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"[Arms Control Today] has become indispensable! I think it is the combination of the critical period we are in and the quality of the product. I found myself reading the May issue from cover to cover."

– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
June 1, 2018
US-Russia Nuclear Arms Control

Russia Stops Sharing New START Data

Russia confirmed a month after it suspended the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty ( New START ) that it has cut off transmitting treaty-required data on Russian strategic nuclear forces to the United States. “All forms of notifications, all data exchange, all inspection activities, in general, all types of work under the treaty are suspended,” stated Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov March 29. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov maintained March 28 that Moscow will continue to adhere to New START’s central limits of no more than 1,550 strategic warheads deployed on 700...

The Three-Competitor Future: U.S. Arms Control With Russia and China


March 2023
By Lynn Rusten and Mark Melamed

China’s expanding nuclear arsenal, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the looming expiration in 2026 of the last remaining U.S.-Russian strategic arms control agreement pose unprecedented challenges for U.S. nuclear policy and arms control. This evolving security landscape demands a fresh look at policies aimed at avoiding nuclear war and ensuring the security of the United States and its allies and partners.

Chinese military vehicles carrying DF-5B intercontinental ballistic missiles participate in a military parade in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 2019. (Photo by Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)Critically, Washington should seek to avert an unconstrained multilateral nuclear arms race that would be even more complicated and dangerous than the one during the Cold War. For the next decade, the United States should prioritize maintaining verifiable mutual limits with Russia on nuclear forces while deepening dialogue with China and aiming to bring it into bilateral and multilateral nuclear arms control over the longer term. To prevent limitless arms races and avert nuclear catastrophe, it will be necessary to establish a measure of strategic stability globally and regionally among these three nuclear powers.

For decades, the nuclear age was characterized by a bipolar system in which the two major powers—the former Soviet Union/Russia and the United States—possessed the lion’s share of the world’s nuclear weapons. At the high point of the Cold War, they had more than 30,000 nuclear warheads each. Today, the United States has approximately 3,708 nuclear warheads, and Russia is estimated to have 4,477 nuclear warheads. China, France, and the United Kingdom, as the other recognized nuclear powers, have roughly 400, 290, and 225 warheads, respectively.1

The United States has sized and postured its nuclear forces based on what it deemed necessary to deter Russia from an attack on the United States or its allies or to defeat Russia if deterrence failed. All other nuclear-armed adversaries and strategic threats that might be subject to U.S. nuclear deterrence policy, including China, were considered “lesser included cases,” meaning that whatever nuclear forces were sufficient for deterring Russia also would be sufficient to meet all other U.S. nuclear deterrence requirements. Given recent assessments of China’s plans to expand its nuclear forces over the next decade, that long-standing presumption is facing increasing scrutiny.

Since the early 1970s, the Soviet Union/Russia and the United States have negotiated a series of legally binding, verifiable agreements to limit and reduce their strategic nuclear arsenals. Today, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) limits each side to 1,550 warheads on deployed strategic delivery vehicles. The United States must decide soon whether, when, and what to negotiate with Russia to replace New START before it expires in February 2026. Discussions with Russia on this goal began in the Trump administration and continued under the Biden administration in fall 2021, but broke down when Russia launched its illegal, unjustified war against Ukraine in late February 2022.

Moscow and Washington have since reaffirmed interest in a successor to New START, although each side’s conditions for resuming dialogue remain vague and have changed over time. In January 2023, the United States accused Russia of violating New START by failing to resume on-site inspections following an agreed two-year pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic and by failing to meet in the Bilateral Consultative Commission, the treaty’s implementing body.2 On February 21, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia was suspending participation in the treaty by refraining from inspections but would continue to abide by it’s central limits.3 This marks the first time that treaty implementation has been disrupted by political tensions, and it raises the alarming and likely prospect that tensions will continue to impede the resumption of New START inspections and negotiations on a successor agreement.

Enter China

Even as it contends with Russia, the United States is facing the unprecedented prospect of China as a near-peer nuclear competitor in the next 10 to 15 years. The 2022 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review cites China as “the overall pacing challenge for U.S. defense planning and a growing factor in evaluating our nuclear deterrent.”4 According to a 2022 U.S. Department of Defense report,5 China has more than 400 operational warheads, which is double the estimate in 2020, and if the expansion continues apace, will likely field about 1,500 warheads by 2035. The country is increasing the number of delivery platforms based on land, sea, and air, as well as the capacity to produce weapons-grade nuclear material.

This significant expansion of China’s nuclear force was not anticipated. China has long had a no-first-use policy regarding nuclear weapons. Its stockpile was intended to assure a second-strike capability for deterrent purposes and was not kept at a high state of readiness. China has not explained its nuclear plans publicly and has rebuffed U.S. proposals for dialogue about each side’s nuclear policy, forces, and posture.6

The Chinese expansion raises significant questions about how U.S. nuclear policy, deterrence, and arms control will operate in a world where China and Russia are likely to be nuclear peers of the United States.

Some U.S. experts have suggested that the 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads permitted under New START will not be adequate to deter both Russia and China in the future, although they are not specific as to when that time will come or their assumptions about what size and posture of Russian and Chinese nuclear forces would trigger the need for increasing deployed U.S. strategic nuclear forces.7 These experts also have not indicated whether there is some finite number of U.S. nuclear weapons that would be adequate for deterrence if Russia and China each seek to match U.S. nuclear force levels. This raises the question of how the United States avoids an endless arms race if Russia and possibly China each seek to maintain parity with the United States.

Nuclear deterrence is not a simple mathematical problem. It is premised on convincing an adversary that any use of nuclear weapons will result in a devastating response. Russia and the United States have maintained rough parity in their nuclear forces and, through arms control agreements, have done so at increasingly lower levels. Yet, in a world with two near-peer nuclear competitors, it will not be possible for the United States to achieve parity with both Russia and China. Any effort to increase U.S. nuclear forces to match their combined total weapons likely will be countered by Russia’s determination to maintain parity with the United States and could stimulate China to further increase its nuclear forces. This is a recipe for an unending arms race and it will not stop with Washington, Moscow, and Beijing. If they expand, India, Pakistan, and potentially other nuclear-armed countries likely will conclude they need larger stockpiles as well.

Such an arms race is fundamentally unnecessary and counterproductive for advancing global and regional security and strategic stability. Deterrence is based on the credible threat of retaliation in response to an attack. It is implausible that Russia or China will conclude that they could sufficiently degrade U.S. nuclear capabilities with a first strike, even in a worst-case scenario of a joint Chinese-Russian first strike, to avoid massive retaliation.

There is no evidence to suggest that Russia and China are not adequately deterred by the existing U.S. nuclear stockpile or that the New START level of 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads would not continue to deter them at least through 2035. This assumes that Russia remains at rough strategic parity with the United States and that China’s expansion does not exceed the current Pentagon estimate. Furthermore, there is no evidence that Russia and China would be more deterred by an increase in U.S. nuclear weapons. Instead, they may perceive such an expansion as evidence of plans for nuclear war-fighting, not deterrence.

Next Steps With Russia and China

Instead of resigning itself to or embracing an accelerated three-party arms race, the United States should recommit to efforts to mutually constrain the nuclear arsenals of its competitors and to strengthen strategic stability in an increasingly complex security environment. This effort will require elements of continuity and new approaches.

China has resisted proposals to join U.S.-Russian arms control negotiations. Nevertheless, the complexities of an emerging nuclear order in which China, Russia, and the United States will become near peers demand continued efforts to expand multilateral efforts to manage nuclear risks. In recent years, China has been more open to engagement through the P5 process, involving the five nuclear-weapon states recognized under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The United States should explore opportunities for broader and deeper engagement in that channel.

China’s embrace of a January 2022 statement, issued with France, Russia, the UK, and the United States and asserting that a “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” should be welcomed as an opening for deeper engagement. The nuclear-weapon states should build on the statement, which also said, “We each intend to maintain and further strengthen our national measures to prevent unauthorized or unintended use of nuclear weapons,” by considering a regular exchange of information on what each country is doing to strengthen such national measures. This could include commitments to undertake internal nuclear failsafe reviews, as the United States is now doing. Such reviews, which would be carried out independently by each nuclear-weapon state, would identify measures to strengthen safeguards against the unauthorized, inadvertent, or mistaken use of a nuclear weapon, including through false warning of an attack.

The United States also should explore the possibility of a modest trilateral Chinese-Russian-U.S. dialogue on nuclear risk reduction. Notwithstanding statements from Beijing and Moscow about the strength of their partnership and cooperation, Chinese concern about possible Russian use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine is evident. One sign came in November 2022 after Russian President Vladimir Putin made a thinly veiled nuclear threat and Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a public admonition that the international community should “jointly oppose the use of, or threats to use, nuclear weapons.” Although China stonewalled the Trump administration’s efforts to launch a formal trilateral arms control process, it is worth exploring whether the heightened tensions of the past year could provide an opening for engagement on a modest risk reduction agenda.

