired Never Entered Into Force Never Negotiated Replaced by New START In Force
Deployed Warhead Limit NA NA 6,000 3,000-3,500 2,000-2,500 1,700-2,200 1,550
Deployed Delivery Vehicle Limit US: 1,710 ICBMs & SLBMs
USSR: 2,347
2,250 1,600 NA NA NA 700
Date Signed May 26, 1972 June 18, 1979 July 31, 1991 Jan. 3, 1993 NA May 24, 2002

April 8, 2010

Date Ratifed, U.S. Aug. 3, 1972 NA Oct. 1, 1992 Jan. 26, 1996 NA March 6, 2003 Dec. 22, 2010
Ratification Vote, U.S. 88-2 NA 93-6 87-4 NA 95-0 71-26
Date Entered Into Force Oct. 3, 1972 NA Dec. 5, 1994 NA NA June 1, 2003 Feb. 5, 2011
Implementation Deadline NA NA Dec. 5, 2001 NA NA NA Feb. 5, 2018
Expiration Date Oct. 3, 1977 NA Dec. 5, 2009 NA NA Feb. 5, 2011 Feb. 5, 2021


Nonstrategic Nuclear Arms Control Measures

Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty
Signed December 8, 1987, the INF Treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to verifiably eliminate all ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Distinguished by its unprecedented, intrusive inspection regime, including on-site inspections, the INF Treaty laid the groundwork for verification of the subsequent START I. The INF Treaty entered into force June 1, 1988, and the two sides completed their reductions by June 1, 1991, destroying a total of 2,692 missiles. The agreement was multilateralized after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and current active participants in the agreement include the United States, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are also parties to the agreement but do not participate in treaty meetings or on-site inspections. The ban on intermediate-range missiles is of unlimited duration.

Presidential Nuclear Initiatives
On September 27, 1991, President George H. W. Bush announced that the United States would remove almost all U.S. tactical nuclear forces from deployment so that Russia could undertake similar actions, reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation as the Soviet Union dissolved. Specifically, Bush said the United States would eliminate all its nuclear artillery shells and short-range nuclear ballistic missile warheads and remove all nonstrategic nuclear warheads from surface ships, attack submarines, and land-based naval aircraft. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev reciprocated on October 5, pledging to eliminate all nuclear artillery munitions, nuclear warheads for tactical missiles, and nuclear landmines. He also pledged to withdraw all Soviet tactical naval nuclear weapons from deployment. However, significant questions remain about Russian implementation of its pledges, and there is considerable uncertainty about the current state of Russia’s tactical nuclear forces.

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

Country Resources:

GOP Presses Obama on INF Treaty Concerns

Republicans in the House and Senate introduced identical resolutions March 25 calling on President Barack Obama to hold Russia accountable for “being in material breach of its obligations” under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Tom Z. Collina

Republicans in the House and Senate introduced identical resolutions March 25 calling on President Barack Obama to hold Russia accountable for “being in material breach of its obligations” under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), David Vitter (R-La.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) introduced the Senate resolution. Reps. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), Ted Poe (R-Tex.), and Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) introduced the bill in the House.

The resolutions come in response to what Republican lawmakers say was the Obama administration’s weak action in following up on U.S. suspicions that Moscow has tested cruise missiles banned by the INF Treaty. The accord prohibits the United States and Russia from testing or fielding ballistic or cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The Obama administration confirmed these concerns in January, but has not publicly concluded that a violation has taken place. (See ACT, March 2014.)

The possibility of the treaty violation has been an issue in the confirmation process for some Obama administration nominees (see).

In light of Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea, “Russian cheating cannot be interpreted in anything but the most sinister terms,” Rubio and the House members said in a March 25 press release. “Cheating is not a separate issue, but is rather recognized as an equal part of [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin’s long-term plan for a resurgent Russia.”

The resolutions call on Obama to demand that Russia “completely and verifiably eliminate” the missiles in question, not to reduce U.S. nuclear forces further or engage in arms control negotiations with Russia until this elimination has occurred, and to consider whether the United States should remain a party to the INF Treaty if Moscow is still in violation a year from now. The United States and Russia are currently reducing their nuclear forces under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, and Obama had been proposing an additional round of negotiated arsenal cuts.

“We have introduced this resolution because the viability of future arms control agreements depends on the reliability of current ones,” Rubio and his colleagues said. “There is simply no point in having treaties unless both sides treat them with the utmost fidelity, and act in a manner binding to the agreement.”

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Arms Control and Proliferation Profile: Russia

April 2014

Updated: April 2014

This profile summarizes the major arms control agreements, regimes, initiatives, and practices that Russia subscribes to and those that it does not. It also describes the major weapons programs, policies, and holdings of Russia, as well as its proliferation record. This profile is one of a series focused on the arms control record and status of key states, all of which are available on the Arms Control Association’s website at http://www.armscontrol.org.

Major Multilateral Arms Control Agreements and Treaties




Biological Weapons Convention



Chemical Weapons Convention



Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty



Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)

-Recognized as one of five nuclear-weapon states.



Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons

-Party to four of the five protocols. [1]



Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty



Outer Space Treaty



Ottawa Mine Ban Convention

-Stockpiles some 26.5 million antipersonnel landmines. [2]

- - -

- - -

Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM)



CPPNM 2005 Amendment

- - -


International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism



Export Control Regimes, Nonproliferation Initiatives, and Safeguards

Australia Group: Not a member, but Russia claims to adhere to the group’s rules and control list.

Missile Technology Control Regime: Member.

Nuclear Suppliers Group: Member.

Wassenaar Arrangement: Member.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol: Signed in 2000, entered into force in 2007.

Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism: Co-founder with the United States.

Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation: Participant.

Proliferation Security Initiative: Participant.

UN Security Council Resolutions 1540 and 1673: Russia has filed reports on its activities to fulfill the resolutions and volunteered to provide assistance to other states.

Major Weapons Programs, Policies, and Practices

Biological Weapons:

Despite ratifying the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the Soviet Union apparently maintained an extensive offensive germ weapons program, including research into plague, anthrax, smallpox, tularemia, glanders, and hemorrhagic fever. In an August 2005 report, the U.S. Department of State asserted that “the United States is concerned that Russia maintains a mature offensive [biological weapons] program.” [3] The report noted that “a substantial amount of dual-use research conducted in recent years has legitimate biodefense applicability, but also could be used to further an offensive program.” Russia has disputed the allegations.

