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former IAEA Director-General

New START

TAKE ACTION: 800 Warheads. 10 Minutes. One Decider.

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Action Alert for Madam Secretary Viewers (May 2018)

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U.S. President Donald Trump leaves CIA headquarters accompanied by the omnipresent officer carrying the nuclear "football" (Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

The U.S. president has sole authority to order the launch of roughly 800 of the United States' 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads within 10 minutes—no Congressional authorization is required. Still more weapons are available for him or her to launch within hours of an initial strike.

Concern about this authority is not limited to President Trump, though his confrontational style in responding to critics and experts, his cavalier approach to nuclear weapons, and his naiveté about protocol undermines confidence in his ability to act responsibly in a crisis. 

We need to restrict the President's power to make the ultimate bad decision and to unilaterally trigger a nuclear war. Here's how: 

A growing number of Senators and Representatives have become cosponsors of the "The Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017," introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.). This legislation would prohibit the president from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress.

Current House cosponsors 
Current Senate cosponsors

 

On May 3, signatures of over 500,000 Americans were delivered to Congress in support of this legislation. Seventeen national membership and advocacy groups, including the Arms Control Association, brought the signatures in several boxes to Capitol Hill. 

But we need your name to be added to those. 

Contact your Senators and Representative and urge them to become cosponsors of this urgently needed legislation (S. 200 in the Senate, H. 669 in the House) to check the president's authority to launch nuclear weapons.

Because, as President Reagan concluded in 1984, "A nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought."

 

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Posted: May 20, 2018

High-Level Group Calls for Extension of New START Agreement

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U.S., European, and Russian Nuclear Experts & Former Officials Issue Urgent Call for Trump and Putin to Take Steps to Avoid a New Nuclear Arms Race

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U.S., European, and Russian Nuclear Experts & Former Officials Issue Urgent Call for Trump and Putin to Take Steps to Avoid a New Nuclear Arms Race

For Immediate Release: April 18, 2018

Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104.

(Washington, Hamburg, Moscow)—With relations between Washington, Moscow, and Europe at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War, a distinguished, high-level group is warning that urgent steps need to be taken to contain nuclear risks and tensions and prevent a new nuclear arms race.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the group notes that: “Existing nuclear arms control agreements are at risk, and both sides are pursuing costly programs to replace and upgrade their Cold War-era strategic nuclear arsenals, each of which exceeds reasonable deterrence requirements. A compliance dispute threatens the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) will expire in 2021 unless extended.”

Among the signatories to the statement are: Des Browne, former Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom, Richard R. Burt, former U.S. negotiator of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty; Tom  Countryman, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Arms Control Association; retired Major General Dvorkin, a chief researcher at the Center for International Security at the Institute of Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations; Gen. Victor Esin, former Chief of Staff and Vice Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces; Volker Rühe, former Minister of Defense, Germany; Strobe Talbott, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State; and Sen. Richard G. Lugar, former Chairman, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The statement was organized by the members of a 21-member German-Russian-U.S. Deep Cuts Commission, which was established in 2013 to develop proposals to overcome obstacles to sensible arms control agreements and further reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles.

Last week at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Robert Soofer announced that the administration will soon “begin a whole-of-government review of the pros and cons of extending the [New START] treaty.”
 
“Without a positive decision to extend New START, and if the INF Treaty comes to an end, there would be no legally-binding limits on the world’s two largest nuclear superpowers for the first time since 1972, and the risk of unconstrained U.S.-Russian nuclear competition would grow,” the statement warns.

“Presidents Trump and Putin … should discuss and pursue—on a priority basis—effective steps to reduce nuclear risks and tensions, and to avoid a renewed nuclear arms race,” they write.

Their recommendations include:

  • Immediate Extension of New START Treaty. This treaty imposes important bounds on the strategic nuclear competition between the two nuclear superpowers. The treaty will by its terms expire February 5, 2021, but can be extended by up to five years by agreement by the two sides. Extending the treaty until February 2026 would preserve its significant security advantages—both the limits and the transparency that is provided by the treaty’s verification measures.
  • Intensified Efforts to Resolve INF Treaty Compliance Questions. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty made a major contribution to European and global security by eliminating all U.S. and Soviet ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Unfortunately, the treaty is now at risk, with the United States and Russia exchanging charges of treaty violations, and the U.S. government stating that it will not allow Russia to gain a military advantage through its violation. Currently, no meetings are scheduled to address the issue. A resolution of the dispute requires high-level leadership from the White House and the Kremlin.
  • Maintaining a Regular Dialogue on Strategic Stability. U.S. and Russian officials held a round of strategic stability talks in September 2017 but they postponed a follow-up round that was to be held earlier this year. They should make that dialogue a continuing and regular part of the U.S.-Russian agenda.
  • Sustained Military-to-Military Dialogue on Key Issues. Over the past five years, the instances of U.S. and NATO military aircraft and warships and Russian military aircraft and warships operating in close proximity to one another have increased dramatically. NATO has deployed ground forces to the Baltic states and Poland, putting them in closer proximity to Russian ground forces. U.S. and Russian forces also operate in close proximity in Syria. The risk of accidents and miscalculations that could escalate to a full-fledged armed conflict is growing.

The full statement is available online in English and in Russian.

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Posted: April 17, 2018

Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces Under New START

March 2018

Contact: Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, 202-463-8270 x104

Updated: March 2018

On April 8, 2010, Russia and the United States signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The treaty requires both sides to limit the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550 and fielded delivery platforms to 700. The treaty also permits the United States and Russia to conduct 18 annual on-site inspections of facilities operated by the other country. Biannual data exchanges indicate the current state of their strategic forces.

As of February 2018, Russia had 527 deployed delivery systems and 1,444 deployed strategic nuclear warheads. Russia is in the process of both retiring many of its older strategic systems and replacing them with new systems.

For a factsheet on U.S. nuclear forces, click here.

Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs)

The following tables are based on public source data given that Russia does not release official statistics for specific New START accountable delivery systems.

Missile system

Number of systems

WarheadsTotal warheads

Deployment

R-36M2 (SS-18)

46

10

460

Dombarovsky, Uzhur

UR-100NUTTH (SS-19)

30

0

0

Kozelsk, Tatishchevo

Topol (SS-25)

36

1

36

Yoshkar-Ola, Nizhniy Tagil, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Barnaul, Vypolzovo

Topol-M silo (SS-27)

60

1

60

Tatishchevo

Topol-M mobile (SS-27)

18

1

18

Teykovo

RS-24 mobile

84

4

336

Teykovo

RS-24 silo

12

4

48

Kozelsk

Total

286

 

958

 

All tables are from http://russianforces.org.

Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) and Submarines

Submarines

As of early 2017, the Navy had 12 functional strategic submarines of three different types, 11 of which are functional and one is being overhauled. They are deployed with the Northern Fleet and the Pacific Fleet. Bases of the Northern Fleet host six 667BDRM (Delta IV) submarines. The Delta IVs are undergoing overhaul in which they are being equipped with new missiles. The Pacific Fleet base hosts three 667BDR (Delta III) submarines but these are being withdrawn from service. Project 955 (also known as Borey or Yuri Dolgorukiy) is the newest class of submarines. Construction began in 1996 and the first joined the Northern Fleet in 2013, though subsequent submarines of this class will join the Pacific Fleet. As of January 2016, three Project 955 submarines have been accepted into service. When the missiles on Project 941 (Typhoon) class submarines reached the end of their service lives, these submarines were withdrawn from service. The one exception is the lead ship of the class, TK-208 Dmitry Donskoy, which was refitted for the new missile system, R-30 Bulava, which is designed for deployment on the Borev-class nuclear submarines The Borey class submarines are expected to constitute the core of the Russian strategic submarine fleet, replacing the aging Project 941 and Project 667 boats. Russia is planning to build eight Borey and Borey-A class subs by 2020.

Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles

RIA News reported, in June 2012, that the Bulava sea-based ballistic missile had entered service. The Bulava (SS-NX-30) SLBM, developed by the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology, carries up to 6 MIRV warheads and has a range of over 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles). Borey class strategic submarines will carry up to 16 Bulava ballistic missiles, each with multiple warheads.

Strategic submarines

Number of submarines

Number of SLBMs and their type

Warheads

Total warheads

Project  667BDR (Delta III)

3*

32 R-29R (SS-N-18)

3

96

Project  667BDRM (Delta IV)

6*

96 R-29RM (SS-N-23)

4

384

Project 941 (Typhoon)

1**

- - -

- - - 

- - -

Project 955 (Borey)

3

48 R-30 Bulava

6

288

Total

12

160

 

768

[a] One submarine is undergoing overhaul and those missiles are not counted.
[b] One submarine of the Project 941 type has been refitted as a test bed for the Bulava missile system. It is not counted in the total number of operational submarines.

Strategic bombers

Russian Long-range Aviation Command consists of six divisions, two of which are the heavy-bomber divisions made up of Tu-160 and Tu-95MS aircraft. As of early 2017, the Command is estimated to have 66 strategic bombers. The bombers can carry various modifications of the Kh-55 (AS-15) cruise missile and gravity bombs.

Bomber

Number of bombers

Number of cruise missiles and their type

Total cruise missiles

Tu-95MS (Bear H)

55

Up to 16 Kh-55 (AS-15A)

No estimates available

Tu-160 (Blackjack)

11

12 Kh-55SM (AS-15B)

No estimates available

Total

66

 

~200

 

-Updated by Marissa Papatola

 

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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Posted: March 8, 2018

U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces Under New START

March 2018

Contact:  Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

Updated: March 2018

See Table 1: U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces Under New START (as of September 1, 2017)

    On April 8, 2010, Russia and the United States signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The treaty requires the sides to limit the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550 and fielded delivery platforms to 700. The treaty also permits the United States and Russia to conduct 18 annual on-site inspections of facilities operated by the other country. Biannual data exchanges indicate the current state of their strategic forces. For a factsheet on Russian nuclear forces, click here.

    Both the United States and Russia met these limits by the February 2018 deadline, and the limits will hold until February 2021. The United States declared that it had met its New START limits on Feb. 5 and it released its latest aggregate numbers of strategic offensive arms on Feb. 22. It has not yet released information on its updated force structure on New START, although the Department of Defense released a factsheet in 2014 on how it intended to alter the U.S. nuclear force structure under New START, which is described below.

    Under New START, the United States retains a deployed strategic force of up to 400 ICBMs, 60 nuclear-capable bombers, and 240 SLBMs.

    •  Under the treaty, the United States retains up to 400 deployed Minuteman III ICBMs, all with a single warhead, and an additional 54 non-deployed silo launchers of ICBMs that remain in a warm, operational status.

    •  Some bombers were converted to conventional-only missions (not accountable under New START), and approximately 60 deployed nuclear-capable bombers have been retained. Bombers are not on alert or loaded with weapons in peacetime, and New START counting rules allow each bomber to be counted as “one” deployed warhead, even though bombers can carry up to 16-20 nuclear weapons.

    •  The United States retains all 14 of its strategic nuclear submarines (SSBNs), although it reduced the number of SLBM launch tubes per SSBN from 24 to 20, for a total of 280 tubes across the entire fleet. Between two and four submarines are in dry dock at any given time, for a total of about 200-240 missiles currently deployed. 

    In addition to the treaty limit of 700 deployed systems, the treaty allows for 800 deployed and non-deployed missile launchers, and bombers. The United States retains around 454 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, up to 280 deployed and non-deployed SLBM launchers, and up to 66 deployed and non-deployed heavy bombers.

    The strategic forces that remain under the treaty are currently being upgraded or replaced. Over the 30 years, the administration plans to invest an estimated 1.2 trillion dollars to modernize the nuclear weapons complex and nuclear delivery systems. For more on U.S. nuclear modernization, see U.S. Nuclear Modernization Programs.

    Under New START, both sides release aggregate data on their stockpiles every six months. The table below reflects the most recent detailed data released as of September 1, 2017. The United States affirmed on Feb. 5 that it met New START limits and released updated information on Feb. 22 about its deployed strategic delivery systems, deployed warheads and deployed and non-deployed launchers but it has not yet released updated detailed information about its delivery systems included in the chart below.

     

    Table 1: Deployed U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces Under New START (Updated: Sept. 1, 2017)

    This table shows how the deployed U.S. strategic nuclear stockpile will decline by 2018, when reductions under New START would be completed.

    All figures are from official sources except for shaded warhead numbers, which are best estimates. New START counts each bomber as one warhead, even though bombers can carry many more.