There are other important issues at the intersection of evolving technologies and nuclear risk to be explored bilaterally and multilaterally. Understanding and mitigating cyberrisks to nuclear command and control and warning systems are critical. Russia and the United States are probably best equipped to begin this dialogue on a bilateral basis and to develop norms and rules of the road, but China should be encouraged to join as soon as possible. Similarly, military activities in space and the risk and benefits of artificial intelligence are ripe for inclusion in a wide-ranging and in-depth strategic stability dialogue with China and Russia, among others.

Strategic Arms Control

Despite China’s projected nuclear expansion over the next 10 to 15 years, there is time and need for additional Russian-U.S. bilateral steps. A prerequisite is resuming full implementation of New START, including on-site inspections. Even if the parties do not return to full implementation of New START or the treaty expires, at some point strategic logic will compel them to seek to restore mutual limits on their strategic nuclear forces. Be it in six months, two years, or longer, they will need to resume discussions on maintaining mutual restraints on strategic nuclear forces after New START expires and including additional types of Russian and U.S. nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles in future agreements, recognizing that success likely will require progress across a broader set of strategic capabilities. Even with hostilities in Ukraine, the imperative to manage nuclear risks necessitates Russian-U.S. cooperation on nuclear arms control.

The United States and its European allies are keen to limit Russian nonstrategic nuclear weapons associated with intermediate- and shorter-range delivery systems such as this Iskander-M mobile ballistic missile system. (Photo by Vitaliy Ragulin/Picasa Web Albums via Wikimedia)Negotiations on a new treaty or other agreement to succeed New START will not be easy. The United States wants to include all the categories of weapons that the treaty limits plus Russia’s new novel strategic nuclear systems and places a high priority on adding nonstrategic nuclear warheads.8 Russia has a long-standing interest in constraining U.S. long-range conventional strike capabilities and missile defenses and is not keen to accept limits on nonstrategic nuclear weapons or an intrusive new regime for warhead verification. Military activities in outer space, cybercapabilities, and other factors affecting strategic stability also will influence each side’s thinking. Lessons drawn from the war in Ukraine and an apparent growing disconnect between the Kremlin and the Russian ministries of foreign affairs and defense could further complicate if not impede negotiations.

The most immediate priority should be to avoid a situation in which Russian and U.S. strategic arsenals are entirely unconstrained after 2026. This can and should be done even as dialogue on other issues affecting strategic stability between these two countries and perhaps China are proceeding in parallel and at a different pace. For a successor 10-year Russian-U.S. agreement, retaining the New START limit of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads should be adequate for the United States to deter Russia and China, recognizing that concerns about China’s nuclear expansion make significant Russian-U.S. reductions below New START levels unlikely. A successor agreement should retain limits and verification on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers covered by New START; include new kinds of strategic systems being pursued by both sides; and potentially include all strategic-range conventional prompt global-strike systems.9

Arms control agreements, particularly the next one with Russia, should be used to encourage each side to adopt more stabilizing nuclear force postures that reduce the risk of nuclear use and the pressure on leaders to launch nonsurvivable nuclear forces early in a crisis. For example, the United States should seek to ban the deployment of the novel Russian systems named Poseidon, a nuclear-powered, nuclear-tipped torpedo, and Burevestnik, a nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed subsonic cruise missile, which are high-risk nuclear doomsday systems prone to catastrophic accident or miscalculation. Such a ban would be similar to prohibitions in the original Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty on deploying strategic nuclear systems undersea or using other exotic basing and delivery modes.

An agreement could limit or ban strategic-range hypersonic vehicles that due to speed and unpredictable flight paths reduce decision time for leaders. It could reinstate a ban on silo-based ICBMs with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) or limit the number of nuclear warheads permitted on each missile, reducing the incentive to “use them or lose them” in a crisis. Deemphasizing ICBMs with MIRVs could set a stabilizing precedent for the future direction of China’s expanding ICBM force. The next treaty also should employ more accurate counting rules for nuclear warheads attributed to heavy bombers, which could lead to a real reduction in the number of each side’s nuclear weapons and a more stringent limit on their nuclear delivery capacity.10

Nonstrategic Nuclear Warheads

The United States and its European allies are keenly interested in limiting Russia’s nonstrategic nuclear weapons given Russia’s larger stockpile, the weapons’ proximity to Europe, and their potential for early use in a conflict, leading to escalation. When the U.S. Senate ratified New START, it called for negotiations with Russia on nonstrategic nuclear weapons, which the Obama and Trump administrations attempted without success due to Russian disinterest. NATO and U.S. interest in limiting these weapons systems has been heightened by Russian nuclear threats during the Ukraine conflict.

Despite the importance of the task, it will not be easy to address this category of weapons systems. Russia and the United States do not have shared objectives, their nuclear stockpiles and operational practices are asymmetrical, there are significant national security sensitivities, and verification will be challenging. Limiting Russian nonstrategic nuclear weapons may require trade-offs across other arms control and strategic stability concerns. At a minimum, progress likely will need to come in the context of reengagement on a broader range of issues affecting strategic stability, such as missile defense and long-range conventional strike capabilities.

One approach could be to address nonstrategic nuclear weapons and nondeployed nuclear warheads together by limiting total nuclear warhead stockpiles with a sublimit on deployed strategic warheads and freedom for each side to determine the breakdown of nonstrategic and nondeployed nuclear weapons. Just as the United States has been concerned with Russia’s numerical advantage in nonstrategic nuclear weapons, which are not deployed on a daily basis, Russia has expressed concern about the greater capacity of the United States to upload additional nondeployed nuclear warheads on its strategic delivery systems. This total stockpile approach would permit trade-offs to address each side’s concerns.

There are other options for addressing this weapons category. As a precursor to more ambitious agreements to limit and verify warhead stockpiles, Russia and the United States could agree to increase mutual transparency through exchanges of information about numbers, types, and locations of total warhead stockpiles, including nonstrategic nuclear weapons.

In a more ambitious approach, the two countries could agree to consolidate nuclear warheads at central storage sites away from operational bases in and near Europe west of the Urals with appropriate verification. This move could reduce the risk of short-warning nuclear attacks using not only tactical systems but also intermediate-range missiles that are no longer banned because the United States withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 2019 in response to Russia’s violation of the treaty. For instance, such a consolidation agreement could require Russia to remove nuclear warheads from storage sites associated with operational bases near its western border, including in Kaliningrad, in exchange for the United States, in consultation with NATO allies, agreeing to remove its nonstrategic nuclear weapons from bases in Europe.

In February 2019, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced at a press briefing that the United States would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia. (Photo by Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images)With the termination of the INF Treaty, there are no longer any constraints on nuclear-capable short- and intermediate-range land-based ballistic and cruise missiles, those having ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.11 Just as the Cuban missile crisis led to new arms control agreements between the Soviet Union and the United States, an eventual end to the war in Ukraine may create opportunities to rebuild the security architecture in Europe.

High on the agenda should be a verifiable agreement by Russia and the United States to ban missiles previously covered by the INF Treaty in Europe west of the Urals. Although negotiating a stand-alone ban would be the most direct path toward reestablishing a prohibition on these missiles in the Euro-Atlantic region, prohibiting or limiting this missile class within a New START successor agreement should also be considered. The United States should consult urgently with NATO on such an agreement, to potentially include transparency measures at missile defense sites in Romania and Poland to rebuff Russian assertions that the United States might deploy offensive missiles in place of missile defense interceptors located there.

Dialogue With China

Although decades of experience provide a blueprint for Russian-U.S. engagement on nuclear issues, no comparable foundation exists with China. The United States will have to adopt a more incremental approach to China on the basis of a shared interest in reducing nuclear risks and forestalling a dangerous arms race. Despite growing distrust between Beijing and Washington, neither wants a nuclear conflict, but the absence of dialogue fuels worst-case planning on both sides.

The greatest risk is miscalculation or miscommunication, particularly in a regional conflict, leading to unintended escalation and potential nuclear use. Without proactive efforts to change this dynamic, there is a growing likelihood of a nuclear arms race between the two countries with broader implications for stability between Russia and the United States and even between China and Russia.

Dialogue is an essential first step toward transparency and confidence-building measures as initial goals and eventually toward arms control agreements. Improving mutual understanding of each other’s security perceptions and concerns by itself may help shape the trajectory of China’s nuclear expansion. Just as the pace of Chinese nuclear development has accelerated in recent years, it could change again in the future, for better or worse, presumably influenced in part by the Chinese-U.S. relationship.

During military exercises last August, China’s rocket force launched a missile targeting designated maritime areas to the east of Taiwan. (Photo by Li Youzhi/Xinhua via Getty Images)Beginning a dialogue on nuclear issues and agreeing on its scope will be challenging. U.S. policymakers are concerned by the opaque nature of Chinese nuclear plans, but leaders in Beijing perceive a narrow focus on nuclear weapons as a U.S. attempt to entrench the current numerical disparity and disadvantage China by seeking increased transparency about its much smaller nuclear force. Conversely, Washington perceives Beijing’s resistance to discussing Chinese nuclear weapons as a way to pursue nuclear competition without adopting the transparency and confidence-building measures that have contributed to strategic stability between Russia and the United States.

