Press Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association, (202) 463-8270 x107 or Greg Thielmann, Senior Fellow and Director of Realistic Threats and Responses Project (202) 463-8270 x103
(Washington, D.C.): In London tomorrow, Presidents Barack Obama and Dimitry Medvedev will meet for the first time and attempt to "reset" the U.S.-Russian security relationship. At the top of their agenda will be the negotiation of a follow-on agreement to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), as well as the resolution of other weapons-related disputes over the possible deployment of additional U.S. strategic ballistic missile interceptors, the future of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, and how to strengthen international diplomatic efforts to curb Iran's sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities.
For current information and additional background on these issues, please visit the links below from the independent Arms Control Association (ACA) or contact the ACA experts listed above for further commentary and analysis.
While in Europe, President Obama is also expected to deliver a major address on his administration's vision for preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear terrorism, and moving toward a world free of nuclear weapons. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama provided a wide-ranging and detailed set of responses to questions from Arms Control Today on his administration's nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament strategy, which is available online <http://www.armscontrol.org/2008election>.
Negotiation of a New Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty: Excessive U.S. and Russian nuclear forces continue to drive defense planning and distrust on both sides. Today, the United States is believed to deploy at least 2,200 strategic nuclear warheads, with a comparable number of warheads in reserve. Russia is believed to deploy between 2,000-3,000 strategic nuclear warheads. Each side maintains many of these weapons on a high-alert status.
START, which was concluded in 1991, helped end the Cold War by slashing each country's strategic warhead deployment capability from about 10,000 to less than 6,000 and limiting each country to no more than 1,600 strategic delivery systems. START still provides far-reaching inspections and data exchanges without which neither side can confidently predict the size and location of the other's nuclear forces. Although the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty calls for a lower number of deployed strategic weapons by the end of 2012-no more than 2,200 each-it expires the same day the treaty limits take effect and provides no additional verification provisions.
U.S. and Russian officials have voiced their support for the negotiation of a new a treaty establishing lower, verifiable limits on the two countries' strategic nuclear arsenals. However, given the looming START expiration date there is little time available to negotiate a follow-on agreement.
For the latest news coverage from Arms Control Today on recent statements by top U.S. and Russian officials on the future of START, click here: <http://www.armscontrol.org/subject/61/date>
Two key essays describe options and the rationale for deeper U.S. and Russian nuclear talks:
For an overview of past and current U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control agreements, see <http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/factfilejune07>.
Missile Defenses: Since 2005, Russian leaders have bristled at a proposal hatched by the George W. Bush administration to rush the deployment of untested and unproven strategic anti-missile systems in Poland and a sophisticated tracking radar in the Czech Republic to counter Iran. Obama came into office pledging that he "will make sure any missile defense, including the one proposed for Europe, has been proven to work and has our allies' support before we deploy it."
Obama's pragmatic approach on the issue would seem to be prudent given that the new two-stage interceptors are as yet unbuilt and untested. Planned testing for the system likely will take a few years to complete. Regardless, the Pentagon's Office of Operational Test and Evaluation concluded in February 2008 < http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2008_03/MissileDefense > that testing of the U.S. system that the European deployment is based on "is not sufficient to provide a high level of statistical confidence in its limited capability."
President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have also noted that greater Russian cooperation with international efforts to curb Iran´s nuclear program would reduce the need for the U.S. to consider deployment missile interceptors in the region. Without nuclear payloads, Iran's long-range missiles, which the U.S. intelligence community assesses Tehran cannot develop until at least 2015, would be essentially impotent.
For more information and analysis on developments relating to the row over missile defenses in Europe, see: <http://www.armscontrol.org/subject/18/date>
Conventional Forces in Europe: In late-2007, Russia unilaterally suspended implementation of the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, which caps that amount of tanks and other weaponry deployed in Europe. Moscow has been frustrated that NATO members refuse to ratify a 1999 revision of the accord because Russian military forces remain in Georgia and Moldova. Information on the CFE Treaty dispute is available at <http://www.armscontrol.org/subject/ct/>. A full description of the Adapted CFE Treaty is at < http://www.armscontrol.org/act/1999_11/wbno99>.
ACA's Perspectives: Experts with the Arms Control Association are urging U.S. and Russian leaders to focus on concluding a new treaty with dramatically deeper and verifiable nuclear arms reductions, which would ease tensions and put them on a path to resolve other difficult issues and strengthen cooperation in key areas such as securing vulnerable nuclear weapons-usable materials.
For further analysis, see ACA executive director Daryl Kimball's column in the April issue of Arms Control Today, "Pressing the Nuclear Reset Button" here <www.armscontrol.org/2009_04/focus>.
Given that the U.S. ground-based strategic ballistic missile system is still unproven, would have a very limited capability against Russian missiles, and is years away from possible deployment, there is ample time for Moscow and Washington to find cooperative approaches to counter Iran's potential missile threat and possibly agree to limits on the overall number of strategic interceptors.
For further analysis see "What should Obama do about missile defense?" originally published in The Washington Times on November 30, 2008. <http://www.armscontrol.org/node/3606>