     20172018
     

    Delivery Vehicles

    Est. Warheads

    Delivery Vehicles

    Est. Warheads

    ICBMs

    Minuteman III

    399 
    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)

    N/A

    400

    400

    SLBMs

    Trident II D5

    212
    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)

    N/A

    240

    1,090

    Strategic Bombers

    B-52H

    38
    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)

    49

    41

    60

    B-2A

    11
    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)

    19

    Total Deployed

    660
    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)

    1,393
    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)

    700

    1,550

     

    -Updated by Marissa Papatola

    Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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    Posted: March 8, 2018

    New START at a Glance

    March 2018

    Contact: Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

    Updated: March 2018

    The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) was signed April 8, 2010 in Prague by Russia and the United States and entered into force on Feb. 5, 2011. New START replaced the 1991 START I treaty, which expired December 2009, and superseded the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which terminated when New START entered into force. 

    New START continues the bipartisan process of verifiably reducing U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals begun by former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.  New START is the first verifiable U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control treaty to take effect since START I in 1994.

    Both Russia and the United States announced that they met New START limitations by Feb. 5, 2018. See Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces Under New START and U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces Under New START for more information about current nuclear forces under the treaty.

    New START’s Key Provisions

    New START includes a main treaty text with a preamble and sixteen articles; a protocol with definitions, verification procedures, and agreed statements; and technical annexes to the protocol. 

    Main Treaty Limits (Article II)

    Nuclear warhead limit:  Seven years after entry into force (Feb. 5, 2018), New START limits went into effect that capped accountable deployed strategic nuclear warheads and bombs at 1,550, down approximately 30 percent from the 2,200 limit set by SORT and down 74 percent from the START-accountable limit of 6,000.  Each heavy bomber is counted as one warhead (see below).

    Missile, bomber and launcher limits:  Deployed Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers assigned to nuclear missions are limited to 700. Deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and bombers are limited to 800. This number includes test launchers and bombers and Trident submarines in overhaul, and is approximately a 50 percent reduction from the 1,600 launcher-limit set under START (SORT did not cover launchers).  The 800 ceiling is intended to limit the ability for “break out” of the treaty by preventing either side from retaining large numbers of non-deployed launchers and bombers.

    New START does not limit the number of non-deployed ICBMs and SLBMs, but it does monitor them and provide for continuous information on their locations and on-site inspections to confirm that they are not added to the deployed force.  Non-deployed missiles must be located at specified facilities away from deployment sites and labeled with “unique identifiers” to reduce concerns about hidden missile stocks.  Moreover, the strategic significance of non-deployed missiles is reduced given that non-deployed launchers are limited.  Both sides agreed under the treaty to prohibit systems designed for “rapid reload” of non-deployed missiles (Fifth Agreed Statement).

    Force structure:  Each side has the flexibility to structure its nuclear forces as it wishes, within the overall limits of the treaty.

    Counting Rules (Article III)

    Warheads:  For deployed ICBMs and SLBMs, the number of warheads counted is the actual number of re-entry vehicles (RVs) on each missile (an RV protects the warhead as it re-enters the atmosphere from space; it can carry only one warhead).  START I did not directly count RVs, but instead counted missiles and bombers that were “associated with” a certain number of warheads.  New START counts each heavy bomber as one warhead (although the maximum loading is 16-20), the same counting rule that START I used for bombers carrying short-range weapons.  Neither side typically deploys nuclear bombs or cruise missiles on bombers, but keeps them in storage.  Thus inspections of bombers would find no weapons to inspect.  The parties agreed to arbitrarily count each bomber as one warhead.  Under SORT, Russia did not count stored bomber weapons at all.  New START, like START I, does not track or limit warheads or bombs once they have been removed from deployed launchers.

    Delivery vehicles and launchers:  Each deployed ICBM, SLBM and nuclear-capable bomber is counted as one delivery vehicle against the 700 limit. Each deployed and non-deployed missile launcher or bomber is counted as one launcher against the 800 limit.  Non-deployed missiles are monitored but not limited in number.

    Monitoring and Verification (Article VI, IX, X, XI, Protocol and Annexes)

    New START’s verification regime includes relevant parts of START I as well as new provisions to cover items not previously monitored.  For example, the new treaty contains detailed definitions of items limited by the treaty; provisions on the use of National Technical Means (NTM); an extensive database on the numbers, types and locations of treaty-limited items and notifications about those items; and inspections to confirm this information.  Even so, the verification system has been simplified to make it cheaper and easier to operate than START and to reflect new strategic realities.  New START monitoring has also been designed to reflect updated treaty limitations.

    For example, the old treaty did not directly limit warheads but instead assigned a certain number of warheads to each launcher; a count of the launchers gave an upper limit on the number of warheads that could be deployed, but not necessarily an actual count.  New START includes direct limits on deployed warheads and allows for on-site inspections to give both sides confidence that the limits are being upheld.  Under the new treaty, both sides will exchange lists of the number of warheads deployed on individual missiles.  During “Type One” inspections, each side can choose one ICBM or SLBM to inspect on short notice and count the warheads.  The re-entry vehicles (RVs) can be covered by the host nation to protect sensitive information, but the actual number of RVs must be evident to the inspectors.  These inspections are designed to help deter both sides from deploying a missile with more than its declared number of warheads.

    For missile-generated flight test data, known as telemetry, START I called for telemetry to be openly shared, with limited exceptions, to monitor missile development.  New START does not limit new types of ballistic missiles, and thus the old START formula for extensive telemetry sharing was no longer necessary.  New START requires the broadcast of telemetry and exchange of recordings and other information on up to five missile tests per side per year to promote openness and transparency.

    Under the new treaty, the United States and Russia will continue to depend on NTM to monitor the other’s strategic forces.  To monitor Russian mobile ICBMs, all new missiles are subject to the treaty as soon as they leave a production facility, and each missile and bomber will carry a unique identifier.  Russia must notify the United States 48 hours before a new solid-fueled ICBM or SLBM leaves the Votkinsk production facility and when it arrives at its destination, which will facilitate monitoring by national means, such as satellites.  The treaty does not prohibit the modernization of strategic forces within the overall treaty limits (Article V).

    Verification of treaty limits and conversion or elimination of delivery systems is carried out by NTM and 18 annual short-notice, on-site inspections.  The treaty allows ten on-site inspections of deployed warheads and deployed and non-deployed delivery systems at ICBM bases, submarine bases and air bases (“Type One” inspections).  It also allows eight on-site inspections at facilities that may hold only non-deployed delivery systems (“Type Two” inspections).

    Ballistic Missile Defense (Preamble, Article V, Unilateral Statements)

    Current and planned U.S. missile defense programs are not constrained by New START.  The preamble acknowledges the “interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms” and that “current strategic defensive arms do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the Parties.”

