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Bloomberg News
August 27, 2018
Shannon Bugos

A New Nuclear Deal? Start with New START

News Source: 
Defense One
News Date: 
December 5, 2019 -05:00

Moscow Sends Warning on New START


December 2019
By Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos

Top Russian Foreign Ministry officials reiterated their interest in extending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and issued a fresh set of warnings about the future of the treaty because, they say, the Trump administration continues to refuse to engage in talks on its extension.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking here in February, accused the United States in November of "evading any serious discussion" about extending New START. (Photo: Alexandra Beier/Getty Images)Washington “is evading any serious discussion, making public discouraging signals regarding the future of this treaty,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a nonproliferation conference Nov. 8 in Moscow.

Lavrov’s deputy, Sergey Ryabkov, voiced similar criticisms at the conference, saying, “[It] looks as if the United States is dragging its feet, if not downright looking for an excuse to get rid of New START right after tearing up” the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

The United States did not send an official representative to the conference.

The remarks from Lavrov and Ryabkov came a week after Vladimir Leontyev, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s nonproliferation and arms control department, declared that there is not enough time to negotiate any replacement for New START before it expires in February 2021.

“It’s evident that given the time left, we won’t be able to draw up any full-fledged document to replace it,” said Leontyev at a Nov. 1 meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club.

Leontyev also warned that time could run out to secure a five-year extension of the treaty. He said that Moscow would require “at least six months” in order to process a “technical extension.” Ryabkov told a Russian newspaper in July that an extension would require the approval of the Russian Duma.

Following a meeting in Beijing on Nov. 27, Ryabkov said that Russia has proposed to the United States a five-year extension of New START, but reiterated that Moscow is open to extending the treaty for less than five years. A shorter extension "would probably not be an optimal signal," he said, but would be "better than nothing."

As Russia emphasizes the importance of extending New START and indicated its readiness to begin talks on an extension, the Trump administration remains officially undecided about the future of the pact and continues to talk about the need for a more ambitious arms control agreement with Russia and China. (See ACT, November 2019.)

During an Oct. 22 interview with Fox News, President Donald Trump repeated the call for a trilateral agreement. “I believe that we’re going to get together with Russia and with China, and we’re going to work out our nuclear pact,” he said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters in Brussels on Nov. 20 that “the world has changed since New START was originally created” and “it’s no longer the case that [the arms control process] can only be the United States and Russia.”

China has stated repeatedly that it is not interested in entering negotiations on a multilateral agreement. Currently, the United States has more than 6,000 total nuclear warheads, while China has about 300.

Trump administration officials have additionally criticized New START for not covering the new long-range nuclear delivery systems that Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled in a March 2018 speech. (See ACT, April 2018.)

“Our position is that we should engage with the Russians now in discussions about including those weapons systems…which are not covered by the treaty,” John Sullivan, currently deputy secretary of state and the nominee for U.S. ambassador to Russia, said at his nomination hearing Oct. 30.

“[I]f we were simply to extend New START now, without touching those other systems, which the Russians have been invested in, we’re tying our hands in not limiting what...the Russians see where their growth [is]…in their strategic assets,” he added.

Russia said for the first time last month that two of the weapons—the Sarmat, a new intercontinental ballistic missile, and Avangard, a hypersonic glide vehicle—would count under the treaty. Article V of the treaty states, “When a party believes that a new kind of strategic offensive arm is emerging,” the two sides can discuss how to take the systems into account.

“If Sarmat comes into existence at least as a prototype while the treaty is still valid, including in the extended period, there will be no problems from the point of view of the New START,” Leontyev said. “There should be no serious problems with Avangard either.”

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that per the terms of the treaty, “a U.S. inspection group was shown the Avangard missile system with the hypersonic boost-glide vehicle” in Russia on Nov. 24–26.

Leontyev added that there is no chance of including the three other new nuclear weapons systems—Kinzhal, an air-launched ballistic missile; Burevestnik, also known as Skyfall, a globe-circling nuclear-powered cruise missile; and Poseidon, a nuclear-powered torpedo—without amending the treaty, in which case Moscow would have its own list of U.S. capabilities that should be addressed. He said that Russia was open to discussing these systems in the format of strategic stability talks.

