For Immediate Release: April 14, 2008
Press Contacts: Daryl Kimball, (202) 463-8270 x107
(Washington, D.C.): After Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin met for their 28th and final time last week without resolving longstanding arms disputes, independent U.S. arms experts called for reviving faltering efforts to achieve deeper and verifiable nuclear stockpile reductions and easing tensions over the U.S. proposal to deploy strategic missile interceptors and a radar in Europe. Speaking at an April 11 event organized by the nonpartisan Arms Control Association, the experts stated there is no urgency to establish the anti-missile system in Europe because it is unproven and a long-range Iranian missile capability is still years away.
Ambassador James E. Goodby, Ambassador Avis T. Bohlen, and Professor George N. Lewis, a physicist and technical expert on anti-missile systems, spoke at the event with Daryl G. Kimball, the Association’s executive director.
The panel expressed disappointment that Bush and Putin failed to agree on a substantive approach to a follow-on treaty to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which is set to expire in December 2009. If START lapses, the sole agreement left to restrict U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear force levels will be the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty. That agreement lacks verification provisions and its ceiling of 2,200 operationally deployed strategic warheads expires at the end of December 2012. The United States currently claims to operationally deploy more than 3,600 strategic warheads, and it keeps at least another thousand additional warheads in reserve. Russia fields some 4,100 strategic warheads, according to its latest accounting under START.
Goodby and other leading experts have proposed that the next round of U.S.-Russian strategic nuclear arms cuts should reduce stockpiles to no more than 1,000 warheads apiece.
“While both sides recognize that the Cold War is over, they still deploy thousands of warheads on high alert on missiles and bombers that are, of course, there mainly to deter use by the other side,” noted Kimball. “Their failure to further reduce the salience and number of nuclear weapons also diminishes the credibility of U.S. and Russian efforts to win support for measures to strengthen the nonproliferation system,” he said.
Lewis outlined the U.S. proposal for deploying an initial set of 10 ground-based strategic anti-missile interceptors in Poland and a missile tracking radar in the Czech Republic that would be linked to a global network of U.S. radars. He explained how the system is technically flawed but could still be expanded in the future, which is a major concern of Russia. Moscow fears the system could eventually pose a threat to its missile forces.
Goodby and Bohlen both recommended that in addition to extending START and a modified version of its verification regime, the former rivals should work harder to explore measures to address Russian concerns about any future stationing of U.S. anti-missile systems in Europe.
A full transcript of the briefing is available at <http://www.armscontrol.org/events/20080407_US_Russia_Transcript.asp>. Additional information on U.S. and Russian nuclear agreements and the status of their nuclear arsenals is available at ACA's strategic reductions internet resource page at <http://www.armscontrol.org/subject/sr/>.