    Article V prohibits both sides from converting launchers for ICBMs and SLBMs into launchers for missile defense interceptors and vice versa.  This provision does not apply to five U.S. ICBM silo launchers at Vandenberg Air Force Base, in California, that were previously converted to missile defense interceptor launchers.  The United States has no plans for any such conversions in the future.

    The missile defense launcher provision is designed to address Russian concerns that the U.S. could “break out” of New START by placing ICBMs in silos that once held missile defense interceptors. In practice, the provision will protect U.S. missile defense interceptors from falling under the treaty inspection regime. “If the parties were permitted to convert missile defense silos to ICBM silos, they would also have been able to visit and inspect those silos to confirm that they did not hold missiles limited by the treaty,”stated a report by the Congressional Research Service. The ban on silo conversions means that silo inspections are unnecessary and not permitted.

    Finally, both sides have made unilateral statements about the relationship between missile defense deployments and the treaty. These statements are not legally binding, and similar statements were issued with previous treaties, including START I.  Under START, the Soviet Union said that U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty would constitute reason for withdrawal.  However, when the United States actually did withdraw from the ABM Treaty in 2002, Russia did not withdraw from START and, in fact, went on to negotiate SORT.

    Conventional Warheads (Preamble, Protocol and Annexes)

    New START does not prohibit either side from deploying conventional warheads on long-range ballistic missiles.  Such deployments would be counted under the warhead and missile limitations of the treaty.  The preamble states that both sides are “mindful of the impact of conventionally armed ICBMs and SLBMs on strategic stability.”  The State Department stated in a report that “there is no military utility in carrying nuclear-armed and conventionally-armed reentry vehicles on the same ICBM or SLBM.”

    Trident submarines converted to carry conventional cruise missiles would not be counted under the treaty, nor would formerly nuclear-capable bombers that have been fully converted to conventional missions, such as the B-1B.

    Duration and Withdrawal (Article XIV)

    The treaty’s duration is ten years from entry into force (Feb. 2021) unless it is superseded by a subsequent agreement and can be extended for an additional five years.  As in START I, each party can withdraw if it decides for itself that “extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests.”  The treaty would terminate three months from a notice of withdrawal. 

    Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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    Posted: March 7, 2018

    U.S., Russia Meet New START Limits

    U.S., Russia Meet New START Limits


    The United States and Russia met their obligations under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) by the February 2018 deadline. The treaty required each country, using agreed counting rules, to reduce its strategic nuclear stockpiles to no more than 1,550 deployed warheads and bombs, along with 700 deployed and 800 total delivery vehicles by Feb. 5, 2018.

    The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Feb. 5 that the country had 1,444 warheads, with 527 deployed and 779 total delivery vehicles. In a State Department press release Feb. 22, the United States said it had 1,350 warheads, with 652 deployed and 800 total delivery vehicles. Since the treaty entered into force in 2011, the countries have exchanged more than 14,700 notifications related to the location, movement, and disposition of nuclear weapons and conducted 252 on-site weapons inspections.

    In its press release, however, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed dissatisfaction with the U.S. commitment to New START, stating that the United States had reconfigured several Trident II submarine ballistic missile launchers and B-52H bombers in such a way that it “could not confirm that these strategic arms have been rendered incapable of employing nuclear armaments” in accordance with treaty procedures. Russia also accused the United States of “arbitrarily” converting some underground missile launch facilities into indistinguishable “training launch facilities.”

    New START expires Feb. 5, 2021, but may be extended until 2026 under the treaty terms. Its future is murky, given President Donald Trump’s denunciation of the agreement as “one sided.” (See ACT, March 2017.) Russia’s interest in an extension may be waning, with an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin expressing skepticism about negotiating in light of tense relations.—RYAN FEDASIUK

    Posted: March 1, 2018

    Arms Control Association Hails New START Milestone, Calls for Extending Treaty

    Sections:

    Description: 

    New START implementation has improved strategic stability, predictability, and transparency, and verifiably trimmed still oversized nuclear arsenals. The next step is to extend the treaty for five years to avert the possibility of unconstrained strategic nuclear competition between the world’s two largest nuclear actors.

    Body: 


    For Immediate Release: February 5, 2018

    Media Contacts: Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

    (Washington, D.C.)—Today, the United States and Russia each announced that they have met their obligations under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) to reduce their deployed strategic nuclear forces by today’s implementation deadline.

    President Barack Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia sign the New START Treaty during a ceremony at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, April 8, 2010. (Photo: White House / Chuck Kennedy / Wikimedia Commons)“New START implementation is a significant accomplishment. Through this treaty, the two sides have improved strategic stability, predictability, and transparency, and verifiably trimmed their still oversized nuclear arsenals,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, which advocated for the treaty’s negotiation a decade ago and for its ratification in 2010.

    “The next step is for Presidents Trump and Putin to agree to extend the treaty for another five years–to 2026–to avert the possibility of unconstrained strategic nuclear competition between the world’s two largest nuclear actors,” Kimball said.

    “At a time when U.S.-Russian relations remain strained, New START serves an even more important role in reducing nuclear risks,” said Tom Countryman, chairman of the board of directors and former acting Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

    “Continued implementation and compliance with New START, followed by an extension of New START and, if possible, the negotiation of a follow-on agreement, would advance U.S., Russian and international security,” he said.

    Signed in 2010, New START requires each country to reduce its strategic nuclear forces to no more than 1,550 deployed warheads, 700 deployed delivery systems, and 800 deployed and nondeployed delivery systems by today’s implementation deadline. New START also includes a comprehensive suite of data exchanges and on-site monitoring and verification provisions to help ensure compliance with these limits.

    The United States reached the required limits in August 2017. As of the last data exchange in September 2017, the United States had 1393 deployed strategic warheads, 660 deployed strategic delivery systems, and 800 deployed and nondeployed launchers of ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers.”

    In a statement published Monday, the State Department said that Washington and Moscow “will exchange data on their respective strategic nuclear arsenals within the next month, as they have done twice per year over the last seven years in accordance with the Treaty.”

    In a separate statement issued by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russia announced that as of Monday it deploys 1,444 deployed strategic warheads, 527 deployed strategic delivery systems, and 779 deployed and nondeployed launchers of ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers.

    The treaty is one of the few remaining bright spots in the U.S.-Russian relationship, as both sides have abided by its terms. The U.S. military agrees and continues to strongly support the agreement. Gen. John Hyten, who leads U.S. Strategic Command, told Congress in March that he is a “big supporter” of New START. Hyten added that “bilateral, verifiable arms control agreements are essential to our ability to provide an effective deterrent.”