In its 2011 compliance report, the State Department said that it had no indications that Russian activities “were conducted for purposes inconsistent with the BWC.” However, it also stated that it could not confirm that Russia had fulfilled its obligations under the BWC. The lack of transparency surrounding this program prevents the U.S. from reaching more concrete conclusions. Russia claims that it is in compliance with the BWC, and the reports notes that the two countries were involved in discussions over this topic. [4]

Chemical Weapons:

Upon entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Russia declared that it possessed approximately 40,000 metric tons of chemical agents, the largest amount in the world. As of July 2010, Russia had destroyed roughly 48 percent of this stockpile, and is required under the CWC to eliminate the rest by 2012. However, Russia has stated that it will miss this deadline and is currently aiming to complete elimination by 2015. At the December 1, 2011 meeting of the states party to the CWC reaffirmed the April 2012 deadline, but did not specify that countries that failed to meet it would be found in violation of the pact. [5]

A dispute lingers over whether Russia has fully declared all of its chemical weapons-related facilities and past production. The State Department’s 2011 Condition Report on the Compliance With the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling, and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction stated that it was “unable to ascertain whether Russia has met its obligations for declaration of its CWPFs, CW development facilities, and CW stockpiles, and whether Russia is complying with the CWC-established criteria for destruction and verification of its CW,” although the report also noted that the US has “ascertained that Russia is now destroying CW agenty hydrolysis reaction masses at its operating CWDFs.” [6]

Conventional Weapons Trade:

Russia trails only the United States in supplying conventional arms abroad. Between 2002 and 2009, Russia committed to selling approximately $74 billion in weapons to other states. [7] In 2010, Russia made $7.8 billion in global arms transfer agreements, which was a decline from 2009 when they made $12.8 billion in such agreements. [8] The leading long-term purchasers of Russian arms are India and China. In addition, in 2006 Algeria and Venezuela sealed multi-billion dollar weapons deals with Russia. Russian arms sales to Venezuela increased further in 2009, after Russia agreed to loan $2.2 billion to Venezuela for the purchase of tanks and advanced anti-aircraft missiles. Western governments have often criticized Russia for not being discriminating enough in its arms transactions, citing the dramatic increase in sales to Venezuela, in addition to transfers to Iran and Sudan. In 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on Russia to stop selling arms to the Assad regime in Syria, which the international community has condemned for its brutal crackdown on protests calling for reform. [9]

Russia is participating at the negotiations at the UN in July 2012 to draft an Arms Trade Treaty, which aims to regulate arms sales.

The Nuclear Arsenal, an Overview:

According to the latest official New START declaration, Russia deploys 1,512 strategic nuclear warheads on 498 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), and strategic bombers. In 2013 the Federation of American Scientists estimated that Russia also possesses 1,800 tactical nuclear bombs, with another 2,700 strategic warheads in reserve, and additional numbers of warheads awaiting dismantlement [10].

Delivery Systems


  • Ballistic Missiles: Russia has an extensive, albeit aging, force of silo- and mobile-land based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). As of 2012, Russia’s ICBMs include three variants of the RS-12M, carrying a single 800 kt warhead; the RS-18 carrying six 400 kt multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV); the RS-20 carrying ten 500-800 kt MIRV warheads; and the RS-24 carrying six 100kt MIRV warheads. All of Russia’s ICBMs were developed and entered service from the 1980’s to the 1990’s with the exception of the RS-24 which entered service in 2010. Russia’s land-based strategic missile force consists of 322 missiles capable of delivering up to 1,087 warheads. In 2011, Russia planned to buy 36 strategic ballistic missiles. [11] Russia also possesses mobile, tactical surface-to-surface ballistic missiles that have a range of up to 200 miles. This includes Scud-B/SS-1c Mod 1, Scud-B/SS-1c Mod 2, SS-21, SS-21 Mod 2, and SS-21 Mod 3, SS-26/Iskander, and SS-26 Stone/Iskader-E. In 2012 Moscow announced the successful test of an ICBM capable of penetrating the U.S.’ missile defense programs. This response came after news of NATO’s planned missile shield in Europe. [12]

  • Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles: Russia’s other long range missile systems are the RSM-50, RSM-54, and RSM-56 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBM). The RSM-50 was deployed in 1978, and the RSM-54 was deployed in 2007. The next-generation RSM-56, also known as the Bulava missile, completed a successful flight test in December 2011. This was the 18th test of the Bulava missile, and former Russian President Dimitry Medvedev said the Bulava’s cycle of flight testing was complete and the missile was ready to be put into service.[13] The RSM-50 missile is equipped with three 50 kt MIRVs. The RSM-54 missile is equipped with four 100 kt MIRVs. The RSM-56 missile is equipped with six 100 kt MIRVs. As of 2012, Russia possessed 48 RSM-50 missiles with 144 warheads, and 96 RSM-54 missiles with 384 warheads. Russia plans to produce 32 RSM-56 missiles with 192 warheads for a total of 144 SLBMs capable of delivering 528 warheads.[14]

  • Cruise Missiles: The Russian military possesses three types of air-launched cruise missiles and two submarine-launched cruise missile systems. In 2011, Russia planned to purchase 20 strategic cruise missiles. [15] In 2012, Russia and India announced plans to work together to build a hypersonic cruise missile. [16]

Under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Moscow is barred from possessing ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Russia has abided by this prohibition, but the Kremlin also has suggested it might withdraw from the accord because its neighbors are acquiring types of missiles that are forbidden to Russia. In October 2007, the United States and Russia called upon other countries to forswear missiles banned by the INF Treaty. Russia has not withdrawn from the INF Treaty.


  • Russia’s strategic submarine force has is now undergoing significant upgrades. The core of the force is comprised of seven Delta IV submarines armed with 16 RSM-54 missiles each. They are part of Russia’s Northern Fleet based at Yagelnaya Bay on the Kola Peninsula.[17] Russia also has three Delta III submarines as part of the Pacific Fleet based on the Kamchatka Peninsula.[18] Each vessel is armed with 16 RSM-50 missiles. As part of Russia’s military rearmament program, the Russian Navy will take delivery of three Borey class, and five upgraded Borey-A class submarines by 2020. These eight vessels will serve as the backbone of Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent, eventually allowing the Delta III’s to be retired. The first Borey class submarine, the Yury Dolgoruky, entered service on January 10, 2013 as part of the Northern Fleet. The third and last Borey vessel will start sea-trials during the summer of 2013; while the first of the improved Borey-A class, the Knyaz Vladimir, was laid down in July 2012 and is still under construction.[19] Once completed, the eight Borey vessels will each carry 16 RSM-56 Bulava missiles capable of delivering up to 768 warheads.

Strategic Bombers

  • The Russian Air Force currently operates 28 Tu-95 MS6 long-range bombers, 31 Tu-95 MS16 long-range bombers, and 13 Tu-160 supersonic long-range bombers. All three aircraft are categorized as strategic heavy bombers and are limited by the New START treaty. The Tu-95 MS6 is capable of carrying 6 nuclear Kh-55 strategic cruise missiles, while the Tu-95 MS16 is capable of carrying up to 16 nuclear Kh-55 strategic cruise missiles. Alternatively, either version of the Tu-95 can be armed with over 25,000 pounds of bombs. The Tu-160 can carry up to 12 Kh-55 cruise missiles, which are configured slightly differently than the Tu-95’s cruise missiles.[20] The 72 strategic bombers do not regularly carry nuclear payloads. Combined, the bombers can deliver up to 820 nuclear weapons. The Russian Air Force also operates a multipurpose medium-range supersonic bomber, the Tu-22M, which is considered a tactical nuclear delivery platform of various types of cruise missiles. The Tu-22M is not limited by the New START treaty. Russia has begun studying designs for a next-generation strategic bomber meant to replace the entire fleet of Tu-95’s, Tu-160’s, and Tu-22M’s. The new bomber program is expected to develop a prototype by the early 2020’s.[21]

Nuclear Doctrine

Under Russia’s standing Military Doctrine, published in February 2010, “The Russian Federation reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and (or) its allies, as well as in response to aggression against the Russian Federation that utilizes conventional weapons that threatens the very existence of the state.”

All told, the Soviet Union conducted 715 nuclear tests. The first test occurred Aug. 29, 1949, and the last test took place Oct. 24, 1990. Russia has not conducted any tests since it inherited the Soviet Union’s nuclear stockpile following the Soviet breakup.

