State Department Arms Control Compliance Report Underscores Value of New START

Volume 1, Number 15, August 2, 2010

The July 2010 U.S. State Department report Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements found that Russia was in compliance with the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), which expired last December.  According to a senior  State Department official who testified before the Senate last week, this fact should reassure the Senate that Russia would comply with New START. New START's ratification and entry-into-force would provide the United States with the means to verify Russian compliance with the new treaty's lower ceilings for strategic deployed warheads and delivery systems.

Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance and implementation, told The Cable July 28, "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.

Last week's misleading coverage of the compliance report by The Washington Post and The Washington Times may have left some with the impression that Russia was not in compliance with START I.  That is not the case.

As the compliance report states on page 8, Russia was "in compliance with the START strategic offensive arms (SOA) central limits for the 15-year term of the Treaty."  Gottemoeller testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee July 29 that "Russia was in compliance with START's central limits during the Treaty's life span. Moreover, 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."

The compliance report notes that "Notwithstanding the overall success of START implementation, a number of long-standing compliance issues that were raised in the START Treaty's Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission (JCIC) remained unresolved when the Treaty expired on December 5, 2009." Gottemoeller told the Associated Press July 28 that these unresolved issues were minor technical matters that "went away when
START went out of force," adding there were "some concerns that we had about them, some concerns that they had about us."

The most significant disputes, like movement of Russian SS-27 mobile missile launchers and U.S. inspection of re-entry vehicles aboard certain Russian missiles, were resolved, Gottemoeller told the Associated Press.

The Washington Times incorrectly reported the compliance report said that Russia had "violated" START I.  This is also not the case.  Gottemoeller told the Associated Press that neither side accused the other of violating provisions of START at any point.

"Cheating implies intent to undermine a treaty," Gottemoeller told The Cable. "There's no history of cheating on the central obligations of START; there's a history of abiding by the treaty," she said.

The State Department compliance report should give senators additional confidence that Russia would comply with New START.  As Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said last year: "Our experiences over many years have proven the effectiveness of the [START I] Treaty's verification provisions and served to build a basis for confidence between the two countries when doubts arose."

New START Would Close the Verification Gap

Senators who have concerns about Russia's nuclear arsenal should support New START.  With the expiration of START I and its Cold War-era verification system, there are no longer any on-site inspections and detailed data exchanges between the two countries. New START would fill the verification gap with a streamlined set of verification procedures - taking advantage of past precedents established by the original START, but adding innovations better suited to the specific limits of the replacement agreement.

Until New START is approved by the Senate, insight into Russia's strategic nuclear forces will continue to diminish. There is no substitute for the information provided by New START verification. While "national technical means" such as satellite surveillance provide the foundation for understanding and evaluating information collected on Russian strategic forces, cooperative measures such as notifications, data exchanges, and on-site inspections are essential for providing high confidence that treaty obligations are being met.

The danger of delay was succinctly highlighted by General Kevin Chilton, U.S. Strategic Forces Commander, in Senate testimony June 16: "Without New START, we would rapidly lose insight into Russian strategic nuclear force developments and activities, and our force modernization planning and hedging strategy would be more complex and more costly."

Contrary to some misleading stories in the media, the State Department compliance report underscores the value of New START. - TOM Z. COLLINA and DARYL G. KIMBALL