    New START is set to expire Feb. 5, 2021, and can be extended by up to five years without further approval by the U.S. Senate or Russian Duma if both presidents agree. Russian officials have stated that they are open to discussing a five-year extension. The administration’s Nuclear Posture Review released last week does not take a position on the extension of the treaty.

    “Unfortunately, President Trump has been dismissive of New START,” noted Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy.

    In a January 2017 phone call, Trump responded negatively to a suggestion from Russian President Vladimir Putin that the two countries work to extend the treaty, according to a Reuters report.

    “Failing to extend New START would be an unforced and self-defeating error,” Reif warned.

    “If the New START is allowed to lapse with nothing to replace it, there would be no limits on U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces for the first time since 1972. The United States would have fewer tools with which to verify the size and composition of the Russian nuclear stockpile,” he said.

    The deterioration of the U.S.-Russian relationship has only increased the value of New START. Other key pillars of the U.S.-Russia arms control architecture, like the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, are in jeopardy. Since 2014, the United States has accused Russia of testing a type of ground-launch cruise missile prohibited by that accord–a charge that Moscow denies. Bilateral discussions on the matter have not yet resolved the dispute.

    Despite the benefits of New START to U.S. security, some Congressional critics of the treaty have tried to block its extension. The House-passed version of the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act would have prohibited the use of funds to extend New START unless Russia returns to compliance with the INF Treaty.

    “This is senseless and counterproductive. By ‘punishing’ Russia’s INF violation in this way, the United States would simply free Russia to expand the number of strategic nuclear weapons pointed at the United States after New START expires in 2021,” Reif says. “Fortunately, the final version of the authorization bill signed by Trump in December did not include the House language,” he added.

    “Extending New START would be an easy win for President Trump,” Kimball said. “It would buy five additional years of much-needed stability, predictability, and transparency. It would help head off unconstrained U.S.-Russia nuclear competition. It would help reassure allies unsettled by both Trump and Putin loose rhetoric on nuclear weapons. And it could serve as a springboard for both sides to pursue further parallel, reciprocal reductions in their still bloated strategic nuclear arsenals, which stand at about 1,550 warheads each.”

    The five most recent U.S. presidents, including Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan, all successfully negotiated agreements with Russia to reduce their nuclear stockpiles.

    “As the possessors of over 90 percent of the roughly 15,000 nuclear weapons on the planet, the United States and Russia have a special responsibility to avoid direct conflict and reduce nuclear risks,” Countryman said. “The downward spiral in relations makes these objectives even more urgent. Extending New START—without either side asking for preconditions—would be an important down payment on a safer and more secure world.”

    Subject Resources:

    Country Resources:

    Posted: February 5, 2018

    Nuclear Restraint Agreements Under Serious Threat

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    Description: 

    Instead of rushing to hasten their demise, Congress must seek to preserve and strengthen these four key pillars of arms control and nonproliferation.

    Body: 

    Volume 9, Issue 7, September 5, 2017

    Since the dawn of the nuclear age over 70 years ago, rarely has the world faced as difficult an array of nuclear weapons-related security challenges as it is facing now. Unfortunately, Congress will soon enact legislation that could further imperil the global nuclear order.
     
    The Senate is scheduled to take up the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 National Authorization Act as early as this week. The House approved its version of the NDAA July 14 by a vote of 344-81. Both bills contain several problematic provisions that if enacted into law would deal a major, if not mortal, blow to several longstanding, bipartisan arms control and nonproliferation efforts and increase the risks of renewed nuclear arms competition with Russia.

    U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in the East Room of the White House on December 8, 1987. (Photo credit: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)Tensions between the U.S. and Russia have worsened over the past few years, thanks to Moscow’s election interference, annexation of Crimea, continued destabilization of Ukraine, alleged violation of the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and support for the Assad regime in Syria. Nevertheless, the two countries continue to share common interests. In particular, as the possessors of over 90 percent of the roughly 15,000 nuclear weapons on the planet, they have a special responsibility to avoid direct conflict and reduce nuclear risks. The downward spiral in relations makes these objectives all the more urgent.
     
    While some meaningful cooperation continues, such as adherence to the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, there is no ongoing dialogue on further nuclear risk reduction steps.
     
    Instead of rushing to hasten their demise, Congress must seek to preserve and strengthen the existing architecture of arms control and nonproliferation agreements, key pillars of which have their origin in the vision of President Ronald Reagan. These agreements constrain Russia’s nuclear forces, provide for stability, predictability, and transparency in the bilateral relationship, and have only increased in value as the U.S.-Russia relationship has deteriorated.
     
    Below is a summary of the current status and arguments in support of four key agreements put at risk by the Senate and/or House NDAAs. 
     


    The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START)
     
    Background: The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) requires that the United States and Russia each reduce their deployed strategic nuclear forces to no more than 1,550 warheads and 700 delivery systems by 2018. The agreement, which is slated to expire in 2021, can be extended by up to five years if both Moscow and Washington agree.
     
    Current Status: So far both sides are implementing the agreement and there are no indications that they do not plan to continue to do so. Russia has indicated that it is interested in beginning talks with the United States on extending the treaty, but the Trump administration has yet to respond to these overtures. In January phone call with President Putin, President Trump reportedly dismissed the idea of an extension and called the treaty a “bad deal.” The House-passed version of the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would prohibit the use of funds to extend the New START treaty unless Russia returns to compliance with the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

    At-a-Glance Factsheet: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/NewSTART

    Key Points:

    • New START caps the size of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and provides the United States with additional tools to monitor Russia’s forces. The treaty includes a comprehensive suite of monitoring and verification provisions that help ensure compliance with treaty limits and enable the United States to verify the size and composition of the Russian nuclear stockpile, which aids U.S. military planning.
    • The deterioration of the U.S.-Russian relationship has only increased the value of New START. The treaty provides for bilateral stability, predictability, and transparency, thereby bounding the current tensions between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.
    • The U.S. military and U.S. allies continue to strongly support New START. For example, in March 2017, Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), “I am big supporter of the New START Agreement.” Hyten added that “bilateral, verifiable arms control agreements are essential to our ability to provide an effective deterrent.”
    • Connecting New START extension with INF treaty compliance is senseless and counterproductive. By “punishing” Russia’s INF violation in this way, the United States would simply free Russia to expand the number of strategic nuclear weapons pointed at the United States after New START expires in 2021. If the treaty is allowed to lapse, there will be no limits on Russia’s strategic nuclear forces for the first time since the early-1970s. Moreover, the United States would have fewer tools with which to verify the size and composition of the Russian nuclear stockpile.