Establishing an effective dialogue will require an agenda that is broad enough to include the issues and capabilities that each side perceives as having strategic impact but leave to other appropriate bilateral channels challenges such as the status of Taiwan and territorial disputes in the western Pacific Ocean. At a minimum, the agenda likely will need to include nuclear capabilities and doctrine; the weaponization of outer space; anti-satellite weapons; long-range conventional strike forces, including hypersonic weapons; offensive cybercapabilities; and missile defense programs and the offense-defense relationship. In addition, talks could address regional developments that directly impact strategic stability considerations, including the North Korean nuclear and missile threat and its connection to U.S. missile defense capabilities, which China perceives as potentially undermining its second-strike capability.

At the outset, the goal should be for each side to have a better understanding of the other’s security concerns and perceptions and their influence on policy and capabilities choices. This dialogue could provide a foundation for modest measures, such as a bilateral agreement for advance notification of ballistic missile launches, to reduce the risk of misunderstanding or unintended escalation in response to false warnings. Beijing and Washington also should work toward establishing nuclear risk reduction centers on both sides to serve as a means of quick, reliable communication on select strategic and military issues.

Given both countries’ obligations under Article VI of the NPT and their respective security interests, the longer-term agenda should include discussion of capping and reducing nuclear arsenals. U.S. policymakers should begin thinking now about formulations for stopping and reversing a nuclear arms race before the size of China’s arsenal approaches that of the United States and Russia. This could include an agreement by China, France, and the UK not to exceed a certain number of warheads so long as Russia and the United States agree on a New START successor agreement and other commitments aimed at addressing key Chinese and U.S. security concerns.12

The Risk of a Trilateral Nuclear Arms Race

With Russia’s aggression and renewed hostility in Europe, Moscow’s suspension of New START, the treaty’s expiration in three years, and China’s nuclear expansion plans and tense relations with the United States, U.S. nuclear policy, posture, and arms control are at a crossroads. Although some experts believe these trends necessitate a near-term expansion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, there is time to pursue a more stabilizing outcome with Russia and China. Strengthening and extending the 77-year taboo against the use of nuclear weapons will require renewed efforts to mutually limit and reduce nuclear stockpiles and delivery systems and the salience of nuclear weapons, while addressing other military capabilities affecting regional and global strategic stability.

None of these objectives can be achieved by engaging in a nuclear arms race with multiple countries. The U.S. national security posture and that of its allies and partners would be better served by diplomatic efforts to constrain the nuclear arsenals of its adversaries and competitors using a combination of proven tools and new approaches. Doing so will require a sober assessment of the security challenges facing the United States, the contributions and limits of nuclear weapons in assuring security, and realistic strategies for managing and reducing mutual nuclear risks with China and Russia. The obstacles are formidable, but the U.S. priority must be averting the alternative of a dangerous arms race in a complicated and unpredictable world of three near-peer nuclear competitors.

 

ENDNOTES

1. Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda, “Status of World Nuclear Forces,” Federation of American Scientists, n.d., https://fas.org/issues/nuclear-weapons/status-world-nuclear-forces/ (accessed February 9, 2023); U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, 2022: Annual Report to Congress,” n.d., https://media.defense.gov/2022/Nov/29/2003122279/-1/-1/1/2022-MILITARY-AND-SECURITY-DEVELOPMENTS-INVOLVING-THE-PEOPLES-REPUBLIC-OF-CHINA.PDF. Four other states with nuclear weapons, none of which are parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, are estimated to have nuclear arsenals of 160 (India), 90 (Israel), 20 (North Korea), and 165 (Pakistan). Kristensen and Korda, “Status of World Nuclear Forces.”

2. U.S. Department of State, “Report to Congress on Implementation of the New START Treaty,” n.d., https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/2022-New-START-Implementation-Report.pdf.

3. President Putin’s speech and a subsequent statement from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs were silent on whether Russia would continue with the treaty-mandated exchange of data and notifications. See “Foreign Ministry statement in connection with the Russian Federation suspending the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START),” February 21, 2023, https://mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/1855184/.

4. U.S. Department of Defense, “2022 Nuclear Posture Review,” October 27, 2022, p. 4, https://media.defense.gov/2022/Oct/27/2003103845/-1/-1/1/2022-NATIONAL-DEFENSE-STRATEGY-NPR-MDR.PDF#page=40.

5. U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, 2022: Annual Report to Congress,” pp. 94–100.

6. U.S. Defense Department, “2022 Nuclear Posture Review,” p. 17.

7. Eric S. Edelman and Franklin C. Miller, Statement before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. nuclear strategy and policy, September 20, 2022, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Edelman-Miller%20Opening%20Statement%20SASC%20Hearing%20Sept.%2020%2020226.pdf.

8. Russian and U.S. nuclear weapons stockpiles are roughly comparable numerically, but they are configured differently, and Russia has slightly greater numbers. Both countries are in compliance with the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) limit of 1,550 warheads on deployed strategic delivery vehicles. Beyond that, Russia is believed to have 1,000–2,000 nonstrategic nuclear weapons. The United States has several thousand nondeployed nuclear warheads, but only a small fraction of those is associated with nonstrategic aircraft based in Europe.

9. New START and all previous strategic nuclear arms control treaties with Russia have limited and counted all warheads (or reentry vehicles) attributed to intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles as nuclear warheads, regardless of whether they actually are nuclear. Applying this counting rule to all strategic-range delivery systems that are subject to a new agreement would help to address the concern that even conventionally armed, strategic-range, fast-flying, highly accurate systems, such as ballistic or cruise missiles or new hypersonic vehicles, have strategic effect and should be limited because they put at risk the nuclear forces and command and control and warning systems of the other side.

10. New START counts each heavy bomber as having just one nuclear warhead, when in fact Russian and U.S. bombers can carry up to 16 nuclear bombs or cruise missiles. For more detail on possible elements of a New START successor agreement, see Lynn Rusten, “Next Steps on Strategic Stability and Arms Control With Russia,” in U.S. Nuclear Policies for a Safer World, June 2021, pp. 13–21, https://media.nti.org/documents/NTI_Paper_U.S._Nuclear_Policies_for_a_Safer_World.pdf.

11. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was terminated in August 2019 following the U.S. determination, which was denied by Russia, that Russia violated the treaty by deploying a land-based intermediate-range, nuclear-capable cruise missile, the 9M729. After the Trump administration withdrew the United States from the treaty, it began the development of new missiles that would have been covered by the treaty for possible deployment in Europe or Asia, saying they would be conventionally armed. Russia has proposed to the United States and NATO a moratorium on deploying this class of missiles in Europe and, although not conceding that the 9M729 missile would have been covered by the treaty, seemingly offered to include that missile in the moratorium.

12. For more detail on possible confidence-building measures China and the United States could take to address key concerns, see James McKeon and Mark Melamed, “Engaging China to Reduce Nuclear Risks,” in U.S. Nuclear Policies for a Safer World, June 2021, pp. 36–46, https://media.nti.org/documents/NTI_Paper_U.S._Nuclear_Policies_for_a_Safer_World.pdf.

 


Lynn Rusten, vice president for the Global Nuclear Policy Program at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, was senior director for arms control and nonproliferation on the National Security Council (NSC) staff. Mark Melamed, the program’s deputy vice president, was NSC director for arms control.

China’s nuclear expansion raises questions about how U.S. nuclear policy, deterrence, and arms control will operate in a world where China and Russia are likely to be U.S. nuclear peers.

Putin’s Reckless Decision to "Suspend" New START Will Increase Chances of Global Nuclear Arms Race

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Statement from Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

For Immediate Release: Feb. 21, 2023 (Updated)

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst, (202) 463-8270 ext. 113

In a rambling attempt to justify Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine one year ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his decision to suspend implementation of the last remaining treaty limiting the world's two largest nuclear arsenals, the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

His comments suggest Russia will not engage in talks to resume New START’s on-site inspections, participate in meetings of the treaty's Bilateral Consultative Commission, nor share data on strategic nuclear stockpiles as required by the treaty. These actions represent a major violation of the terms of New START and are not allowed for under the terms of the treaty. Other senior Russian officials have previously said Russia will maintain under the central limits set by the treaty (1,550 deployed strategic warheads and 700 deployed strategic delivery vehicles). In a separate statement issued today, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed that Russia will continue to observe limits on the number of strategic nuclear warheads and delivery systems it can deploy under the treaty.

While this does not mark the end of New START, which is scheduled to expire Feb. 5, 2026, Putin’s announcement makes it far more likely that, after New START expires, there will be no agreement limiting U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972.

Putin’s “suspension” of New START harms Russia’s own security interests. Absent full implementation of treaty provisions, Moscow (and Washington) gains less insight and information regarding the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal.

In addition, the suspension undermines Russia’s obligations as a party to the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires the nuclear-weapon states to "pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament…."

In contrast, U.S. President Joe Biden has made it clear that his administration stands ready to expeditiously negotiate a new nuclear arms control framework with Russia to supersede New START–but that Russia must first work in good faith to resume New START inspections. This is a more than reasonable request.

If New START expires in 2026 with no successor arrangement, Washington and Moscow could each double the number of their deployed strategic nuclear warheads in short order. Such a course of action would produce an arms race that no one can win and that increases the dangers of nuclear weapons for everyone.

