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The Evolving Russian Concept of Strategic Deterrence: Risks and Responses

The Evolving Russian Concept of Strategic Deterrence: Risks and Responses

July/August 2017
By Anya Loukianova Fink

Over the last decade, Russia has been putting into operation its vision of strategic deterrence, a doctrinal approach built on a demonstrated spectrum of capabilities and a resolve to use military force. Russia’s strategic deterrence is conceptually different from its Western namesake in that it is not limited to nuclear weapons.

This article introduces Russia’s strategic deterrence, highlights its escalatory potential, and discusses challenges in mitigating its dangers.

Russian military analysts describe strategic deterrence as primarily a defensive strategy that seeks to prevent conflict and to control escalation if a conflict breaks out.1 If tested in a military conflict with the West, however, some of its elements could well fuel escalation dynamics. Most notably, Russia’s plans to control escalation by using conventional precision-strike missile systems on an opponent’s military and economic targets raise the risk of unintended escalation, especially when employed alongside cyber- and electronic warfare capabilities.

Russian President Vladimir Putin enters a hall in the Kremlin March 23 to meet with senior military officers promoted to higher positions. (Photo credit: Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP/Getty Images)If a conflict involving Russian and U.S./NATO forces erupts, policymakers on both sides will find themselves unprepared to deal with numerous escalation-management challenges, which include understanding the nature of Russia’s deliberate escalation and mitigating the dangers of unintended escalation on both sides. The most urgent step to curbing the escalation potential of such a conflict is a shared commitment to avoid the unintended use of nuclear weapons. This foundation can help facilitate the management of escalation risks that will persist in the relationship between Russia and the West for the foreseeable future.

Russia’s Approach

Russia’s strategic deterrence approach is grounded in its understanding of internal and external threats and its sense of asymmetry toward the West. 2 Russian military doctrine describes perceived dangers from the United States and NATO readiness to use military force, instability and terrorism that could challenge Russia’s sovereignty, and a local conflict on its vast borders that could escalate, including to the use of nuclear weapons. 3 Russian officials also have concerns about their inability to counter Western military technological developments and the dangers posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction technologies to state and nonstate actors.

As part of strategic deterrence, Russia developed a spectrum of nonmilitary and non-nuclear and nuclear capabilities intended for continuous employment in peacetime and wartime. 4 On one end of this spectrum are nonmilitary means that Russian leaders see as tools to achieve Russia’s national interests without the direct use of military force. Russia’s political and “information war” activities have received a lot of attention in the West as a Russian innovation. Yet, Russian military officials and analysts have argued that Russia learned this approach from observing Western activities, notably in eastern Europe and the Middle East, since the end of the Cold War. 5 Furthermore, although nonmilitary means are important to Russia’s so-called theory of victory, strategic deterrence is fundamentally a strategy based on convincing an opponent of a credible threat of using military force.

At the other end of this spectrum, strategic nuclear forces remain at the heart of Russia’s strategic stability calculus, intended to prevent a regional or large-scale conflict by deterring the West. 6 Moscow is in the midst of a multiyear modernization of all three legs of its nuclear triad, although Russian experts suggest that some of the systems’ procurement is industry driven and excessive. 7 The doctrine and posture of Russia’s nonstrategic nuclear forces remains opaque, but it has long been linked to the perceived weakness of Russia’s general purpose forces and other conventional capabilities. 8 Some have noted that Russian nonstrategic nuclear forces may also intend to “offset the growing disparities” in regional ballistic missile defense. 9

A Russian Iskander ballistic missile launcher rolls by a soldier during a parade rehearsal near Moscow on April 20, 2010. Recently, Russia reportedly has deployed Iskander-M missiles, which can carry conventional or nuclear warheads, to its western enclave of Kaliningrad, which borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania. (Photo credit: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)In between, Moscow has heavily invested in development of conventional capabilities. Russia has extensively exercised its general purpose forces over the last five years, testing their command-and-control systems and improving their equipment, readiness, and mobility for a range of possible conflict scenarios. 10 Russia’s current force posture points primarily to a preoccupation with local contingencies on its borders with non-NATO neighbors. 11 Its concerns also extend to the potential vulnerability of Kaliningrad and Crimea. 12

As part of an effort to reduce its reliance on nuclear weapons at early stages of conflict, Russia has developed a range of non-nuclear deterrence capabilities, including conventional precision-strike systems (long-range cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles), air and missile defenses, and various capabilities intended to disrupt an adversary’s command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, what the military calls C4ISR. 13 It has sought to demonstrate these capabilities in Ukraine and Syria.

Tailored Escalation

Russia’s direct and indirect uses of force have fueled debate about the role of deliberate escalation in its strategic deterrence approach. Such escalation could be used to gain military advantage or to get an opponent to halt its actions—an important distinction in escalation management. 14 This distinction is not something that Russian analysts address.

Strategic deterrence is built on Russia’s view of conflicts as defensive, preventive, and just. 15 Russian military writings describe it as an approach with elements of deterrence, containment, and compellence that aims to “induce fear” in opponents. 16 To achieve this and other effects, Russian military theorists focus on the importance of tailoring nonmilitary means and the direct and indirect uses of military force. 17

Such tailoring has proven difficult in practice for Russia. During the Ukraine crisis, Russian leadership highlighted Russia’s nuclear status to signal that Russia’s stakes were higher than those of the West. In addition, Russian diplomats and former officials threatened nuclear use against NATO members and partners. 18 Russian aircraft “buzzed” vessels, risking accidents, and engaged in other hazardous activities. 19 Denials by officials of Russia’s support for separatists in Ukraine, as well as the July 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, also raised questions about Russia’s interest or ability to credibly signal limits or engage in restraint.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis talks with soldiers during a visit to NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup in Lithuania on May 10. The United States and its European allies have increased their military presence in response to perceived Russian threats to nearby NATO members, such as the Baltic states. (Photo credit: Petras Malukas/AFP/Getty Images)In the early phases of a conflict, Russian military writings suggest that Russia would first work to reduce escalation through nonmilitary means. 20 Yet, diplomacy and information activities could be viewed by the West as part and parcel of Russia’s “gray zone” strategies. On the Russian side, Western actions may be dismissed as “information war.” 21 To be sure, Russia’s restraint and bilateral diplomacy proved effective after Turkey downed its fighter-bomber in June 2015. Nevertheless, the absence of effective and credible crisis management mechanisms, including in the NATO-Russia Council, amplifies the danger that both sides will view nonmilitary means as propaganda that paves the way for military force.

Beginnings of a Conflict

Russian political-military analysts have discussed the dangers of unintended escalation given the proximity of NATO and Russian military forces. 22 As conventional postures and plans are adapted to meet perceived threats, the potential for a conflict outbreak due to inadvertent or accidental escalation increases. In turn, Russia’s practical ability to manage such escalation through strategic deterrence is limited.

In a nascent crisis, Russia is likely to engage in deterrence signaling and increase the readiness of selected conventional and perhaps nuclear capabilities. Russian military writings stress the importance of tight political control over and rules of engagement for military forces, especially as they signal intent to deny domains in a conflict and engage in reconnaissance. 23 Russian analysts also focus, however, on denying the opponent escalation dominance and achieving decisive effects in the initial period of war. 24 They further discuss mobilization activities, including of the public. 25 The challenge is that deterrence signaling activities may raise the risk of inadvertent escalation during a critical time, while mobilization activities could contribute to a perception that a conflict is unavoidable.

As the West’s military-political deterrence posture shifts in response to Russia’s deterrence signaling and mobilization, Russia may engage in a crisis response and rush forces to the theater. Military writings point to the likelihood of active use of cyber- and electronic warfare to disrupt Western C4ISR systems. 26 These actions are likely to be reciprocated, resulting in a significant degree of damage and other consequences to both sides that are not yet fully understood. These may further stress policymakers’ abilities to understand escalation dynamics and control the employment of military forces in the theater.

In addition, nuclear forces may be alerted, and warheads will begin to be moved from central storage facilities to bases. Instead of successfully halting the conflict, some Russian writings suggest that these actions may heighten concerns about the vulnerability of nonstrategic nuclear weapons. 27 Managing escalation of the conflict will depend on the mutual ability to maintain control of the use of force and understand critical thresholds.