    The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty
     
    Background: The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty required the United States and Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500-5,500 kilometers. Russia and the United States destroyed a total of 2,692 short/medium/intermediate-range missiles by the 1991 deadline.
     
    Current Status: The United States has accused Russia of testing and deploying ground-launched cruise missiles in violation of the treaty. Moscow denies it is violating the agreement, and instead has accused Washington of breaching the accord. Both the House-passed and Senate Armed Services Committee versions of the FY 2018 NDAA would authorize programs of record and provide funding for research and development on a new U.S. road-mobile GLCM with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The House bill also includes a provision stating that if the president determines that Russia remains in violation of the treaty 15 months after enactment of the legislation, the prohibitions set forth in the treaty will no longer be binding on the United States. A similar provision could be offered as an amendment to the Senate bill.

    At-a-Glance Factsheet: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/INFtreaty
     
    Key Points:

    • The United States and Russia need to work to preserve the INF Treaty. This should include using the Special Verification Commission, the treaty’s dispute resolution mechanism, to address mutual concerns. The Trump administration should make it clear to Moscow that so long as Russia remains in violation of the treaty, the United States will pursue steps to reaffirm and buttress its commitment to the defense of those allies threatened by the treaty-noncompliant missiles.
    • Development of a new GLCM sets the stage for Washington to violate the agreement and would take the focus off Russia's violation. Russia could respond by publicly repudiating the treaty and deploying large numbers of noncompliant missiles without any constraints.
    • Development of a new GLCM is militarily unnecessary and Pentagon has not asked for one. The United States can legally deploy air- and sea-launched systems that can threaten the same Russian targets. There is no reason to believe that development of a new GLCM will convince Russia to return to compliance. A new GLCM would also take years to develop and suck funding from other military programs for which there are already requirements. The administration's statement of policy on the House NDAA objected to the INF provision on requiring a new GLCM.
    • NATO does not support a new GLCM and attempting to force it upon the alliance would be incredibly divisive. It is thus a weapon to nowhere. A divided NATO would also be a gift to Russia.
    • Mandating that the United States in effect withdraw from the INF treaty if Russia does not return to compliance by the end of next year raises constitutional concerns. If Congress can say the United States is not bound by its obligations under the INF Treaty, what is to stop it from doing the same regarding other treaties?

    The 1990 Treaty on Open Skies
     
    Background: The Treaty on Open Skies, which entered into force in 2002 and has 34 states parties, aims to increase confidence in and transparency on the military activities of states, particularly in Europe, by allowing unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants for information gathering purposes. The parties have equal yearly quotas of overflights and must make the information they acquire available to all Treaty parties.
     
    Current Status: The United States has raised numerous concerns about Russia’s compliance with the treaty. Republican lawmakers have voiced concern that Russian flights under the treaty, which now employ more advanced sensors and cameras as allowed by the treaty, amount to spy missions. The House-passed version of the FY 2018 NDAA would annually bar, for each of the next five years, any U.S. Open Skies Treaty skies flights until Pentagon and intelligence community submit a plan for all of the treaty flights in the coming year. The bill would also bar DOD from acquiring a more effective, more timely, more reliable digital imaging system for conducting flights over Russian territory.

    At-a-Glance Factsheet: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/openskies

    Key Points:

    • The Open Skies Treaty provides a significant contribution to the security and stability of North America and Europe. According to Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Nuclear and Strategic Policy Anita E. Friedt, almost a dozen U.S. and NATO member flights over Ukraine and Western Russia in 2014 during the Ukraine crisis “resulted in valuable data and insights.” The treaty mandates information-sharing about military forces that increases transparency among members, thereby contributing to stability and improving each participating state’s national security.
    • U.S. allies continue to value and rely on the Open Skies Treaty for imagery collection. The United States and its allies typically carry out many more overflights than Russia. These flights strengthen ties between the United States and its allies and reassure non-NATO members on Russia’s periphery.
    • Russia would gain a unilateral advantage as a result of restricting funding for upgrading aircraft used by the United States for treaty observation flights. This would stymie U.S. efforts to match Russian sensor upgrades, thereby limiting the value of the Open Skies treaty to U.S. national security.
    • The Russian sensors and cameras in question do not pose a threat to U.S. security. According to Vice Admiral Terry Benedict, director of Navy Strategic Systems Programs, all states party to the Open Skies treaty are permitted to certify new sensors and aircraft. Furthermore, he said, “the resolution of Open Skies imagery is similar to that available in commercial satellite imagery.” He added that Russian information compiled as a result of Open Skies flights is “of only incremental value” among Russia’s many means of intelligence gathering. 

    The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO)
     
    Background: The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) is the the intergovernmental organization that promotes the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which has yet to enter force, and maintains the global International Monitoring System (IMS) to deter and detect nuclear test explosions.
     
    Current Status: The United States currently contributes nearly a quarter of the annual CTBTO budget. In April 2017, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson joined with other Foreign Ministers at the G-7 foreign minister summit in a statement expressing support for the CTBTO. The Trump administration’s FY 2018 budget request would fund the U.S. contribution to the CTBTO at roughly the same level as the Obama administration. The House-passed version of the FY 2018 NDAA would prohibit funding for the CTBTO and calls on Congress to declare that the September 2016 UN Security Council Resolution 2310 does not “obligate…nor does it impose an obligation on the United States to refrain from actions that would run counter to the object and purpose” of the CTBT.

    At-a-Glance Factsheet: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/test-ban-treaty-at-a-glance

    Key Points:

    • The CTBTO and IMS support and provide detection capabilities that supplement U.S. national intelligence capabilities to detect nuclear testing. Reducing U.S. funding for the CTBTO would  adversely impact the organization’s ability to operate and maintain existing nuclear test monitoring stations. This is due to the fact that a wide range of organization’s personnel and assets directly or indirectly support the IMS.
    • The CTBTO is a neutral source of information that can help to mobilize international action against any state that violates the global norm against nuclear testing. U.S. action to restrict funding could prompt other states to reduce their own funding for the CTBTO or lead states to withhold data from CTBTO monitoring stations that are based in their territory, thus undermining the capabilities of the system to detect and deter clandestine nuclear testing. Contrary to what the Cotton-Wilson bill implies,
    • Resolution 2310 (which was endorsed by 42 states, including Israel) does not impose any new obligations on the United States. Rather, it encourages states to “provide the support required” to the CTBTO and the IMS, and urges states to refrain from nuclear testing and urges those states that have not ratified to do so. It also takes note of a Sept. 15 joint statement by the five permanent Security Council members that formally “recognized” that a nuclear explosion would “defeat the object and purpose of the CTBT.” 
    • Asserting that the United States is not required to respect our obligations as a CTBT signatory would signal to other states that that the United States may be seeking to back out of its commitment to a global and verifiable nuclear test ban and is considering the resumption of nuclear testing. With North Korea having conducted a sixth nuclear test explosion, it is essential that the United States reinforce, not undermine, the CTBTO and the global nuclear testing taboo. 