Fissile Material

Russia has publicly declared that it no longer produces fissile material (highly enriched uranium [HEU] and plutonium) for weapons purposes. The Kremlin announced a halt to HEU production for weapons in 1989 and the cessation of plutonium production for weapons in 1994. In April 2010 Russia closed its last plutonium production facility, although it has not discounted a return to producing separated plutonium for fast-breeder reactors in the future. As with Russia’s warhead stockpile, there is a great deal of uncertainty about its holdings of fissile material. According to an independent report released in early 2012, Russia’s HEU stockpile is estimated at 737 tons, with a margin of error of 120 tons. Approximately 20 tons are designated for civilian use. The plutonium stockpile is estimated at 176 tons, with an 8 ton margin of error. The weapons stockpile is estimated at 128 tons and 48 tons are declared for civilian use. [22]

Russia is implementing a program to downblend 500 metric tons of Russian excess weapons grade HEU into a reactor fuel unsuitable for bombs that it will then sell to the United States for light water reactor fuel. That project is scheduled to be completed in 2013. As of September 2011, 433 of the 500 tons have been blended down. A second program that the United States funds will cover the downblending of 17 tons of non-weapons HEU by 2015. As of early 2011, Russia completed the blending down of 13 tons.

In addition, under a separate agreement with the United States, Russia is committed to disposing of 34 metric tons of excess plutonium. The project was delayed for several years, but in April 2010 the two nations signed a protocol that amended and updated the 2000 agreement. Both countries now aim to begin disposition in 2018.

Proliferation Record

The United States and independent analyses have long cited Russia as a key supplier of nuclear- and missile-related goods and technology to a variety of countries, including states of proliferation concern such as Iran and Syria. In response, the United States often levied sanctions on Russian entities believed to be involved in such proliferation activities. [23] Beginning in the mid-2000s, however, the number and frequency of Russian entities placed under U.S. proliferation sanctions declined, possibly as a result of increasing Russian commitment to controlling sensitive exports. Moreover, in recent years, U.S. officials have also cited Russian cooperation addressing proliferation concerns, in particular Iran. [24] In spite of this cooperation, Russia still remains a source of illicit sensitive technology, particularly in regard to missile proliferation. According to a 2010 State Department Report, Russian entities “continued to supply sensitive missile-related items, technology, and expertise to several programs of concern” from 2004-2008. [25] The report added, however, that “available information” did not indicate that Russia “acted inconsistently with the MTCR.”

The vast former Soviet biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons complexes, including their former scientists, are also seen as a potential source of arms, materials, and know-how for other regimes or non-state actors. Consequently, the United States and other countries have many programs dedicated to mitigating this potential threat by helping Russia, as well as other former Soviet states, secure or destroy facilities, materials, and weapon systems, as well as gainfully employ former scientists in non-arms related work.

Other Arms Control and Nonproliferation Activities

In 2002, the United States and Russia concluded the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT). Under SORT, the two countries are supposed to reduce their operationally deployed strategic nuclear forces to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads by Dec. 31, 2012. However, the treaty expires that same day, freeing up both countries to expand their arsenals afterwards if they so choose. In February 2009, the U.S. government completed its reductions to 2,200 strategic deployed weapons, meeting the upper limit under SORT over three years early.

In addition, SORT did not include verification measures. Instead, it relied on the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty’s (START) verification regime, which provided for the United States and Russia to exchange information, visit, and monitor each other’s nuclear weapons complexes. START expired in December 2009.

In April 2010, the United States and Russia signed a successor to the original START accord. The new treaty, known as New START, entered into force on February 5, 2011 and requires that both sides reduce their arsenals to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear weapons on no more than 700 ICMBs, SLMBs, and bombers, within seven years. In addition, it would restore many of the verification measures from the original START accord. [26]

The Russian government officially suspended its implementation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty on December 12, 2008. Moscow contends that NATO countries, led by the United States, are unjustifiably delaying ratification of the 1999 Adapted CFE Treaty and thereby endangering Russian security. NATO members have stated that they will not ratify the Adapted CFE Treaty until Russia withdraws its military forces from Georgia and Moldova; the Kremlin contends that these issues should not be linked. Meanwhile, Russia continues to implement another European security instrument, the Open Skies Treaty, which facilitates unarmed reconnaissance flights over the territories of all states-parties.

The Russian government has signed and ratified protocols stating its intent to respect and not threaten the use of nuclear weapons against states-parties to the Latin America and South Pacific nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties. Russia has signed and ratified in 2011 Protocol I and II for the African zone. It has neither signed nor ratified the protocols for the Central Asian and Southeast Asian zones.

At the 65-member Conference on Disarmament (CD), Russia has supported negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) and a treaty on the prevention of an arms race in outer space. Russia and China jointly submitted the Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (PPWT) to the CD on February 12, 2008. Under the Bush administration, the United States opposed any negotiation on an outer space treaty and dropped its support for an “effectively verifiable” FMCT, which prevented the CD from forming a work plan. The Obama administration changed this policy, and has actively pursued the negotiation of a verifiable FMCT. These efforts resulted in the adoption of a work plan at the CD on May 28, 2009 which included discussions of both an FMCT and a PPWT. Despite some initial progress, negotiations on these issues broke down – principally due to Pakistan – and show no immediate prospect for improvement. In August 2011, the P5 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) met in Geneva to discuss how to break the stalemate at the CD over a FMCT, however no agreement was reached on to pursue negotiations outside the CD. [27]

Within the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), Russia has resisted a U.S.-sponsored initiative to negotiate restrictions on the use of anti-vehicle landmines, but reluctantly consented to CCW negotiations on cluster munitions. Russia has neither signed nor ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM).

Russia participated in both the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington, DC and the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit held in Seoul, South Korea.

Russia supported six UN Security Council Resolutions as part of international efforts to encourage Iran to address concerns about its nuclear program. In 2011,however, Russia blocked further UN sanctions against Iran in the Security Council. Russia also participates in the ongoing P5+1 talks with Iran, which hope to resolve international concerns over its nuclear program. These negotiations are ongoing and have not yet produced an agreement. Russia has stated its support for Iran’s peaceful use of nuclear energy.

In 2010, the first international nuclear fuel bank opened. It is located at a uranium enrichment facility in Angarsk, Siberia. [28] Russia supported the creation of a fuel bank and offered to host it to help persuade countries to forgo development of their own national nuclear fuel production capabilities, which also could be used to produce nuclear-bomb material.


1. Russia has not ratified Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War. It also has not approved an amendment that extends the convention’s application beyond just interstate conflicts to intrastate conflicts.

2. International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Landmine Monitor Report 2009, October 2009, 1,253 pp. According to this report, Russia was one of only two states to use antipersonnel land mines in 2008-2009, the other being Myanmar.

3. U.S. Department of State, Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” August 2005, 108 pp.

4. U.S. Department of State, 2011 Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments, August 2011, 35 pp.

5. Horner, Daniel. “Accord Reached on CWC’s 2012 Deadline.” Arms Control Today, January/February 2012, p. 38.

6. U.S. Department of State, Condition (10) (C) Report: Compliance With The Convention On The Prohibition Of The Development, Production, Stockpiling And Use of Chemical Weapons And On Their Destruction, August 2011, 16 pp.

7. Grimmett, Richard F., Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2002-2009, Congressional Research Service, September 10, 2010, 84 pp.

8. Grimmett, Richard F., Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2003-2010, Congressional Research Service, September 22, 2011, 89 pp.