Conventional Precision-Strike Weapons

As Russia embarked on a modernization of its conventional forces in the early 2000s, Russian military theorists advocated the creation of non-nuclear deterrence capabilities for the strategic deterrence spectrum. 28 Some noted that such capabilities along with a doctrinal foundation could be important due to the “widely accepted consequences of nuclear weapons use and, as a result, the low credibility of nuclear weapons as a deterrence measure at early stages of conflicts among states.” 29 Russia’s 2014 military doctrine introduced a new “forceful” strategic deterrence step that envisaged the use of precision strike weapons to coerce an opponent to halt its military actions. 30

The new Russian multipurpose MiG-35 jet fighter, due to begin entering service in 2019, is displayed on a podium during its presentation at the MiG plant in Lukhovitsy, 90 miles southeast of Moscow, on January 27. (Photo credit: Marina Lystseva/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia does not have sufficient conventional precision-strike capabilities to credibly threaten the full range of Western counterforce targets. Russian military analysts thus focus on limited strikes to inflict “deterrent damage” on “vitally” important military targets. 31 Targets include “weak spots” of military infrastructure such as C4ISR and transportation nodes. 32 As escalation progresses, they also discuss striking economic targets with, in theory, an aim to limit civilian losses. Such strikes would seek to damage electricity generation and distribution systems, dams, chemical production facilities, and other targets. 33 Russian military doctrine reflects a concern about Western strikes on similar targets. 34

Uncertainties exist as to whether this step will be able to effectively control escalation. As some Russian commentators note, Russian doctrine does not spell out the thresholds or criteria for these strikes or how Russia will attempt to communicate what this step means. 35 Presumably, cyberattacks will also be used to disable operations of some of the intended targets, which could contribute to confusion about the aims of conventional-weapon precision strikes. More practically, strikes on counterforce targets to inflict “deterrent damage” could result in only temporary disruptions. Strikes on economic assets may solidify an opponent’s resolve. Their consequences become even less predictable in an information-war environment.

As some Western analysts point out, Russia’s precision strike systems are dual capable, 36 but Russian writings do not focus on the potential of an opponent’s misperception of a Russian conventional signaling strike as a nuclear one. Presumably, Russia’s inclusion of a step with conventional precision-strike weapons could have been intended as a signal of a higher nuclear threshold. As Russia’s conventional precision-strike capabilities progress, watching doctrinal and employment evolution will be essential for understanding Russia’s critical thresholds. In the meantime, this issue could benefit from bilateral military-to-military contacts and efforts to privately clarify this new doctrinal element with Western counterparts.

Ambiguous Nuclear Thresholds

Russian military writings in the wake of the 1999 NATO bombing of Kosovo suggested that Russia could have engaged in a single, maybe low-yield nuclear detonation as part of a warning or to press the adversary to back down. This was Russia’s way of coping with a perceived conventional vulnerability at the time, especially regarding Western precision-strike capabilities. The standard line of thinking in Russian writings was that such nuclear reliance would be obviated once credible conventional precision-strike capabilities emerged. 37

Beyond a statement in Russian military doctrine about nuclear use when the “existence of state” is at stake, Russia’s actual threshold for nuclear use remains ambiguous. Russian military theorists view some of this ambiguity as beneficial, even though they extensively discuss what constitutes “unacceptable damage” to would-be opponents. 38 They also outline roles for nuclear weapons at later stages of large-scale conflict in strategic operations. 39 Some note, however, that “deterrence through use (or threat) of nuclear weapons even as limited strikes does not fully guarantee that the conflict would not take the path of escalation with the unlimited (mass) use of nuclear weapons.” 40

Russian political and military officials have expressed persistent concerns about an “aerospace attack” that could inflict damage on Russia’s strategic nuclear forces with conventional precision-strike weapons. 41 This and several related threat scenarios build on Russia’s suspicions about U.S. missile defenses, especially the capabilities of Aegis Ashore launchers that are part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach and prompt global-strike systems. 42 Russian military theorists also have concerns about inadvertent nuclear escalation that arises from the synergy of precision strike, cyber, and electronic means in combat. 43 As the development of these capabilities continues to progress and U.S. nuclear modernization begins, it will be important to take advantage of the possibility that Russia will wish to avoid nuclear escalation and look for ways to reduce nuclear risks in a potential conflict.

Reducing Escalation Dangers

If a conflict involving Russia and the West breaks out tomorrow, policymakers on both sides would find themselves unprepared to deal with numerous escalation dangers. In a conflict, managing escalation will be important for the West, but it will also be critical for Russia. Western policy efforts must find ways
to encourage Russia’s exercise of restraint regarding its deliberate escalation and contribute to mitigating the dangers of unintended escalation on its part.

General Stefan Danila (left), chief of the Romanian Army General Staff, shakes hands with General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia and first deputy defense minister, at the NATO-Russia Council meeting of defense chiefs on January 22, 2014. Shortly thereafter, NATO suspended the council in response to Russia’s military actions against Ukraine. (Photo credit: NATO)Ongoing U.S. and NATO efforts to adapt conventional deterrence postures and policies, as well as to improve resilience and strategic communication, are important ways to influence Russia’s deliberate escalation calculus. 44 Furthermore, with regard to Russia’s “forceful” non-nuclear deterrence step, NATO needs to consider cruise missile defense approaches and “point defenses of critical airfields and command-and-control facilities.” 45 Such steps need to be taken in tandem with clarifying thresholds and resolving mutual concerns around the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the European Phased Adaptive Approach approach. 46

In a nuclear crisis, effective U.S./NATO-Russian communication in an environment of cyber-, electronic, and information warfare will be key to credibly signaling limits, including the absence of a threat to the “existence of state” or nuclear forces. From this perspective, the de facto absence of a credible crisis management and communication mechanism poses a significant challenge to successful escalation management. Given the failure of the NATO-Russia Council in past crises, policy efforts need to identify or create such a mechanism.

Russia’s strategic deterrence exploits the attention and fear generated by indirect uses of military force, but Russian analysts have also argued that Moscow must seriously engage Western proposals on transparency of conventional forces. 47 There may be opportunities for the West to pursue efforts to gain further limits and notification requirements on military exercises under the 2011 Vienna Document on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures; enhanced military information exchanges, including on naval activities; and subregional risk reduction measures. 48

Managing the risks of accidental escalation that could result from force management errors is also essential. Western policy has allowed Russia to normalize coercive strategic deterrence activities, such as “buzzing” by military aircraft, that raise the risk of accidents involving military forces. Some in the West have advocated a plan of action on avoiding hazardous incidents in the Euro-Atlantic area. This plan provides an omnibus NATO-Russian approach to dated and piecemeal bilateral arrangements among numerous states-parties, including the 1972 Agreement on the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas and the 1989 Agreement on the Prevention of Dangerous Military Activities. 49 Such a step may help to induce Russian restraint and accountability.

Finally, Western studies have suggested that when faced with a prospect of a nuclear conflict, both sides need to recognize that they share an interest in preventing nuclear use. 50 In line with this, some Russian analysts have called for a high-level statement that would reaffirm U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s declaration that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” 51 To be sure, Russian President Vladimir Putin recently sought to reassure a Western audience that Russia has no intentions of using its nuclear weapons for coercion because that could have escalatory consequences with global implications. 52 Pursuing such a joint U.S.-Russian statement could thus be a useful way ahead. 53


1.   Yu. A. Pechatnov, “Teoriya sderzhivaniya: genesis” [Deterrence theory: Beginnings], Vooruzheniye I Ekonomika, February 2016.

2.   Ibid.

3.   Embassy of the Russian Federation to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, “The Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation,” June 29, 2015, http://rusemb.org.uk/press/2029 (hereinafter Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation).

4.   Kristin Ven Bruusgaard, “Russian Strategic Deterrence,” Survival, Vol. 58, No. 4 (August-September 2016): 7-26.

5.   Timothy Thomas, “Thinking Like a Russian Officer: Basic Factors and Contemporary Thinking on the Nature of War,” Foreign Military Studies Office, April 2016, http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/documents/Thinking%20Like%20A%20Russian%20Officer_monograph_Thomas%20(final).pdf.

6.   Andrei Kokoshin, “Ensuring Strategic Stability in the Past and Present: Theoretical and Applied Questions,” Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, June 2011, http://www.belfercenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/files/Ensuring%20Strategic%20Stability%20by%20A.%20Kokoshin.pdf.

