"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Author, "African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement"
July 1, 2020
Russia Complied With START, State Dept. Says

Tom Z. Collina and Peter Crail

Adding a historical dimension to the Senate ratification debate on New START, the Department of State in July released a long-awaited report finding that Russia was in compliance with the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). That finding should reassure the Senate that Russia would comply with New START, a senior State Department official said in a July 28 interview.

However, the report did not find a similar level of Russian compliance with the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) or the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), raising eyebrows on Capitol Hill. At a July 29 Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) characterized the report as showing that “compliance issues from the last START treaty remain unresolved and that the Chemical Weapons Convention has not been adhered to, and [Russia] may not be in compliance with the international convention banning biological weapons.” He called Russia’s record of compliance “a matter of significant concern.”

All the issues are long-standing ones that State Department compliance reports have publicly tracked for many years.

The report, Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements, is required by law to be submitted to Congress annually, but the July document is the first update released since 2005. Republican senators had been requesting this report, along with a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and a State Department report on verification, before voting on New START. All three reports now have been submitted to Congress. The 2010 compliance report generally covers the period 2004 through 2008; in the case of START, it tracks compliance through the pact’s expiration last December.

According to the report, the United States is in full compliance with its treaty commitments. The Russian Foreign Ministry disagreed and issued its own report Aug. 7 raising concerns about U.S. treaty compliance.

The unclassified version of the 2010 U.S. report states that Russia was “in compliance with the START strategic offensive arms (SOA) central limits for the 15-year term” of the treaty. This was also the conclusion of the 2005 report. Despite the “overall success of START implementation,” the 2010 report notes that a number of compliance issues that were raised by each side in the treaty’s Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission remained unresolved when the treaty expired.

At the July 29 hearing, Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance, and implementation, testified that “the majority of compliance issues raised under START were satisfactorily resolved. Most reflected differing interpretations on how to implement START’s complex inspection and verification provisions.”

Gottemoeller told the Associated Press July 28 that the issues left unresolved were minor technical matters that “went away when START went out of force.” She added that there were “some concerns that we had about them, some concerns that they had about us.” The most significant disputes, such as movement of Russian SS-27 mobile missile launchers and U.S. inspection of re-entry vehicles aboard certain Russian missiles, were resolved, Gottemoeller said.

Neither side accused the other of violating provisions of START at any point, she said.

“Cheating implies intent to undermine a treaty,” Gottemoeller told The Cable July 28. “There’s no history of cheating on the central obligations of START; there’s a history of abiding by the treaty,” she said. “We think [the compliance report] actually tells a good story about Russia and its willingness to resolve compliance and verification issues and should help ratification” of New START, she said.

For its part, Moscow’s report states that “a number of Russian concerns with U.S. compliance with [START] were never alleviated.” For example, the report says that the conversion of five silo launchers of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to missile defense interceptor launchers at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is “contrary to the provisions of the treaty.” In addition, the U.S. conversion of B-1 heavy bombers to conventional missions did not provide conclusive evidence that the bombers could not be reconverted to nuclear missions, according to the report.

U.S. officials have said that one of the main reasons New START prohibits additional conversions of ICBM launchers to interceptor launchers is to address Russian concerns in this area.

Russian BWC Compliance “Remains Unclear”

According to the 2010 U.S. report, Russian entities have remained engaged in dual-use, biological research activities, although “there were no indications that these activities were conducted for purposes inconsistent with the BWC.” Dual-use activities are those that could be used for offensive or defensive purposes. For example, the treaty permits research on defenses against biological weapons attacks or disease outbreaks; such research often deals with biological agents that could otherwise be banned by the BWC.

As early as 1984, the United States found the Soviet Union to be violating the BWC, and both the 2003 and 2005 reports concluded that Russia continued to do so. The 2005 report found that the Soviet Union’s offensive biological warfare program before 1992 “was the world’s largest” and then was significantly reduced, but not eliminated. In 1992, Russia confirmed it had a biological weapons program inherited from the Soviet Union and agreed to dismantle it under on-site monitoring. “Russia’s annual BWC confidence-building measure declarations since 1992 have not satisfactorily documented whether this program was terminated,” the 2010 report says.

“There are significant challenges in monitoring and verifying…compliance with the BWC,” the 2010 report says. Because states are allowed to develop biological agents or toxins for defensive purposes, showing the existence of activity involving banned biological agents is not enough to demonstrate noncompliance. Moreover, the treaty does not have a formal verification system, but relies on ad hoc confidence-building measures.