We strongly support the Biden administration's announcement today that the United States "remains ready to talk about strategic arms limitations at any time with Russia irrespective of anything else going on in the world or in our relationship."

We reiterate our call upon Russia to comply with its obligations to allow for on-site inspections to verify compliance with New START and to engage in further nuclear disarmament diplomacy with the United States.

We also urge all states-parties to the NPT, no matter their position on Russia's war on Ukraine, to urge the Kremlin to meet its nuclear disarmament responsibilities by complying with New START and by agreeing to negotiate new–and ideally lower–limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals, as doing so would enhance global security and support the long-term viability of the NPT system.

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Putin’s announcement makes it far more likely that, after New START expires, there will be no agreement limiting U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972.

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"Challenges and Prospects for Further U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control"

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February 1, 11:00am-12:30pm U.S. Eastern Time
(via Zoom)

The last remaining treaty regulating the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals, the New Strategic Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), will expire in 1,100 days -- on Feb. 5, 2026. Unless Washington and Moscow begin serious negotiations on a new nuclear arms control framework, Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals will be left unconstrained for the first time since 1972.

At this special briefing, we heard from a senior White House official about the Biden administration's approach to the nuclear arms control impasse. Key experts will review the issues and potential solutions for maintaining constraints on the U.S. and Russian arsenals, analyze Russia's approach to nuclear arms control, and evaluate how the U.S. and Russian arsenals might grow if they are “unconstrained” after 2026. The briefing will include comments from a senior European official on the role of nuclear arms control in strengthening European security and the global nuclear nonproliferation system.

Opening remarks: Cara Abercrombie, deputy assistant to the president and coordinator for defense policy and arms control for the White House National Security Council

Panelists:

  • Amb. Steve Pifer, non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and a William J. Perry fellow at the Center for Intl. Security and Cooperation at Stanford University
  • Hanna Notte, Senior Research Associate with the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP)
  • Matt Korda, Senior Research Associate and Project Manager for the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists

Closing remarks: Jarmo Viinanen, Ambassador, Strategic and Arms Control, Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Chair-designate of the 2023 Nonproliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee Meeting

Moderators: Daryl Kimball, executive director, and Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst, Arms Control Association

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In 1,100 days, the last remaining treaty regulating the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals, the New Strategic Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between the United States and Russia, will expire.

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Russia Delays Meeting on New START


December 2022
By Shannon Bugos

Russia unilaterally called off a meeting with the United States regarding implementation concerns with the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), a day before the two sides planned to convene in Cairo.

Moscow informed Washington on Nov. 28 of its decision to “unilaterally postpone” the meeting of the New START Bilateral Consultative Commission, which handles treaty implementation and verification concerns.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov attributed the decision to technical concerns, such as Russian claims of a U.S. failure to implement the treaty fully, and political reasons, including the war in Ukraine. Arms control is not “immune” to world events, he said on Nov. 29. “This is not a cancellation, but a postponement.”

The U.S. State Department reiterated its commitment to rescheduling the meeting as soon as possible.

One discussion topic would have been the nearly three-year pause in the treaty’s on-site inspections of nuclear weapon-related facilities, a hallmark of the New START verification regime. The two countries paused the inspections in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. On August 8, Russia further delayed resuming inspections by blocking treaty visits to its facilities.

New START is the last treaty limiting the U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals and provides unparalleled insight into Russian nuclear forces.

Russia called off the meeting with the United States a day before it was scheduled in Cairo.

 

Russian Delay of Scheduled Meeting on New START Irresponsible

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For Immediate Release: Nov. 29, 2022

Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director (202-463-8270 x107); Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst (202-463-8270 x113)

(Washington, DC) – Russia elected not to show up for a meeting with the United States regarding ongoing implementation concerns with the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), a day before representatives of the two countries had planned to convene in Cairo, Egypt.

Moscow informed Washington Nov. 28 of its decision to “unilaterally postpone” the meeting of New START’s Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC), which handles treaty implementation and verification concerns.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov attributed the decision to both technical and political reasons, including the war in Ukraine. Arms control is not “immune” to other events taking place in the world, he commented Nov. 29. Ryabkov emphasized to reporters that “this is not a cancellation, but a postponement.”

The U.S. State Department responded by reiterating the Biden administration’s commitment to rescheduling the meeting as soon as possible.

“Russia’s choice to postpone the BCC meeting with the United States is irresponsible, especially at this time of heightened tensions when dialogue between the world’s two largest nuclear powers is paramount,” says Laura Kennedy, a board member of the Arms Control Association and a former U.S. ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament.

“The Biden administration has taken the correct stance of communicating its willingness to reschedule the meeting at the earliest possible date, underscoring the U.S. commitment to effective arms control and maintaining strategic stability,” Kennedy added. “We hope and expect that Russia will reciprocate.”

One of the main topics on the table would have been the nearly three-year pause in the treaty’s on-site inspections of nuclear weapon-related facilities, a hallmark of the New START verification regime. The two countries agreed to pause the inspections in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. On August 8, 2022, Russia further delayed any resumption of inspections by blocking treaty visits to its facilities, until such time as there is a resolution for allowing Russia’s New START inspection teams to travel to the United States despite Western sanctions and restrictions on Russia due to the war in Ukraine.

“New START stands as the last treaty limiting the U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals and provides unparalleled insight into Russian nuclear forces that the U.S. military greatly values for posture and planning purposes,” says Shannon Bugos, a senior research analyst at the Arms Control Association. “Further delays of the BCC meeting are deeply regrettable, particularly as resuming inspections will likely help pave the way for dialogue on future arms control following New START’s expiration in 2026.”

The United States and Russia last held a BCC meeting in October 2021, the first since the coronavirus pandemic prompted a pause in the meetings. The meeting this month was slated to take place Nov. 29 through Dec. 6 in Cairo, Egypt, and would have marked the first meeting since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Under New START, the two countries are obligated to hold two BCC meetings each year.

“Even during the worst periods of the Cold War, the United States and Russia recognized the value of maintaining common sense limits on the world’s most dangerous weapons,” Bugos added. “Today, more than ever, they must meet their shared responsibility to reduce their massive nuclear arsenals and avoid miscalculations that could lead to nuclear catastrophe.”

Description: 

Dialogue on Implementation of Arms Control Agreement in Mutual Interest

Country Resources:

U.S., Russia Discuss Threats of Nuclear Use

The U.S. intelligence community assessed in October that some senior Russian officials, not including Russian President Vladimir Putin, have discussed the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, though Russia denies the assessment. The U.S. National Intelligence Council circulated the assessment within the Biden administration in mid-October, according to multiple senior U.S. officials who spoke with The New York Times . CNN also described the division among U.S. officials over the implications of the analysis, with some believing the Russian discussions might signal genuine...

Despite challenges, US-Russian nuclear arms control has its benefits

Securing a new US-Russian nuclear arms control arrangement that can supersede the current treaty has been an endeavor that has stood on shaky, fractured ground for years, with Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine earlier this year making the future for nuclear arms control and disarmament all the more uncertain. But there yet remains a sliver of opportunity for the two countries to agree to a new arms control framework that would help ensure that the possibility of an outbreak of nuclear war, whether intentional or inadvertent, is minimized. In early 2021, US President Joe Biden and Russian...

Toward a New Nuclear Arms Control Framework Arrangement

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Volume 14, Issue 7
October 26, 2022

Following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, the United States indefinitely suspended the U.S.-Russian Strategic Stability Dialogue, a longstanding forum in which the two sides planned to lay the groundwork for more formal bilateral talks on a successor to the only current but soon-expiring nuclear arms control agreement between them: the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

This is certainly not the first time throughout the long history of U.S.-Russian dialogue on arms control, disarmament, and risk reduction that talks between the world’s two largest nuclear-armed states have come to a standstill. Nevertheless, for more than five decades, leaders in both countries have overcome vast ideological and geopolitical differences and disputes to, out of a shared recognition of the great dangers of nuclear weapons, establish and maintain mutually verifiable limits on their respective nuclear arsenals. Since the first two agreements struck in 1972, the United States and Russia (and the former Soviet Union) have negotiated a series of nuclear arms control and arms reduction agreements that have successfully strengthened strategic stability, provided highly-valued predictability, and reduced the risk of nuclear war.

In support of such benefits of arms control, U.S. President Joseph Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed last year to extend New START, as allowed by the treaty text, until Feb. 5, 2026. As a result, the United States and Russia have continued to adhere to the limitations on their nuclear arsenals under New START, with the most recent regular biannual exchange conducted on Sept. 1.

At the same time, however, Putin continues to warn of potential Russian nuclear weapon use as a response to any perceived interference in Ukraine, existential threat to Russia, or threat to what the federation calls its “territorial integrity,” which includes the four recently illegally annexed Ukrainian regions. Although the likelihood of nuclear use remains low, the United States and its allies and partners must meet nuclear threats with utmost seriousness, condemnation, and consequence.

Even while rallying the world in support of Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion and ongoing attacks, Washington must pursue the negotiation of a new arms control arrangement to supersede New START sooner rather than later.