7.   “Alexey Arbatov: Yesli tam budet krupnaya voina, to nam budet uzhe ne do tsen na chernoye zoloto” [If there is a large-scale war, we won’t care about black gold prices], Economy Times, February 16, 2016, http://economytimes.ru/kurs-rulya/aleksey-arbatov-esli-tam-budet-krupnaya-voyna-nam-budet-uzhe-ne-do-cen-na-chernoe-zoloto.

8.   Olga Oliker, “Russia’s Nuclear Doctrine: What We Know, What We Don’t, and What That Means,” Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), May 2016, https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/160504_Oliker_RussiasNuclearDoctrine_Web.pdf.

9.   Vladimir Kozin, “Russian Approach to Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons and Confidence Building Prospects,” n.d. (remarks at workshop in Warsaw held February 7-8, 2013).

10.   Gudrun Persson, ed., “Russian Military Capability in a Ten-Year Perspective - 2016,” FOI-R--4326--SE, December 2016, https://www.foi.se/report-search/pdf?fileName=D%3A%5CReportSearch%5CFiles%5C5fa9f89b-8136-4b15-9aaf-1d227aee90a0.pdf.

11.   Alexander Golts and Michael Kofman, “Russia’s Military: Assessment, Strategy, and Threat,” Center for Global Interests, June 2016, http://globalinterests.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Russias-Military-Center-on-Global-Interests-2016.pdf.

12.   Anton Lavrov, “Russia’s Geopolitical Fears,” Moscow Defense Brief, No. 5 (May 2016).

13.   V.M. Burenok and O.B Achasov, “Neyadernoye sderzhivaniye” [Non-nuclear deterrence], Voyennaya Mysl, December 2007.

14.   Forrest Morgan et al., “Confronting Emergent Nuclear-Armed Regional Adversaries,” RAND Corp., 2015, http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR900/RR974/RAND_RR974.pdf.

15.   For a discussion of Russia’s defensive logic, see Andrei Kolesnikov, “Do The Russians Want War?” Carnegie Moscow Center, June 2016, http://carnegieendowment.org/files/Article_Kolesnikov_2016_Eng-2.pdf.

16.   Pechatnov, “Teoriya sderzhivaniya: genesis.”

17.   A.A. Kokoshin, Yu. N. Balueyvskiy, V. Ya. Potapov, “Vliyaniye noveishikh tendentsii v razvitii tekhnologii i sredstv vooruzhennoi bor’by na voyennoye iskusstvo” [Impact of new tendencies in development of technologies and means of arms combat on military art], Vestnik Moskovskogo Universiteta, Vol. 25, No. 4 (2015).

18.   Persson, “Russian Military Capability in a Ten-Year Perspective - 2016.”

19.   Łukasz Kulesa, Thomas Frear, and Denitsa Raynova, “Managing Hazardous Incidents in the Euro-Atlantic Area: A New Plan of Action,” European Leadership Network Policy Brief, November 2016, http://www.europeanleadershipnetwork.org/medialibrary/2016/11/02/ab4a4c1d/ELN%20Managing%20Hazardous%20Incidents%20November%202016.pdf.

20.   Thomas, “Thinking Like a Russian Officer.”

21.   S.G. Chekinov and S.A. Bogdanov, “Evoliutsiya sushnosti I soderzhaniya ponyatiya ‘voina’ v XXI stoletii” [Evolution of the nature and meaning of the concept “war” in the 21st century], Voyennaya Mysl, January 2017.

22.   See “Velichaishaya ostorozhnost i blagorazumiye” [Greatest care and consideration], August 24, 2015, http://www.globalaffairs.ru/number/Velichaishaya-ostorozhnost-i-blagorazumie-17638.

23.   Kokoshin, Balueyvskiy, and Potapov, “Vliyaniye noveishikh tendentsii v razvitii tekhnologii i sredstv vooruzhennoi bor’by na voyennoye iskusstvo.”

24.   Ibid.; Thomas, “Thinking Like a Russian Officer.”

25.   See S.V. Goncharov and N.F. Artamonov, “Moralno-psikhologicheskoye obespecheniye mobilizatsionnoi raboty” [Moral-psychological support of mobilization work] Voyennaya Mysl, April 2014.

26.   Kokoshin, Balueyvskiy, and Potapov, “Vliyaniye noveishikh tendentsii v razvitii tekhnologii i sredstv vooruzhennoi bor’by na voyennoye iskusstvo”; Thomas, “Thinking Like a Russian Officer.”

27.   Kokoshin, “Ensuring Strategic Stability in the Past and Present.”

28.   A.A. Kokoshin, “Strategic Nuclear and Nonnuclear Deterrence: Modern Priorities,” Science and Society, Vol. 84, No. 3 (2014): 195-205.

29.   Yu. A. Pechatnov, “Metodicheskii podhod k opredelniuy sderzhivayushchego ushcherba s uchetom subyektivnykh osobennostei ego vospriyatiya veroyatnym protivnikom” [Methodological approach to determining deterrent damage considering subjective specialties of its perception by likely adversary], Vooruzheniye I Ekonomika, Vol. 3, No. 15 (2011).

30.   Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation, no. 26.

31.   Burenok and Achasov, “Neyadernoye sderzhivaniye.”

32.   Kokoshin, “Strategic Nuclear and Nonnuclear Deterrence.”

33.   Ibid.; Burenok and Achasov, “Neyadernoye sderzhivaniye.”

34.   Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation, no. 14b.

35.   Konstantin Sivkov, “Pravo na udar” [Right to strike], Voyenno-Promyshlennyi Kuryer, March 5, 2015, http://vpk-news.ru/articles/19370.

36.   Pavel Podvig and Javier Serrat, “Lock Them Up: Zero-Deployed Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons in Europe,” UN Institute for Disarmament Research, 2017, http://www.unidir.org/files/publications/pdfs/lock-them-up-zero-deployed-non-strategic-nuclear-weapons-in-europe-en-675.pdf.

37.   Andrei Zagorski, “Russia’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Posture, Politics, and Arms Control,” Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, 2011, http://www.unidir.org/files/medias/pdfs/executive-summary-a-zagorski-eng-0-325.pdf.

38.   Dave Johnson, “Nuclear Weapons in Russia’s Approach to Conflict,” Fondation Pour la Recherche Stratégique, No. 06/2016 (November 2016), https://www.frstrategie.org/publications/recherches-documents/web/documents/2016/201606.pdf.

39.   Ibid.

40.   Pechatnov, “Teoriya sderzhivaniya: genesis.”

41.   Alexey Arbatov, “Understanding the U.S.-Russia Nuclear Schism,” Survival, Vol. 59, No. 2 (April-May 2017).

42.   Vladimir Dvorkin, “Yadernyi psikhoz krepchayet” [Nuclear psychosis is getting stronger], Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, May 19, 2016; Greg Thielmann and Andrei Zagorski, “INF Treaty Compliance: A Challenge and an Opportunity,” Deep Cuts Working Paper, No. 9 (February 2017), http://www.deepcuts.org/images/PDF/DeepCuts_WP9_ThielmannZagorski.pdf.

43.   Kokoshin, Balueyvskiy, and Potapov, “Vliyaniye noveishikh tendentsii v razvitii tekhnologii i sredstv vooruzhennoi bor’by na voyennoye iskusstvo.”

44.   Lisa Sawyer Samp et al., “Recalibrating U.S. Strategy Toward Russia,” CSIS, March 2017, https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/170329_Hicks_USStrategyTowardRussia_Web.pdf.

45.   Dennis M. Gormley, “The Offense-Defense Problem,” Deep Cuts Working Paper, No. 6 (May 2016), http://deepcuts.org/images/PDF/DeepCuts_WP6_Gormley_UK.pdf.

46.   Thielmann and Zagorski, “INF Treaty Compliance.”

47.   Sergei Oznobishchev, “Russia and NATO: From the Ukrainian Crisis to the Renewed Interaction,” in Russia: Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security, ed. Alexei Arbatov and Sergei Oznobishchev (Moscow: IMEMO, 2016), https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/SIPRI-Yearbook-Supplement-2015.pdf.

48.   For a good discussion of some of these approaches, see Kimberly Marten, “Reducing Tensions Between NATO and Russia,” Council Special Report No. 79, Council on Foreign Relations, March 2017, https://www.cfr.org/sites/default/files/pdf/2017/03/CSR_79_Marten_RussiaNATO.pdf.