The Kinzhal reportedly began trial deployment in December 2017. Russia is currently planning to field the weapon on the shorter-range MiG-31 aircraft, in which case the Kinzhal would not be accountable under New START. Initial fielding of the Avangard and Sarmat could begin as soon as the end of 2019 and 2021, respectively, according to Russian officials. The Burevestnik, a recent test of which resulted in a deadly explosion, and Poseidon are still in development and unlikely to be deployed in larger numbers or before 2025, according to independent open source and intelligence assessments. (See ACT, October 2019.)

It is not clear if the two sides discussed Russia’s new weapons during the most recent meeting of the Bilateral Consultative Commission, New START’s implementing body, which met on Nov. 6–13.

The State Department released a statement Nov 14, saying, “The U.S. and Russian delegations continued the discussion of practical issues related to the implementation of the treaty.”

Moscow and Washington last held strategic stability talks in July. Leontyev said another round of discussions had been scheduled for November but had to be “postponed indefinitely” due to staff changes at the State Department.

Signed in 2010, New START caps the deployed U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals at 1,550 warheads and 700 ballistic missiles and heavy bombers assigned to nuclear missions.

As the treaty's expiration approaches, Russia voices concern.

U.S. Goals Unclear for Saudi Nuclear Deal


December 2019
By Shannon Bugos

The Trump administration has not committed publicly to requiring the “gold standard” commitment for an agreement with Saudi Arabia over its nuclear power program.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, speaking here on Sept. 24, has suggested the United States will seek stringent nonproliferation conditions in any agreement to share U.S. nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia, but the Trump administration has not officially set its terms. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)Saudi Arabia plans to build up its nuclear power program, but in order to receive U.S. nuclear materials or technology, Riyadh would need first to sign a 123 agreement with the United States. Such an agreement sets the terms and authorizes cooperation for sharing U.S. peaceful nuclear energy technology, equipment, and materials with other countries. A 123 agreement can involve what is known as a “gold standard” commitment in which a country forgoes uranium enrichment or plutonium reprocessing, which are two pathways to making nuclear weapons.

“To be a good citizen of the world, to show we are going to be responsible and we are going to be world leaders, signing a 123 agreement with the appropriate additional protocols makes an abundance of good sense to me,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry in an Oct. 26 interview with CNBC. That same day during a roundtable in Abu Dhabi, he also predicted that “[t]he kingdom and the leadership in the kingdom…will find a way to sign a 123 agreement with the United States, I think.”

In neither instance did Perry, who announced he would resign from his post at the end of November, state whether the United States would also demand that Saudi Arabia include a gold standard commitment in any 123 agreement. He said only that Riyadh is “absolutely correct” in pursuing nuclear power and that Washington wants it to “understand that the message on nonproliferation is really important.”

According to a September article by Bloomberg, Perry did inform Saudi officials that a 123 agreement “must also contain a commitment by the kingdom to forgo any enrichment and reprocessing for the term of the agreement.” That report has not been confirmed. (See ACT, October 2019.)

Four Democratic senators—Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)—sent a letter Nov. 13 to Dan Brouillettee, recently confirmed as the new secretary of energy, demanding clarification about the 123 agreement and the inclusion of a gold standard commitment. The Energy Department is leading negotiations for this agreement, which would require congressional approval once completed.

“Do you agree with the text of Secretary Rick Perry’s September letter to Saudi Arabia, as reported, that the terms of any potential civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia must also contain a commitment by the country to forgo any enrichment and reprocessing for the term of the agreement?” they asked. They additionally inquired about the overall status of civil nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia. The senators set a Nov. 27 deadline for responses from Brouillettee.

 

The Trump administration has not clarified if it will pursue the "gold standard" of nonproliferation conditions as it negotiates a nuclear technology sharing agreement with Saudi Arabia.

Japan Downplays Possibility of Hosting INF-Range Missiles

Japan’s new defense minister downplayed the prospect that Japan might host U.S. intermediate-range missiles formerly banned by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono, speaking here on Sept. 11, said that as of Oct. 31, the United States and Japan had not discussed the possibility of Japan hosting U.S. intermediate-range missiles. (Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)In an Oct. 31 interview with The Financial Times, Defense Minister Taro Kono said, “The U.S. doesn’t have non-nuclear missiles that can be deployed yet. Maybe they’re in the phase of development. We have not been discussing any of it.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in August after the demise of the INF Treaty that he would like to see the deployment of U.S. conventional, ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles in Europe and Asia, ideally as soon as possible. South Korea and Australia said at the time that they were not considering such a deployment.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in November continued to rebuke the Trump administration for “dismantling” the treaty, saying that “our American colleagues were only engaged in searching for pretexts to get rid of the INF Treaty.” He also stated that Moscow will not deploy ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles until the United States does.

