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"In my home there are few publications that we actually get hard copies of, but [Arms Control Today] is one and it's the only one my husband and I fight over who gets to read it first."

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
Tom Z. Collina

U.S. Nuclear Review Shifts Threat Focus

Tom Z. Collina

Flagging nuclear terrorism and proliferation as the top U.S. national security priorities for the first time, the White House released its long-awaited Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) April 6. The congressionally mandated report provides a comprehensive description of U.S. nuclear weapons policy and strategy for the next five to 10 years. The 2010 NPR is the third post-Cold War review—the others were in 1994 and 2001—and is the first to be published in an unclassified form.

President Barack Obama, who reportedly played a major role in crafting the final language of the report, said in an April 6 statement that the NPR “recognizes that the greatest threat to U.S. and global security is no longer a nuclear exchange between nations, but nuclear terrorism by violent extremists and nuclear proliferation to an increasing number of states.”

In language similar to that of the 2001 NPR, the new one states that “Russia and the United States are no longer adversaries” and that prospects for military confrontation have declined dramatically.

The review indicates that global security can be “increasingly defended” by the United States’ “unsurpassed conventional military capabilities and strong missile defenses,” Obama said. The NPR’s reduced emphasis on large-scale nuclear forces as a guarantor of U.S. security allows the United States to take “specific and concrete steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons,” Obama said.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and other senior officials said in briefings that, in response to the risks posed by nuclear proliferation and terrorism, the 2010 NPR emphasizes the central importance of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), initiatives to strengthen and update the treaty, and programs designed to better secure vulnerable nuclear materials.

Updated Assurances

Administration officials highlighted the shift in U.S. nuclear weapons negative security assurances described in the NPR, which states that the United States “will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.” This covers the vast majority of states in the world today.

This policy updates earlier versions of U.S. negative security assurances first enunciated in 1978 and reaffirmed in 1995, which had left open the option to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states that are “in association or alliance with” a nuclear-weapon state—generally understood to be a reference to the Warsaw Pact allies of the Soviet Union.

In his April 6 statement, Obama said the United States was updating its negative security assurance policy to emphasize “the importance of nations meeting their NPT and nuclear non-proliferation obligations.”

In an April 14 article, CQ Today Online News quoted several Republicans questioning the new policy. According to the article, Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), chairman of the Republican Conference, said, “I prefer the ambiguity of our [previous] nuclear policy,” under which the United States would not specifically rule out the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states in any scenario, including the use of chemical or biological weapons.

However, Gates said at the April 6 Pentagon press conference that “[i]f any state eligible for this assurance were to use chemical or biological weapons against the United States or its allies or partners, it would face the prospect of a devastating conventional military response.” The NPR notes that the United States also reserves the right to adjust its policy if the threat from biological weapons grows.

For recognized nuclear powers, such as Russia and China, and states not compliant with the NPT and other nonproliferation obligations, such as Iran, North Korea, and perhaps Syria, the new NPR makes clear that the United States will reserve the right to use nuclear weapons first or in response to an attack even if that attack does not involve nuclear weapons. The NPR notes, however, that the United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in “extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners.” As Gates put it in his April 6 remarks, nuclear weapons are “obviously a weapon of last resort.”

For these states, the NPR foresees “a narrow range of contingencies” in which the United States might still use nuclear weapons to deter an attack with conventional, chemical, or biological weapons.

In contrast, the 2001 NPR reportedly said that nuclear weapons “provide credible military options to deter a wide range of threats, including WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and large-scale conventional military force.”

Although the new NPR states that the “fundamental role” of U.S. nuclear weapons is to “deter nuclear attack on the United States, our allies, and partners,” other roles remain. This falls short of the policy declaration that some experts were advocating, that the “sole purpose” of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack. The NPR says that the United States will continue to strengthen its conventional capabilities “with the objective of making deterrence of nuclear attack on the United States or its allies and partners the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons.”

Obama and other administration officials highlighted another shift in policy spelled out in the 2010 NPR. Obama said the United States is “fulfilling our responsibilities as a nuclear power committed to the NPT” by not conducting nuclear testing and by seeking ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

No New Nuclear Weapons

Obama said “the United States will not develop new nuclear warheads or pursue new military missions or new capabilities for nuclear weapons.” Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright stated in an April 6 press briefing at the Pentagon, “[N]o new testing, no new warheads…no new missions or capabilities.”

The “no new nuclear weapons” policy in the 2010 NPR is a significant change from the 2001 NPR, which emphasized the need for new types of “[nuclear] warheads that reduce collateral damage” as well as “possible modifications to existing weapons to provide additional yield flexibility.” The earlier review specifically cited the need to improve “earth-penetrating weapons,” designed to threaten hardened and deeply buried targets, such as command and control and weapons storage bunkers. (See ACT, April 2002.)

One of the central questions going into the Obama NPR was how far down the road to new nuclear warheads the Obama administration would go to maintain the nuclear stockpile and how the administration would define “new” in this context. (See ACT, April 2010.) The NPR says that the United States will extend the life of warheads currently in the nuclear arsenal as an alternative to the development of new nuclear warheads, “which we reject.” The NPR lays out several principles that will guide this effort. For example, Life Extension Programs (LEPs) for U.S. weapons “will use only nuclear components based on previously tested designs and will not support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities.”

In the document, the administration pledges that, “[i]n any decision to proceed to engineering development for warhead LEPs, the Administration will give strong preference to options for refurbishment or reuse. Replacement of nuclear components would be undertaken only if critical Stockpile Management Program goals could not otherwise be met, and if specifically authorized by the President and approved by Congress.”

These principles suggest that the door to new warheads is well guarded but not completely closed. Senior White House Coordinator for WMD Counterterrorism and Arms Control Gary Samore told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace April 21 that a new nuclear weapon is one “based on a design that’s not previously tested,” referring to the “physics package,” or the nuclear components. Using the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program canceled by Congress as an example, Samore said that “some of the RRW warheads were based on designs that were not previously tested, that would be a new nuclear weapon.”

“Replacement,” Samore said, “would be to make a weapon with a physics package that had been previously tested but is not currently deployed.…I think refurbishment and reuse will be perfectly fine for the foreseeable future. But if I’m wrong and replacement becomes necessary, the president has the option to do that.”

Cartwright, in his April 6 comments, said, “I think we have more than enough capacity and capability for any threat that we see today or might emerge in the foreseeable future.”

The NPR sets the stage for additional reductions in U.S. nuclear forces beyond the force levels outlined in the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), but it does not specify how much further the United States will reduce its nuclear stockpile. According to the NPR, the U.S. nuclear triad of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and nuclear-capable heavy bombers will be maintained under New START, although the ICBMs eventually will carry only one warhead each. Trident submarines will likely be reduced from 14 to 12, and the bomber force will likely be cut, according to the NPR. The only specific system that the NPR says will be retired is the nuclear-tipped, submarine-launched cruise missile known as TLAM-N. The NPR notes that the future of the remaining forward-deployed U.S. nuclear weapons stationed in five NATO countries in Europe will be decided through the alliance’s Strategic Concept process, due to be completed at year’s end.

Future Cuts Envisioned

The NPR states that the United States will pursue post-New START arms control with Russia that addresses not only strategic weapons, but also nonstrategic and nondeployed nuclear weapons. The document also pledges the United States will pursue high-level bilateral dialogues with Russia and China aimed at promoting “more stable, resilient, and transparent strategic relationships.”

The NPR calls for a presidentially directed review of post-New START arms control objectives and the launching of a national research and development program to support progress toward a world free of nuclear weapons, including work on verification technologies. According to the NPR, future efforts should “set a course for the verified elimination of all nuclear weapons” while minimizing the risk of cheating and breakout by focusing verification efforts on nuclear warheads rather than delivery vehicles.

The implementation of the Department of Energy’s Stockpile Stewardship Program and the modernization of the nuclear infrastructure will allow the United States to “shift away” from keeping thousands of nondeployed warheads as a “hedge” against geopolitical surprise, the NPR says. The policy of maintaining substantial warhead reserves while reducing the deployed arsenal was established by the 1994 NPR.

Principal Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller said April 6 at the Pentagon that reducing the hedge force will depend “on our success in getting congressional approval for infrastructure investments” so that the United States can move from relying on spare warheads to the ability to build new ones if needed.

On nuclear weapons alert status, the NPR found that the current posture of U.S. nuclear forces—bombers off full-time alert, nearly all ICBMs on alert, and “a significant number” of SLBMs at sea—should be “maintained for the present.” However, it said that efforts should continue to reduce the possibility of accidents, unauthorized actions, or misperceptions and to maximize presidential decision time by continuing “open-ocean targeting” (targeting nuclear missiles at the open ocean in peacetime), strengthening command and control, and exploring new ICBM basing modes that “enhance survivability” and reduce “incentives for prompt launch.”

The NPR concludes that “a nuclear force of thousands of weapons has little relevance” to preventing nuclear terrorism and proliferation and that “more can and must be done” to reduce these forces.

Table 1: Nuclear Posture Reviews, Then and Now

The Obama administration’s Nuclear Posture Review is the third since the end of the Cold War. It differs from its predecessors in several key areas.