    —KINGSTON REIF, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy

    Country Resources:

    Posted: September 5, 2017

    Moscow is ready to discuss New START, but where is Washington?

    In a July 18 interview with Kommersant , Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov reiterated Russia’s offer to begin talks with the United States on extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) . Ryabkov’s comments echoed previous statements he and other Russian officials—including President Vladimir Putin—have made in support of starting talks on an extension. The option of extending New START had been broached by the Obama administration in late-2016, but Russia was noncommittal at the time. In a January phone call with President Donald Trump, Putin reportedly...

    Congress Puts Bipartisan Arms Control Policies at Risk

    Sections:

    Description: 

    The House and Senate Armed Services Committee are currently considering defense authorization legislation that if passed into law would deal a major, if not mortal, blow to longstanding, bipartisan arms control efforts.

    Body: 

    Volume 9, Issue 5, July 17, 2017

    The future of U.S. nuclear weapons and missile defense policy is at a crossroads. The Trump administration is conducting comprehensive reviews—scheduled to be completed by the end of the year—that could result in significant changes to U.S. policy to reducing nuclear weapons risks.

    As the possessors of over 90 percent of the world's roughly 15,000 nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia have a special responsibility to avoid direct conflict and reduce nuclear risks. Yet, the U.S.-Russia relationship is under significant strain, due to to Moscow’s election interference, annexation of Crimea, continued destabilization of Ukraine, and support for the brutal Assad regime in Syria. These tensions have also put put immense pressure on the arms control relationship.

    It is against this backdrop that the House and Senate Armed Services Committee versions of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) include provisions that if passed into law would deal a major, if not mortal, blow to longstanding, bipartisan arms control efforts.

    The House approved its version of the NDAA July 14 by a vote of 344-81 and the Senate could take up its bill later this month. 

    The problematic arms control provisions in the bills would undermine U.S. security by eroding stability between the world's two largest nuclear powers, increasing the risks of nuclear competition, and further alienating allies already unsettled by President Donald Trump’s commitment to their security. In fact, some are so radical that they have even drawn opposition from the White House and Defense Department.

    The bills also fail to provide effective oversight of the rising costs of the government’s more than $1 trillion-plan to sustain and upgrade U.S. nuclear forces and propose investments in expanding U.S. missile defenses that make neither strategic, technical, or fiscal sense.

    Sowing the Seeds of the INF Treaty’s Destruction

    The United States has accused Russia of testing and deploying ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The treaty, which remains in force, required the United States and the then-Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

    Both the House and Senate versions of the NDAA authorize programs of record and provide funding for research and development on a new U.S. road-mobile GLCM with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The House bill requires development of a conventional missile whereas the Senate bill would authorize a dual-capable (i.e., nuclear) missile.

    The House bill also includes a provision stating that if the president determines that Russia remains in violation of the treaty 15 months after enactment of the legislation, the prohibitions set forth in the treaty will no longer be binding on the United States. A similar provision could be offered as an amendment to the Senate bill.

    These provisions are drawn from legislation introduced in February by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in the Senate and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) in the House to “provide for compliance enforcement regarding Russian violations” of the INF Treaty.

    Development of a new treaty-prohibited GLCM is militarily unnecessary, would suck funding from other military programs for which there are already requirements, divide NATO, and give Russia an easy excuse to publicly repudiate the treaty and deploy large numbers of noncompliant missiles without any constraints.

    The report accompanying the Senate bill notes that the Senate “does not intend for the United States to enter into violation of the INF Treaty.” (The treaty does not ban research and development of treaty-prohibited capabilities.) But this claim is belied by the report’s statement that development of a GLCM is needed to “close the capability gap opened” by Russia. Moreover, supporters of a new GLCM also argue it is needed to counter China, which is not a party to the treaty.

    Before rushing to develop a new weapon that the Pentagon has yet to ask for and NATO is unlikely to support, the administration and Congress must at the very least address concerns about the suitability and cost-effectiveness of a new GLCM. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) offered an amendment to the bill on the House floor that would have done just that, but it was defeated by a vote of 173-249.

    Meanwhile, mandating that the United States in effect withdraw from the treaty if Russia does not return to compliance by the end of next year raises constitutional concerns. If Congress can say the United States is not bound by its obligations under the INF Treaty, what is to stop it from doing the same regarding other treaties?

    The administration's statement of policy on the House NDAA objected to the House INF provision on requiring a new GLCM, stating "[t]his provision unhelpfully ties the Administration to a specific missile system, which would limit potential military response options.” The statement also noted that bill would “raise concerns among NATO allies and could deprive the Administration of the flexibility to make judgments about the timing and nature of invoking our legal remedies under the treaty.”

    Instead of responding to Russia’s violation by taking steps that could leave the United States holding the bag for the INF treaty’s demise, Congress should emphasize the importance of preserving the treaty and encourage both sides to more energetically pursue a diplomatic resolution to the compliance controversy. Lawmakers should also encourage the Trump administration to pursue firm but measured steps to ensure Russia does not gain a military advantage by violating the treaty and reaffirm its commitment to the defense of those allies that would be the potential targets of Russia’s noncompliant missile.

    Cutting Off Our Nose to Spite Our Face on New START

    One of the few remaining bright spots in the U.S.-Russia relationship is 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Signed in 2010, the treaty requires each side to reduce its deployed strategic nuclear forces to no more than 1,550 warheads and 700 delivery systems by 2018. It also includes a comprehensive suite of monitoring and verification provisions that help ensure compliance with these limits.

    The agreement, which is slated to expire Feb. 5, 2021, can be extended by up to five years if both Moscow and Washington agree.  The House bill includes a provision that would prohibit the use of funds to extend New START until Russia returns to compliance with the INF treaty. This is senseless and counterproductive. By “punishing” Russia’s INF violation in this way, the United States would simply free Russia to expand the number of strategic nuclear weapons pointed at the United States after New START expires in 2021.