9. Lakshmanan, Indira A.R. and Nasseri, Ladane. “Clinton Calls On Russia To End Arms Sales To Syria.”Bloomberg News, June 13, 2012. http://origin-www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-13/russia-rejects-clinton-accusation-of-arms-for-syria-repression.html

10. Kristensen, Hans M. “Status of World Nuclear Forces.” Federation of American Scientists, 2011. http://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/nukes/nuclearweapons/nukestatus.html

11. “Russian military to buy 36 ICBMs, 2 missile subs in 2011.” RIA Novosti, March 3, 2011.http://en.rian.ru/mlitary_news/20110318/163075432.html

12. Kramer, Andrew E. “Russia Tests New Missile to Counter U.S. Shield.” The New York Times, May 24, 2012, p. A10.

13. Robert Norris, and Hans Kristensen, "Russian nuclear forces, 2012," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 68, no. 87 (2012): 92, 10.1177/0096340212438665 (accessed June 3, 2013).

14. Robert Norris, and Hans Kristensen, "Russian nuclear forces, 2012," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 68, no. 87 (2012): 89, 10.1177/0096340212438665 (accessed June 3, 2013).

15. “Russian military to buy 36 ICBMs, 2 missile subs in 2011.” RIA Novosti, March 3, 2011.http://en.rian.ru/mlitary_news/20110318/163075432.html

16. “India and Russia to Develop Hypersonic Cruise Missile.” RIA Novosti, March 30, 2012.http://en.rian.ru/world/20120330/172478672.html

17. Kristense, Hans, and Robert Norris. "Russian nuclear forces, 2012." Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. no. 87 (2012): 91. 10.1177/0096340212438665 (accessed June 3, 2013).

18. Ibid

19. “Later Borey Class Subs to Carry Only 16 Missiles” RIA Novosti, February 20, 2013.http://en.rian.ru/military_news/20130220/179588098.html

20. Podvig, Pavel “Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces,” 2001

21. Robert Norris, and Hans Kristensen, "Russian nuclear forces, 2012," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 68, no. 93 (2012): 92, 10.1177/0096340212438665 (accessed June 3, 2013).

22. International Panel on Fissile Materials, Global Fissile Material Report 2011, January 2012, 49 pp.

23. “Nonproliferation Sanctions,” U.S. Department of State, page visited July 2012.http://www.state.gov/t/isn/c15231.htm

24. Nikitin, Mary Beth, U.S.-Russian Civilian Nuclear Cooperation Agreement: Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service, July 9, 2010.

25. U.S. Department of State, Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments, July 2010, 95 pp.

26. “U.S. Lowers Nuclear Deployments Under Treaty,” Global Security Newswire, June 4, 2012,http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/us-slashes-nuclear-deployments-under-new-start/

27. Collina, Tom Z. “P5 Struggles to Unblock FMCT Talks.” Arms Control Today, October 2011, p. 33

28. “First International Atomic Fuel Bank Opens in Russia,” Global Security Newswire, December 2, 2010, http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/first-international-atomic-fuel-bank-opens-in-russia/

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Arms Checks Unaffected by Ukraine Crisis

Daryl G. Kimball

Although the widening confrontation over the political future of the Crimean peninsula and other parts of the former Soviet Union has ruptured already-strained relations between Moscow and the West and put at risk the implementation of some nuclear risk-reduction initiatives and agreements, Russia is not planning to stop allowing the on-site inspections required under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), Russian officials said last month.

To protest Russia’s actions to take control of Crimea, the seven non-Russian members of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized countries have suspended Russia’s membership in the group. As part of that decision, the seven countries—Canada, Italy, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States—changed the location of their planned June summit from Sochi to Brussels. The Russian actions in Crimea have disrupted planning for the activities of the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, which the G-8 launched in 2002.

Less than a week into the crisis, on March 8, unnamed Russian Defense Ministry officials told RIA Novosti and other Russian media outlets that Moscow was prepared to suspend receiving inspection teams as required under New START because “groundless threats to Russia from the U.S. and NATO regarding its Ukrainian policy are considered by us as an unfriendly gesture and allow us to declare a force majeure.”

According to the protocol to New START, the only basis for the cancellation of inspections is “circumstances brought about by force majeure,” an unexpected event that is beyond the control of the inspected party.

Antony Blinken, President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said on NBC’s Meet the Press on March 9 that ceasing inspections as required by New START would be “a serious development.”

On March 12, however, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told reporters in Moscow that Russia did not plan to suspend inspections under New START and other treaties due to tensions over Ukraine. “We intend to continue to fulfill [our] international obligations and to continue the practice of voluntary transparency in the extent to which it will respond to our interests,” Antonov said. “This applies fully to the START Treaty and the Vienna Document 2011,” he said. The Vienna Document 2011 on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures is a politically binding agreement that allows for information exchanges and visits designed to increase openness and transparency with regard to military activities in the participating states.

In a March 14 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry official reinforced Antonov’s statement, saying that “inspection activities in Russia continue in [a] regular and unhindered way.” He cited a Feb. 25-March 1 New START inspection at one of the Russian bases for intercontinental ballistic missiles and Russia’s green light for a Ukrainian aircraft to overfly Russian territory as part of an observation mission under the Open Skies Treaty.

New START allows the United States and Russia to conduct as many as 18 on-site inspections annually, with the tally starting on Feb. 5 of each year. In the current period, the two sides have conducted one inspection apiece; more are planned. As of March 14, each side had conducted 56 inspections under New START since 2011. An inspection in the United States and another in Russia were completed in late March, according to U.S. government sources.

Russia’s willingness to meet its New START obligations may be tested in the coming weeks as Western governments impose increasingly tough sanctions on key Russian officials and commercial entities in response to Russia’s ongoing military occupation and March 18 annexation of Crimea.

The current crisis erupted after weeks of political unrest and protests in Kiev over the decision by the government of President Viktor Yanukovych to reject a proposed Ukrainian-EU association agreement opposed by Moscow. Following the violent crackdown on protests and the abrupt departure of Yanukovych on Feb. 21, opposition parliamentary leaders and some former Yanukovych supporters moved to form an interim government.

Days later, Russian troops took control of Crimea. On March 4, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that Russia’s actions were taken at the request of Yanukovych and ethnic Russians in Ukraine concerned about the new leadership in Kiev. On March 16, over the protests of the acting government in Kiev, the UN Security Council, and Western governments, the Crimean regional government held a hastily arranged referendum on joining Russia, and on March 18, Russia declared the annexation of Crimea.

The United States, the UK, and Ukraine have called the actions a blatant violation of international law and the security assurances established in the 1994 Budapest memorandum, in which Russia, the UK, and the United States pledged to “refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine’s territorial integrity.” Those security assurances were a key factor leading to Ukraine’s decision to remove the sizable nuclear weapons arsenal it inherited from the Soviet Union, join the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, and become a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as non-nuclear-weapon state.

But in his March 14 e-mail, the Russian Foreign Ministry official said that “the security assurances were given to the legitimate government of Ukraine but not to the forces that came to power following the coup d’etat” in Kiev.

Ukrainian officials vehemently disagree with that interpretation of the Budapest memorandum. On March 3, Yuriy Sergeyev, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, told an emergency session of the Security Council that Russia is “obliged to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine. In this regard, I want to underline that, by this aggression, the Russian Federation is undermining the NPT regime.”

Addressing representatives from 53 countries at the nuclear security summit in The Hague on March 24, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that “the credibility of the assurances given to Ukraine in the Budapest memorandum of 1994 has been seriously undermined by recent events.”