Issue

Obama, 2010

Bush, 2001

Clinton, 1994

Missions for nuclear weapons

"Fundamental" role is to deter nuclear attack; also to deter chemical, biological attack

Deter weapons of mass destruction and conventional forces; "all options on the table"

Deter nuclear attack on the United States and its allies as well as deter and respond to chemical and biological threats

Negative security assurances

United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states in compliance with NPT

Maintains the possibility that U.S. nuclear forces may be used to counter threats from non-nuclear-weapon adversaries

Maintains the possibility that U.S. nuclear forces may be used to counter threats from non-nuclear-weapon adversaries

Arms reductions

New START, 1,550 strategic deployed warheads; calls for future reductions to include nondeployed and tactical weapons

SORT, 2,200 strategic deployed warheads; rejected verifiable, binding arms control; rejected ABM Treaty

START II, 3,500 strategic warheads; creation of "hedge" force, warheads removed from delivery platforms would be kept in storage; calls for further reductions

New weapons and testing

Ratify CTBT, no nuclear testing, no new weapons development, no new missions for nuclear weapons

Called for new-design weapons and new missions (bunker busters); rejected CTBT

No nuclear testing, no new-design nuclear warhead production

ABM: Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty
CTBT: Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
NPT: Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
SORT: Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty
START: Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty

 

 

Flagging nuclear terrorism and proliferation as the top U.S. national security priorities for the first time, the White House released its long-awaited Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) April 6. The congressionally mandated report provides a comprehensive description of U.S. nuclear weapons policy and strategy for the next five to 10 years. The 2010 NPR is the third post-Cold War review—the others were in 1994 and 2001—and is the first to be published in an unclassified form.

New START Signed; Senate Battle Looms

Tom Z. Collina

Setting the stage for what could be a major showdown with Senate Republicans, President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) April 8 in Prague. The signing of the treaty “demonstrates the determination of the United States and Russia—the two nations that hold over 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons—to pursue responsible global leadership,” Obama said. Medvedev said, “What matters most is that this is a win-win situation.… [B]oth parties have won. And taking into account this victory of ours, the entire world community has won.”

Obama said that the new treaty marks the beginning of a longer process. “As I said last year in Prague, this treaty will set the stage for further cuts. And going forward, we hope to pursue discussions with Russia on reducing both our strategic and tactical weapons, including nondeployed weapons.” On April 5, 2009, in a speech in the Czech capital, Obama declared his support for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Medvedev said, “I am convinced that all that has been done so far is just the beginning of a long way, long way ahead. I wouldn’t like to see the Russian Federation and the United States be narrowed down to just limiting strategic offensive arms.”

But in a note of caution, Medvedev said, “It matters to us what will happen to missile defense. It is related to the configuration of our potential and our capacities, and we will watch how these processes develop.”

The Russian government issued a unilateral statement April 7 that it could withdraw from the treaty if U.S. missile defenses “give rise to a threat to the strategic nuclear force potential of the Russian Federation.” The United States made its own unilateral statement the same day, declaring that its missile defenses “are not intended to affect the strategic balance with Russia.” These statements are not legally binding, and similar statements were issued with previous treaties, including START I.

With the new treaty now signed, the focus has shifted from the U.S.-Russian negotiations to the Russian Duma and the U.S. Senate, which must both approve the agreement before it can enter into force. “We intend to proceed promptly and to do all the necessary procedures to ensure that our parliament…starts reviewing this treaty,” said Medvedev in Prague. Obama said, “I feel confident that we are going to be able to get it ratified.”

Senate Outlook

The Obama administration plans to submit the full treaty (text, protocols, annexes, and the administration’s analysis of each part) and the 10-year nuclear stockpile plan (required by section 1251 of the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill) to the Senate on or around May 7 and is seeking ratification of New START by the end of the year, according to administration officials and Senate staff. “I’m going to do everything I can to advance this as quickly as I can. It may take until the first of the year to get it done, but I think it’s important we try to get this done,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said April 13.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, which has jurisdiction over treaties, said in a statement April 8 that he plans to begin hearings on the treaty “in the coming weeks,” and to report a resolution of advice and consent out of the committee for approval by the full Senate “as soon as possible.” Under the U.S. Constitution, only the president can ratify treaties; the Senate can provide its advice and consent with a two-thirds majority vote. In a March 26 statement, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the committee’s ranking member, said, “I also look forward to working with Chairman Kerry…so that we can work quickly to achieve ratification of the new treaty.” Senate staffers said the panel could vote before the August recess. It is not clear how committee Republicans other than Lugar plan to vote.

Some Republican senators who are not on the committee have been more vocal. Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.) told the Associated Press April 18 that New START faces a hard battle in the Senate, “and I’ll lead the opposition to it.”

“There’s not a chance the treaty will be approved this year. It took a year and a half to approve the START I treaty,” Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) said April 11 on Fox News Sunday. “And with the Supreme Court pushing to the front of the agenda in the Senate and jobs, terror, and debt being our major issues we should be worrying about, this is a treaty for next year.” But he told CQ Today Online News April 14, “There is an openness to considering the treaty” within the Republican Conference. “The treaty itself is modest,” he said.

“The Obama administration will need to meet three requirements if it expects favorable consideration of the START follow-on treaty,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement April 8. “The Senate will assess whether or not the agreement is verifiable, whether it reduces our nation’s ability to defend itself and our allies from the threat of nuclear armed missiles, and whether or not this administration is committed to preserving our own nuclear triad.”

The Obama administration says that it has already addressed all three Republican concerns. On verification, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen said March 26 that New START, in comparison to START I, “features a much more effective, transparent verification method that demands quicker data exchanges and notifications” and that the Joint Chiefs “stand solidly behind this new treaty.” On missile defense, Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, the head of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, told the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces April 15 that New START “actually reduces constraints on the development of the missile defense program” because “[o]ur targets will no longer be subject to START [I] constraints, which limited our use of air-to-surface and waterborne launches of targets.”

On maintaining the nuclear arsenal, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote in an April 6 cover letter for the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) that the document “calls for making much-needed investments to rebuild America’s aging nuclear infrastructure” and that “to this end” he has asked for almost $5 billion to be transferred from the Pentagon to the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. This investment, he said, “and the NPR’s strategy of warhead life extension, represent a credible modernization plan necessary to sustain the nuclear infrastructure and support our nation’s deterrent.”

As for Duma ratification, “the Russians will work hard to convince the United States that ratification in Moscow is in doubt and that, therefore, the United States must really take Russian concerns about [missile] defenses into account,” said former START negotiator Linton Brooks at an Arms Control Association press briefing April 7. “But the historic record suggests that the Russian Duma is a good deal more responsive to their executive branch than our Congress is to ours,” he said. “If President Medvedev and Prime Minister [Vladimir] Putin…want ratification, ratification will happen.”

What the Treaty Says

New START replaces START I, which expired Dec. 5, 2009, and the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which will terminate when New START enters into force.

Nuclear Arsenal Limits. Seven years after entry into force, New START limits “accountable” deployed strategic nuclear warheads and bombs to 1,550, a decrease of approximately 30 percent from the 2,200 limit set by SORT and a decrease of 74 percent from the START I-accountable limit of 6,000. Under START I, warheads were counted indirectly by associating a certain number of warheads with each delivery system.

Deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers assigned to nuclear missions are limited to 700. Deployed and nondeployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and bombers are limited to 800; that figure includes test launchers and bombers and Trident submarines in overhaul. That is a 50 percent reduction from the 1,600 launcher limit set under STARTI. (SORT did not directly cover launchers.) Each side has the flexibility to structure its nuclear forces as it wishes. “We will retain, throughout the life of the treaty, the nuclear triad,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright told the media April 6.

Counting Rules. For deployed ICBMs and SLBMs, the number of warheads counted is the actual number of re-entry vehicles (RVs) on each missile. (RVs protect the warhead as it re-enters the atmosphere from space; they 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 to 20 warheads), 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 (and thus inspections of bombers would find no weapons to inspect), so the parties agreed to arbitrarily count each bomber as one warhead. New START, like START I, does not track or limit warheads or bombs once they have been removed from deployed launchers.

Each deployed ICBM, SLBM, and bomber is counted as one against the 700 limit. Each deployed and nondeployed missile launcher or bomber is counted as one against the 800 limit. Nondeployed missiles are counted toward that limit unless they have been converted to other missions or eliminated.

Ballistic Missile Defense. Administration officials have stated repeatedly that “current or planned U.S. missile defense programs” are not constrained by New START. The treaty’s 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.”

The treaty 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, according to administration officials.

This provision drew criticism from some Republican senators, who saw it as a way to limit missile defenses. “While we were initially advised that the only reference to missile defense was in the preamble to the treaty, we now find that there are other references to missile defense, some of which could limit U.S. actions,” Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and John McCain (Ariz.) said in a joint statement April 8. The Wall Street Journal editorialized April 17 that “[t]he Obama Administration may not currently plan to convert an ICBM silo into a missile defense site. But Mr. Obama won’t be in office beyond 2017, and a future President might want to. [New] START wouldn’t allow it.”

“It’s a limit in theory, but not in reality,” responded national security adviser James Jones in an April 20 letter to the Journal. “We have no plans to convert any additional ICBM silos. In fact, it would be less expensive to build a new silo rather than convert an old one. In other words, if we were to ever need more missile defense silos in California, we would simply dig new holes, which is not proscribed by the treaty.”