“No matter what else is happening in the world,” said Biden on Sept. 21, “the United States is ready to pursue critical arms control measures.”

Despite such statements from Biden, as well as senior Russian officials, arms control talks have not begun, in part due to ongoing differences over how and when to resume New START on-site inspections, which have been paused since 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic as well as Russian implementation concerns. Even if such talks began soon, the time left until 2026 is not much for the two countries to hold formal, time-consuming treaty negotiations and secure any necessary domestic support for the new arrangement.

If the treaty should expire in 2026 with no replacement, it would mark the first time since 1972 that the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals are entirely unconstrained.

In addition, Russia’s catastrophic war in Ukraine has vastly exacerbated uncertainty on what, if any, arms control arrangement may follow New START.

Putin’s war of choice on Ukraine is absolutely indefensible and reprehensible, and Russia has rightly been hit with very real consequences from countries across the world. The pursuit of formal arms control negotiations with Moscow nonetheless is necessary, if only to ensure that the Russian nuclear arsenal remains constrained, subject to a verification regime, and open to a measure of transparency. The alternative in which the two sides fail to negotiate a new nuclear arms control framework will only heighten the factors leading to strategic instability and nuclear war, exacerbate the difficulties of engaging China and other nuclear-armed states in the nuclear risk reduction and disarmament enterprise, and open the door for a global nuclear arms race that benefits no one.

Now is the time to evaluate the potential approaches to the creation of a new nuclear arms control framework.

The Value and Status of New START

The last major nuclear arms control negotiation between Washington and Moscow took place more than a decade ago. After 11 months of negotiations—a historically rather short timeline for striking arms control deals—U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed New START in April 2010.

The treaty limits U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals to 1,550 warheads deployed on 700 delivery vehicles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), sea-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers assigned to a nuclear mission.

New START entered into force in February 2011 with an expiration date of 10 years, though it could be extended for an additional five years upon mutual agreement. Washington and Moscow had until February 2018 to cut their respective nuclear arsenals to those limits, and they successfully did so, with Russia significantly reducing its number of deployed warheads on ballistic missiles.

Over the ensuing years, the U.S. and Russian arsenals would naturally fluctuate based on the particular maintenance and upgrade schedules for the nuclear weapons components. Washington and Moscow have both remained at or below the treaty limits since 2018. Following the demise of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 2019, New START became the last treaty limiting U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.

An integral part of New START has been the establishment of a rigorous verification regime.

The treaty allows 18 on-site inspections per country per year and requires regular notifications on the status of strategic delivery vehicles and launchers, data exchanges twice a year on the makeup of each country’s strategic nuclear arsenal, as well as the formation of the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC) to handle any compliance or implementation concerns that might arise.

This regime provides crucial, detailed information about the strategic nuclear arsenals of the world’s top two owners of nuclear weapons that cannot currently be gained through another avenue. The U.S. Defense Department has gone on the record emphasizing the great value it places on the information about Russia’s nuclear arsenal gathered due to New START.

Former and then-current government and military officials as well as national security leaders also spoke out strongly in favor of extending New START by five years until 2026, which Biden and Putin agreed to do in February 2021, just two days before the treaty’s expiration.

The pandemic disrupted business as usual when it came to both the New START verification regime and the talks on an arms control arrangement to follow the treaty after its expiration—all of which Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has further disrupted as well as imperiled.

The United States and Russia mutually decided to suspend on-site inspections, as well as indefinitely delay a meeting of the BCC, in March 2020 as the coronavirus tore across the world. The two countries started to hammer out how to restart inspections about a year ago. However, Moscow informed Washington in August 2022 of its decision to temporarily prohibit inspections of its nuclear weapons-related facilities subject to New START.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has claimed that there are ongoing unresolved issues, including adjusted inspection procedures to account for situations in which coronavirus spreads among the crews and inspectors, as well as difficulties the Russian flight crew and inspectors have encountered when trying to obtain visas and permissions to enter airspace controlled by the United States and its allies and partners. The latter has occurred primarily as the United States and its allies and partners, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), have imposed steep costs on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s announcement regarding inspections came during the second week of the monthlong review conference for the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which brought together leaders from nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

Biden and Putin released statements on the first day of the conference Aug. 1, in which they each emphasized their commitment to nuclear arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation.

The United States and Russia were already going to be on the hot seat at the conference due to a widespread view among NPT states-parties that the two countries, along with the other three NPT-recognized nuclear-weapon states (China, France, and the United Kingdom), have not upheld their treaty obligation to genuinely pursue nuclear disarmament.

With New START expiring in less than four years and no replacement arms control arrangement in sight, plus the more than two-year ongoing break in on-site inspections, Washington and Moscow have little ground to stand on to say that they have been fulfilling their NPT commitments since the last review conference in 2015.

The Current Generation of Security Concerns

For years, the United States and Russia have been suggesting differing agendas on what to cover in the next arms control arrangement after New START. The road to future U.S.-Russian arms control has long been forecast to be divisive and arduous, as well as reliant on political will.

After New START’s official extension in 2021, the Biden administration began to broadly outline its priorities for what might come next, particularly aiming to limit for the first time Russian non-strategic, or tactical, nuclear weapons. Moscow is estimated to have about 1,900 tactical nuclear weapons, all in central storage.

In addition, Washington wants to incorporate new Russian nuclear weapon delivery systems, such as those officially unveiled by Putin in 2018 and 2019 like the nuclear-powered, nuclear-tipped torpedo named Poseidon, and to explore options for arms control with China.

In contrast to the Trump administration’s initial effort to condition the extension of New START on establishing some sort of future U.S.-Russian-Chinese arms control arrangement, the Biden administration has taken a different approach toward conducting arms control talks with Beijing by suggesting bilateral U.S.-Chinese talks.

The current U.S. approach toward China on arms control, though requiring increased attention by the Biden administration, makes sense for two reasons. First, Beijing has yet to engage in the kind of nuclear arms control and disarmament treaties signed by Washington and Moscow, which struck their first arms control deal in 1972. It would be difficult for China to jump into an ongoing arms control process, outside Beijing’s preferred multilateral arena, with which the United States and Russia have much more established, though strained, relations on the issue.

Second, the Chinese nuclear weapons arsenal is estimated to be at 350, which is significantly smaller than the U.S. nuclear arsenal of about 4,000 and the Russian arsenal of about 4,500. Even if Beijing continues with the rapid expansion of its arsenal to amass 700 strategic nuclear warheads by 2027 and 1,000 by 2030 as projected by the Pentagon, it will still be numerically smaller than those of the United States and Russia. An arms control arrangement that requires equal numerical limits on all parties, like New START, would therefore be a non-starter for China.

Beijing has repeatedly expressed adamant resistance to engaging in bilateral or trilateral arms control talks over the years, instead stating its preference for multilateral arms control and stipulating that its involvement depends on U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals first decreasing to the size of the Chinese arsenal. By setting realistic expectations with China, Washington may be able to see some long-sought-after progress, which may look as straightforward as formally establishing a bilateral strategic stability dialogue.

In addition, a concern repeatedly popping up in U.S.-Russian dialogue would be addressed for the time being with a U.S.-Chinese strategic stability dialogue underway, which can ideally be paired with efforts in other fora as well. In other words, Russia’s common refrain to the U.S. demand to include China in any future arms control arrangement is to require the participation of France and the United Kingdom as well. By addressing other nuclear powers in alternative venues, such as in a separate bilateral dialogue or in the P5 process, and essentially dividing the multitude of contentious issues on the table into different, though parallel, strains, Washington and Moscow could make some headway bilaterally.

Russia also brings to the table concerns with U.S. missile defenses, which Washington has long resisted putting up for negotiation, and U.S. non-strategic weapons deployed in Europe, estimated at about 100. Since the demise of the INF Treaty in 2019, Moscow has aimed to address at least a portion of the missiles formerly banned by this accord (ground-launched nuclear and conventional, ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers) in the next arms control arrangement.

The United States and Russia do share, however, a recognition of the fact that what may follow New START might not be a traditional arms control treaty, but rather another type of arms control arrangement or arrangements. The makeup of the U.S. Senate essentially guarantees the impossibility of procuring advice and consent on the ratification of a new U.S.-Russian arms control treaty. Therefore, the two sides must consider alternative forms of agreement, including an executive agreement.

Russia communicated its agenda to the United States and NATO in two separate proposals for agreements on broader security guarantees delivered to Washington and Brussels in December 2021. The Russian proposals were laden with non-starters (such as a proposed commitment from the United States and NATO to prohibit further NATO expansion), making it apparent that the documents were not ultimately serious in nature and thus intended for rejection.

Russian Proposals on Security Guarantees to the United States and NATO, Dec. 15, 2021 U.S. and NATO Responses to Russia, Jan. 26, 2022
Arms Control, Risk Reduction, and Transparency

Parties shall not deploy ground-launched, intermediate- and short-range missiles either outside their national territories or inside their national territories from which the missiles can strike the national territory of the other party.

The United States is prepared to begin discussions on arms control for ground-based intermediate- and short-range missiles and their launchers. NATO calls for Russia to engage with the United States on these discussions.