49.   Kulesa, Frear, and Raynova, “Managing Hazardous Incidents in the Euro-Atlantic Area.”

50.   Morgan et al., “Confronting Emergent Nuclear-Armed Regional Adversaries.”

51.   Arbatov, “Understanding the U.S.-Russia Nuclear Schism.”

52.   President of Russia, “Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club,” video, October 27, 2016, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/53151.

53.   The author would like to thank Lynn Davis and several other reviewers for their feedback on earlier versions of this piece.

Anya Loukianova Fink is a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the RAND Corporation. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the Stanton Foundation or the RAND Corporation.

Posted: July 10, 2017

U.S. May Act on Russian INF Violation

U.S. May Act on Russian INF Violation

July/August 2017
By Maggie Tennis

The Trump administration is considering actions to take in response to Russia’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, according to senior national security officials.

Christopher Ford, senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counterproliferation on the National Security Council staff, and Robert Soofer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, signaled in recent comments that the White House may move beyond talks to military measures intended to pressure Russia to return to compliance with the INF Treaty.

Christopher Ford, senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counter­proliferation on the National Security Council staff, addresses the annual meeting of the Arms Control Association on June 2 in Washington. The White House is considering a “very broad” range of options in response to Russia’s violation, he said. (Photo credit Terry Atlas/Arms Control Association)Addressing the Arms Control Association’s annual meeting June 2, Ford said that the White House is considering a “very broad” range of options that go beyond just reconvening the Special Verification Committee, the body established by the treaty for dispute resolution. That group, convened most recently in November 2016, has failed to resolve the issue.

“You would be wrong to conclude that this is an administration likely to be content just with another round of finger waving,” Ford said.

U.S. countermoves could add new strains to the U.S.-Russian relationship, already taxed by Moscow’s military action against Ukraine, Russian involvement in the U.S. elections, and NATO’s buildup of defenses in allies closest to Russia, such as the Baltic states. Russia has disputed the U.S. claim that it has developed and deployed a missile banned under the INF Treaty and has countered with complaints of U.S. violations tied to missile defenses in Europe.

The United States will consult with allies in developing a response, according to Ford, who said a resolution of the issue is needed because of the importance of the INF Treaty to “the future of the arms control enterprise.”

Addressing Russia’s treaty violation is a “top priority” for the Trump administration, Soofer said in testimony June 7 to the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said the United States needs to understand the military capability that Russia gains from fielding the SSC-8 ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM), which the United States says violates the treaty ban on ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

“We came to the conclusion that there must be some military capability that outweighs the political repercussions of actually violating the INF Treaty,” he said. “So, for Russia, this has a meaningful military capability, and we need to assess what that is and how to address it.”

Soofer noted two reviews underway, one by the Pentagon as part of the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and the other by the National Security Council. The latter is examining “steps to place more meaningful pressure on Moscow, both in terms of diplomatic and military measures, to return them to compliance,” according to Soofer.

U.S. Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified at a congressional hearing in March about the NPR, at which time he publicly confirmed the U.S. view that Russia had deployed the SSC-8 missile. (See ACT, April 2017.)

The Obama administration considered a military response to the Russian violation in 2014, after the State Department initially assessed Russia as having de­veloped and tested a noncompliant GLCM.

In 2014, Brian McKeon, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, described three possible categories of military action at a hearing held by the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees. These consisted of “active defenses to counter intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missiles, counterforce capabilities to prevent intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missile attacks, and countervailing strike capabilities to enhance U.S. or allied forces.” Only some of these options would comply with the treaty.

In February, Republican Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), and Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Republican Reps. Ted Poe (Texas) and Mike Rogers (Ala.), introduced legislation called the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) Preservation Act. It lists measures that the United States could take to pressure Russia to return to compliance, including funding counterforce, active-defense, and countervailing-strike activities; creating a program for and testing a dual-capable road-mobile GLCM within INF Treaty limits; expanding missile defense assets in the European theater; and coordinating the transfer of INF Treaty-range systems to U.S. allies.

But even if the Pentagon had the budget for these activities, it is not clear that NATO allies, Japan, or South Korea would cooperate with placing these systems on their territory.

Some experts and politicians support developing a long-range standoff cruise missile, capable of penetrating Russian air defense systems and being armed with nuclear or conventional warheads, to re­place the aging U.S. air-launched cruise missile.

In April, the State Department released its annual assessment of Russian compliance with arms control agreements, in which it repeated its accusation that Russia is violating the INF Treaty and stated that it had submitted “detailed information” to Moscow on the nature of the violation. The Russian Foreign Ministry refuted the allegation and maintained that the United States has not provided adequate evidence to back up the claim. (See ACT, June 2017.)

In remarks at the Arms Control Association meeting, Ford noted the administration’s intent to “re-engage on matters that relate to strategic stability” with Russia. He referred to recent talks on that topic between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“On the positive side, in terms of the future of dialogue and engagement on these topics, I believe you probably have seen from the aftermath of the Tillerson-Lavrov meeting in Moscow that there is agreement in principle upon some kind of strategic stability dialogue between the United States and the Russian Federation,” said Ford.—MAGGIE TENNIS

Posted: July 10, 2017

Can the United States and Russia Bridge the Growing Gap on Arms Control?

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said May 14 on Meet the Press that the United States needs to “improve the relationship between the two greatest nuclear powers in the world.” “I think it’s largely viewed that it is not healthy for the world, it’s certainly not healthy for us… for this relationship to remain at this low level,” Tillerson told Chuck Todd. “But I think the President is committed, rightly so, and I am committed with him as well, to see if we cannot do something to put us on a better footing in our relationship with Russia.” If the Trump administration truly desires better...

INF Dispute Adds to U.S.-Russia Tensions

INF Dispute Adds to U.S.-Russia Tensions 

June 2017

By Maggie Tennis

Reacting with strong language to a U.S. report alleging arms control treaty violations, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused the United States of “creating dangerous conditions” that could trigger a nuclear arms race. Further, Russia warned that U.S. missile defense development may give “hot heads” in Washington the “pernicious illusion of invincibility and impunity” that could lead to misguided unilateral action, as it claims occurred when the United States launched a missile strike against a Syrian airbase on April 7.

The annual U.S. report on arms control compliance, which for the fourth consecutive year alleges Moscow’s noncompliance with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and the Russian Foreign Ministry’s response reflect contrasting views on arms control and nonproliferation issues and demonstrate the precarious condition of the U.S.-Russian bilateral arms control regime.

The State Department’s “Report on Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” dated April 2017, also raised “serious” concerns with Russia’s compliance with the 1992 Treaty on Open Skies and cites Moscow for suspending the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA), an accord intended to reduce stockpiles of weapons-usable plutonium that had stood as an example of U.S.-Russian cooperation against nuclear proliferation risks.

Russian Complaints

The report asserts that the United States last year remained in compliance with all of its treaty obligations. The Russian Foreign Ministry disputed the alleged violations and countered with what it said are U.S. violations of the INF Treaty stemming from its missile defense and drone programs, as well as citing other actions it said hinder arms control efforts.

The United States contends that Russia has tested and deployed a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 to 5,000 kilometers, a class of weapons prohibited by the treaty. The State Department report details steps Washington took in 2016 to resolve the dispute, including convening a session of the Special Verification Commission, the technical dispute-resolution venue created by the treaty. (See ACT, December 2016.)

Specific Details

The State Department, which previously provided no details of those consultations, disclosed in the new report elements of its evidence. The United States presented information to the Russians that included Russia’s internal designator for the mobile launcher chassis and the names of the companies involved in developing and producing the missile and launcher, the report says. The United States detailed “the violating GLCM’s test history, including coordinates of the tests and Russia’s attempts to obfuscate the nature of the program,” according to the report.

Further, the report says the missile in dispute is distinct from two other Russian missile systems, the R-500/SSC-7 Iskander GLCM and the RS-26 ballistic missile. The R-500 has a Russian-declared range below the 500-kilometer INF Treaty cutoff, and Russia identifies the RS-26 as an intercontinental ballistic missile treated in accordance with the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The report also appears to suggest that the launcher for the allegedly noncompliant missile is different from the launcher for the Iskander.

Through the commission and other formats, the United States has provided “more than enough information for the Russian side to identify the missile in question and engage substantively on the issue of its obligations,” according to the report.

The Foreign Ministry, in its statement April 29, said Washington has failed to provide clear evidence to support its assertions. The United States has put forward only “odd bits and pieces of signals with no clarification of the unfounded concerns,” the ministry said.