Verification. The treaty’s verification regime includes relevant parts of START I as well as new provisions to cover items not previously monitored. 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.

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

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. That requirement is designed to facilitate monitoring by national technical means, such as satellites. The treaty does not limit the modernization of strategic forces.

Verification of treaty limits is carried out by national technical means and 18 annual on-site inspections. The treaty allows 10 on-site inspections of deployed warheads and deployed and nondeployed 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 nondeployed delivery systems (“Type Two” inspections).

Duration and Withdrawal. The treaty’s duration is 10 years unless it is superseded by a subsequent agreement and can be extended for an additional five years. Each party can withdraw if it decides 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.

Conventional Warheads. New START does not prohibit either side from deploying conventional warheads on ballistic missiles, although they would be counted against treaty limits. The preamble states that both sides are “mindful of the impact of conventionally armed ICBMs and SLBMs on strategic stability.” Any future U.S. Prompt Global Strike deployments are likely to be small. For example, the Bush administration had planned to arm 28 Trident D-5 missiles with one conventional warhead each. According to Obama administration briefing materials, the treaty limits would “accommodate any plans the United States might develop during the life of this treaty to deploy conventional warheads on ballistic missiles.” Trident submarines converted to carry conventional cruise missiles would not be counted under New START, nor would bombers that have been fully converted to conventional missions, such as the B-1B.

U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Agreements at a Glance

Over the past four decades, U.S. and Soviet/Russian leaders have used a progression of bilateral agreements and other measures to limit and reduce their nuclear warhead and missile and bomber arsenals. The following is a brief summary.

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control Agreements

SALT I

Begun in November 1969, the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) produced by May 1972 both the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which banned nationwide strategic missile defenses, and the Interim Agreement, an executive-legislative agreement that capped U.S. and Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) forces. Under the Interim Agreement, both sides pledged not to construct new ICBM silos, not to increase the size of existing ICBM silos “significantly,” and capped the number of SLBMs and SLBM-carrying submarines. The agreement ignored strategic bombers and did not address warheads, leaving both sides free to enlarge their deployed forces by adding multiple warheads to their ICBMs and SLBMs and increasing their bomber-based forces. The agreement limited the United States to 1,054 ICBM silos and 656 SLBM launch tubes. The Soviet Union was limited to 1,607 ICBM silos and 740 SLBM launch tubes. In January 2002, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the ABM Treaty.

SALT II

In November 1972, Washington and Moscow agreed to pursue a follow-on treaty to SALT I. SALT II, signed in June 1979, limited U.S. and Soviet ICBM, SLBM, and strategic bomber-based nuclear forces to 2,250 delivery vehicles (defined as an ICBM silo, a submarine missile-launch tube, or a bomber) and placed a variety of other restrictions on deployed strategic nuclear forces. The agreement would have required the Soviets to reduce their forces by roughly 270 delivery vehicles, but U.S. forces were below the limits and could actually have been increased. President Jimmy Carter asked the Senate not to consider approving SALT II after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, and the treaty was not taken up. Both Washington and Moscow subsequently pledged to adhere to the agreement’s terms despite its failure to enter into force. However, on May 26, 1986, President Ronald Reagan said that future decisions on strategic nuclear forces would be based on the threat posed by Soviet forces and “not on standards contained in the SALT structure.”

START I

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), first proposed in the early 1980s by Reagan and finally signed in July 1991, required the United States and the Soviet Union to reduce their deployed strategic arsenals to 1,600 delivery vehicles, carrying no more than 6,000 warheads as counted using the agreement’s rules. The agreement limited deployed warheads by imposing limits on delivery vehicles and requiring the destruction of excess delivery vehicles. The destruction was verified using an intrusive verification regime that involved on-site inspections and regular exchanges of information, as well as national technical means such as satellites. The agreement’s entry into force was delayed for several years because of the collapse of the Soviet Union and efforts to denuclearize Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine by making them parties to the agreement and consolidating their nuclear weapons in Russia. START I reductions were completed in December 2001, and the treaty expired on Dec. 5, 2009.

START II

In June 1992, Presidents George H. W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin agreed to pursue a follow-on accord to START I. START II, signed in January 1993, called for reducing deployed strategic arsenals to 3,000 to 3,500 warheads and banned the deployment of destabilizing multiple-warhead land-based missiles. START II would have counted warheads in roughly the same fashion as START I and, also like its predecessor, would have required the destruction of delivery vehicles but not warheads. The agreement’s original implementation deadline was January 2003, but a 1997 protocol extended the deadline until December 2007 because of Russia’s concerns over its ability to meet the earlier date. Both the Senate and the Duma approved START II, but the treaty did not take effect because the Senate did not ratify the 1997 protocol and several ABM Treaty amendments, whose passage the Duma established as a condition for START II’s entry into force. START II was effectively shelved as a result of the 2002 U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty.

START III Framework

In March 1997, Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin agreed to a framework for START III negotiations that included a reduction in deployed strategic warheads to 2,000 to 2,500. Significantly, in addition to requiring the destruction of delivery vehicles, START III negotiations were to address “the destruction of strategic nuclear warheads…to promote the irreversibility of deep reductions including prevention of a rapid increase in the number of warheads.” Negotiations were supposed to begin after START II entered into force, which never happened.

SORT

On May 24, 2002, Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), under which the United States and Russia agreed to limit their strategic arsenals to 1,700 to 2,200 warheads each. The warhead limit takes effect as well as expires on Dec. 31, 2012. Although the two sides did not agree on specific counting rules, the Bush administration asserted that the United States would reduce only the number of warheads deployed on strategic delivery vehicles in active service, i.e., “operationally deployed” warheads, and would not count warheads removed from service and placed in storage or warheads on delivery vehicles undergoing overhaul or repair. The agreement’s limits are similar to those envisioned for START III, but SORT does not require the destruction of delivery vehicles, as START I and II did, or the destruction of warheads, as had been envisioned for START III. The treaty was approved by the Senate and Duma and entered into force on June 1, 2003. SORT will terminate when New START enters into force.

New START

On April 8, 2010, the United States and Russia signed New START, a legally binding, verifiable agreement that limits each side’s deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 and strategic delivery systems to 800 deployed and nondeployed, such as submarines in overhaul, with a sublimit of 700 deployed. The treaty-accountable warhead limit is 30 percent lower than the 2,200 limit of SORT, and the delivery vehicle limit is 50 percent lower than the 1,600 allowed in START I. The treaty has a verification regime that combines elements of START I with new elements tailored to New START.

Measures under the treaty include on-site inspections and exhibitions, data exchanges and notifications related to strategic offensive arms and facilities covered by the treaty, and provisions to facilitate the use of national technical means for treaty monitoring. To increase confidence and transparency, the treaty also provides for the exchange of telemetry (missile flight-test data on up to five tests per year) and does not limit missile defenses or long-range conventional strike capabilities. The treaty limits take effect seven years after entry into force, and the treaty will be in effect for 10 years, or longer if agreed by both parties.

Nonstrategic Nuclear Arms Control Measures

Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty

Signed Dec. 8, 1987, the INF Treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to verifiably eliminate all ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Distinguished by its unprecedented, intrusive inspection regime, the INF Treaty laid the groundwork for verification of the subsequent START I. The INF Treaty entered into force on June 1, 1988, and the two sides completed their reductions by June 1, 1991, destroying a total of 2,692 missiles. The agreement was multilateralized after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and current active participants in the agreement include the United States, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are parties to the agreement but do not participate in treaty meetings or on-site inspections. The ban on intermediate-range missiles is of unlimited duration.

Presidential Nuclear Initiatives

President George H. W. Bush announced on Sept. 27, 1991, that the United States would remove almost all U.S. tactical nuclear forces from deployment, and the Soviet Union made similar commitments, reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation as the Soviet Union dissolved. Specifically, Bush said the United States would eliminate all its nuclear artillery shells and short-range nuclear ballistic missile warheads and remove all nonstrategic nuclear warheads from surface ships, attack submarines, and land-based naval aircraft. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev reciprocated on Oct. 5, pledging to eliminate all nuclear artillery munitions, nuclear warheads for tactical missiles, and nuclear landmines. He also pledged to withdraw all Soviet tactical naval nuclear weapons from deployment. However, significant questions remain about Russia’s implementation of its pledges, and there is considerable uncertainty about the current state of Russian tactical nuclear forces.

 

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control Agreements

SALT I
SALT II START I START II START III SORT
New START
Status Expired Never Entered Into Force Expired Never Entered Into Force Never Negotiated In Force To Be Ratified
Deployed Warhead Limit NA NA 6,000 3,000-3,500 2,000-2,500 2,200 1,550
Deployed Delivery Vehicle Limit US: 1,710 ICBMs & SLBMs
USSR: 2,347
2,250 1,600 NA NA NA 700; 800 including non-deployed
Date Signed May 26, 1972 June 18, 1979 July 31, 1991 Jan. 3, 1993 NA May 24, 2002

April 8,2010

Date Ratifed, U.S. Aug. 3, 1972 NA Oct. 1, 1992 Jan. 26, 1996 NA March 6, 2003
Ratification Vote, U.S. 88-2 NA 93-6 87-4 NA 95-0
Date Entered Into Force Oct. 3, 1972 NA Dec. 5, 1994 NA NA June 1, 2003
Implementation Deadline NA NA Dec. 5, 2001 NA NA Dec. 31, 2012
Expiration Date Oct. 3, 1977 NA Dec. 5, 2009 NA NA Dec. 31, 2012 or when New START takes effect

Setting the stage for what could be a major showdown with Senate Republicans, President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) April 8 in Prague. The signing of the treaty “demonstrates the determination of the United States and Russia—the two nations that hold over 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons—to pursue responsible global leadership,” Obama said. Medvedev said, “What matters most is that this is a win-win situation.… [B]oth parties have won. And taking into account this victory of ours, the entire world community has won.”