The United States is prepared to discuss transparency measures to confirm the absence of Tomahawk cruise missiles at Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland, so long as Russia provides reciprocal transparency measures on two ground-launched missile bases of U.S. choosing in Russia.

No similar articles.

The United States proposes to begin discussions immediately on follow-on measures to New START, including on how future arms control would cover all U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons (strategic and non-strategic, deployed and non-deployed) and new kinds of nuclear-armed intercontinental-range delivery vehicles. NATO calls for Russia to engage with the United States on these discussions.

NATO calls for all states to recommit to their international arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation obligations and commitments, such as toward the Chemical Weapons Convention and Biological Weapons Convention. NATO calls for Russia to resume implementation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty.

NATO is ready to consult on ways to reduce threats to space systems and to promote a free and peaceful cyberspace.

Sources: Article 6, Russia Proposal to U.S.; Article 5, Russia Proposal to NATO; Pages 3 and 4, U.S. Response to Russia; Article 9, NATO Response to Russia
Nuclear and Conventional Forces Posture

Parties shall not deploy nuclear weapons outside their national territories and shall destroy all existing infrastructure for deployment of nuclear weapons outside of their national territories.

Parties shall not train military and civilian personnel from non-nuclear countries to use nuclear weapons or conduct exercises that include scenarios involving the use of nuclear weapons.

The United States and NATO are prepared to discuss areas of disagreement between NATO and Russia on U.S. and NATO force posture, including possibly the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe, and discuss conventional forces concerns, including enhanced transparency and risk reduction through the Vienna Document.

NATO is prepared to discuss holding reciprocal briefings on Russia's and NATO's nuclear policies.

Sources: Article 7, Russia Proposal to U.S.; Article 4, Russia Proposal to NATO; Page 3, U.S. Response to Russia; Article 9, NATO Response to Russia
NATO-Russia Relations

Parties reaffirm that they do not consider each other as adversaries.

Parties shall not undertake actions, participate in activities, or implement security measures that undermine the security interests of the other party. Parties shall not use the territories of other states to execute an armed attack against the other party.

Parties shall settle all international disputes by peaceful rather than forceful means. Parties shall use fora such as the NATO-Russia Council to address issues or settle problems. Parties shall establish telephone hotlines.

NATO poses no threat to Russia.

NATO believes that tensions and disagreements must be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy, rather than through the threat or use of force. NATO calls for Russia's immediate de-escalation around Ukraine. 

NATO supports re-establishing NATO and Russian mutual presence in Moscow and Brussels and establishing a civilian telephone hotline.

Sources: Articles 1 and 3, Russia Proposal to U.S.; Articles 1, 2, and 3, Russia Proposal to NATO; Articles 1, 2, and 7, NATO Response to Russia
NATO Expansion

All NATO member states shall commit to prohibit any further NATO expansion, to include denying the accession of Ukraine. The United States shall not establish military bases in or develop bilateral military cooperation with former USSR states who are not part of NATO. 

The United States and NATO are committed to supporting NATO's open door policy. The United States is willing to discuss reciprocal transparency measures and commitments by both the United States and Russia to not deploy offensive ground-launched missile systems and permanent combat forces in Ukraine.

Sources: Article 4, Russia Proposal to U.S.; Article 6, Russia Proposal to NATO; Pages 1 and 2, U.S. Response to Russia; Article 8, NATO Response to Russia
Military Maneuvers and Exercises 

Parties shall regularly inform each other about military exercises and main provisions of their military doctrines.

Parties shall not deploy armed forces in areas where the deployment could be perceived by the other party as a threat to its national security (except when the deployment is within the national territories of the parties).

Parties shall not fly heavy bombers (whether nuclear or non-nuclear) or deploy surface warships in areas outside national airspace and national territorial waters where they can strike targets in the territory of the other party. 

Parties shall maintain dialogue to prevent dangerous military activities at sea.

NATO calls for Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova.

The United States is prepared to discuss confidence building measures regarding ground-based military exercises in Europe (to include modernization of the Vienna Document) and to explore an enhanced exercise notification regime and nuclear risk reduction measures (including strategic nuclear bomber platforms).

The United States and NATO are prepared to explore measures to prevent incidents at sea and in the air (to include discussing enhancements in the Incidents at Sea Agreement and the Vienna Document).

Sources: Article 5, Russia Proposal to U.S.; Articles 2, 3, and 7, Russia Proposal to NATO; Pages 2 and 3, U.S. Response to Russia; Articles 8 and 9, NATO Response to Russia
Reaffirmation of UN Charter

Parties shall ensure that all international organizations or military alliances in which at least one party participates adhere to the principles contained in the United Nations Charter. 

NATO remains committed to the fundamental principles and agreements underpinning European security, including the United Nations Charter.

Sources: Article 2, Russia Proposal to U.S.; Article 8, Russia Proposal to NATO; Article 3, NATO Response to Russia

Though flawed, pieces of the Russian proposals touch upon concerns that the United States and its allies and partners share, suggesting possible options for future arms control arrangements. For instance, both the proposals to the United States and NATO included an iteration of Moscow’s suggestion for a moratorium on the deployment of INF missiles. Limiting at least some of the missiles once banned by the INF Treaty—which the Pentagon has begun developing but has struggled to lock down basing options for abroad—would benefit the United States by helping to avoid an arms race of INF-like missiles and prevent the reintroduction of additional, unnecessary nuclear capabilities into Europe as well as Asia.

Of course, if not doing so already, the United States will have to grapple with the significant changes in the strategic and geopolitical environment in which the United States and Russia now operate— changes that inescapably affect the realm of arms control. For instance, Moscow has depleted its conventional forces throughout its brutal assault on Ukraine and will therefore have to spend considerable time and money as the war drags on or after the war to rebuild those forces. Consequently, as acknowledged by the Biden administration’s National Security Strategy publicly released Oct. 12, Moscow may funnel most funds toward rebuilding its conventional arsenal and increase reliance on its nuclear deterrent, all while dealing with an expansion of NATO.

Lastly, it is important to note that arms control talks would take place against the backdrop of Putin’s recent and thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons several times, including a few days into the renewed Russian invasion of Ukraine and, most recently, after the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions.

“We will defend our land with all the forces and resources we have, and we will do everything we can to ensure the safety of our people,” he said on Sept. 30. In late February, he also ordered the move of “Russia’s deterrence forces to a special regime of combat duty.” The scenarios in which Putin may consider nuclear use, most of which Russia outlined in its June 2020 policy, include if any country attempts to interfere in the war on Ukraine, if Moscow perceives a threat to Russia’s existence, or if Moscow perceives a threat to what it calls its “territorial integrity.”

Although the possibility of the actual use of nuclear weapons is low, it is not zero, with some analysts suggesting Russia may use nuclear weapons in a strike at a Ukrainian military facility or in a “nuclear display,” such as the detonation of a nuclear weapon over the Black Sea or the Arctic Ocean. Putin’s nuclear threats must be taken seriously.

There is unquestionable, considerable daylight between the U.S. and Russian agendas for a future arms control arrangement that, considered alongside Putin’s war of choice in Ukraine, portends a rather gloomy outlook for arms control in a post-New START world. However, nuclear arms control remains in the best security and safety interests of both the United States and Russia, not to mention the entire world, especially at such a time of growing nuclear threats and risks of escalation and miscalculation.

Redefining Arms Control in the Current Age

The United States refuses to engage in “arms control for arms control’s sake,” argued Marshall Billingslea, then-special envoy for arms control at the U.S. State Department, in May 2020. At the time, less than a year before New START was set to expire, the Trump administration had yet to put forward a concrete proposal on either the treaty’s extension or an alternative arms control arrangement to supersede the treaty.

When the Trump administration’s proposal did arrive in October 2020, it was a poison pill meant to ensure the expiration of New START with no replacement, a result that arms control opponents such as Billingslea wanted.

In December 2019, Putin tabled an offer to extend the treaty for five years with no preconditions. Ultimately, the Trump administration left the issue of New START extension up to the Biden administration, which agreed in February 2021 to the extension.

Billingslea’s charge served as a common retort to those who wanted to see the treaty extended. The Trump administration had argued that New START “does not reflect today’s reality,” citing how the treaty neither included China nor covered Russian novel and tactical nuclear weapon systems. Extending New START and pursuing those additional arms control objectives, however, were not mutually exclusive. Endeavors to expand the arms control architecture to include additional types of nuclear weapons and additional nuclear-armed countries have an arguably stronger fighting chance without having to simultaneously worry about the dangers of unconstrained U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.

The overall benefits of arms control, whether undertaken in times of relationship highs or lows, can be many, including avoiding an action-reaction arms race; reducing incentives to preemptively strike adversary conventional and/or nuclear forces; lowering the chances of inadvertent escalation; increasing transparency and predictability; and saving money. In general, arms control can be defined as a form of mutual agreement or commitment through which states aim to reduce nuclear risks.