The Foreign Ministry statement repeated Russian allegations that the United States is violating its INF Treaty obligations by positioning a missile defense system in Romania. “The system includes a vertical launching system, similar to the universal Mk-41 VLS, capable of launching Tomahawk medium-range missiles,” the ministry said. “This is undeniably a grave violation under the INF Treaty.” Yet, the U.S. Tomahawk intermediate-range cruise missiles are permitted under the agreement as a sea-based weapon. In addition, the Mk-41 has not fired GLCMs, and Washington says the launchers to be deployed in Romania and Poland are different than the ship-based version that has been used to fire Tomahawks.

Russia also cited the United States for testing ground-based ballistic missiles characteristic of intermediate- and shorter-range missiles and developing percussion drones that “fall under the definition of land-based cruise missiles contained in the INF Treaty.” It said Washington has been “simply ignoring Russia’s serious concerns.” The State Department report does not mention those disputes.

The Foreign Ministry statement identified the U.S. missile defense system as the No. 1 “unacceptable action” by the United States on a list of 11 areas of arms control concerns, which includes the U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 and the U.S. failure to ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

“It should be understood that the [U.S.] anti-missile facilities placed around the world are part of a very dangerous global project aimed at ensuring universal overwhelming U.S. superiority at the expense of the security interests of other countries,” according to the statement.

Plutonium Disposition

The State Department report found “no indication” that Russia had violated its PMDA obligations, but said that Moscow’s decision to “suspend” the accord “raises concerns regarding its future adherence to obligations” under the agreement. The Foreign Ministry said the report’s finding “does not correspond to reality” because Moscow only suspended the PMDA in response to Washington’s “hostile actions toward Russia” and a “radical change of circumstances” since the agreement was signed in 2000.

The Foreign Ministry said the Obama administration initiated plans to transition to a new method of plutonium disposition without obtaining proper consent from Russia. The statement reiterated Moscow’s position from October that Russia would resume the agreement if the United States adheres “to the agreed method of disposal,” which called for mixing the plutonium with uranium to create mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for power plant use, and reverses the other measures that prompted Russian suspension. Specifically, the ministry called for the U.S. to lift its sanctions against Russia enacted in response to Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, compensate Russia for the damage caused by the sanctions, and reduce the U.S. military presence on the territory of NATO member states that joined the alliance after 2000.”

Posted: May 31, 2017

Missile Defense Review Begins

Missile Defense Review Begins

May 2017
By Kingston Reif

The Trump administration is undertaking a congressionally mandated review of the U.S. approach toward missile defenses that could significantly alter long-standing policy and have far-reaching implications for the U.S. strategic relationship with Russia and China.

The review comes amid concerns about the growing North Korean ballistic missile threat, declining overall budgets for missile defense, pressure from congressional Republicans to expand the scope of U.S. national missile defenses beyond the currently limited goal of defending against Iran and North Korea, and continued Russian and Chinese objections to U.S. missile defense advances. President Donald Trump has provided few details about his vision for missile defense systems. A brief reference on the defense issues page of the White House website states, “We will…develop a state-of-the-art missile defense system to protect against missile-based attacks from states like Iran and North Korea.”

South Korean activists hold a rally July 11, 2016 in Seoul against the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. Under an agreement with the South Korean government, U.S. deployment of the system began in March. Credit: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty ImagesIn a Jan. 27 executive order titled “Rebuilding the U.S. Armed Forces,” Trump directed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to produce a national defense strategy, a new Ballistic Missile Defense Review, and a new Nuclear Posture Review. The directive language on the missile defense review, just one sentence long, states that the review should “identify ways of strengthening missile-defense capabilities, rebalancing homeland and theater defense priorities, and highlighting priority funding areas.”

Despite this limited initial direction, the review is likely to cast a wide net.

The fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law last December, requires the Defense Department to conduct a broad review of missile defense policy and strategy, including programs and capabilities to defeat ballistic missiles before and after launch, as well as to defeat cruise missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles. The bill mandates that a report describing the results of the review be completed by the end of January 2018.

Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 4 that the Pentagon review will begin “soon” and take six months to complete.

Homeland Defense

For nearly two decades, U.S. ballistic missile defense policy has been guided by protection of the homeland against limited, long-range missile strikes from states such as Iran and North Korea and not from major nuclear powers Russia and China.

The missile defense system designed to provide this limited protection is known as the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. It consists of ground-based interceptor sites in Alaska and California. The Obama administration announced in 2013 that it would increase the total number of interceptors from 30 to 44 by the end of fiscal year 2017.

There have been serious concerns about the viability of the GMD system since it was rushed into service in 2004 by the administration of President George W. Bush. Nevertheless, in a significant departure from long-standing U.S. policy, the Republican-led Congress voted in December to expand the declared role of U.S. national missile defenses by revising a 1999 law expressing the “limited” purpose of U.S. defenses. (See ACT, January/February 2017.)

It remains to be seen whether the Trump administration will push on the door opened by Congress and seek to protect the U.S. homeland from missile attacks by Russia and China. In a sign that this policy change could be on the table, Trump has nominated David Trachtenberg, a former Pentagon official during the Bush administration, to be principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.

Trachtenberg, who will play a major role in the missile defense review, wrote last year that “continued American vulnerability to Russian nuclear missiles is unacceptable.”

Air Force General John Hyten, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, testifies during a hearing before House Armed Services Committee March 8. Credit: Alex Wong/Getty ImagesBut any decision to abandon the “limited” condition will likely encounter significant technical, financial, and geopolitical obstacles. Previous administrations have not depended on missile defenses for strategic deterrence of Russia “because it would simply be too hard and too expensive and too strategically destabilizing to even try,” Adm. James Winnefeld, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a May 2015 speech in Washington.

Even if the review opts not to take this far-reaching step, it could nonetheless call for expanding the GMD system to address the North Korean nuclear challenge. North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs have accelerated in recent years, and many experts anticipate that North Korea could test an operational intercontinental ballistic missile sometime this year. (See ACT, April 2017)

One option to expand the system is to build a third GMD site in the eastern United States. (See ACT, January/February 2017.) During the Obama administration, Pentagon officials repeatedly stated that there is no military requirement for a third site and that the estimated $3–4 billion price tag would be better spent to implement plans to upgrade the existing ground-based interceptors and long-range sensors designed to identify and track ballistic missiles. (See ACT, April 2016.)

Regional Missile Defenses

The Trump administration’s missile defense review will also evaluate what priority to place on missile defense programs to protect U.S. allies and forward-deployed troops. The Obama administration put in place a new defense architecture for Europe, known as the European Phased Adaptive Approach, designed to protect the continent against short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles launched from Iran.

The controversial third phase of the European missile defense plan is scheduled to become operational in 2018. (See ACT, June 2016.) This phase will consist of an Aegis Ashore site in Poland equipped with the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA interceptor.

Russia has strongly opposed the planned Polish site and claims that U.S. and NATO missile defense plans are aimed at undermining Moscow’s nuclear deterrent.

The Trump administration could choose to accelerate construction of the Polish site or deploy more interceptors at the site than the Obama administration had planned but it is unclear whether other NATO allies would support such a move. Such steps would also infuriate Russia, and Trump has said he hopes to improve Washington’s relationship with Moscow.

Alternatively, the administration could consider scaling back the plans for the Polish site as a result of the July 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, which is intended to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon for at least the next 15 years if not indefinitely.

As for missile defenses in Northeast Asia, the administration could try to augment defenses against North Korea by deploying additional Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) batteries in the region. It could also examine whether to increase the defense of U.S. allies against China’s growing regional missile capabilities.

Given the strong opposition China has registered against the Obama administration’s decision to deploy the THAAD system to South Korea, where its radar system could “see” into Chinese territory, Beijing would likely react even more harshly to further deployments, especially if they are directed explicitly at diminishing China’s missile potential.

Cruise Missile Defenses

In a departure from its direction to the Obama administration, Congress asked the Defense Department to assess options to enhance defense of the U.S. homeland against cruise missiles.

These efforts have lacked direction and funding relative to the ballistic missile defense mission.

Pentagon officials have warned in recent years about Russia’s development of long-range, air- and sea-launched cruise missiles, the difficulty of detecting cruise missile launches, and the inadequacy of current defenses against these missiles. The review could also consider measures to respond to Russia's alleged deployment of a ground-launched cruise missile in violation of the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

As it undertakes its review of missile defenses, the Trump administration inherits a number of advanced technology developmental efforts to ensure the system stays ahead of foreign missile threats. High-ranking military officials have expressed concern that the current U.S. strategy to defeat adversary ballistic missiles is “unsustainable.” (See ACT, April 2016.)