News Analysis: What Is a “New” Nuclear Weapon?

Tom Z. Collina

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) told Arms Control Today, “I will not authorize the development of new nuclear weapons.” In its first months, the new administration stated on its Web site that it “will stop the development of new nuclear weapons.” Now, as the administration wraps up its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and presents its fiscal year 2011 budget request to Congress, some important details are emerging about what President Obama’s pledge really means and how the administration defines a “new” nuclear weapon.

The Obama administration has been debating over the past year how far the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which oversees the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, should be allowed to go when it rebuilds nuclear warheads that have reached the end of their shelf life. (See ACT, November 2009.) The options include rebuilding some or all the parts but staying within the confines of the original warhead design (“refurbishment”), mixing and matching well-tested nuclear components of different warheads (“reuse”), and manufacturing new, untested nuclear components of new design to replace existing ones (“replacement”).

Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, head of U.S. Strategic Command, testified before the House Armed Services Committee March 16 that the NPR “is examining the appropriate policy guidance for considering future choices between refurbishment, reuse, and replacement.” Now planned for release in April after numerous delays, the NPR is also expected to resolve the related question of how the administration defines a “new” nuclear weapon. For example, does a “refurbished” warhead of old design but newly made parts count as “new”? Can a warhead of new design that performs an old mission count as “old”?

According to an administration source, the NPR will likely reflect the definition of “new” currently used by Congress. As part of the fiscal year 2003 National Defense Authorization Act (Section 3143), Congress defined a “new nuclear weapon” as one that “contains a pit or canned subassembly” not in the stockpile or in production as of 2002. A pit is the plutonium component in a warhead’s primary stage, and a canned subassembly (CSA) is the uranium and lithium-deuteride component in the secondary stage. Together, these parts are known as the warhead’s “nuclear explosive package.”

Although it does not explicitly say so, the congressional definition would allow the refurbishing of warheads within the confines of existing designs, as is now being done by the NNSA’s Life Extension Program (LEP). The 2003 defense authorization act and subsequent legislation explicitly endorsed such life extension efforts, but the definition does appear to prohibit the introduction of new “replacement” pits and CSA designs into the stockpile after 2002. This is analogous to allowing a mechanic to rebuild a car’s engine to existing design but prohibiting its replacement with a newer, possibly more powerful design.

The administration appears to be following this definition in its fiscal year 2011 budget request for the NNSA. For example, the administration is requesting $252 million in fiscal year 2011 for a life extension study for the B61 aircraft-delivered gravity bomb. According to the budget request, this funding would enable the NNSA to “extend the life of the nuclear explosive package which may include an extension of the B61 nuclear primary’s life (reusing the existing B61 nuclear pit), potential implementation of multipoint safety, and reuse or remanufacture of the canned subassembly (CSA) and for a complete life extension of the B61 -3, -4, -7, and -10, if directed by the Nuclear Weapons Council.”

In the case of the B61 LEP, the most extensive planned so far, both the primary and the secondary may be refurbished, but neither would be redesigned. If the primary is rebuilt, the existing pit would be reused intact, and for the secondary, the CSA would be reused or remanufactured to original design. These activities would be consistent with the congressional definition because the design of the nuclear explosive package would remain unchanged.

How the administration defines a “new” nuclear weapon is important because new warhead designs have been proposed to increase the reliability of the stockpile and to make warheads even more secure against possible terrorist acquisition. Serious consideration of new warhead designs to increase reliability was essentially put to rest by the September 2009 JASON report of senior scientists, which found that the lifetimes of existing warheads could be extended indefinitely through refurbishment with no loss of confidence in the stockpile. (See ACT, December 2009.) Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that controls NNSA funding, said at a March 10 hearing that he agrees with the JASON conclusion that “these nuclear weapons will be reliable well out into the future.”

Terrorist-Proof Warheads?

The JASON report left open the question of the need for new warhead designs to address physical security, finding that “[f]urther scientific research and engineering development is required.” Chilton testified March 16 that JASON concluded “only reuse or replacement options allow for the inclusion of intrinsic surety features that would be the last line of defense against unauthorized use.”

However, one member of JASON, physicist Richard Garwin, gave a Jan. 28 briefing on Capitol Hill where he said that “ideal security implies that a nuclear weapon could be captured by a knowledgeable group and, somehow, could never be made to provide a nuclear yield.” He continued, “[O]ne hypothetical possibility, for instance, would be for the security package intentionally to detonate the high explosive at a single point (which for all U.S. nuclear weapons is now guaranteed to provide no significant nuclear yield) so as to disperse the plutonium, substituting a massive radiological mess for the possibility of a later terrorist nuclear explosion.” Garwin concluded that “usually, less extreme security options are chosen.” U.S. nuclear warheads are deemed to be “one-point safe” if the detonation of the high explosive at one point (by a stray bullet, for example), as opposed to a multipoint detonation, does not result in significant nuclear yield.

Intrinsic security modifications like those he described would require new warheads to be designed and new nuclear components to be produced, Garwin said. He said that, for a stockpile of 5,000 deployed and reserve warheads, replacement would take at least 50 years because the maximum rate planned for pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico is about 100 per year. According to Garwin, “What can be said about weapon security is that the most secure design imaginable…would not soon solve or even reduce our security problems.”

No New Military Missions

The administration’s apparent ban on new warhead designs appears to extend to providing nuclear warheads with new military capabilities, such as higher yields. “I need no new [nuclear] military capabilities today,” Chilton said at the March 16 hearing. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen O. Tauscher said Feb. 17 at a conference on nuclear deterrence that the United States is “not in the business of seeking new nuclear capabilities. They are not needed to preserve a strong, credible deterrent.”

Another issue is how the administration defines a “nuclear weapon” in the context of its no-new-nuclear-weapons pledge. For example, the Air Force plans to begin work in fiscal year 2011 on a new, nuclear-capable long-range cruise missile, according to Department of Defense budget documents. The new missile would replace the current B-52 bomber-delivered air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) that is now in service but slated for retirement by 2030. ALCMs are armed with W80-1 nuclear warheads. Would the new missile count as a new nuclear weapon?

According to an administration source, Obama’s reference to “nuclear weapons” was specific to nuclear warheads, not delivery systems such as missiles and airplanes. Indeed, in addition to the new cruise missile, the administration is moving ahead with a variety of nuclear-capable delivery systems, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a replacement for the Ohio-class nuclear-armed submarine, and the modernization of existing strategic ballistic missiles such as the land-based Minuteman III and submarine-based Trident II.

 

 

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) told Arms Control Today, “I will not authorize the development of new nuclear weapons.” In its first months, the new administration stated on its Web site that it “will stop the development of new nuclear weapons.” Now, as the administration wraps up its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and presents its fiscal year 2011 budget request to Congress, some important details are emerging about what President Obama’s pledge really means and how the administration defines a “new” nuclear weapon.

New START to Be Signed April 8

Tom Z. Collina

Wrapping up a year of intense negotiations and missed deadlines in which the presidents of Russia and the United States reportedly met or spoke on the telephone 14 times, President Barack Obama announced March 26 at a White House press briefing that “a pivotal new arms control agreement,” the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), was finished and would be signed April 8 in Prague. Flanked by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, Obama said the two countries had just agreed to “the most comprehensive arms control agreement in nearly two decades.”

Speaking by telephone that morning, Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed that the new treaty demonstrates their commitment “to reduce their nuclear arsenals consistent with their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Such actions invigorate our mutual efforts to strengthen the international nonproliferation regime and convince other countries to curb proliferation,” according to a White House account of the call.

“We do not need such large arsenals to protect our nation and our allies against the two greatest dangers we face today: nuclear proliferation and terrorism,” Clinton said. Gates said that “the journey we have taken from being one misstep away from mutual assured destruction to the substantial arms reductions of this new agreement is testimony to just how much the world has changed.” The Joint Chiefs “stand solidly behind this new treaty,” Mullen said.

Clinton predicted that New START would win Senate ratification in due course. “I’m not going to set any timetables, but we’re confident that we’ll be able to make the case for ratification,” she said.

At a March 29 press briefing at the Department of State, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen O. Tauscher said, “Our goal is to submit the treaty in the late spring and to seek ratification by the end of the year.”

In a March 28 op-ed in The Boston Globe, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he would hold hearings “in the coming weeks” and that, “with the help of Senator Richard Lugar [of Indiana], the committee’s ranking Republican, I am sure we will achieve the necessary level of certainty to reassure our colleagues and the American people that this treaty will make our world safer.”

In a March 26 statement, Lugar said, “I also look forward to working with Chairman Kerry…so that we can work quickly to achieve ratification of the new treaty.”