This definition of arms control is broad, as it should be. Traditionally, the concept of arms control has been primarily thought of as referring to formal treaties imposing specific limits on or the elimination of particular components of U.S. and Russian/Soviet nuclear arsenals. However, with the advent of new and emerging technologies affecting strategic stability, the development and deployment of new nuclear weapon delivery systems (such as Russia’s Poseidon), the advancing abilities of existing nuclear weapon systems (such as the increased maneuverability of ballistic missiles), as well as the high disinclination that the U.S. Senate would support new arms control treaties, the traditional understanding of arms control has warranted a reevaluation.

U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Agreements
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) (1969-1972)
  • The Interim Agreement
    • Pledged not to construct new ICBM silos or significantly increase their size. Capped the number of SLBM launch tubes and SLBM-carrying submarines.
  • Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty
    • Permitted deployment of two fixed, ground-based defense sites of 100 missile interceptors each. Later adjusted to limit each to one regional defense of 100 ground-based missile interceptors to protect either the capital or an ICBM field.
Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (1987)
  • Required the elimination of all nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500-5,500 km
  • Led to the destruction of 2,692 treaty-accountable missiles by 1991
Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) (1991)
  • Limited each to 6,000 warheads and 1,600 delivery vehicles (ICBMs, SLBMs, heavy bombers)
Strategic Offense Reductions Treaty (SORT or Moscow Treaty) (2002)
  • Reduced deployed strategic nuclear forces to 1,700-2,200 warheads each
  • Warhead limit set to take effect and expire on the same day, December 31, 2012
  • Relied upon START verification regime
New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) (2010)
  • Superseded SORT
  • Limits each side to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 700 strategic delivery systems and limits deployed and nondeployed launchers to 800

Strategic stability can be affected by a variety of capabilities, whether nuclear or non-nuclear (e.g., conventional weapons as well as cyber operations) and offensive or defensive. Most often, strategic stability is defined as the union of crisis stability, in which nuclear powers are deterred from launching a nuclear first strike against one another, and arms race stability, in which two adversaries do not have an incentive to build up their strategic nuclear forces.

The 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union underscored the interrelationship between defensive and offensive systems by imposing limits on anti-missile systems. At the heart of the treaty, from which Washington withdrew in 2002, stood the recognition that the acquisition of ever-more capable offensive weapons would result in efforts by targeted states to acquire defenses against those weapons, sparking a never-ending cycle of competitive one-upmanship and upending strategic stability.   

As another example of this concept, multiple countries are pursuing new classes of hypersonic weapons: hypersonic boost-glide vehicles and hypersonic cruise missiles. The United States is developing conventional-only hypersonics, while China and Russia have also deployed or continued to develop nuclear or dual-capable hypersonics. New hypersonic weapon capabilities have ignited a new arms race among nuclear-armed countries to master this technology first, as well as a drive to develop anti-hypersonic defenses. Furthermore, a 2019 study conducted by United Nations two disarmament bodies found that some countries may perceive certain types of hypersonic weapons as a strategic threat regardless of whether they are conventional- or nuclear-armed.

The new types of hypersonic weapons are but one category of numerous new and emerging technological military capabilities entering the field today and arguably adding new factors to the strategic stability calculation. A sophisticated cyber operation, depending on its intent, can wreck deleterious effects directly on a country’s nuclear weapons arsenal (e.g., nuclear-capable delivery vehicles or the command, control, and communications systems) or indirectly on the confidence and situational awareness of those who decide whether to employ nuclear weapons. Artificial intelligence (AI) generates its own set of risks given the variety of applications that possess a form of cognitive capability and fall beneath the wide AI umbrella; for example, an overreliance on AI-enabled systems could prompt humans to make premature or misguided decisions, leading to armed conflict and possibly nuclear war.

All this to say, arms control must work to integrate all the new and emerging military capabilities and technologies, from nuclear to non-nuclear, capable of making waves in the nuclear realm, as well as take into consideration the various threat perceptions held by nuclear-armed countries. Given the breadth of capabilities and concerns on the table, arms control must encompass a broad range of initiatives, including not only traditional legally binding treaties but also risk reduction, crisis management, and confidence-building measures, such as establishing hotlines between high-brass military officials. Future arms control arrangements must also consider limitations or reductions across different domains (e.g., outer space, cyberspace) and different capabilities (e.g., nuclear delivery vehicles, conventional hypersonic weapons), in a style known as asymmetric arms control.

There are certainly lessons to be learned from past or expiring arms control agreements. New START, for instance, has provided an avenue to address new kinds of strategic offensives arms that might emerge after the treaty entered into force. Yet, as some experts have noted, the next arms control arrangement may aim to require a stronger, more effective new kinds of strategic offensive arms clause, such as one that applies to both nuclear and non-nuclear weapons of strategic range and automatically makes new kinds accountable to the terms of the arrangement.

Arms control at a time like this, when Russia has brandished its nuclear arsenal on multiple occasions during its war in Ukraine, becomes all the more important. Arms control can mean not only limitations on the numbers and the kinds of nuclear weapon systems but also informative data exchanges, boots-on-the-ground inspections at nuclear facilities, and crisis communication channels—all of which shed light on what a country holds in its nuclear arsenal.

The challenge presently facing the Biden administration can be described less as deciding whether arms control is worthwhile and valuable to U.S. national security interests, as it clearly is, and more as determining how to preserve, expand, and advance arms control given the differing U.S. and Russian agendas and, more notably, the despicable war waged in Ukraine by Russia.

Next Steps in U.S.-Russian Arms Control

The crucial questions at this juncture are when the United States and Russia should begin formal arms control negotiations and, relatedly, if the start of those negotiations relies on Ukraine and Russia first reaching some type of peace agreement.

After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the Biden administration rightly paused the U.S.-Russian Strategic Stability Dialogue. Biden and Putin revived the dialogue in 2021, which then convened in July, September, and January. In the last meeting, Moscow had coopted the dialogue for its own purposes by deviating from the usual established agenda and inserting its demands for security guarantees from Washington and NATO, styled to lay the diplomatic groundwork for its invasion of Ukraine less than two months later. Thus, the bilateral dialogue is no longer a suitable place for genuine arms control discussions at this time. Plus, the dialogue, which covers topics outside of arms control, is not equivalent to a venue for formal arms control negotiations, and the latter is where Washington and Moscow must go.

Launching formal arms control negotiations on a New START replacement as Russia commits more atrocities in Ukraine will take tremendous political will. Yet, given the risks the Russian nuclear arsenal poses, it remains essential that the United States, with support from its allies and partners, engages in serious, nose-to-the-grindstone negotiations with Russia. A Russian nuclear arsenal with no limits or transparency would only heighten the risks of intended or unintended nuclear escalation and miscalculation in areas of conflict, such as Ukraine. Thus, the sooner the better that those negotiations begin.

With this recognition, by the end of 2022 at the absolute latest, there are two actions that Washington and Moscow must accomplish:

  1. The United States and Russia must launch formal bilateral negotiations on a new arms control arrangement(s) to supersede New START.
  2. Russia must end its restriction of New START on-site inspections at its nuclear facilities subject to the treaty and cooperate in the resumption of the inspections soon thereafter. However, formal arms control negotiations should not be contingent on the resumption of New START inspections.

During the formal U.S.-Russian arms control negotiations, the following should constitute the main objectives for a New START follow-on arrangement.

Central Limits

The central limits of the new arrangement should further reduce the size of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals and incorporate new nuclear weapon capabilities. New START imposes caps on ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers assigned a nuclear mission, and a new arrangement should maintain restrictions on those capabilities while adding restrictions on new ones, such as Russia’s Poseidon nuclear-powered torpedo. The new arrangement should also more specifically capture intercontinental, ground-launched missiles, for although Russia’s Avangard fell under the treaty due to its pairing with a treaty-accountable delivery vehicle, future systems of this type may not necessarily be covered.

The new limit for strategic nuclear warheads should be lowered from 1,550 to 1,000. In 2013, the Obama administration determined that the U.S. nuclear arsenal could be reduced by up to one-third below the New START level without any ill effects on U.S. national security and nuclear deterrence. Although the strategic environment has changed since then with Russia’s new nuclear delivery systems and China’s expanding nuclear arsenal, so have U.S. nuclear weapon systems advanced in their abilities, meaning that the Pentagon can do more with less. Like-for-like limitations are not particularly helpful in today’s day and age, and the Pentagon’s calculation for what kind of and how many capabilities are needed to meet which threats should be reevaluated.

Furthermore, while the Pentagon projects that Beijing aims to have 1,000 strategic nuclear warheads by 2030, this is ultimately an estimation, and the Pentagon has made enormously wide-ranging projections in the past. Even so, attempts to include China in U.S.-Russian arms control have been met with only failure thus far, which is unlikely to change now. Allowing three nuclear-armed countries to go without limits on their arsenals because one would not join in arms control would be an act of sheer folly.

Lastly, at the very least, if the United States and Russia arrive in 2026 with no new arms control arrangement, the two countries must make a mutual commitment to continue adhering to the central limits of New START until such an arrangement is in place.

INF Missiles

The new arrangement should prohibit the development or limit the deployment of at least some types of missiles formerly banned by the INF Treaty. Although flawed, Russia’s proposal for a moratorium on the deployment of INF missiles, plus some verification measures, can serve as a starting point.