The new technologies include airborne lasers to zap missiles in the early stages of their flight and a new “multi-object kill vehicle” to allow a single missile defense interceptor to destroy multiple targets. In addition, the Pentagon has been working on technology, including electronic warfare tools, to defeat ballistic missile threats before they are launched, which some observers think has already been employed to disrupt North Korea’s ballistic missile tests.

The Trump administration is likely to continue if not accelerate these efforts. But while the United States is moving ahead on the development of multiple new missile defense capabilities, there appears to be very little analysis within the government and the scholarly community about how other nuclear-armed states might respond.

Posted: May 1, 2017

Russia Suggests Revived Arms Talks

Russia Suggests Revived Arms Talks

May 2017
By Maggie Tennis

During talks April 12 with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed interest in resuming a “pragmatic” dialogue on strategic stability and arms control, although neither diplomat offered any public details about how that may proceed given strains from accumulating grievances.

Tillerson’s meeting with Lavrov in Moscow, his first as secretary of state, took place amid tensions over Russian actions in Syria and Ukraine, a U.S. airstrike against Syria government forces after their chemical weapons attack on civilians, and ongoing investigations into what role Russia covertly played in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Although it is unclear whether an arms control dialogue can proceed unhindered by the discord, Lavrov said that “we hope to resume our contacts on bilateral strategic stability and arms control and that they will take place in a business-like and pragmatic manner with a view to ensuring strict compliance with our agreements.”

Rex Tillerson, on his first visit to Moscow as U.S. Secretary of State, shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov after a press conference April 12. Credit: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty ImagesNeither diplomat in public remarks mentioned U.S. allegations that Russia is violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (see ACT, April 2017) or Russia’s objections to U.S. missile defense deployments in Europe. The two countries also appear to disagree on whether to extend the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) for five years beyond its current February 2021 expiration date, as provided for in the treaty. (See ACT, March 2017.) Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the prospect of the extension during a Jan. 28 phone call with U.S. President Donald Trump, who called the accord a bad deal for the United States, according to a Reuters report.

The two officials agreed that North Korea “has to be denuclearized” and discussed the “constructive role Russia can play in encouraging the regime in North Korea to change its course,” Tillerson said. “We have agreed to establish a working group to address smaller issues and make progress toward stabilizing the relationship so that we can then address the more serious problems,” he said.

Just how challenging cooperation will be was demonstrated by the recent behavior of both countries. On the eve of the meetings, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement condemning U.S. policies and actions in a number of global conflicts. Trump, in an interview that aired April 12, blamed the crisis in Syria on Russian support for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

In a bit of diplomatic one-upmanship, Putin avoided committing in advance to meet with Tillerson, which also demonstrated a different relationship than when he awarded the Order of Friendship medal in 2013 to Tillerson when he was chief executive of Exxon Mobil. Tillerson described his almost two-hour meeting with the Russian leader as “productive.”

“I expressed the view that the current state of U.S.-Russia relations is at a low point and there is a low level of trust between our two countries,” Tillerson said. “The world’s two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship.”

In public remarks, Lavrov was more assertive about his government’s objectives and grievances than his counterpart. Lavrov cited many “irritants” in the bilateral relationship, in large part blaming Obama administration policies. “I think that if both sides apply a pragmatic approach, this will yield results and it will go to make our relations much more healthy,” he said. In contrast to Lavrov, a confident diplomat who has dealt with five U.S. secretaries of state since taking his post in 2004, Tillerson, just six weeks on the job, appeared cautious and kept his language mostly vague and generic. At one point, he cited a need for the two countries to clarify “areas of common objectives” and “sharp difference.”

The contrast may reflect more than just Tillerson’s diplomatic inexperience because Trump’s approach to Russia is unsettled. During the Tillerson-Lavrov meeting, Trump described relations as “at an all-time low,” but later tweeted that “things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia.”

Posted: May 1, 2017

Reducing the Risks of U.S.-Russia Nuclear Conflict

The violence in Ukraine and rising tension in the Baltics, combined with concern about Russian nuclear doctrine and posturing, has heightened the risk of nuclear conflict in Europe. As William Perry, former Secretary of Defense under President Bill Clinton, recently warned , “A new danger has been rising in the past three years and that is the possibility there might be a nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia.” A recent uptick in fighting in Ukraine, last week’s unrest in Belarus and Russia , and increasing concern in Washington and Brussels about the solidity of the NATO...

U.S. Cites Russia for Banned Missile

A keys arms control treaty is in jeopardy due to alleged Russian violations and potential U.S. countermoves.

April 2017

By Maggie Tennis

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a meeting with the permanent members of the Russia Security Council in Moscow on March 31, 2017. (Photo credit: Aleksey Nikolskyi/AFP/Getty Images)Russia has violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by deploying ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs), a senior U.S. military official told Congress, escalating a dispute over the same type of missile that the Obama administration in 2014 accused Russia of illegally producing and flight testing.

Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, publicly confirmed news reports, attributed to unnamed U.S. officials, that Russia had fielded the new missile, known as the SSC-8. “We believe that the Russians have deployed a land-based cruise missile that violates the spirit and intent” of the INF Treaty, he said at a March 8 hearing by the House Armed Services Committee. “And we believe that the Russians have deliberately deployed it in order to pose a threat to NATO and to facilities within the NATO area of responsibility.”

His testimony provided new ammunition to Russia critics in Congress seeking a strong U.S. countermove by the Trump administration, as Republican lawmakers pressed for action on their proposed legislation for further missile defenses in Europe and U.S. development of a nuclear-capable GLCM in what they present as an effort to pressure Russia to return to treaty compliance.

The dispute endangers a Cold War-era accord that laid the groundwork for major U.S.-Russian treaties limiting strategic nuclear weapons (see here). U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty in 1987, agreeing to eliminate permanently their entire arsenals of nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The treaty prohibits such missiles based on land.

Responding to Selva’s testimony, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied any Russian violation. “Russia has been, remains, and will remain committed to all international obligations, including those arising from the INF Treaty,” he told reporters. “I want to remind you of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s words about the fact that Russia sticks to the international obligations, even if in situations where sometimes it doesn’t correspond to Russia’s interests. Russia still remains committed to its obligations, so we disagree and reject any accusations on this point.”

Russia previously has levied its own allegations of treaty violations against the United States, stemming from elements of the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system in Europe and from heavy-strike unmanned aerial vehicles that Russia says fit the treaty’s definition of GLCMs. In November 2016, the United States and Russia held a meeting—the first in 13 years—of the Special Verification Commission (SVC), a forum established by the INF Treaty for dispute resolution.

In 2014 the Obama administration launched a review of U.S. options after determining Russia had flight-tested a GLCM with a range prohibited by the treaty. At a December 2014 hearing held jointly by House Foreign Affairs and House Armed Services subcommittees, Brian McKeon, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, said that potential military response options cover “three broad categories: active defenses to counter intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missiles, counterforce capabilities to prevent intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missile attacks, and countervailing strike capabilities to enhance U.S. or allied forces.” The administration was reviewing “a broad range of options, some of which would be compliant with the INF Treaty, some of which would not be,” he testified.

At the March 8 hearing, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) asked, “What is the [new] administration’s plan to deal with what seems like a flagrant violation of a treaty?” Selva replied that the Pentagon has “been asked to incorporate a set of options” during the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). “So, it would be premature for me to comment on what the potential options might be for the administration,” he said.

In February, Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced legislation that they said would allow the United States to “take steps to bring Russia back into compliance with the INF Treaty” that include developing similar missile systems that the United States could deploy. Reps. Ted Poe (R-Tex.) and Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) introduced companion legislation in the House. The legislation “makes clear that Russia will face real consequences if it continues its dangerous and destabilizing behavior,” Rubio said in a statement.

Gary Samore, executive director for research at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, said Russia’s INF Treaty violation “frees us from any obligation” to abide by the accord. Still, U.S. responses, such as a decision to deploy systems now banned by the treaty, may limited due to opposition from European allies, he told the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee on March 8.

“It’s important to recognize that there would be some political cost to doing that, especially in Germany and the Netherlands and other countries,” he said. “This would be controversial, so we need to weigh the military benefits of deploying systems, if they’re necessary, against the potential political complications and figure out a strategy for overcoming those political complications.”


