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– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

U.S.-Russian Arms Reduction Body Yet to Meet
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The United States and Russia have yet to hold a meeting of the Bilateral Implementation Commission to help implement the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which entered into force June 1, 2003. Under the terms of the accord, the commission is supposed to meet at least twice per year.

Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton discussed the commission’s status with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak during a Jan. 28-30 visit to Moscow, but they set no date for the first meeting of the commission.

In a report to Congress last summer, the Department of State indicated that the first meeting would take place before the end of 2003. The United States and Russia “will discuss operating procedures for the [commission] at its first meeting later this year,” the report predicted.

Responding to questions from Arms Control Today, the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control stated in February, “The United States is prepared to begin meetings of the commission, although no issues have arisen that require a meeting now.” Russian media reports suggest the two sides have had differences over the commission’s setup.

SORT, also known as the Moscow Treaty, requires the United States and Russia to reduce their current deployed strategic warhead levels—respectively, almost 6,000 and nearly 5,300—to no more than 2,200 apiece by the end of 2012. The treaty limit takes effect and expires the same day. Because SORT does not obligate the destruction of warheads or delivery vehicles, weapon systems taken off deployment under the treaty could eventually be returned to service.

Last summer’s State Department report to Congress noted, “We do not yet know how Russia intends to count its reductions for purposes of the Moscow Treaty.” The treaty does not dictate how the two sides are to make and verify their reductions.

Posted: March 1, 2004