State Dept. Report Supports New START; Post's Initial Story Misleading

Issue Brief - Volume 1, Number 12, July 28, 2010

Today, the U.S. State Department released the unclassified version of its report, Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments. This report finds that Russia was in compliance with the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) "for the 15-year term of the Treaty." This fact should reassure the U.S. Senate that Russia would also comply with the New START treaty, which was signed by the United States and Russia in April and includes comprehensive verification provisions.

A story in today's Washington Post, initially titled "Report Finds Russians May Not be in Compliance, Could Sink New START Pact," gave the misleading impression that the report found that Russia was not in compliance with START. That is not the case. The Post later changed the title of its story to the less hyperbolic, "Report findings about Russia could complicate debate on new START pact."

Even so, there is no reason the State Department report should complicate the New START ratification process, for the following reasons:

1. The report finds that Russia complied with START.

According to the report, "Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine were in compliance with the START strategic offensive arms (SOA) central limits for the 15-year term of the Treaty." The report notes that the United States had raised new compliance issues since 2005, and that "the United States considered several of these to have been closed." Residual issues related to "the complex inspection and verification provisions of the START Treaty" would be resolved by New START, which has a simpler, more streamlined verification system.

The State Department report should give senators additional confidence that Russia would comply with New START. Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said last year that "Our experiences over many years have proven the effectiveness of the Treaty's verification provisions and served to build a basis for confidence between the two countries when doubts arose." Senators that have concerns about Russia's nuclear arsenal should support New START ratification since without New START there will be no on-site inspections of Russian nuclear sites. There is no substitute for the information provided by New START verification.

According to a July 14 letter from seven of the eight retired commanders of U.S. nuclear forces, "We will understand Russian strategic forces much better with the treaty than would be the case without it."

2. The report's findings on possible noncompliance have nothing to do with New START.

The State Department report finds that for the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), "Russian entities have remained engaged in dual-use, biological research activities. There were no indications that these activities were conducted for purposes inconsistent with the BWC." As there is no verification protocol for the BWC, it is not surprising that ambiguities exist. This demonstrates the importance of ratifying New START so that its comprehensive verification provisions can take effect.

On the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the report finds that "Russia has completed destruction of its CWPFs [Chemical Weapons Production Facilities] scheduled for destruction, but has not met the CWPF conversion deadline." Not only is Russia out of compliance with its CWC deadline, but so is the United States. The CWC requires destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles by 2012 and due to the huge quantity of the stockpiles and the technical challenges of destroying them in a safe manner, both countries are behind schedule. Click here for more details.

Despite misleading stories in the media, the State Department report supports the ratification of New START and should in no way complicate the ratification process. - TOM Z. COLLINA and DARYL G. KIMBALL