Posted: March 31, 2017

REMARKS - Why New START Is a Treaty Worth Keeping

If we do not safeguard and continue arms control, we'll be removing the constraints that do exist on Russia's modernization, says Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists.

April 2017

By Hans M. Kristensen

There has been much conster-nation among some about Russia’s increase in deployed warheads counted under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The number has grown since 2013 and, at last count, stood at 1,796 warheads—246 warheads above the treaty limit and 429 warheads more than the United States at the time. However, the number does not reflect an increase of the Russia arsenal but rather a fluctuation of the warhead level during the transition from Soviet-era weapons to newer types.

Hans M. KristensenI don’t see that the numbers indicate that Russia intends to break away from New START. The fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin in his first phone call with U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly brought up the possibility of extending the treaty suggests that he is not interested in violating it but continuing it. The United States should welcome that.

Nor do I think the disparity in deployed strategic warheads matters strategically at this point. There is another New START number that is much more important in that context: the number of strategic launchers. And there, the United States is counted with a significant advantage of 173 launchers more than Russia. It is the structure of the posture that is important. Russia knows that the United States has an additional 2,000 warheads in storage it could upload onto launchers if it needed to. Russia does not have nearly that upload capacity.

It is on this basis that the U.S. Department of Defense and the director of national intelligence in 2012 informed Congress that Russia “would not be able to achieve a militarily significant advantage by any plausible expansion of its strategic nuclear forces, even in a cheating or breakout scenario under the New START.”

Even so, shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, some former U.S. defense officials began to question whether “the weapons limits imposed by New START [are] still consistent with our own and our allies’ national security requirements” and “whether our security can afford a strategic arsenal capped at limits which were based on an alternate reality.”

The United States should always assess whether its military forces are adequate and appropriate. But as far as I can see, there is no basis for questioning New START, which has equal limits for Russia and the United States and keeps a cap on what Russia could otherwise do.

Despite that, in his first telephone conversation with Putin, Trump reportedly brushed aside New START as a one-sided deal when Putin raised the issue of extending the treaty for five years beyond its 2021 expiration date. If the report is accurate, then that was an extraordinary bad decision.

If we do not safeguard and continue arms control, we’ll be removing the constraints that do exist on Russia’s modernization. In fact, it is precisely because of Russia’s modernization that we need to retain New START. 

Hans M. Kristensen is director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. This is adapted from remarks he made February 28 at the Nuclear Deterrence Summit, an industry conference held in Washington.

Posted: March 31, 2017

BRIEFING: How U.S. and Russian Leaders Can Avoid Renewed Nuclear Tensions



March 22 Briefing from U.S., German, and Russian Experts on Uncertain Future of Nuclear Arms Restraints and Policy Options for Presidents Trump and Putin


Russia and the West are on the brink of a renewed confrontation. Key pillars of mutual restraint are in jeopardy, including the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and the 2010 New START agreement. Washington and Moscow are heavily investing in new and redundant nuclear systems that exceed their respective deterrence requirements. Both NATO and Russia are ramping up their defenses in the Baltic region, with close military encounters increasing the chances of a dangerous miscalculation.

Three members of the Deep Cuts Commission, a 21-member experts group from the United States, Russia, and Germany, presented their perspectives and proposals for how Presidents Trump and Putin can chart a safer course. This event was held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. 

Audio of the event will be available soon. The transcript is below. 

Speakers include:

  • Sergey Rogov, Director of the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences
  • Walter J. Schmid, former German Ambassador in Moscow (2005-2010) 
  • Steven Pifer, Director of the Brookings Arms Control Initiative
  • Daryl Kimball, Director, Arms Control Association, Moderator

The Deep Cuts Commission's most recent report, published June 2016, is available online

This is an unedited transcript provided by CQ Roll Call.


      DARYL G. KIMBALL:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Welcome to the First Amendment Lounge of the National Press Club.  I am Daryl Kimball.  I'm the Executive Director of the Arms Control Association.  And as most of you know, we're a non-governmental organization that has been in existence since 1971 to address the risks and dangers of the world's most dangerous weapons.  And we are focused for many decades on the U.S.-Soviet and now U.S.-Russian nuclear balance.

      And we are one of the organizational partners of the Russian, German, U.S. expert commission on removing obstacles to achieving deeper nuclear weapons reductions known as the Deep Cuts Commission which was established in 2013.  It's led by our colleagues at the Hamburg Peace Research Institutes and we are the American partner organization.  And today, we are happy to bring folks together for a briefing on the current challenges relating to the U.S.-Russian nuclear balance.

      Since the commission was put together four years ago in 2013, and we developed a name the Deep Cuts Commission, the political situation has changed dramatically and the prospect for further progress looks dim.  And the challenges between the U.S. and Russia and for the pillars of Arms control look to be much more difficult. 

      I'm just going to provide a brief introduction to the subject we're going to discuss today.  We've got three expert speakers who are going to into more depth and then we're going to follow their presentations with Q&A with you all.

      So, just to remind everyone, as we know since 2013, Russia and the West are engaged in a period of renewed confrontation.  Key pillars of the security architecture including the 1987 INF Treaty, Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, the 2010 New START agreement, and the Open Skies Treaty are all in some form of jeopardy.

      Both Washington and Moscow are investing heavily in new and redundant nuclear systems that exceed their respective deterrence requirements and both NATO and Russia are ramping up the military capabilities in the frontier region and there are close military encounters that increase the chance of dangerous miscalculations.

      So, I think one of the core messages that you might come away with today is that without renewed and sober dialogue and restraint on the part of both sides, it is quite possible that the key mechanisms that have served to regulate the U.S. nuclear relationship may disappear in the next year or two.

      So, we have three very experienced insightful experts to share their perspectives on these issues, Sergey Rogov, the Director of the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.  He will go first being the most senior of our panelists and coming the furthest, I think to Washington for this event.

      Ambassador Walter Schmid, former German Ambassador to Moscow from 2005 to 2010, and Ambassador Steve Pifer, Director today of the Brookings Arms Control Initiative, close colleague with whom we work with in Washington. 

      So each of them is going to provide their comments, their perspective as members of the Deep Cuts Commission on the crisis in bilateral U.S.-Russian Arms control, what they see as the most urgent two or three problems, what's at stake and what U.S. and Russian and European leaders can do and must avoid doing to help avoid further damage.  So with that, Sergey, the floor is yours. Thank you for being here.

      SERGEY ROGOV:  Thank you, Daryl. 

      It's a great pleasure and honor for me to be here today.  I spent more than 50 years studying the United States.  I never thought I would live so long.  And now, I feel like I'm 33 or 35 years younger, because, well, I spent half of my life in the trenches of the Cold War.  And I have the feeling that we are back to those trenches, since the relationship between Russia and the United States today is extremely bad.  Of course, well, the direct parallel with the Cold War may be not quite correct, but there are some common features. 

      First of all, all the stereotypes of the Cold War propaganda are back.  And this anti-American and anti-Russian propaganda is truly ugly.  And what is really frightening is that sometimes propaganda becomes a substitute for a strategy.  And the most dangerous is when political players are beginning to believe their own propaganda. 

      The second commonality is that we don't have practical normal political dialogue.  In a couple of hours, I'm going to see Ambassador Kislyak.  And I can tell you that, well, he was so badly treated, a solid professional diplomat who is doing his work has been publicly attacked as a recruiter spy, that really demonstrates how low our relations are.    Without the political dialogue, we simply cannot find solutions to the problems we face. 

      The third feature is the economic sanctions, the economic warfare.  And finally, and that is most dangerous the resumption of the arms race and the military tension between Russia and the United States when we face all kind of ugly incidents which can produce unbelievable consequences.

      So what should be learned?  I don't intend to spend the rest of my life in the trenches of the new Cold War.  I think we have to stop it and reverse it and try to build a positive relationship between Russia and the United States. That will be good not only for our two countries, but for the rest of the world, since Russia and the United States, we are still nuclear superpowers.  And while 30 years ago or 40 years ago, we had so many nuclear weapons that we can destroy the entire humanity 20 times, today, the number is smaller. 

      But we still can destroy the entire mankind three or four times.  We are locked in a very strange relationship called mutually assured destruction, so strategic stability is based on this notion.

      And right now, it seems that we cannot avoid this paradigm.  But why Russia and the United States should be forever doomed to mutually assured destruction?  Let me give you the example of the United Kingdom and France.