Once New START is signed April 8, Senate staffers said the administration could send it to Capitol Hill by May, after completing the article-by-article analysis of the treaty, which explains the administration’s interpretation of the agreement in detail. That schedule would theoretically leave enough time to hold hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees and then report a resolution of ratification out of committee before the August recess, with a vote by the full Senate in the fall. The Republican minority, however, may not be eager to open the way for a treaty vote prior to the 2010 midterm elections, which could delay the treaty’s ratification until late 2010 or even 2011, according to Senate staff members from both parties.

The main treaty text, which is said to be about 20 pages, has been essentially ready for months, sources said; negotiators in Geneva had been working on the 100- to 150-page protocol that will spell out technical terms and verification procedures. There will be a technical annex as well. All three parts are legally binding and will be submitted together to the Senate for its advice and consent. Tauscher said the treaty and the protocol, which contain the basic rights and obligations agreed by both sides, have been finished, but the annex is still being negotiated.

Clinton said March 26 that one of the reasons the talks were delayed is that the two sides wanted to complete both the treaty and protocol before declaring success. “We made a decision that we wanted not just the treaty agreed to; we wanted the protocols agreed to,” she said.

Arsenal Reductions

Obama said the new treaty cuts “by about a third” the number of strategic or long-range nuclear weapons both sides can deploy. The treaty would reduce deployed strategic nuclear warheads and bombs to a limit of 1,550, down 30 percent from the 2,200 limit set by the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT). The launchers for these warheads and bombs—ground-based silos for ICBMs, submarine tubes for submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers assigned to nuclear missions—would be limited to a total of 800 for deployed and nondeployed systems, such as Trident submarines in overhaul. Deployed launchers are limited to 700, which is more than a 50 percent reduction from the limit of 1,600 launchers set under the 1991 START, which expired last December. The reductions must be completed within seven years after the treaty enters into force; the treaty’s duration is 10 years and can be extended for an additional five years.

Under the new treaty, conventional warheads may be loaded on strategic missiles, as the United States may do to create a “prompt global strike” capability, and would be counted against these limits. Trident submarines converted to carry conventional cruise missiles would not be counted against this limit, nor would bombers fully converted to conventional missions, administration sources familiar with the details of the new treaty told Arms Control Today.

Compared to currently deployed U.S. nuclear forces, the reductions required by New START are somewhat less than 30 percent. The United States announced last year it deployed 2,126 strategic warheads under SORT; New START would reduce that number by about 27 percent. The United States currently has about 900 strategic launchers, according to administration sources; the new treaty would reduce that number only about 10 percent. According to independent nongovernmental estimates, Russia has approximately 2,600-2,700 deployed strategic warheads. The new treaty would mandate reductions by about 40 percent below this level. Russia is currently estimated to have fewer than the New START ceiling of 700 deployed strategic delivery vehicles. Russia had originally proposed a ceiling of 500 strategic delivery vehicles.

Warhead Verification

The treaty’s verification regime includes relevant parts of START as well as new provisions to cover items that were not previously limited, the White House said. For example, START 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 bombs and allows for on-site inspections to give both sides confidence that the limits are being upheld.

Mullen said at the March 26 briefing that New START “features a much more effective, transparent verification method that demands quicker data exchanges and notifications.”

“For the first time, we will count the number of actual warheads on Russian missiles,” Kerry wrote in the Globe. Because neither side currently deploys nuclear bombs or cruise missiles on its heavy bombers but instead keeps them in storage, on-site inspections of bombers would find no weapons to inspect. Therefore, New START will count each heavy bomber as one warhead, even though hundreds of bomber-assigned warheads and bombs may be in storage. The treaty does not limit warheads or bombs once they have been removed from deployed launchers, sources said.

One of the more difficult issues the negotiations had to resolve was how much sharing of missile flight test data, or telemetry, would be required. “Mr. Obama’s team assumed that the Kremlin would agree to an updated version of the START treaty’s verification program,” according to a March 26 account of the negotiations in The New York Times. START banned the encryption of telemetry with limited exceptions, and the Russian side opposed this openness, saying the ban had been needed only because START limited the development of new types of missiles, which New START does not do. A compromise formula was incorporated into New START allowing for the exchange of telemetry information on up to five missile tests per side per year, Gates said March 26.

“Telemetry is not nearly as important for this treaty as it has been in the past,” said Gates. “In fact, we don’t need telemetry to monitor compliance with this treaty,” he said.

“I think that when the testimony of the intelligence community comes to the Hill, that the DNI [director of national intelligence] and the experts will say that they are comfortable that the provisions of the treaty for verification are adequate for them to monitor Russian compliance, and vice versa,” Gates said.

Missile Defense

“Missile defense is not constrained by this treaty,” Gates said at the White House briefing. Russia made a last-minute effort to limit U.S. defenses after the issue gained prominence in February when Romania announced that it would host one of the proposed U.S. missile interceptor launch sites in Europe. (See ACT, March 2010.) During a Feb. 24 phone call between the U.S. and Russian presidents, described as a low point in the talks, “Mr. Medvedev insisted on issuing a joint statement that would bind missile defense,” according to U.S. officials cited in the March 26 New York Times account. Obama reportedly refused, but suggested separate unilateral statements that would detail each side’s position without being legally binding.

Citing Russian concerns about U.S. missile defense plans and Russian statements urging that New START establish a “linkage of offensive weapons and missile defense,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said in a March 15 letter to Obama that “it is highly unlikely that the Senate would ratify a treaty that includes such a linkage,” including “unilateral declarations that the Russian Federation could use as leverage against you or your successors when U.S. missile defense decisions are made.”

Past U.S.-Russian strategic arms control treaties, including START, contain references to the relationship between anti-missile deployments and the offensive strategic balance. The treaties also include unilateral Russian statements noting that U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and subsequent strategic missile interceptor deployments could serve as the basis for Russian withdrawal. (See ACT, March 2010.) In a July 22, 2001, joint statement following a meeting in Genoa, Italy, Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin had also agreed that “offensive and defensive systems” were “inter-related matters.”

Referring to a 10 percent, $600 million increase in the fiscal year 2011 budget request to Congress for National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) weapons activities, the McConnell-Kyl letter praised the administration for “making necessary investments in the U.S. nuclear deterrent,” noting that “as President, the safety, security and reliability of these weapons is your responsibility.” Even so, they wrote that the funding increase is “not sufficient” and that administration efforts to “fully” fund nuclear modernization “could have a significant impact on the Senate as it considers the START follow-on treaty.”

Responding to the Senate Republicans’ concerns about missile defense and the nuclear weapons infrastructure, Gates said at the March 26 briefing that “we have addressed both of those.”

 

 

Wrapping up a year of intense negotiations and missed deadlines in which the presidents of Russia and the United States reportedly met or spoke on the telephone 14 times, President Barack Obama announced March 26 at a White House press briefing that “a pivotal new arms control agreement,” the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), was finished and would be signed April 8 in Prague. Flanked by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, Obama said the two countries had just agreed to “the most comprehensive arms control agreement in nearly two decades.”

U.S. Taps Romania for Missile Defense

Tom Z. Collina

Moving to flesh out its revamped European missile defense plan announced last September, the Obama administration confirmed in February that Romania would host the first deployment of Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) land-based interceptors in 2015 and that Poland would host the next site in 2018. Turkey and Bulgaria may play a role as well, according to administration officials, who are seeking to soothe Russian concerns by inviting Moscow to join U.S.-NATO missile defense plans.

The Obama administration announced last fall its intention to base missile interceptors in Poland and in southeastern Europe, but exact deployment dates and the specific southern country had not been officially named. Speaking at the Nuclear Deterrence Summit near Washington Feb. 17, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen O. Tauscher said SM-3 missiles would be deployed in Romania in 2015 and Poland in 2018 and that both sites would get missile upgrades in 2020.

Romanian President Traian Băsescu broke the news about his nation’s involvement Feb. 4 while Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was in Turkey and Tauscher was in Romania, a former Warsaw Pact member that now is part of NATO. Băsescu said that the system would not be directed at Russia but rather “against other threats,” according to The New York Times. Department of State spokesman P.J. Crowley told a press briefing Feb. 4 that “as we have made clear over and over again, this is not a capability that is directed at Russia.”

Gates later told reporters he was talking with the Turkish government about what role it could play within NATO on missile defense. “We have discussed the possibility of erecting two radar systems in Turkey,” Gates said Feb 8. However, Ankara is reportedly worried about appearing to sign a bilateral pact with Washington against Tehran.

The United States may also hold preliminary talks with the Bulgarian government on hosting parts of the system, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said Feb. 12, according to Reuters. But in her Feb. 17 comments, Tauscher said, “We’ve not made an offer to Bulgaria about hosting any element” of U.S. missile defenses.

Russian leaders said they were surprised by the news, and they reacted coolly to it. “We have already asked our partners in Washington...what does this all mean and why after the Romanian surprise there is a Bulgarian surprise now,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, according to Reuters Feb. 15. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton responded in a Washington speech Feb. 22 that Moscow has nothing to fear from NATO. “We need to make Russia a partner in our efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation and in missile defense. We invite Russia to join NATO in developing a missile defense system that can protect all citizens of Europe and of Russia as well,” she said.

Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, questioned how far such cooperation would go. “We would still like to understand whether the U.S. is really going to hold not only its own finger, but also that of its partners, on the button for using missile defense systems. I personally have very strong doubts about that,” he said Feb. 23 in an interview with Interfax.

U.S. missile defense plans for Europe are a long-standing concern for Russian officials, who say they fear the system could be used to intercept Russian long-range missiles aimed at the United States or even used to launch nuclear warheads at Russia. Gates told a press conference last September that the Russians “believed, despite our best efforts to dissuade them, that the ground-based interceptors in Poland could be fitted with nuclear weapons and become an offensive weapon…for which they would have virtually no warning time.” Russia’s new military doctrine, recently approved by President Dmitry Medvedev, identified U.S. missile defense as a major threat to Russian security, saying it “undermines strategic stability.” The document also underscored the continued expansion of NATO and its “assumption of global functions in violation of international law.”

Deployment Plans Set

Last September, the Obama administration shifted gears from Bush administration plans to deploy 10 long-range interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, saying that it would instead deploy shorter-range interceptors against near-term missile threats from Iran and increase interceptor performance over time. (See ACT, October 2009.) According to the administration’s February 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Review and other sources, this “phased adaptive approach” for Europe includes deploying SM-3 Block IA interceptors, which have a top speed of 3 kilometers per second, on Aegis ships in the Mediterranean Sea and a radar in southern Europe next year. Tauscher told journalists Feb. 15 that the United States does not plan to deploy sea-based SM-3 missiles in the Black Sea, a prospect that Russia has opposed.

By 2015, about 20 land-based SM-3 Block IB interceptors, known as “Aegis-Ashore,” would be deployed in Romania with an improved “kill vehicle,” which is carried by the missile and seeks and collides with the target. By 2018 a second land-based site would be added in Poland with larger and faster (4.5 kilometers per second) SM-3 Block IIA missiles, which are in development and would also be deployed in Romania. The fourth phase, in 2020, would deploy at both sites another SM-3 upgrade, Block IIB, with an improved kill vehicle, which, according to the BMD Review, would have “some early-intercept capability against a long-range missile.”

“We are starting the four-phased approach to fielding a capability in Europe against the emerging Iranian threat, initially against the short- and medium-range threat that exists, and hence our initial emphasis will be on southeastern Europe,” David Altwegg, executive director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), told Pentagon reporters Feb. 1.

The initial SM-3 Block IA and IB deployments at sea and in Romania are not likely by themselves to cause Russia serious concern, according to experts, because these interceptors would not be effective against long-range missiles and, as a result, would not likely derail the ongoing START follow-on talks (see page 40). However, the 2018 and 2020 phases of the Obama administration’s plans, during which Block IIA and IIB SM-3 missiles would be deployed at sea and in Romania and Poland, do appear to give Russian leaders reason to worry and could create problems for the current and future U.S.-Russian nuclear arms reductions talks, sources say. Lavrov told Russia Today TV in October that the revised U.S. plans “would not create problems in its first phase, but we would like more details on further stages.”

Reflecting these concerns, Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak told the nuclear deterrence conference Feb. 17 that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty “gave predictability” by limiting U.S. missile defense deployments. But with the Bush administration’s withdrawal from that treaty in 2002, “the environment has changed,” he said. “We are not sure that the story that we are hearing is the story that will develop within the time span of the would-be treaty, 10 years,” he said. To deal with this uncertainty, Russia may attach a unilateral declaration to the START follow-on stating that Moscow would withdraw if “strategic stability” was upset by U.S. missile defense deployments, The Cable reported Feb. 17.

In response to that possibility, Senators Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) sent a letter to national security adviser James Jones Feb. 17 warning that “[e]ven as a unilateral declaration, a provision like this would put pressure on the United States to limit its [missile defense] systems or their deployment because of Russian threats of withdrawal from the treaty.” Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) countered that both sides are free to make unilateral declarations, which are routine and do not justify opposition to the agreement. “They can withdraw unilaterally for any reason, so I don’t know that that’s a good reason to object,” Levin told The Cable Feb. 23, adding, “The United States withdrew unilaterally from the ABM Treaty when we decided it was in our interest, right?”

In their letter, the three senators pledged to work with the administration to fund and deploy the European system, “most especially” the SM-3 Block IIB interceptor.

Funding Request

Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2011 budget request, which was released Feb. 1, asked for about $10 billion for missile defense. That figure, which includes space-based sensors, is $2 billion less than in fiscal year 2009, when the funding was based on the Bush administration’s request, and $700 million more than in fiscal year 2010. More than $4.2 billion would go to the European system, including $1.5 billion for Aegis ballistic missile defense, $319 million for SM-3 Block IIA, $112 million for the Airborne Infrared Sensor, $94 million for 436 Aegis SM-3 Block IA and IB interceptors by 2015, $1.5 billion for three additional AN/TPY-2 radars (14 total), $455 million for BMD sensors, and $281 million for land-based SM-3, according to the MDA.

“We have shifted our emphasis from the ground-based defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles to the regional threat, short- and medium-range missiles, which comprise about 99 percent of the ballistic missile threat extant,” Altwegg said Feb. 1.

The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, which is meant to protect the United States from limited long-range missile attack from North Korea and Iran, would receive $1.3 billion in fiscal 2011, an increase of $317 million. According to the BMD Review, by the end of this year the United States will deploy 30 ground-based interceptors, with 26 at Fort Greely Army Base in Alaska, and four at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. This system can “counter the projected threats from North Korea and Iran for the foreseeable future,” according to the review. The Bush administration had planned to deploy 44 ground-based interceptors.

Meanwhile, a Jan. 31 flight test of the GMD system failed to intercept its target, which was designed to mimic an Iranian missile attack, according to the MDA. In the $150 million test, both the target missile, fired from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, and the interceptor, from Vandenberg, performed normally, the MDA said. “However, the Sea-Based X-band [SBX] radar did not perform as expected,” the agency said on its Web site Feb 1. Later the same day, Altwegg said, “I’m not exonerating the SBX, but I am not saying it was solely an SBX problem.” He said the results of a failure review would not be known for months.

It was the first time the United States had tested its long-range defense against a simulated Iranian attack. Previous drills have imitated a flight path from North Korea, another country locking horns with the international community over its nuclear program.

In a separate test, the Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) destroyed a boosting ballistic missile for the first time Feb. 11, the MDA announced. Carried by a Boeing 747 jumbo jet, the ALTB shot down a short-range ballistic missile that was launched from a sea-based mobile launch platform off Point Mugu on the central California coast. However, according to the BMD Review, this program has experienced repeated schedule delays and technical problems since its start in 1996; plans for a second plane were canceled, and the existing aircraft has been shifted to a technology demonstration program. (See ACT, July/August 2009.) Last April, Gates said that the Airborne Laser program “has significant affordability and technology problems and the program’s proposed operational role is highly questionable.” The Pentagon has no plans to revive the program after the recent test because it requires the military to “hover a 747 in enemy territory to shoot down a missile” and carries “an extraordinary cost,” Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Feb 18.

The BMD Review said that, in the future, more emphasis would be placed on conducting realistic tests of interceptors and radars. The Bush administration was criticized repeatedly by Democrats and independent scientists for rushing the GMD system into deployment before it was fully tested and for staging tests that were not operationally realistic. In contrast, according to the review, “The [Obama] administration will take a different approach, best characterized as ‘fly before you buy.’”

 

 

Moving to flesh out its revamped European missile defense plan announced last September, the Obama administration confirmed in February that Romania would host the first deployment of Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) land-based interceptors in 2015 and that Poland would host the next site in 2018. Turkey and Bulgaria may play a role as well, according to administration officials, who are seeking to soothe Russian concerns by inviting Moscow to join U.S.-NATO missile defense plans.

New START Near “Finish Line,” Timing Unclear

Tom Z. Collina

After missing previous deadlines, Russia and the United States have reached an “agreement in principle” on the START follow-on treaty, administration officials and press reports said last month, although details still remain to be worked out. President Barack Obama called Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Feb. 24 to give the talks a final push, the White House said. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Feb. 23 and “encouraged Russia to continue to move ahead, push hard so we can reach an agreement in the next couple of weeks” according to the Department of State.

“We are at the end game, we see the finish line of negotiations in the START follow-on treaty,” Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen O. Tauscher told a conference on nuclear deterrence near Washington Feb. 17. No new timeline has been set, she said.

Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, who addressed the conference after Tauscher, said, “Mind you, the closer you come to the endgame, the bigger each and every small detail becomes.”

Meanwhile, a proposed Russian unilateral statement on missile defense may now create additional delays, according to McClatchy March 1. “We don’t think these problems are insurmountable,” a senior U.S. official told McClatchy.

A high-level breakthrough on New START came in mid-January when national security adviser James Jones and Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew to Moscow to work through key verification details, including the sharing of data from ballistic missile flight tests, known as telemetry, administration officials said. A deal was approved in principle Jan. 27 during a phone conversation between Obama and Medvedev, the officials said. “The presidents agreed that negotiations are nearly complete, and pledged to continue the constructive contacts that have advanced U.S.-Russian relations over the last year,” the White House said in a Jan. 27 statement.

Rose Gottemoeller, the Obama administration’s lead negotiator, flew to Geneva Feb. 1 to help draft the final text and begin what could still be a time-consuming process of translating the agreement into treaty language. “There may be finessing and fine-tuning, but the issues, from our perspective, are all addressed,” an administration official told The Wall Street Journal Feb. 3.