“The implications are profound, both for regional security and the integrity of the nuclear nonproliferation regime,” he said. But he added, “This should not serve as an excuse to pursue nuclear weapons, which will only increase insecurity and isolation.”

On March 25, the United States and Ukraine issued a joint statement at the nuclear security summit pledging ongoing cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation and security. In the statement, the United States condemned “Russia’s failure to abide by its commitments” under the Budapest memorandum.

Russia’s “unilateral military actions in Ukraine undermine the foundation of the global security architecture and endanger European peace and security,” the joint statement charged.

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Arms Control After the Ukraine Crisis

The global nuclear disarmament and risk reduction enterprise is at a crossroads as U.S.-Russian relations have reached perhaps their lowest point in more than a quarter century. Nevertheless, it remains in U.S. and Russian interests to implement existing nuclear risk reduction agreements and pursue practical, low-risk steps to lower tensions. Present circumstances demand new approaches to resolve stubborn challenges to deeper nuclear cuts and the establishment of a new framework to address Euro-Atlantic security issues.

Daryl G. Kimball

The global nuclear disarmament and risk reduction enterprise is at a crossroads as U.S.-Russian relations have reached perhaps their lowest point in more than a quarter century. Nevertheless, it remains in U.S. and Russian interests to implement existing nuclear risk reduction agreements and pursue practical, low-risk steps to lower tensions. Present circumstances demand new approaches to resolve stubborn challenges to deeper nuclear cuts and the establishment of a new framework to address Euro-Atlantic security issues.

Even before the recent political turmoil in Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s extralegal occupation and annexation of Crimea, relations between Moscow and Washington were chilly. Despite U.S. adjustments to its missile defense plans in Europe that eliminate any threat to Russian strategic missiles, Putin rebuffed U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposal last June to reduce U.S. and Russian strategic stockpiles by one-third below the ceilings set by the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

Moving forward will be difficult, but doing nothing is not an option. Through earlier crises during and after the Cold War, U.S. and Russian leaders pursued effective arms control and disarmament initiatives that increased mutual security and significantly reduced the nuclear danger. Much has been achieved, albeit too slowly, but there is far more to be done.

As the world’s non-nuclear-weapon states persuasively argue, U.S. and Russian stockpiles still far exceed any plausible deterrence requirements, and the use of just a few nuclear weapons by any country would have catastrophic global consequences. As the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference approaches, pressure to accelerate action on disarmament will only grow.

For now, neither Russia nor the United States wants to scrap the existing arms control regime, including New START and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which provide greater predictability and stability in an otherwise strained bilateral relationship. A return to a period of unconstrained strategic nuclear competition would not only deepen the distrust and increase dangers for both sides, but also would undermine the NPT. Scrapping the existing nuclear risk reduction measures would do nothing to protect Ukraine from further Russian aggression or reassure nervous NATO allies.

Unfortunately, the profound tensions over Ukraine delay the possibility of any formal, bilateral talks on nuclear arms reductions and missile defense. In light of these realities, Obama and other key leaders must explore alternative options to reduce global nuclear dangers and defuse U.S.-Russian strategic tensions.

Accelerate New START reductions. As a 2012 report by the U.S. secretary of state’s International Security Advisory Board suggests, with New START verification tools in place, further nuclear reductions need not wait for a formal follow-on treaty. Obama, the report suggests, could announce he will accelerate the pace of reductions under New START. As long as Russia remains below New START limits, he could also move U.S. force levels well below the treaty’s ceiling of 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 strategic launchers, to 1,100 warheads and 500 launchers. Such an initiative could induce Moscow to build down rather than build up to U.S. strategic force levels, which currently exceed Russia’s by more than 275 deployed strategic launchers.

Cap the arsenals of the other nuclear-armed states. Continued progress in cutting bloated U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, which still comprise more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear stockpiles, is possible and necessary, but other countries must do their part. As a first step, other nuclear-armed states, beginning with China, should pledge not to increase the overall size of their growing nuclear weapons and missile stockpiles as long as U.S. and Russian reductions continue. Such an effort must involve states outside the NPT, specifically India and Pakistan, which continue to expand their stocks of nuclear weapons material and their holdings of nuclear weapons.

Ban certain nuclear delivery systems. In 2007 the United States and Russia together called for the globalization of the INF Treaty, which bans ballistic and ground-launched cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, in part to curb missile buildups by China, India, Pakistan, and others. Today, the United States and Russia could renew and expand the concept by seeking a global phaseout of all nuclear-armed cruise missiles.

The United States no longer has nuclear-armed ground- or sea-launched cruise missiles and does not need new cruise missiles to maintain the bomber leg of the nuclear triad. This would allow both states to forgo expensive modernization programs for nuclear-armed cruise missiles and help to head off dangerous nuclear escalation elsewhere around the globe.

As Obama said last year, “[S]o long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe. Complacency is not in the character of great nations.” In the coming months and years, creative, bold approaches will be needed to overcome old and new obstacles to the long-running effort to reduce nuclear dangers.

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The "Cold Peace:" Arms Control After Crimea


As President Vladimir Putin exploits the results of Crimea's illegitimate referendum and as Russian troops gather on Ukraine's eastern border, alarms have been raised in the West that U.S.-Russian relations are on the verge of plummeting to Cold War levels.


Volume 5, Issue 5, March 20, 2014

As President Vladimir Putin exploits the results of Crimea's illegitimate referendum and as Russian troops gather on Ukraine's eastern border, alarms have been raised in the West that U.S.-Russian relations are on the verge of plummeting to Cold War levels.

American politicians and pundits have presented an array of policy response options, including intensified NATO military activities in Russia's "near abroad" and retreat from cooperative endeavors in U.S.-Russian arms control. At such times, there is a critical need for prudence, rationality, and historical perspective, and for avoiding actions that are counterproductive to the interests of the United States and our European allies.

Russia's actions certainly require a strong response, including international condemnation and measured sanctions against key Russian figures. The fragile new government in Kiev also needs assistance to put the country's economy on a more stable footing and to help counter any Russian efforts to intimidate Ukraine or seize additional territory.

However, U.S. policymakers should recognize that despite the severe differences with President Putin over Ukraine, it is clearly in the national interests of the United States to

  • scrupulously implement existing arms control treaty verification measures, which provide vital information and help to ensure compliance with treaty limits regarding Russian and U.S. military capabilities;
  • reduce expenditures on nuclear weapons that have no marginal utility and continue to seek further reductions in the still oversized nuclear arsenals of Russia and the United States;
  • refrain from using strategic weapons to make political gestures;
  • redouble efforts to maintain dialogue between U.S. and Russian nongovernmental experts and organizations.

A Cold Peace, Not a New Cold War
It is also important to avoid facile comparisons with the four-decade-long, post-World War II confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. As Cold War veteran Jack Matlock, the U.S. Ambassador to Moscow during the Gorbachev era, recently observed, "The tensions between Russia and the West are [now] based more on misunderstandings, misrepresentations and posturing for domestic audiences than on any real clash of ideologies or national interests."

By the end of the second term of President George W. Bush, Russia's relationship with the United States and Western Europe was already troubled; Russia's war with Georgia in 2008 had cast a particular chill over a range of diplomatic undertakings. Although the Obama administration's "reset" in 2009 facilitated negotiation and ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), a new "Cold Peace" had settled over bilateral relations.

Today, Russia's behavior often appears to be driven by President Putin's interest in maintaining a strong grip on power inside Russia and to prevent more of the states of the former Soviet Union from integrating into the European economic and political sphere.

