For Immediate Release: August 23, 2018
Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270 ext 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, 202-463-8270 ext 104
At their summit in Helsinki, President Vladimir Putin presented the Trump administration with several proposals “to work together further to interact on the disarmament agenda, military, and technical cooperation,” incuding talks on the extension of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Following the summit, President Donald Trump stated that “[p]erhaps the most important issue we discussed at our meeting...was the reduction of nuclear weapons throughout the world.”
Unfortunately, they did not reach any agreement on how to do so in Helsinki.
Even after a follow-up meeting to between U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton and his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev in Geneva, Bolton did not announce any agreement on resuming the nuclear arms control dialogue.
Now is the time to do so.
A qualitative nuclear arms race is underway—and a quantitative nuclear arms race may be just around the corner. The United States and Russia are both rushing forward with costly and ambitious plans to replace their Cold War nuclear arsenals and develop new types of destabilizing weapons.
In little more than two years, on Feb. 5, 2021, New START is scheduled to expire. Without a positive decision by the two presidents to extend the treaty by 5 years, as allowed for in Article XIV, there would be no legally binding limits on the world’s two largest arsenal for the first time since 1972. The risk of unconstrained U.S.-Russian nuclear competition, and even more fraught relations, would grow.
Russia has voiced interest in an extension of New START or even possibly further cuts in warhead numbers.
But today, Bolton said the Trump administration is still in the "early stages" of an interagency review about whether to extend, replace, or jettison New START, or pursue a different type of approach, such as the 2002 “Moscow Treaty” approach, which did not involve a adequate verification system and only applied to deployed warheads.
If Trump wants to avoid an unconstrained nuclear arms race, a prompt decision to extend New START is the logical path forward. If not, we may see the emergence of an even more dangerous phase in U.S.-Russian relations.