Gottemoeller testified July 29 that Russian compliance with the BWC “remains unclear” but that the activities prompting the concerns date from the Soviet period. “President [Boris] Yeltsin made some statements in 1992 about Russian compliance or, rather, the existence of a Russian offensive [biological weapons] program. There was a statement made at the time that some information would be provided about that program. That information has never been received,” she said.

Russia’s August report finds that Washington “continues to avoid establishing international control over its biological activities in any form,” a reference to the Bush administration’s opposition, later supported by the Obama administration, to adding a verification protocol to the BWC, experts say. The report alleges that U.S. research continues at the University of Pennsylvania on a synthetic smallpox virus despite a World Health Organization prohibition on such work. Also questionable, according to the report, are “threat assessment investigations” that, according to the report, have “intensified in recent years and are being justified on the grounds of the need to combat terrorism.” The U.S. biodefense program has spent roughly $50 billion since 2001, according to Western estimates, giving rise to international calls for greater transparency into U.S. activities in this area.

Russia, U.S. to Miss CWC Targets

The 2010 U.S. report states that Washington is “unable to ascertain” whether Russia’s CWC declaration is complete for weapons production and development facilities and weapons stockpiles (declared to be 40,000 metric tons) and whether Moscow is complying with treaty criteria for chemical weapons destruction and verification. The United States is concerned that Russia’s process for eliminating chemical agents is not irreversible and thus not adequate. Russia, with significant international assistance, has built chemical weapons destruction facilities at Gorny, Kambarka, Leonidovka, Maradykovsky, and Shchuch’ye, and two more are planned.

In March 2006, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague set an intermediate deadline of Dec. 31, 2009, for Russia to destroy 45 percent of its chemical weapons stocks, and the CWC sets a final deadline of April 29, 2012. Russia announced that it has met the 2009 deadline, but the OPCW announced in June that Russia will not meet the 2012 deadline and that Moscow had estimated it would complete the destruction by 2015. (See ACT, July/August 2010.) The United States previously announced that it also would not meet the 2012 deadline and has set 2021 as its new target date. The United States has destroyed more than 65 percent of its stockpile (declared to be 28,000 metric tons), according to the OPCW.

Rogelio Pfirter, outgoing director-general of the OPCW, said in June that the deadline slippage did not call into question the Russian or U.S. commitment to the CWC. The two countries “have consistently shown their resolve to abide by their commitments under the convention, and I for one have no doubt that they will continue to stay on track,” he said. Gottemoeller testified July 29 she was convinced that Russia was working to resolve CWC compliance concerns “by trying to reduce their stocks, as required by the convention.”

Moscow’s report states that U.S. law allows Washington to evade fulfilling the requirements of the CWC because the president can refuse inspections at U.S. chemical facilities and samples taken during inspections may be prohibited from leaving the country. Western experts have expressed similar concerns.

NPT Compliance Issues

The report also assesses the compliance of a number of countries with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). It finds that Iran “continues to be in violation of Article III,” which requires non-nuclear-weapon states to accept international safeguards on peaceful nuclear activities. It also says that “issues underlying” a finding in the 2005 report that Iran violated its Article II obligations not to seek nuclear weapons “remain unresolved.” In this regard, the recent report refers to past Iranian “weaponization” attempts, but does not say that such efforts continued during the report’s time frame.

The 2010 report repeats the conclusion of a 2007 NIE that Iran halted a nuclear weapons development program in the fall of 2003, stating, “Iran refuses to resolve concerns regarding its former nuclear weapons program.” Senior U.S. officials have said over the last several months that a new NIE on Iran’s nuclear program is underway.

In addition to Iran’s noncompliance, the 2010 report cites North Korea and Syria for noncompliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations. In particular, it notes that Pyongyang was in “material breach” of the NPT before it announced its withdrawal from the treaty in 2003. It states that Syria “was likely pursuing a non-peaceful nuclear program” in violation of the NPT with the construction of a reactor at Al Kibar. That reactor was destroyed by Israel on Sept. 6, 2007, before it became operational. (See ACT, October 2007.)

The report’s assessment of NPT compliance features a section on Myanmar (also known as Burma) that did not appear in prior reports. It indicates that, since May 2007, when Myanmar signed an agreement with Russia to receive a research reactor, Washington and other governments have “exchanged views” on the proliferation potential of such a development. Although the United States has not found Myanmar in violation of its NPT or International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards obligations, the report says “the United States is concerned about Burma’s interest in pursuing a nuclear program, including the possibility of cooperation with North Korea.”

The report also notes that, by September 1996, each of the five countries that the NPT designates as a nuclear-weapon state (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) had declared a nuclear testing moratorium and had signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the United States and China have yet to ratify. The report found no indications that any of these states engaged in activities inconsistent with its declared moratorium.