However, exactly how the two sides agreed to resolve their differences over the telemetry issue has not been made public.

Splitting the Difference on Telemetry

Under START, which expired last December, the parties had agreed to broadcast telemetric data openly after each ballistic missile flight test and not to actively deny the other side this information, with limited exceptions. The Russians now see the telemetry access requirements as burdensome and unequal because the United States has no telemetry data to report under START. The United States is not currently developing new strategic missiles, but is instead rebuilding current models, such as the Trident D-5. The Russians, on the other hand, are developing new missiles, such as the RS-24 mobile missile, to replace Soviet-era systems. Moreover, the United States is currently testing interceptors for its various missile defense systems, but was not obligated under START to share missile defense test data with Russia. (See ACT, January/February 2010.)

According to the Journal Feb. 3, the Russians agreed to share flight-test data, “something they had resisted as they develop more-modern ballistic missiles.” According to a Feb. 1 report in McClatchy Newspapers, however, the United States “agreed to a Russian demand to eliminate in the new verification system a prohibition on encrypting telemetry data transmitted to and from new ballistic missiles during test fights.” In other words, flight-test data would not be shared.

Each of these seemingly contradictory reports appears to be partly correct, according to sources. The United States had been arguing for open access to telemetry, and Russia for denying it; senior leaders have agreed to split the difference, the sources said. The agreed balance between access and denial, which has not been made public, has now been handed off to negotiators in Geneva who must hash out how the data is to be controlled, the sources said.

“If you ask me ‘do we offer some exchange of data,’ of course we do,” Kislyak said Feb. 17 at the conference. “Some encryption removal? Of course. But this...is exactly what needs to be done in negotiations.”

Telemetry can be denied by means including encryption (scrambling the data), jamming (interfering with the broadcast), encapsulation (post-test recovery of data tapes), or narrow directional beaming (limited broadcast of data). Telemetry can be shared by open broadcast during the test or subsequently by exchange of data tapes and other information. Although START also included limitations on access to telemetry, New START appears to be shifting the balance toward denial.

Regardless of the outcome on this issue, it is clear that New START will seek to limit nuclear weapons in different ways than its predecessors and thus will have different monitoring requirements. For example, START sought to limit the capabilities of new types of ballistic missiles, in particular, the number of warheads they are configured to carry and their throw weight, or loading capacity, using strict telemetry-sharing requirements. New START will not impose these limits, making telemetry information less relevant to its verification, according to officials involved in the talks. On the other hand, New START will reportedly seek to monitor the actual number of warheads on particular missiles and bombers, rather than just confirming that warhead numbers do not exceed an agreed maximum, as under START. The more challenging job of counting actual warheads has not been done previously and will require additional verification measures.

“Think about the size that the Russian and the American nuclear arsenals were 15 years ago. That required a very different kind of monitoring regime than 15 years later, when both sides have reduced by tenfold the number of weapons in their arsenals,” an administration official told McClatchy. “We’re confident that the verification and inspection mechanism in this treaty is sufficient to allow both of us to verify,” he said.

On strategic delivery systems, Medvedev and Obama last July promised limits of 500 to 1,100. The U.S. side then picked a middle ground of around 800, just under the number of delivery vehicles it currently deploys. The Russians, with fewer nuclear delivery systems in use, wanted a lower number, about 550, sources say; and there are indications that the two sides have resolved this issue, settling on a number between 600 and 700. As for deployed nuclear warheads, the two sides are expected to agree to a limit of about 1,600.

While some Republican Senate staffers are predicting that the treaty will not be ratified in 2010 as the administration hopes, Democratic staffers said such predictions are premature. The Cable quoted a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as saying, “Senator Reid has long been expecting to receive and consider the START treaty during the 2010 calendar year. We have seen nothing to this point that would alter this expectation. Arms control treaties have always been handled in a bipartisan manner and, once the Senate receives all the details on this particular treaty, Senator Reid is confident this tradition, which is critical to our national security, will continue.”

Reflecting GOP concerns about the treaty, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a speech Jan. 28, “Verification issues will play an important role in Senate consideration of a new treaty to replace START I.” He quoted the 1992 statement on START of CIA director Robert Gates, who is now secretary of defense, that “the verifiability of this treaty has always been seen, by supporters and opponents alike, as the key to the Senate consent process.”

 

 

After missing previous deadlines, Russia and the United States have reached an “agreement in principle” on the START follow-on treaty, administration officials and press reports said last month, although details still remain to be worked out. President Barack Obama called Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Feb. 24 to give the talks a final push, the White House said. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Feb. 23 and “encouraged Russia to continue to move ahead, push hard so we can reach an agreement in the next couple of weeks” according to the Department of State.

START Stalls; Talks Continue

Tom Z. Collina

Despite repeated pledges by their leaders and other top officials to finish “before the end of the year,” Russia and the United States failed to meet their self-imposed deadline for completing a successor to START. But President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged to keep talking and predicted near-term success. “I’m confident that [the new treaty] will be completed in a timely fashion,” Obama said in public remarks after a Dec. 18 meeting with Medvedev in Copenhagen. Medvedev replied, “I hope that we will be able to do it in a quite brief period of time.” No new deadline was set, although talks are expected to resume in Geneva in mid-January, according to the Department of State.

After missing an earlier deadline of Dec. 5, when START’s 15-year term expired, there was much speculation that agreement would be reached within weeks. The two governments issued a joint statement on Dec. 4 pledging “to continue to work together in the spirit of the START Treaty following its expiration” and expressing a “firm intention to ensure that a new treaty on strategic arms enter into force at the earliest possible date.”

Medvedev and Obama later announced plans to meet on the sidelines of global climate talks in Copenhagen on Dec. 18, raising expectations for progress on START. Officials’ statements that the talks were advancing fueled media speculation. “We count on resolving all the remaining questions in the very near future, if not hours,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko told reporters early on Dec. 18, according to Reuters. A senior U.S. official said in Washington Dec. 17 that Obama and Medvedev could reach an agreement in principle in Copenhagen, leaving negotiators to finalize a deal later, Reuters reported. Interfax news service quoted an unidentified diplomatic source as saying, “The provisions of a new START agreement are agreed and there will be an official announcement in the near future.”

Indications that agreement would prove elusive began to surface Dec. 17. “It’s high time to get rid of excessive suspiciousness,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow, according to the Associated Press (AP). “In the last couple of days we have noticed some slowing down in the position of U.S. negotiators in Geneva,” Lavrov said. “They explain this by the need to receive additional instructions. But our team is ready for work.”

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs denied Washington was dragging its feet but said at a Dec. 18 press briefing, “We want something that works for both sides. We’re going to work on this agreement until we get it right…. [I]t doesn’t make sense to get something just for the sake of getting it if it doesn’t work for both sides.”

With nothing to sign at their press conference Dec. 18, the two leaders put their failure to reach agreement into a positive light. Obama said, “We’ve been making excellent progress. We are quite close to an agreement.” Medvedev said, “[O]ur positions are very close, and almost all the issues that we’ve been discussing for the last month are almost closed. And there are certain technical details which we can encounter, many agreements which require further work.”

Supporting the view that the negotiations are nearing completion but that significant issues remain, Gen. Nikolai Makarov, chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, said Dec. 21, “I think that we should be able to sign the treaty early next year, but there are still serious difficulties,” AP reported.

According to media accounts and other sources, the main unresolved issues relate to verification, in particular whether the United States would continue to have access to Russian missile flight test data, known as telemetry. Under START, the parties agreed to exchange telemetric data after each flight test, along with information needed to interpret the data, and agreed not to jam or encrypt such data.

The United States is not currently developing new strategic missiles, but is instead rebuilding current models, such as the Trident D-5. The Russians, on the other hand, are developing new missiles, such as the RS-24 mobile missile, to replace Soviet-era systems. The Russians see the telemetry access requirements as burdensome and unequal because the United States has no telemetry data to report under START. Moreover, the United States is currently testing interceptors for its various missile defense systems, but is not obligated under START to share this test data with Russia.

Speaking to journalists in Vladivostok on Dec. 29, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appeared to propose a compromise: to trade Russian offensive missile data for U.S. missile defense data. After stating that Russia has no plans to build a missile defense system of its own but will develop new offensive weapons to offset a future U.S. missile defense, Putin told the group, according to AP, that the United States “should give us all the information about the missile defense, and we will be ready then to provide some information about offensive weapons.”

It was not clear if Putin’s proposal, which was widely reported in the Russian media, reflected a new Russian negotiating position or a trial balloon. In response to the Obama administration’s shift in missile defense plans in September (see ACT, October 2009), Lavrov told Russia Today in October that the United States “has dropped its missile defense plans, and developed an alternative system, which would not create problems in its first phase, but we would like more details on further stages.”

If Putin’s proposal was a trial balloon, the United States was quick to pop it. In response to Putin’s remarks, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in Washington Dec. 29, “While the U.S. has long agreed that there is a relationship between missile offense and defense, we believe the START follow-on agreement is not the appropriate vehicle for addressing it,” The New York Times reported.