In contrast, the Cold War was a global struggle involving the near constant threat of a direct military confrontation and frequent proxy wars. Throughout much of the Cold War, more than 250,000 Soviet troops were positioned along the border of West Germany to seize isolated West Berlin and drive toward the English Channel. That border divided not only a nation, but two powerful military alliances, each possessing vast nuclear arsenals maintained on high alert and targeted against each other. At the time, many American politicians depicted a growing Soviet superiority--not only in conventional forces in Europe, but in continent-spanning strategic missiles and ballistic missile defense systems, which allegedly enabled Moscow to pose the threat of a disarming, first-strike attack on the United States.

The Cold War also demonstrated dramatically the extent of nuclear dangers in the ideologically driven confrontation between Moscow and Washington. Indeed, the world came far closer to a nuclear exchange in 1962 (during the Cuban Missile Crisis) and in 1983 (following the Soviet shootdown of the Korea Airlines passenger plane and during NATO's "Able Archer" military exercises) than was publicly known at the time.

The striking dissimilarity between the present and that earlier era is captured by comparing the Cold War Soviet Threat Assessments of the U.S. intelligence community with its 2014 Worldwide Threat Assessment, whose 27-page public summary did not even mention Russia's nuclear arsenal.

At the same time, there are two elements of conspicuous continuity between the past and present.

First, Washington and Moscow still possess huge nuclear arsenals, far larger than those of all other nuclear weapons states combined. These arsenals contain thousands of warheads--each one of which dwarfs the destructive power of those that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki--far more than are needed for any rational requirement of nuclear deterrence and beyond any possible utility for political leverage in the current crisis over Ukraine.

Second, as was the case during the Cold War, reducing nuclear dangers rightly trumps other issues. During the lowest points of the U.S.-Soviet relationship, arms control agreements helped prevent a complete collapse of bilateral communication. The Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty survived the Vietnam War and crises in the Middle East; the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty survived the 1981 declaration of martial law in Poland and the 1979 Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan.

The conflicting interests of the United States and Russia in Ukraine or Syria today do not erase their joint interests in reducing the risks of nuclear weapons accidents or unauthorized nuclear weapons use, curbing the spread of nuclear weapons, securing vulnerable nuclear weapons usable material to avoid terrorist acquisition, and reducing their own costly nuclear arsenals, which still vastly exceed common-sense deterrence requirements. These and other common concerns make it imperative that Washington and Moscow continue pursuing efforts to achieve reductions in and limitations on nuclear weapons - independent of the health of the bilateral relationship at a particular point in time.  

Russia's provocative actions in Crimea and the deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations certainly make the pursuit of a cooperative agenda even more challenging and there is more than a theoretical danger of backsliding. Yet, even in the darkest days of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union shared a common interest in reducing nuclear risks and found ways to overcome ideological differences to pursue joint initiatives and agreements designed to reduce those risks and strengthen strategic stability.

The rapidly evolving situation in Ukraine makes it difficult to offer a detailed formula for preserving and promoting advantageous U.S.-Russian arms control and nuclear security outcomes, but some general principles can be outlined:

Continue to scrupulously implement existing treaty verification measures. No matter what their differences on the Ukraine crisis, it is not in the interest of either the United States or Russia to suspend inspections required by New START or to otherwise walk away from a treaty, which establishes clear, verifiable limits on each side's strategic nuclear arsenal--a measure of stability in an otherwise strained bilateral relationship. Weakening the implementation of verification measures would simply reduce the confidence levels of national threat assessments, leading to higher "worst case" projections and increased strategic spending.

Furthermore, according to Part Five, Section IX of the Protocol of the New START Treaty, the only basis for the cancellation of inspections are "circumstances brought about by force majeure," which do not apply to political differences over events in Ukraine.

Continue to reduce expenditures on nuclear weapons that have no marginal utility. Even at a time of heightened U.S.-Russian tensions, Washington can and should reduce spending for those nuclear weapons that have no utility as instruments of power in dealing with political crises like Ukraine. The new Quadrennial Defense Review says that the United States can cut strategic warheads by one-third below New START and still provide more than sufficient nuclear firepower to deter nuclear attack. Now is the time to avoid squandering tens of billions of dollars on nuclear weapons projects that the United States does not need and cannot afford.

Refrain from using strategic weapons to make aggressive political gestures. U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe are not militarily useful for the defense of NATO allies. Some have recently suggested that such weapons should be deployed further east into the newer NATO members bordering on Russia. However, such action would be politically divisive inside the NATO Alliance and would likely provoke dangerous responses by Moscow.

Some have suggested accelerating the ongoing deployment of U.S. missile defenses to Europe under the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), reviving the "third-site" deployment of strategic missile interceptors to Poland, or deploying missile defense cruisers to the Baltic and Black Seas. Such moves would be extremely counterproductive, since they would seem to validate Russian suspicions that U.S. missile defenses in Europe have either been oriented against them all along, or at least would provide the infrastructure for rapidly adding a capability to threaten Russia's strategic deterrent.

Moreover, as the U.S. Government has continually insisted, none of the specific U.S. missile defense systems considered for deployment in Europe would be capable of defending Europe (or the United States) from Russian strategic forces.  NATO should therefore maintain its steady course in implementing the first three phases of the EPAA, which do not include defenses against ICBMs, in response to evolving missile threats from the Middle East. Moreover, NATO should articulate more clearly its readiness to adapt downward its EPAA deployments if no Iranian IRBM/ICBM threat materializes.

Redouble efforts to maintain "Track 2" dialogue between American and Russian interlocutors. At a time of strained relations between the U.S. and Russian governments, it is even more important to use unofficial channels of communication to better understand the differing national perspectives and to search for policy options that would constitute acceptable compromises by both sides. One such ongoing effort is the German/Russian/U.S. Commission on "Challenges to Deep Cuts in Nuclear Arms," www.deepcuts.org, which is scheduled to release an interim report in late April.

Above all, the United States and Russia need to maintain a realistic perspective about the limits of hostility imposed by the existence of each other's nuclear weapons and an active appreciation of the mutual benefits they are now enjoying from cooperative endeavors - such as the generation of electricity in the United States from Russian-supplied fissile material and the security provided by a northern route of supply (through Russia) for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

When the current tensions subside, there will be other cooperative opportunities to exploit in the bilateral relationship and none will be more important for the world than finding the elusive path to mutual reductions in Cold War-sized U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.--GREG THIELMANN


The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.

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The Lisbon Protocol At a Glance

March 2014

Press Contact: Tom Collina, Research Director; (202) 463-8270 x104

Updated: March 2014

A pervasive fear surrounding the collapse of the Soviet Union was the uncertain fate of its nuclear arsenal. In addition to Russia, the emerging states of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine inherited a significant number of nuclear weapons, raising concerns that the Soviet Union would leave four nuclear weapon successor states instead of just one. Aside from increasing the number of governments with their finger on the proverbial nuclear button, the circumstances simultaneously raised concerns that those weapons might be more vulnerable to possible sale or theft. The Lisbon Protocol, concluded on May 23, 1992, sought to alleviate those fears by committing the three non-Russian former Soviet states to return their nuclear weapons to Russia. In spite of a series of political disputes that raised some concerns about implementation of the protocol, all Soviet nuclear weapons were eventually transferred to Russia by the end of 1996.