The Pentagon has stated that it would conduct a test of a ground-launched ballistic missile with a range of about 3,000 to 4,000 kilometers by the end of the year, but the test does not appear to have taken place yet. On Aug. 18, the United States flight-tested a ground-launched cruise missile that would have been prohibited by the INF Treaty.

Signed in 1987, the INF Treaty led to the elimination of 2,692 U.S. and Soviet nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles having ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.—SHANNON BUGOS

Japan Downplays Possibility of Hosting INF-Range Missiles

U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Watch, Nov. 15, 2019

Moscow Expresses Frustration About U.S. Stance on New START Top Russian Foreign Ministry officials have issued a fresh set of warnings about the future of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) because, they say, the Trump administration continues to refuse to engage in talks on extending the treaty. Washington “is evading any serious discussion, making public discouraging signals regarding the future of this treaty,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Nov. 8 at a nonproliferation conference in Moscow. Lavrov’s deputy, Sergey Ryabkov, voiced similar criticisms at the...

Select Statements of Support for New START

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty ( New START ), which entered into force in 2011, will expire on February 5, 2021, unless the U.S. and Russian presidents decide to extend the treaty by up to five years. New START is the latest in a series of agreements negotiated by Republican and Democratic presidents that verifiably limit and reduce the U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals. Under the treaty’s terms, the U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals are limited to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads; 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-...

Frustrations Surface at CTBT Conference


November 2019
By Shannon Bugos

The 11th international conference to discuss steps to bring the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force revealed tensions between Russia and the United States, which failed to attend. The meeting convened Sept. 25 at UN headquarters in New York.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks at the Article XIV conference for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in New York on Sept. 25. (Photo: CTBTO)The treaty text allows for conferences every other year to discuss approaches to encourage the signatures and ratifications that are still necessary to bring the treaty into force. According to Article XIV of the treaty, the agreement cannot enter into force until it has been signed and ratified by the 44 countries listed in Annex 2. Eight of those states—China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States—have yet to deposit their instruments of ratification.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov condemned the United States, which avoided the conference, for failing to ratify the CTBT, calling this “the main destabilizing event.” Moscow ratified the CTBT in 2000.

During his remarks, Lavrov also declared that Russia has “not staged a single nuclear explosion” since observing the global moratorium on nuclear testing in 1991 and intends to continue observing the moratorium, but only so long as “other nuclear states follow the same line.” His remarks likely allude to a May statement made by the director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, that “Russia probably is not adhering to its nuclear testing moratorium in a manner consistent with the ‘zero-yield’ standard outlined” by the treaty. The United States has yet to provide any credible information to back up that statement.

In addition to Lavrov, foreign ministers and other diplomats representing nearly 50 countries spoke to support the treaty’s entry into force. Signed in 1996, the pact prohibits “any nuclear weapon test explosion or any nuclear explosion” no matter what the yield, anywhere in the world.

Since the last conference in 2017, two countries have ratified the CTBT: Thailand in September 2018 and Zimbabwe in February 2019. Another, Tuvalu, signed it in September 2018. In total, there are now 168 ratifications and 184 signatures.

Izumi Nakamitsu, UN undersecretary-general and high representative for disarmament affairs, opened the conference, saying unequivocally that there is “no substitute” for the CTBT. Nakamitsu declared that the entry into force of the CTBT “must be a priority,” a call that the 50 states-parties in attendance, as well as the European Union and a group of more than 40 leaders from civil society, reinforced in their own statements.

Many states additionally stressed the importance of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which is responsible for developing and operating the treaty’s global monitoring and verification system. In his statement, CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo highlighted the organization’s achievements, specifically with regard to the International Monitoring System (IMS), which constantly monitors the world for any signs of nuclear explosions.

The IMS is nearing completion and, when finished, will consist of 337 facilities worldwide. “The progressive build-up of the [IMS],” Zerbo said, “has resulted in a level of maturity, readiness, and relevance that has been demonstrated on numerous occasions and in a variety of circumstances.”

