Flawed Nuclear Treaty Up For Senate Review

Senators Hold Key to Ensuring Authentic Arms Reductions

For Immediate Release: January 31, 2003

Press Contacts: Wade Boese, (202) 463-8270 x104; Christine Kucia (202) 463-8270 x103

(Washington, D.C.): With critical concerns and questions surrounding the U.S.-Russian Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) still unresolved and unanswered, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should remedy the treaty's considerable flaws and weaknesses when it reviews the treaty next week, experts from the Arms Control Association (ACA) said today.

"Agreements to reduce American and Russian nuclear arsenals are welcome, but they should be permanent reductions that are verifiable by both sides, adhere to a clear schedule, and serve as a platform for future talks about further reductions," said Daryl G. Kimball, the Association's executive director.

Signed in May 2002, the agreement requires each side to reduce its number of deployed strategic warheads from today's 5,000-6,000 to no more than 2,200 by the end of 2012, when the treaty will expire. Under the treaty each side is expected to reduce its deployed strategic forces by removing warheads from missiles, bombers, and submarines.

However, because the accord does not require any warheads or delivery vehicles to be destroyed, the United States will have the flexibility to deploy approximately 4,200 strategic warheads in as little as three years after the treaty expires. Either party may withdraw from the treaty with three months' notice.

In addition, the United States and Russia have not yet agreed upon a common definition of how to count "deployed" warheads. Moreover, the treaty provides no new verification measures for either party to be confident that the other is carrying out its pledged reductions. As a result, the U.S. intelligence community has determined that the United States will not be able to verify Russian compliance with high confidence.

"The new treaty does not significantly alter the number of existing nuclear delivery systems and therefore only marginally affects the residual nuclear potential of the United States and Russia," observed Jack Mendelsohn, an ACA board member and former member of the U.S. Strategic Arms Limitations Talks and START negotiating teams. "It creates thousands of 'phantom warheads' undercutting its own verifiability, and it contains no reduction schedule, making it difficult to predict force levels over the next decade," he added.

"Since verification of the SORT reductions will depend on the framework established by the 1991 START I agreement, the United States and Russia must enhance and extend those mechanisms, which are slated to expire in 2009-three years before SORT is to be fully implemented in 2012," said Christine Kucia, Arms Control Association research analyst. "Congress should require that the President work toward an agreement with Russia on additional transparency measures so that both sides can be assured that the arsenals are properly safeguarded and are not a proliferation risk," Kucia added.

"Given that the SORT agreement will leave enormous numbers of deadly U.S. and Russian warheads and missiles intact, it is in the nation's interest for the Senate to condition ratification on the pursuit of additional reductions of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons," said Kimball.

The United States currently deploys approximately 6,000 strategic nuclear warheads on its strategic triad of land-based missiles, submarines, and bombers. Washington is also currently estimated to have approximately 1,000 tactical nuclear warheads and more than 5,000 total nuclear warheads in spare and reserve stockpiles. Russia currently deploys an estimated 5,500 strategic nuclear warheads on its strategic triad of land-based missiles, submarines, and bombers. Russia also deploys an estimated 4,000 tactical nuclear weapons and is believed to stockpile another 11,000 strategic and tactical nuclear warheads.

"It is imperative that the Senate address these shortcomings, or both sides will be left with a treaty that is flawed and amounts to little more than a gentleman's agreement between Presidents Bush and Putin," Kimball said. "We encourage the Senate to approve meaningful conditions on the treaty that help ensure that the weapons are dismantled and destroyed in a mutually verifiable way and to keep the door open for further, verifiable U.S.-Russian nuclear arms reductions," he added.

For more information on the SORT agreement and nuclear weapons, see the Association's Web site at http://www.armscontrol.org/subject/ussp/ or http://www.armscontrol.org/subject/sr/.


# # #

The Arms Control Association is an independent, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies. Established in 1971,the Association publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.