When the Soviet Union officially dissolved in December 1991, the newly-independent states of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine inherited more than 3,000 strategic nuclear weapons (those capable of striking the continental United States), as well as at least 3,000 tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons. All dispersed Soviet tactical weapons were reportedly back on Russian soil by the end of 1992, but the strategic weapons posed a larger problem.

The United States and Russia reached a solution to this complex problem by engaging Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine in a series of talks that led to the Lisbon Protocol. That agreement made all five states party to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which required Washington and Moscow to each cut their deployed strategic nuclear forces from approximately 10,000 warheads apiece to down below 6,000 warheads on no more than 1,600 ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), and long-range bombers. The protocol signaled the intentions of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine to forswear nuclear arms and accede to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as non-nuclear-weapon states, a commitment that all three fulfilled and continue to abide by today.


Estimated Warheads in Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine in 1991



Strategic Warheads

Tactical Warheads










Sources: Robert S. Norris, “The Soviet Nuclear Archipelago,” Arms Control Today, January/February 1992, p. 24 and Joseph Cirincione, et al., Deadly Arsenals, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005, p. 366.


Basic Timeline and Provisions:

  • July 31, 1991: The United States and the Soviet Union sign START.
  • Dec. 31, 1991: The Soviet Union officially dissolves, delaying entry into force of START.
  • May 23, 1992: Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and the United States sign the Lisbon Protocol.
    • Under the protocol, all five states become parties to START.
    • Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine promise to accede to the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states “in the shortest time possible.”
  • July 2, 1992: Kazakhstan ratifies START.
  • Oct. 1, 1992: The U.S. Senate ratifies START.
  • Nov. 4, 1992: The Russian State Duma refuses to exchange START instruments of ratification until Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan accede to the NPT.
  • Feb. 4, 1993: Belarus ratifies START.
  • July 22, 1993: Belarus submits its instrument of accession to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state.
  • January 14, 1994: The Trilateral Statement is signed by Presidents Clinton, Yeltsin, and Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine, allowing Ukraine to observe the transfer of weapons from its territory to Russia and the dismantlement of certain systems. It also commits Russia to send some of the uranium extracted from the returned warheads back to Ukraine for fuel.
  • Feb. 14, 1994: Kazakhstan submits its instrument of accession to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state.
  • Dec. 5, 1994: Ukraine submits its instrument of accession to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state.
    • The five START parties exchange instruments of ratification for START, which enters into force.
  • April 24, 1995: Kazakhstan transfers its last strategic weapon to Russia.
  • June 1996: Ukraine transfers its last strategic weapon to Russia.
  • November 1996: Belarus transfers its last strategic weapon to Russia, marking completion of Lisbon Protocol obligations.

Ratification and Implementation:


When the Soviet Union dissolved, the newly-established Republic of Belarus found itself in possession of roughly 800 total nuclear weapons deployed within its borders. Although Russia retained the warhead arming and launch codes, many worried that Belarus might attempt to take control of the weapons. Moreover, President Alexander Lukashenko twice threatened to retain some weapons if NATO deployed nuclear weapons of its own in Poland. However, when a constitutional crisis erupted in November 1996, Lukashenko was finally compelled to finalize the transfers.

Minsk signed the Lisbon Protocol on May 23, 1992, ratified it on Feb. 4, 1993, and deposited its instrument of accession to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state on July 22, 1993. By November 1996 all nuclear warheads in Belarus had been transferred to Russia.


After gaining independence, Kazakhstan with extensive U.S. technical and financial assistance disposed of the strategic nuclear weapons that it inherited from the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan’s 1,410 strategic warheads were deployed on several different systems, including SS-18 ICBMs and cruise missiles carried by Bear-H bombers.

Kazakhstan’s parliament ratified START on July 2, 1992. All tactical nuclear weapons had been withdrawn to Russia by January 1992. The parliament approved accession to the NPT on Dec. 13, 1993, and deposited the state’s NPT instrument of ratification on Feb. 14, 1994. The last of the Kazakh-based strategic nuclear weapons were transferred to Russia by April 24, 1995.


When the Soviet Union dissolved, Ukraine became the third-largest nuclear weapons power in the world behind the United States and Russia. Ukraine’s 1,900 strategic warheads were distributed among ICBMs, strategic bombers, and air-launched cruise and air-to-surface missiles. Although President Leonid Kravchuk signed the Lisbon Protocol on May 23, 1992, Ukraine’s process of disarmament was filled with political obstacles. Many Ukrainian officials viewed Russia as a threat and argued that they should keep nuclear weapons in order to deter any possible encroachment from their eastern neighbor. Although the government never gained operational control over the weapons, it declared “administrative control” in June 1992, and, in 1993, claimed ownership of the warheads, citing the potential of the plutonium and highly enriched uranium they contained for creating peaceful energy.

A resolution passed by the Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, on Nov. 18, 1993, attached conditions to its ratification of START that Russia and the United States deemed unacceptable. Those stated that Ukraine would only dismantle 36% of its delivery vehicles and 42% of its warheads; all others would remain under Ukrainian custody. Moreover, the resolution made those reductions contingent upon assurances from Russia and the United States to never use nuclear weapons against Ukraine (referred to as “security assurances”), along with foreign aid to pay for dismantlement.

In response, the Clinton and Yeltsin administrations intensified negotiations with Kyiv, eventually producing the Trilateral Statement, which was signed on Jan. 14, 1994. This agreement placated Ukrainian concerns by allowing Ukraine to cooperate in the transfer of the weapons to Russia, which would take place over a maximum period of seven years. The agreement further called for the transferred warheads to be dismantled and the highly enriched uranium they contained to be downblended into low-enriched uranium. Some of that material would then be transferred back to Ukraine for use as nuclear reactor fuel. Meanwhile, the United States would give Ukraine economic and technical aid to cover its dismantlement costs. Finally, the United States and Russia responded to Ukraine’s security concerns by agreeing to provide security assurances upon its NPT accession.

In turn, the Rada ratified START, implicitly endorsing the Trilateral Statement. However, it did not submit its instrument of accession to the NPT until Dec. 5, 1994, when Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States provided security assurances to Ukraine. That decision by the Rada met the final condition for Russia’s ratification of START, and subsequently brought that treaty into force.

Note: In 1991, the United States and the Soviet Union announced through the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives to substantially reduce their respective tactical nuclear weapons arsenals. For more, see “The Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNIs) on Tactical Nuclear Weapons At a Glance” at http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/pniglance.asp.

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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U.S. Raises INF Concerns With Russia

The United States said Russia may have breached a landmark arms control accord by testing a new cruise missile, but has not concluded that Russia violated the treaty.

Tom Z. Collina

The U.S. State Department confirmed in January that Russia may have breached a landmark arms control agreement by testing a new cruise missile, but has not concluded that Russia violated the accord.

Confirming the details of a Jan. 29 report in The New York Times, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a Jan. 30 press briefing that the United States has raised the “possibility of…a violation” with Russia and U.S. NATO allies. The specific U.S. allegation is that Moscow flight-tested a new medium-range, land-based cruise missile. Such a test would run afoul of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which permanently bans ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles capable of traveling 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

Rose Gottemoeller, acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, has discussed the issue with her Russian and NATO counterparts, Psaki said, adding that “there’s still an ongoing review, an interagency review, determining if there was a violation.” Psaki indicated that the administration does not view the INF Treaty as being in serious jeopardy.

According to the Times, U.S. officials believe Russia began flight-testing the cruise missile in 2008 and that it has not been deployed. Gottemoeller first raised the issue with Russia last May, and Moscow has said it investigated the issue and considers the case closed, the Times said.