Most recently, the IMS demonstrated its importance after an accident that set off an explosion and release of radioactivity off the coast of Russia that involved Moscow’s development of a new nuclear-powered, long-range cruise missile. Two days after the Aug. 8 incident, the CTBTO reported that some IMS stations in Russia began to halt transmissions of data. By Aug. 13, five of the seven radionuclide stations in Russia had gone silent, although when two came back online a week later, they backfilled information to the CTBTO.

The United States stayed away from an international meeting focused on bringing the CTBT into force.

U.S. Considers Open Skies Treaty Withdrawal


November 2019
By Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos

The Trump administration appears to be preparing to withdraw the United States from the 1992 Open Skies Treaty, according to lawmakers and media reports.

A Russian Tu-154 aircraft used for Open Skies flights awaits its mission at a Kamchatka air base in 2005. (Photo: OSCE)House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) first sounded the alarm about a possible U.S. withdrawal in an Oct. 7 letter to National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien.

“I am deeply concerned by reports that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty and strongly urge you against such a reckless action,” Engel wrote. “American withdrawal would only benefit Russia and be harmful to our allies’ and partners’ national security interests.”

Engel did not specify the source of the reports that prompted his letter.

Slate columnist Fred Kaplan reported on Oct. 9 that former National Security Advisor John Bolton pushed for withdrawing from the treaty before departing the administration in early September. Following Bolton’s departure, Kaplan wrote, White House staff continued to advocate for withdrawal and persuaded President Donald Trump to sign a memorandum expressing his intent to exit the treaty. The Omaha World-Herald reported that same day that the memorandum directed a withdrawal by Oct. 26.

Trump has not, however, formally announced a U.S. withdrawal from the treaty and ongoing discussions have revealed differing views within the administration about whether to do so.

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Oct. 30 that "the United States has not withdrawn from the Open Skies Treaty."

"I've consulted with our ambassadors to NATO and the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] and ... conveyed ... their view that we should continue to be members of the treaty," he added

Sullivan added that the administration has yet to consult with allies or Congress on a possible withdrawal and that any decision to withdraw would require the unanimous support of NATO "to make sure we don't do damage to our NATO alliance."

The Open Skies Treaty, which entered into force in 2002 and has 34 states-parties, aims to increase confidence in and transparency of military activities, particularly in Europe, by allowing unarmed aerial observation flights over the entire territory of its participants for information-gathering purposes. The parties have yearly quotas on overflights and must make the information they acquire available to all treaty parties.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the ranking members of the foreign relations and armed services committees, respectively, joined Engel in an Oct. 8 letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper denouncing a possible withdrawal. The lawmakers wrote that pulling out of the treaty “would be yet another gift from the Trump administration to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.” They also noted that the treaty “has been an essential tool for United States efforts to constrain Russian aggression in Ukraine.”

Eleven other Senate Democrats, led by Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), wrote a separate letter to the secretary of state on Oct. 25 urging the administration not to exit the United States from the treaty.

Republican lawmakers also expressed concern about ditching the treaty. In an Oct. 8 statement, Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) stated that he has “yet to see a compelling reason to withdraw” from the treaty, given the “valuable access to Russian airspace and military airfields” the United States gains from the treaty.

Several U.S. allies and partner nations, including Ukraine, are publicly calling for the preservation of the treaty, which was a topic of discussion at the High-Level NATO Conference on Arms Control and Disarmament held in Brussels on Oct. 25.

Daniel Drake, head of the Euro-Atlantic Security Policy Unit of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told a British parliamentary committee on Oct. 23 that the treaty “continues to perform an important role in transparency and risk reduction in the conventional arms control space."

The treaty “is one of the basic international treaties in the field of European security and arms control,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal. “Ukraine is interested in maintaining and implementing this treaty,” the paper reported on Oct. 27.

The United States and several allies in December 2018 conducted an “extraordinary flight” over eastern Ukraine under the treaty. The flight followed a Russian attack in late November 2018 on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea. (See ACT, January/February 2019.)

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mari Zakharova said in an Oct. 8 statement that Russia had no comment on the concerns raised by U.S. lawmakers because the United States has made no official statement about withdrawing from the treaty.

“Russia is committed to its obligations under the treaty and exhibits the utmost flexibility for maintaining it,” she added.

According to the treaty, states-parties must give 72 hours advance notice before an overflight. At least 24 hours in advance, the observing state-party must supply its flight plan, which the host state-party can only modify for safety or logistical reasons. No territory is off-limits under the treaty.

