By Philipp C. Bleek
Supplementing the new Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin signed a joint declaration May 24 that calls for cooperation on a “new strategic relationship” between the United States and Russia. The document covers a broad range of subjects, including economic, political, and security cooperation, but provides few substantive details.
Perhaps the most significant item among the document’s security-related elements is a decision to establish a Consultative Group for Strategic Security. Chaired by foreign and defense ministers, this body will serve as the main mechanism to “strengthen mutual confidence, expand transparency, share information and plans, and discuss strategic issues of mutual interest.” According to U.S. officials, the two sides have yet to work out specific details about the group’s composition, meeting times, and agenda.
The document highlights the new strategic reductions treaty, notes that START I will remain in force, and says that START I’s provisions “will provide the foundation for providing confidence, transparency, and predictability in further strategic offensive reductions.” According to the text, “other supplementary measures, including transparency measures, to be agreed” will complement START I. U.S. officials were unable to provide further details on measures under consideration.
The declaration states that the two sides also agreed to strengthen confidence and increase transparency on missile defense. Steps will include conducting information exchanges on missile defense programs and tests as well as reciprocal visits to observe tests. The document also says that Washington and Moscow will study areas for further missile defense cooperation. Potential measures could include exploring “joint research and development efforts” and expanding joint exercises. However, when undertaking future cooperation, the two sides will factor in “the importance of the mutual protection of classified information and the safeguarding of intellectual property rights,” a clear sign that cooperation will likely be limited.
The United States has previously provided Russia with information on missile defense tests and programs, and the two sides have conducted joint theater missile defense tests. It remains unclear from the document what steps Washington and Moscow intend to take to expand this limited cooperation, and U.S. officials were unable to provide concrete details.
The declaration further says the two sides will try to open the joint center for exchanging early-warning data, which the United States and Russia agreed to establish in June 2000. Construction of the center has been stalled over disagreements about tax and liability exemptions for U.S. contractors working in Russia.
The text also states that the two countries will “intensify” efforts to address international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The United States and Russia will “work closely together, including through cooperative programs, to ensure the security of weapons of mass destruction and missile technologies, information, expertise, and material.” The statement does not elaborate on what these efforts will entail.
According to the document, the two sides will also continue existing threat reduction programs and will “enhance efforts” to reduce the amount of weapons-usable fissile material. That work will include the establishment of joint expert groups, which will investigate increasing the amount of weapons-usable fissile material the two sides will eliminate and cooperating on “research and development efforts on advanced, proliferation-resistant nuclear reactor and fuel cycle technologies.” The United States and Russia are currently working to eliminate fissile material under the 1993 Highly Enriched Uranium Purchase Agreement and a 2000 agreement on plutonium disposition.