    If the treaty is allowed to lapse, there will be no limits on Russia’s strategic nuclear forces for the first time since the early-1970s. Moreover, the United States would have fewer tools with which to verify the size and composition of the Russian nuclear stockpile.

    For these reasons and more, the U.S. military and U.S. allies continue to strongly support New START.

    Undermining the Norm Against Nuclear Testing

    A small but influential group of Republican lawmakers are seeking to cut U.S. funding for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) and undermine international support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the global nuclear test moratorium.

    Sen. Cotton and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) introduced legislation on Feb.7 to “restrict” funding for the CTBTO and undermine the U.S. obligation – as a signatory to the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty – not to conduct nuclear test explosions.

    Rep. Wilson successfully offered the bill as an amendment to the House NDAA and Sen. Cotton could seek to do the same on the Senate bill.

    With North Korea threatening to conduct a sixth nuclear test explosion, it is essential that the United States reinforce, not weaken, the global nuclear testing taboo

    More information on the problematic provision in the House bill is detailed in a recent issue brief on CTBTO funding.

    Nuclear Weapons Spending Run Amok

    The Trump administration’s first Congressional budget request pushes full steam ahead with the Obama administration’s excessive, all-of-the-above approach to upgrading the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Both the House and Senate bills authorize the requested level of funding for these programs, and even increase funding for some programs beyond what the Trump administration requested.

    As the projected costs for programs designed to replace and upgrade the nuclear arsenal continue to rise, Congress must demand greater transparency about long-term costs, strengthen oversight over high-risk programs, and consider options to delay, curtail, or cancel programs to save taxpayer dollars while meeting deterrence requirements.

    A February 2017 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report estimates that the United States will spend $400 billion (in then-year dollars) on nuclear weapons between fiscal years 2017 and 2026. The new projection is an increase of $52 billion, or 15 percent, over the CBO’s most recent previous estimate of the 10-year cost of nuclear forces, which was published in January 2015 and put the total cost at $348 billion.

    In fact, the CBO’s latest projection suggest that the cost of nuclear forces could greatly exceed $1 trillion over the next 30 years.

    What makes the growing cost to sustain the nuclear mission so worrisome for military planners is that costs are scheduled to peak during the mid-2020s and overlap with large increases in projected spending on conventional weapon system modernization programs. Numerous Pentagon officials and outside experts have warned about the affordability problem posed by the current approach and that it cannot be sustained without significant and sustained increases to defense spending or cuts to other military priorities.

    Unfortunately, the House rejected two Democratic floor amendments that would have shed greater light on the multidecade costs of U.S. nuclear forces. One amendment would have required CBO to extend the timeframe of its biennial report on the cost of nuclear weapons from 10 years to 30 years. Another would have required extending the timeframe of a Congressionally mandated report submitted annually by Defense Department and National Nuclear Security Administration from 10 years to 25 years.

    In addition, the House defeated by a vote of 169-254 an amendment offered by Rep. Blumenauer that would have restricted funding for the program to develop a new fleet of nuclear air-launched cruise missiles at the FY 2017 enacted level until the administration completes its Nuclear Posture Review and a detailed assessment of the need for the program.

    Though the administration requested a major increase for the new missile and associated warhead refurbishment program in FY 2018, Defense Secretary James Mattis has repeatedly stated that he is still evaluating the need for the weapon.

    The House Rules Committee also prevented debate on a floor amendment that would have required the Pentagon to release the value of the contract awarded to Northrop Grumman Corp. in October 2015. The department has refused to release the contract value citing classification concerns.

    Tripling-Down on Missile Defense Despite Technical Flaws

    Both the House and Senate bills authorize significant increases in funding for U.S. ballistic missile defense programs. The House bill authorizes an increase of $2.5 billion above the administration’s FY 2018 budget request of $7.9 billion for the Missile Defense Agency. The Senate bill authorizes a $630 million increase.

    The bills also include provisions that would authorize a significant expansion of the ground-based midcourse (GMD) defense system in Alaska and California, which is designed to protect against limited long-range ballistic missile attacks from North Korea or Iran, and accelerate advanced technology programs to increase the capability of U.S. missile defenses. The GMD system has suffered from numerous reliability problems and has a success rate of just over 50 percent in controlled and scripted flight intercept tests.

    In addition, the House bill includes a provision that would require the Pentagon to submit a plan for the development of a space-based missile defense interceptors and authorize $30 million for a space test bed to conduct research and development on such interceptors. The House bill would also require the Pentagon, pursuant to improving the defense of Hawaii, to conduct an intercept test of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missile against an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) target. The interceptor, which is still under development, is designed to defend against medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles and the department has no public plans to test it versus an ICBM.

    Rushing to deploy more unreliable GMD interceptors or building additional long-range interceptor sites is not a winning strategy to stay ahead of the North Korean ICBM threat. Quantity is not a substitute for quality.

    Any consideration of building and deploying additional homeland interceptors or interceptor sites should wait until a new ground-based midcourse defense kill vehicle under development is successfully tested under operationally realistic conditions (including against ICBM targets and realistic countermeasures). The first test of the new kill vehicle under these conditions is not scheduled until 2020 and deployment is not scheduled until 2022.

    In addition, future testing and deployment of new capabilities should not be schedule-driven, but based on the maturity of the technology and successful testing under operationally realistic conditions. Accelerating development programs risks saddling them with cost overruns, schedule delays, and test failures, as has been the case with previous missile-defense programs.

    Despite numerous nonpartisan studies that have been conducted during both Republican and Democratic administrations which concluded that a spaced-based missile defense is unfeasible and unaffordable, a small faction of missile defense supporters continues to push the idea. Most recently, a 2012 report from the National Academy of Sciences declared that even a limited space system geared to longer-burning liquid fueled threats would cost about $200 billion to acquire and have a $300 billion 20-year life cycle cost (in FY 2010 dollars), which would be at least 10 times any other defense approach. 

    While missile defense has a role to play as part of a comprehensive strategy to combat the North Korean missile threat, it’s neither as capable nor as significant as many seem to hope. More realism is needed about the limitations of defenses and the longstanding obstacles that have prevented them from working as intended.

    The potential blowback of an expansion of U.S. missile defense capabilities from Russia and China must also be considered. Missile defense does not provide an escape route from the vulnerability of our allies, deployed forces, and citizens in the region to North Korea’s nuclear and conventional missiles.—KINGSTON REIF, director for disarmament policy

    Posted: July 17, 2017

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