There are various routes available. For instance, one option could be to ban all nuclear ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles, as suggested by Rose Gottemoeller, chief U.S. negotiator for New START. Another option could be to prohibit the deployment of ground-launched, intermediate-range nuclear ballistic and cruise missiles in Europe and to the west of the Ural Mountains. Any of these or other options must ensure that verification is a key component and that Russia will address the currently deployed 9M729 missiles.

The motivation to pursue a variation of the INF Treaty in the next arms control arrangement rests on the fact that neither the United States nor Russia can afford another expensive, unnecessary arms race with another class of weapon and that these weapons heighten tensions. U.S. military officials have already expressed skepticism over efforts to bring ground-launched intermediate-range missiles to the Army.

There have also emerged issues with locations to base these missiles in Europe and Asia, a challenge that the Army has acknowledged. While Army Secretary Christine Wormuth argued in May that finalizing such basing decisions do not need to be made before the development of these missiles, experts have disputed this notion, as the location of the missile will influence its range requirement.

Furthermore, a U.S. introduction of these missiles into Europe (which would require NATO’s cooperation) would serve as a provocative threat to Russia, which has stated that it will respond in kind. In such a scenario, Europe would become flooded with missiles that are not a proven military necessity and would compromise European security.

Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons

The new arrangement should address non-strategic, or tactical, nuclear weapons. With an estimated 1,900 Russian tactical nuclear weapons in central storage and 100 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe, these weapons are a point of interest for both countries.

Tactical nuclear weapons are understood as being designed for battlefield, or so-called limited, nuclear use and possessing shorter ranges and lower yields than strategic nuclear weapons. The thought process informing the development and the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons has generally been to have a smaller, more precise nuclear weapon that is more prompt than a strategic nuclear weapon. Yet, for comparison, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was about 15 kilotons, which would be defined as tactical today, and many modern tactical nuclear weapons have far greater yields, into the hundreds.

“No one knows if using a tactical nuclear weapon would trigger full-scale nuclear war,” wrote Nina Tannenwald, an international relations professor at Brown University, in March.

Past arms control arrangements have yet to cover tactical nuclear weapons, though it has been a longtime goal to do so.

Numerous challenges lay ahead for incorporating tactical nuclear weapons into the next U.S.-Russia arms control arrangement (e.g., mutually agreeing to definitions of relevant terms, addressing the differing numbers of tactical nuclear weapons in each arsenal, establishing a suitable verification regime, etc.). Therefore, a simple option to begin tactical nuclear arms control would be to agree to exchange detailed declarations on tactical nuclear stockpiles, including warheads in storage.

Missile Defense

The new arrangement should institute numerical limits on missile defense interceptors and launchers. Given Russian (and Chinese) longtime concerns about U.S. missile defenses, there is almost no way in which a new arms control arrangement would be reached without effective limits on U.S. missile defense systems. Despite the technical challenges, the unimpressive testing record, and the steep costs for missile defense systems, the United States has continued to pursue these capabilities and dismiss any limits on them.

The ABM Treaty, as amended in 1974, limited the United States and Russia to 100 ground-based missile interceptors deployed at one site. Such a numerical limit could be revived without any adjustment to current or future force levels. In addition, the verification regime of the new arms control arrangement could require, similar to New START, a quota for on-site visits to missile defense facilities and advance notifications before interceptor flight tests.

Missile defense systems, particularly those meant to intercept strategic threats, do not perform reliably and effectively even under the most scripted of conditions and therefore do not provide reliable protection, making it no great loss to agree to reasonable limits on those systems. Besides, the United States agreeing to limit the quantity, location, and capability of missile interceptors for a limited ballistic attack from Iran or North Korea should not impede fielding the interceptors in a sufficient number.

Verification Regime

The new arrangement should maintain an on-site inspections and verification regime, similar to that of New START. The U.S. military has repeatedly gone on the record to confirm the great value of the New START verification regime, as, for instance, the information gathered through data exchanges cannot necessarily be attained through other avenues.

Although adjustments will likely have to be made to establish the process for inspections of new kinds of nuclear delivery vehicles, these should be rather straightforward changes.

Additional Nuclear-Armed Countries

U.S.-Russian arms control does not and should not exist in a silo. Therefore, alongside the steps on a new U.S.-Russian arms control arrangement outlined above, the following actions should also be taken:

  1. The five NPT-recognized nuclear-weapon states should implement various, effective risk reduction and conflict escalation management measures.

    A measure that should be implemented as soon as possible is the official establishment and the consistent use of hotlines, or direct communication channels, between both political and military leaders of different countries. Washington and Moscow established a similar deconfliction line a few days after the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which proved a smart move as Russian missile strikes crept closer to NATO borders. In May and October, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talked to their Russian counterparts in an attempt to gain clarity on various claims and avoid miscommunication or escalation.

    Additional potential measures include delaying tests of nuclear weapon delivery systems and nuclear exercises or related activities that could be perceived as particularly provocative. Austin delayed then canceled a scheduled test of the U.S. Minuteman III ICBM in early March to guard against any worst-case assumptions. Unfortunately, the United States and NATO moved ahead with the scheduled Steadfast Noon nuclear exercise in October, while Russia proceeded with nuclear exercises in the Kaliningrad enclave in May and in the Ivanovo province in June and has just begun its annual Grom exercises.
     
  2. The United States must, if it has not already, invite China to officially establish a U.S.-Chinese strategic stability dialogue that includes arms control among its main topics for discussion. Washington must propose to design the dialogue as a venue in which to set the foundation for potential arms control in the future. This means building familiarity with each country’s arms control officials, establishing a glossary of terminology for more detailed discussions, and so on. The first session of the dialogue should not include a demand that China immediately join in U.S.-Russian arms control processes, as that would likely prompt Chinese officials to walk right back out the door. Creating an official U.S.-Chinese strategic stability dialogue is the first step in a very long potential multilateral arms control endeavor.

    In addition, the United States can consider augmenting the P5 forum—which involves senior officials from Washington, Moscow, London, Paris, and Beijing discussing their NPT obligations—to feature more formal arms control discussions and perhaps, in time, negotiations. One possibility in this venue is for China, France, and the United Kingdom to report on their total nuclear weapons holdings and freeze the size of their nuclear stockpiles so long as the United States and Russia pledge to pursue deeper verifiable reductions in their arsenals.

The top priority must be for the two countries to, at least, continue adhering to New START’s central limits until they successfully negotiate a new arrangement, although the better option would be to secure lower limits on strategic nuclear warheads and delivery systems in U.S. and Russian arsenals.

From there, Washington and Moscow can tackle missiles formerly banned by the INF Treaty, tactical nuclear weapons, U.S. missile defenses, and new and emerging technologies in the space and cyber domains, in this general order.

The achievement of a U.S.-Russian arms control framework to replace New START, plus the other actions for the five NPT-recognized nuclear powers, will require unwavering political will and determination in the currently charged strategic landscape, as well as pragmatism and compromise. However, the outlined steps must be taken to guard against the outbreak of nuclear war.

History demonstrates that the benefits of bilateral arms control agreements involving the possessors of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals have consistently outweighed the costs. Now is the time to absorb lessons learned from previous arms control efforts and apply them to the negotiation of a new, effective, and more comprehensive arms control arrangement between the United States and Russia that addresses today’s current strategic and geopolitical environment, and before the existing nuclear arms control regime under New START ends. —SHANNON BUGOS, senior policy analyst

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Even while rallying the world in support of Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion and ongoing attacks, Washington must pursue the negotiation of a new arms control arrangement to supersede New START sooner rather than later.

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Putin’s Latest Nuclear Threats: What’s at Stake and What Can Be Done to Walk Back from the Brink?

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Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022
1:00 pm to 2:30 pm U.S. Eastern Time

Sixty years ago this month, the Soviet Union and the world teetered on the edge of nuclear Armageddon over Russian missile deployments in Cuba. Once again, the world is facing the heightened risk of nuclear war, this time due to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s thinly-veiled threats of nuclear weapons use in his war on Ukraine. 

Our expert panel provided a detailed analysis of Russian tactical nuclear weapons capabilities, the consequences of their potential use, the pros and cons of potential responses from the United States and the international community to any Russian nuclear detonations, and diplomatic and political options designed to reduce the risk of the first use of nuclear weapons in 77 years.

The panelists were: 

  • Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists and co-author of the Nuclear Notebook column in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and the World Nuclear Forces overview in the SIPRI Yearbook.
  • Rose Gottemoeller, senior lecturer at Stanford University's Institute for International Studies and its Center for International Security and Cooperation, former Deputy Secretary General of NATO (2016-2019), former U.S. Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, and the chief U.S. negotiator of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with the Russian Federation.
  • Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association. His latest analysis on the topic, "No Viable 'Nuclear Option' for Russia in Ukraine," was published last week.  
  • Shannon Bugos, Senior Policy Analyst, Arms Control Association (moderator) 

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Description: 

Following President Putin's thinly-veiled threats of nuclear weapons use in his war on Ukraine, our expert panel addressed Russian tactical nuclear weapons capabilities, the consequences of their potential use, and diplomatic and political options.

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