A dispute between Georgia and Russia over the inclusion of Russian observers on flights over Georgia prevented agreement on quotas for 2018, thereby freezing all flights. Normal flights resumed in 2019. (See ACT, April 2019.)

In recent years, disputes over implementation and concerns from some U.S. officials and lawmakers about the value of the treaty have threatened to derail the pact.

For example, Washington raised concerns about Russian compliance with the treaty, citing in particular Russia's restriction of observation flights over Kaliningrad to no more than 500 kilometers and within a 10-kilometer corridor along Russia’s border with the Georgian border-conflict regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In response, the United States has restricted flights over the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii and the missile defense interceptor fields in Fort Greely, Alaska.

Zakharova said that Russia would lift the ban on flights near Abkhazia and South Ossetia if Georgia met “its commitments on receiving Russian missions,” but “Tbilisi has not changed its position so far.”

The House-passed version of the fiscal year 2020 defense authorization act included a provision that would reaffirm congressional commitment to the treaty and prohibit the use of funds to suspend, terminate, or withdraw from the agreement unless “certain certification requirements are made.” The Senate version of the bill did not include a similar provision. The House and Senate continue to negotiate a final version of the bill.

The Trump administration may abandon the 1992 treaty that allows mutual overflights of traditional adversaries.

U.S. Seeks ‘New Era of Arms Control’


November 2019
By Shannon Bugos and Kingston Reif

The Trump administration continues to say it would like a new arms control agreement with Russia and China while remaining silent on the possibility of extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Moscow, according to U.S. and Russian officials.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto speaks at a White House press conference on Oct. 2, when he publicly called for extending New START in the presence of U.S. President Donald Trump.  (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)During a session of the UN General Assembly First Committee on Oct. 10, Thomas DiNanno, acting U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, stated that the administration is seeking “a new era of arms control, one in which Russia and China are at the negotiating table and willing to reduce nuclear risks rather than heighten them.”

“Today, the Cold War approach, with its bilateral treaties that covered limited types of nuclear weapons or only certain ranges of adversary missiles, is no longer sufficient,” he added. DiNanno did not mention New START except to say that some of the new long-range nuclear delivery systems under development by Russia would not be subject to the agreement.

In an Oct. 20 interview with The Washington Times, he referenced New START specifically, saying that “technology has rapidly changed” and pointing out “not what New START does, but what it doesn’t do in the 2020 deteriorating security environment.”

DiNanno did not explain how the United States plans to achieve a broader agreement with Russia and China.

Details on such an agreement also were not forthcoming from the White House. In an Oct. 21 interview with Fox News, President Donald Trump said, “I believe that we’re going to get together with Russia and with China, and we’re going to work out our nuclear pact so that we don’t all continue with this craziness.” China has repeatedly stated that it is not interested in joining multilateral talks with the United States and Russia on arms control at this time.

In the aftermath of the end of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in August, New START is the only remaining arms control agreement limiting the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. The Trump administration is expected to make a decision on whether to extend the treaty next year. New START allows for an extension of up to five years, until 2026, if the presidents of the United States and Russia agree to do so.

In an Oct. 11 interview, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov called on the United States “to stop wasting time” regarding an extension of New START. “There is almost no time left” before the treaty expires, he said. “At least, it is important to understand what they plan to do with the treaty.”

Ryabkov added that “the extension period is subject to discussion. We are poised to exercise flexibility in this respect.”

Although Russia emphasizes the importance of extending New START, Moscow argues that any future nuclear arms reduction agreement should be multilateral and address a broad array of factors that impact strategic stability.

In a statement to the First Committee on Oct. 11, Vladimir Yermakov, director of the Department for Nonproliferation and Arms Control in the Russian Foreign Ministry, said these factors include “unrestricted deployment of the U.S. global missile defense, development of high-precision strategic offensive non-nuclear weapons, prospects for deployment of strike weapons in outer space, destruction of the international system of arms control treaties and agreements, [and] attempts to weaken defense potential of other countries by using illegitimate methods of unilateral pressure, bypassing the UN Security Council.”

Meanwhile, Fu Cong, director-general of the Department of Arms Control of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, reiterated Beijing’s position that it does not plan to participate in talks on arms control with the United States and Russia. Instead, he urged the United States to respond to the Russian call to extend New START, “while substantially reducing its gigantic nuclear arsenal and creating favorable conditions for other nuclear-weapon states to join in multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.”