On strategic delivery systems, the Russians had been pressing for lower numbers than their U.S. counterparts. In July, Obama and Medvedev promised limits of 500 to 1,100. The U.S. side then picked a middle ground of around 800, about the number of delivery vehicles it currently deploys. The Russians, with only about 620 nuclear delivery systems in use, wanted a lower number, about 550, according to The Wall Street Journal. Indications are that the two sides have resolved this issue, settling on a number between 550 and 800. As for deployed nuclear warheads, both sides are expected to agree to a limit of about 1,600.

The issue of deploying conventional warheads on strategic delivery systems appears to have been resolved. Lavrov said Dec. 22, “The links between strategic offensive weapons with a nuclear and non-nuclear potential will be fixed in the new treaty,” according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate, all 40 Republicans plus Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) sent a letter to Obama Dec. 15 stating that “we don’t believe further reductions can be in the national security interest of the U.S. in the absence of a significant program to modernize our nuclear deterrent.” Such modernization should include, they said, Lifetime Extension Programs (LEPs) for the B61 and W76 warheads, a “modern warhead” that includes “replacement” or possibly “component reuse,” stockpile surveillance work in the nuclear weapons complex, and new warhead production facilities, including a plutonium pit production site at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and uranium facilities at the Y-12 Plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Once the negotiations on the treaty are finished, the Obama administration plans to submit it to the Senate for advice and consent, requiring 67 votes for approval. In that context, the fact that the letter was signed by 41 senators is significant. However, the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2011 budget, to be released in February, is expected to request funding for many of the programs cited in the Senate letter. Also, the full Senate has already called on the administration to prepare a report, as required by Section 1251 of the defense authorization act for fiscal year 2010, on its plans to enhance the safety, security, and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile; modernize the nuclear weapons complex; and maintain the delivery platforms for nuclear weapons. The report must be submitted to the Senate along with the finished START follow-on treaty.

 

 

Despite repeated pledges by their leaders and other top officials to finish “before the end of the year,” Russia and the United States failed to meet their self-imposed deadline for completing a successor to START. But President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged to keep talking and predicted near-term success. “I’m confident that [the new treaty] will be completed in a timely fashion,” Obama said in public remarks after a Dec. 18 meeting with Medvedev in Copenhagen. Medvedev replied, “I hope that we will be able to do it in a quite brief period of time.” No new deadline was set, although talks are expected to resume in Geneva in mid-January, according to the Department of State.

Global Panel Calls for Steep Nuclear Cuts

Tom Z. Collina

Providing a boost to President Barack Obama’s nuclear weapons agenda, an international panel of experts sponsored by Australia and Japan released a report Dec. 15 finding that global stockpiles of nuclear weapons should be reduced 90 percent by 2025 and ultimately eliminated.

“[T]he key recommendation is to get serious about a world without nuclear weapons because there are far more risks associated with the continuation of nuclear weapons than there are these days any benefits,” commission co-chair and former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans told Australia’s ABC News Dec. 15. “We’re realistic about how long that will take. We’re setting a target date, 2025, to achieve a dramatic 90 percent reduction in the world’s nuclear weapons. We think that’s realistically achievable.”

In releasing the report, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called it “an important framework for discussions and debate on nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament.” Rudd initially proposed the creation of the panel, known as the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND). In September 2008, he and Yasuo Fukuda, then Japan’s prime minister, launched the ICNND as a joint initiative of their governments. Former Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi is a co-chair. The report was formally released in Tokyo by Evans, Kawaguchi, Rudd, and Fukuda’s successor, Yukio Hatoyama.

The report, entitled “Eliminating Nuclear Threats: A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers,” drew criticism from opposite flanks. “Capping U.S. and Russian arsenals at 500 warheads is unrealistic given today’s world,” wrote Franklin Miller, a Pentagon and National Security Council official from 1979 to 2005, and Andrew Shearer of Australia’s Lowy Institute for International Policy, in The Wall Street Journal Dec. 16. They were referring to the number of weapons that would remain in U.S. and Russian arsenals after 90 percent reductions.

Meanwhile, 17 leaders of the international nuclear abolition movement, including the mayor of Hiroshima, signed a joint letter saying, “The pace of the action plan for nuclear disarmament laid out in the report is far too slow. Rather than adding to the global momentum for nuclear abolition, there is a danger that it could in fact act as a brake.”

Among its many findings, the 230-page report noted that nuclear weapons are “the only weapons ever invented that have the capacity to wholly destroy life on this planet, and the arsenals we now possess are able to do so many times over. The problem of nuclear weapons is at least equal to that of climate change in terms of gravity—and much more immediate in its potential impact.”

Directly challenging traditional approaches to nonproliferation, the commission, which included former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry and former Russian Duma member Alexei Arbatov, found that “[s]o long as any state has nuclear weapons, others will want them. So long as any such weapons remain, it defies credibility that they will not one day be used, by accident, miscalculation or design.”

The commission laid out a phased action agenda, similar in many ways to that of the Obama administration. In the short term (by 2012), the panel called for U.S.-Russian agreement on the START follow-on, a strengthening of the nonproliferation system at the May 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty. The commission also called for progress on nuclear security and multilateralization of the nuclear fuel cycle.

“Sole Purpose” Policy

In a policy recommendation that reportedly prompted considerable debate within the commission, the panel called for a declaration by all nuclear-armed states that the “sole purpose” of nuclear weapons is to deter their use by others. In the ABC News interview, Evans said the “immediate priority” for U.S. action is to include that point in the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), now scheduled to be issued in March.

In his Sept. 23 UN Security Council speech, Obama said, “We will complete a Nuclear Posture Review that…reduces the role of nuclear weapons.” Experts have interpreted this as meaning that Obama would push the NPR process to conclude that U.S. nuclear weapons could be used to deter nuclear attacks, but not attacks with chemical, biological, or conventional weapons.

Japan’s new foreign minister, Katsuya Okada, has been a strong proponent of no-first-use policies and has said he expected the Evans-Kawaguchi report to make a recommendation “along those lines.” The policy of no-first-use goes somewhat beyond the sole-purpose policy; under the latter, a nation could agree to use nuclear weapons only for deterrence, but theoretically reserve the right to use them first to “pre-empt” an imminent nuclear strike. The issue is controversial in Japan, which values its place under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, is within range of North Korean missiles, and is the only nation to have suffered nuclear attacks. Inside the ICNND, Kawaguchi reportedly was opposed to sole purpose, even as Okada was calling on the United States to declare a no-first-use policy.

In their Wall Street Journal article, Miller and Shearer said an “unequivocal ‘no first use’ declaration would weaken American deterrence.” The commission’s report said that “‘[e]xtended deterrence’ does not have to mean extended nuclear deterrence.”

The apparent compromise is that the panel called for an early sole-purpose declaration, delaying a no-first-use policy until the medium term, or 2025.

The commission’s other goals for 2025 include “a world with no more than 2,000 nuclear warheads (less than 10 percent of today’s arsenals),” with 500 each for Russia and the United States and 1,000 divided among the other nuclear states, and development of a nuclear weapons convention to “legally underpin the ultimate transition to a nuclear weapon free world.”

For the period beyond 2025, the commission calls for creating “political conditions, regionally and globally, sufficiently cooperative and stable for the prospect of major war or aggression to be so remote that nuclear weapons are seen as having no remaining deterrent utility.”

Wading into the controversial waters of how to treat India, Israel, and Pakistan, nuclear-armed states that have not signed the NPT, the commission said, “Provided they satisfy strong objective criteria demonstrating commitment to disarmament and non-proliferation, and sign up to specific future commitments in this respect, these states should have access to nuclear materials and technology for civilian purposes on the same basis as an NPT member.”

With regard to the separation of plutonium for nuclear energy programs, the commission said, “The increasing use of plutonium recycle, and the prospective introduction of fast neutron reactors, must be pursued in ways which enhance non-proliferation objectives and avoid adding to proliferation and terrorism risks.” Although some countries are pursuing programs to separate plutonium from spent fuel and then use it to fabricate new fuel, other countries have turned away from such programs, citing proliferation risks as one of the key reasons. The abolition movement’s joint letter says that “the specific measures proposed [by the commission] for controlling materials and technology that can be diverted to weapons, including uranium and plutonium, are inadequate.”

In addition to Arbatov, Evans, Kawaguchi, and Perry, the commission’s members are Turki Al Faisal (Saudi Arabia), Gro Harlem Brundtland (Norway), Frene Noshir Ginwala (South Africa), François Heisbourg (France), Jehangir Karamat (Pakistan), Brajesh Mishra (India), Klaus Naumann (Germany), Wang Yingfan (China), Shirley Williams (United Kingdom), Wiryono Sastrohandoyo (Indonesia), and Ernesto Zedillo (Mexico).

 

 

Providing a boost to President Barack Obama’s nuclear weapons agenda, an international panel of experts sponsored by Australia and Japan released a report Dec. 15 finding that global stockpiles of nuclear weapons should be reduced 90 percent by 2025 and ultimately eliminated.

“[T]he key recommendation is to get serious about a world without nuclear weapons because there are far more risks associated with the continuation of nuclear weapons than there are these days any benefits,” commission co-chair and former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans told Australia’s ABC News Dec. 15. “We’re realistic about how long that will take. We’re setting a target date, 2025, to achieve a dramatic 90 percent reduction in the world’s nuclear weapons. We think that’s realistically achievable.”

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