There has been speculation for months regarding Russia’s compliance with the INF Treaty, but this is the first time that the suspect weapon has been identified as a cruise missile. Neither the State Department nor the Times identified what type of ground-launched cruise missile it might be, but unconfirmed reports have since focused on Russia’s R-500 Iskander-K. That system, reportedly first tested in 2007, would use a road-mobile launcher, as the Iskander-M does. The latter is a short-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile that Russia has said it plans to deploy near NATO member countries in response to U.S. missile defense plans. (See ACT, January/February 2014.) It is not clear if the range of the R-500 exceeds the lower limit of the INF Treaty and, if so, by how much.

Previous reports had focused on Russia’s RS-26 ballistic missile, which Moscow has reportedly flight-tested at intermediate ranges. But because the RS-26 has also been tested at ranges greater than 5,500 kilometers, it is considered by both sides to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and therefore covered and allowed by the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). It is not covered by the INF Treaty.

The INF compliance issue has surfaced at a sensitive time for President Barack Obama, who is seeking Senate confirmation of Gottemoeller and National Security Council staff chief Brian McKeon, who has been nominated to be principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy. McKeon was one of the administration’s main liaisons with the Senate during the New START ratification debate.

Republican members of the Senate have held up Gottemoeller’s confirmation vote in the full Senate over the issue. Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) wrote in a Feb. 20 letter to McKeon that if the administration knew about Russia’s “potential violations” and did not fully inform the Senate before the New START vote, “this would represent a serious abrogation of the administration’s responsibilities.”

In a Feb. 6 letter, three Republican House committee chairmen asked Obama to take stronger action against Russia in response to the possible violation, writing that failing to act “would only invite further violations by Russia.”

The INF Treaty, signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, has become controversial in Russia under President Vladimir Putin. In 2007, Putin expressed concern that the INF Treaty’s missile ban applies to Russia but not to neighboring countries. Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates writes in his recent memoir that, also in 2007, Russian officials suggested to their counterparts in the George W. Bush administration that the two countries withdraw from the treaty.

Last summer, Sergey Ivanov, the Kremlin chief of staff, publicly questioned the value of the treaty, saying Russia has more potential threats on its borders than the United States does. “The Americans have no need for this class of weapon, they didn’t need it before and they don’t need it now,” Ivanov said, according to RIA-Novosti. “They could theoretically only attack Mexico and Canada with them, because their effective radius doesn’t extend to Europe.”

The State Department reports annually to Congress on global compliance with arms control agreements. The most recent unclassified report, covering 2012, did not mention any INF Treaty compliance issues. The report covering 2013 has not been released.

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Russia Links Missile Defense, Iran Deal

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said an agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program would remove the justification for NATO missile defenses.

Tom Z. Collina

The recent deal between six world powers and Iran to temporarily freeze Tehran’s nuclear program would eventually remove the main rationale for NATO’s missile defense plans, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in December.

“Implementation of the Geneva agreement on Iran will remove the cause for construction of a missile shield in Europe,” Lavrov told a Dec. 19 news conference in Poland, where U.S. missile interceptors are planned to be installed by 2018. Lavrov was referring to an interim agreement reached in Geneva on Nov. 24 by Iran and six global powers (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) that are seeking to ensure Tehran does not develop nuclear weapons. The agreement adds a new twist to long-standing Russian arguments against U.S. and NATO plans to field missile defenses in central Europe.

In his comments, Lavrov was highlighting the U.S. contention that a Europe-based missile defense system was needed to counter the potential threat to Europe of a missile attack from Iran. U.S. President Barack Obama said in Prague in 2009, “If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe will be removed.”

But current and former U.S. officials say that it would be premature to assume the Iran deal will succeed and that even if it does, that alone would not remove the threat from Iran. According to a Dec. 16 press statement by Defense Department spokesman Carl Woog, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told his Russian counterpart, Sergey Shoygu, during a video teleconference earlier that day that the Iran deal does not obviate the need for the United States and its NATO allies to continue their current approach to missile defense in Europe. Hagel told Shoygu said that U.S. and NATO missile defense efforts do not threaten Russia, and he urged Moscow to continue consultations with Washington on missile defense cooperation, Woog said in the statement.

Ivo Daalder, U.S. ambassador to NATO from 2009 to 2013, said in a Dec. 18 interview that the interim agreement starts a promising process but that “the outcome is not inevitable.” Even if the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon were removed, there would still be the threat from Tehran’s missiles, he said, which can reach southern Europe. But if both threats were eliminated, “I would not be surprised to see a new debate on this in NATO,” Daalder said.

In a separate Dec. 18 interview, a senior Republican Senate staffer said that, in the context of U.S. missile defense, Iran will maintain a capability to break out from any future nuclear agreement “faster than we can deploy missile defenses.” He said that existing U.S. plans to field up to 44 interceptors in Alaska and California are “enough for the current Iran situation,” but that if Tehran flight-tests a long-range missile, which it has not done, “that would be an indicator” to start new projects, such as a missile interceptor site on the U.S. East Coast.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Dec. 19 that Moscow was considering the deployment of Iskander short-range missiles, which could carry nuclear warheads, in Kaliningrad, a Russian territory on the Baltic Sea within striking distance of where U.S. missile defenses would be deployed in Poland.

“One of the possible responses [to Western missile defense plans] is to deploy Iskander complexes in Kaliningrad...but I want to draw your attention to the fact that we have not yet made this decision,” Putin said at a press conference, according to RT News.

Putin was contradicting press reports that the Iskanders already were in Kaliningrad, based on a Dec. 16 Russian Defense Ministry statement that “Iskander rocket complexes are indeed standing armed with the rocket and artillery divisions in the Western Military District,” which includes Kaliningrad.

Russia warned two years ago that it would put Iskanders in Kaliningrad if NATO were unable to convince Moscow that its missile defense plans were not a threat to Russia. Dmitry Medvedev, then president and now prime minister, said in November 2011 that the missiles could be placed in the region to “secure the destruction of the European component of the U.S. missile defense system.” (See ACT, January/February 2012.) It is not clear whether the missiles are armed with nuclear or conventional warheads.

Russia has been seeking a legal guarantee that NATO missile interceptors would not be used against Moscow’s nuclear-armed, long-range ballistic missiles. NATO has refused, offering political assurances instead.

The Iskander-M, the version of the missile that may be deployed to Kaliningrad, has a range of up to 400 kilometers and is not banned by any U.S.-Russian treaty. It could potentially target ground-based radars and interceptors deployed at Redzikowo, Poland, a site 250 kilometers from Kaliningrad at which NATO plans to deploy interceptor systems by 2018.

Interceptors are also planned for Romania by 2015. Ship-based interceptors were deployed in the Mediterranean Sea in 2011, along with a radar in Turkey. Last March, the Pentagon canceled U.S. plans to field more-capable interceptors in Poland by 2020.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Nov. 5 in Warsaw that the plan to field the system in Poland by 2018 is “absolutely on target” and noted that officials had recently broken ground on the site in Romania.

In the interview, Daalder said that the possible Russian action is less about missile defense and “all about Poland” because “Russia does not want NATO military capability” in the former Warsaw Pact country. Moscow is sending the message that “the threat to Poland will go up” if interceptors are fielded as planned, he said.

Moscow appears to be much more concerned about U.S. plans for missile defense in Europe than actual interceptor deployments in the United States, which have a greater capability against Russian long-range missiles, Daalder said.

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