U.S. allies in Europe continue to express their support for prolonging New START.

In October, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto became the first head of state to publicly call for an extension of New START in a public appearance with Trump.

During a joint press conference on Oct. 2, Niinisto said, “Some of us remember the worst years of cold war in [the] 1960s. There was no agreement at all, just Cold War. We can't let the situation return [to having] no agreement at all about arms control, and that is why it is important to try to negotiate new agreements and to continue…New START.”

Trump did not respond to Niinisto’s comments on the treaty.

New START, set to expire in February 2021 unless extended, caps deployed U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals at 1,550 warheads and 700 missiles and heavy bombers each.

The U.S. State Department in October released updated information on the current status of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces limited by the treaty. As of Sept. 1, the data show the United States deploys 1,378 warheads on 668 missiles and heavy bombers. Russia deploys 1,426 warheads on 513 missiles and heavy bombers.

In addition, the State Department reported that as of Oct. 17, the United States has conducted 14 inspections in Russia this year, and Moscow has conducted 14 inspections in the United States. A total of 18,889 notifications have also been exchanged according to New START requirements.

NATO Rejects Russian Missile Proposal

NATO rejected an offer from Russian President Vladimir Putin in September to impose a moratorium on deploying ground-launched intermediate-range missiles previously banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, shown here in Munich in February, said recently that a Russian proposal on intermediate-range missiles was not "credible."  (Photo: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images)The proposal, according to NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu in a Sept. 26 statement, was not “a credible offer” and “ignored the reality on the ground.” Lungescu specifically pointed to Russia’s deployment of the formerly illegal ground-launched cruise missile known as the 9M729 as a reason why Putin’s offer was not legitimate.

On Oct. 23, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that the proposal was not “credible,” but also stated that, “at the same time, we aspire for a constructive relationship with Russia.”

Russia has repeatedly floated the moratorium proposal in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty. The 1987 pact led to the elimination of 2,692 U.S. and Soviet conventional and nuclear-armed, ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

At the beginning of October, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov called for the two countries to “come to grips” on the issue of deploying ground-launched intermediate-range missiles. He also echoed comments made by Putin after the U.S. test on Aug. 18 of a ground-launched variant of the Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile that would have been prohibited by the INF Treaty. “We will produce such [ground-launched intermediate-range] missiles,” Putin said, “but we will not deploy them in the regions where no ground-based missile systems of this class manufactured by the U.S. have emerged.”

John Rood, U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, said on Sept. 30 that although the Defense Department has “started development programs on intermediate-range missiles,” the department does not “have any specific plans at this time for deployments anywhere.”—KINGSTON REIF and SHANNON BUGOS

Washington hopes to include China in future nuclear arms control talks.

U.S. Reveals Assessment of Russian Explosion


November 2019
By Shannon Bugos

The United States has determined that a Russian recovery mission of a nuclear-powered cruise missile, known as Skyfall by Western intelligence agencies, prompted a major explosion in the White Sea in August.

The explosion, said Thomas DiNanno, deputy assistant secretary of state for defense policy, emerging threats, and outreach, was “the result of a nuclear reaction” that occurred during the recovery mission of the missile, which “remained on the bed of the White Sea since its failed test early last year.” DiNanno made the remarks on Oct. 10 at the UN General Assembly First Committee in New York.

DiNanno elaborated on the Skyfall incident in an Oct. 20 interview with The Washington Times. “From what I understand, the actual radiation cloud was not dangerous per se,” he said, “but our issue is with the lack of transparency and the cover-up and the misinformation.”

Vladimir Yermakov, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry Department on Nonproliferation and Arms Control, delivered Russia’s statement to the First Committee on Oct. 11. Yermakov did not mention the August incident, instead focusing on the recent U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the need for an extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

The Aug. 8 blast occurred at the Nenoksa Missile Test Site, on the coast
of the White Sea. According to a statement from Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation issued two days later, five employees died in the accident, which involved “isotopic sources of fuel on a liquid propulsion unit.” Two military personnel also reportedly died from the blast.

Initial reports claimed that Russia was testing a nuclear-powered cruise missile, named the 9M730 Buresvestnik by Russia and the SSC-X-9 Skyfall by NATO, that Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed in March 2018. (See ACT, September 2019.)

A mysterious August explosion in Russia occurred during efforts to recover a sunken, nuclear-powered cruise missile, according to a U.S. official.

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