      They actually have enough weapons to destroy each other, 200 or 300 nuclear warheads, that's sufficient.  And the French and the British don't always like each other.  But the relationship is not mutually assured destruction. Mostly, it's cooperative relationship.

      And I wonder why Russia and United States despite the existence of nuclear weapons cannot move to a positive cooperative relationship.  That, of course, requires to avoid the total collapse of the arms control regime, because many elements of the arms control regime which we negotiated at the end of the Cold War and after it like the ABM Treaty are gone. 

      And what we have, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty today are under attack.  I presume we'll have more time to talk about specific suggestions how we can reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, how well we can engage other nuclear weapons states like China, India, the United Kingdom, France and others into some kind of the arms control regime, which probably would be different from Russian-American arms control regime, but still there should be some rules of the game.

      And this is particularly important when the international system based on the rules, institutions, multilateral institutions today is under attack.  And I won't -- trying to be a little bit diplomatic,  I won't tell you which country is driving this attack on the United Nations, on NAFTA, on NATO, on Trans-Pacific Partnership and I can continue with this list.

      And Russian-American cooperation, if we're able to resume it, will help to deal with many challenges which the present international community faces.  One of them are the weapons of mass destruction.  But there are other challenges, problems like the Islamic State. Today, Russians and Americans fight against the Islamic State in Syria, which theoretically should have made us allies like when the Soviet Union and the United States were fighting against Hitler as a common enemy. 

      So the Islamic State is a common enemy.  And each of us in one way or another is resisting it, but we are not allies.  And actually some pretty bad things happen unless we are able to find how, well not just to avoid accidents, but how to cooperate.

      There are other issues which we should be concerned, but I presume that the time which was allocated by Daryl to me has expired, so I have to stop. 

      KIMBALL:  All right.  Thank you, Sergey.

      Ambassador Schmid, the floor is yours.  Thank you. 

      WALTER J. SCHMID:  Thank you, Daryl. 

      Ladies and gentlemen, it's a pleasure for me to address to you some problems we are talking about in the Deep Cuts Commission.  And working in this commission I can draw not only from my experience in Moscow but also from my time for 2000 to 2005 as Federal Commissioner of the Federal Government for Arms Control and Disarmament in Germany. 

      The Deep Cuts Commission is basically an arms control commission.  And before I will try to discuss some aspects of the INF Treaty, New START and the military problems related to the Baltic State, I would like to make some comments on the nature and the tasks arms control can fulfill.  Arms control is about organizing one country's security.  And in doing so, it's in some competition with unilateral defense.

      Both unilateral defense and arms control which is an element of cooperative security start by the same procedure.  First, there must be an assessment of the security threat, of the security need one country faces.

      And then at the next level, we see the difference.  Defense, unilateral defense tries to fill gaps, normally by buildup of military capabilities.  Arms control on the other hand tries to come an agreement, to come to an agreement with the adversary most likely at the lower level of weapons that existed before.  That's the ideal view.

      And it is since two centuries that one great philosopher, Immanuel Kant, illuminated the problems of unilateral defense, stating in his famous essay, Perpetual Peace, that once one country or one state tries to increase its security by military means, there is a risk that it is going to decrease the security situation of others and the adversaries.

      And as you know, the other state, the adversary has done the same procedure to face.  He has to define its security needs and then probably will end by a buildup of his armed forces.  And this, as the Cold War has shown, can lead to a buildup of arms, to an arms race and to less stability, less security for both sides.

      If it goes well, this buildup, then those states will end up at a higher level of balance.  This causes during the time of the period of the buildup, of course, some instability, and at the end of the day it's more extensive than security on a lower level, so it's a waste of money.

      And I am drawing my attention now to -- given this framework to the three problems I would like to address.  First one, INF, I think INF is an example of such, while the history, the run-up to INF is an example of such a buildup because one side in those days, the Soviet Union, introduced a new weapon.

      The German chancellor Helmut Schmidt thought we should react because this weapon was directed not against United States but against Europe.  It's a problem of Europe and also talking as a European here, you cannot reduce the INF Treaty to an issue between United States and Russia. It's also of utmost concern to Europe because we are faced with a new weapon that's directed against -- can be directed against Europe.  So, Helmut Schmidt was very nervous about this and he started a policy campaign that finally was very costly for him, because he had to pay with his job in '83 -- '82 and (inaudible).

      So what happened?  You know, this was the double solution, the two track approach.  The western countries came to the conclusion that they had to react.  They reacted and they deployed Pershing.  Then the other side realized that this, of course, caused a new problem to them because they were now confronted with rockets, with missiles that could reach their country within a few minutes. So they saw the risk of the first strike problematic.  So at the end of the day we had a buildup on both sides.  We had to pay for more than 2,000 missiles and then both sides decided that it would be better if they could abolish this kind of weaponry (inaudible).

      And that's the situation where we are today.  And I think that everybody on all sides who is talking today, the problems of the IFA, the possibility of withdrawing, thinking about it should not forget this experience, that once we didn't have the INF Treaty, we ran run into a very difficult situation.

      And those who think that because other states are not part of the INF Treaty and withdrawal from the treaty could be a good solution in order to solve these problems,  I am talking about, immediately about this, should never forget the problems I've talked about that could arise in Europe and where the Europeans don't have any interest in recreating this situation.

      Of course, INF Treaty is apart from what I have said, a bilateral issue, and it would be advisable to take other countries in.  I don't know if it's advisable to start an initiative for multi-lateralization, but it probably could be a good idea to take countries that are of interest to both sides and to Europe, in the Far East into this treaty.  And to make them concrete proposals because I could think that also countries like China, like Japan, like South Korea could have an interest not to run into this problem of this kind of conflict. 

      Second, New START, we know that this treaty finished a period where we didn't have, the binding instruments in order to face the nuclear threat.  And fortunately the New START in our view was concluded. It runs until '21.  And we would be very happy if it could be at least extended for more years to come.  And we would even be more happy if it could be improved.  And I think there is a possibility to do so.  I'm coming back to what I've said about the general nature of arms control.  First is the military as the military planner should assess the security risk and the security needs.

      And we had in 2013 a statement by the then-American President Obama who said that according to military assessment, the United States could reduce further.  And we are hopeful that the upcoming new nuclear posture will not diverge too much from the military statement some years ago. 

      This will also be positive, an extension, and probably an improvement of the treaty would also be very positive with regard to the NPT.  You know that the non-nuclear weapon states under this regime of the NPT are getting more and more unsatisfied and they are looking for alternatives. 

      We will have next week or so a conference of the "ban" countries how they are called and they passed a resolution in the United Nations where the majority of 134 votes.  So, it would be detrimental to the interest of us all if the NPT could be damaged. 

      And I can assure you, having assisted two NPT conferences, that the problem of nuclear disarmament is decisive.  If it's dealt well with, it's decisive for the mood of the conference and progress that can be made.  If we miss this opportunity, we will also face problems with the NPT which is a pillar and the cornerstone of our international security.

      The third issue I wanted to talk very briefly is the Baltics.  What we are seeing currently on all sides is a preparedness to increase military spending, increase military capabilities on both sides.  And so, we face the risk of a buildup in these capabilities in close proximity to the common border between Russia and NATO. 

      NATO, by the way, coming back to my general remarks on arms control, is committed to both aspects, to collective defense and collective security.  These are principles established in the strategic concept of NATO.  And that's why it would be advisable if we could think on both sides, before we are going to build up military capabilities to assess the concrete security risk both sides faces, and then to discuss on that basis how they could by arms control measures of a regional nature reduce tension without coming under the pressure to start a buildup. 

      And we could imagine, and the commission has proposed some technicalities we could talk about later, in order to reduce tension to dislocated forces and to work that way against the risk of a, let's say, military accident. 

      These are the three examples I wanted to illustrate a little bit in order to show you that arms control which is often being neglected in these days, sometimes ignored, is not an out-of-date instrument, but it can be very instrumental and very helpful in facing the security risks and threat we are finding today in a risky world. 

      Thank you very much. 

      KIMBALL:  Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. 

      Steve Pifer, your perspective after the Russian and German perspective on these challenges. 

      STEVE PIFER:  Yes.  Thank you, Daryl.  For 45 years the nuclear arms control regime has contributed to the security of both the United States on the one side, the Soviet Union and Russia on the other end, and it's also had broader security benefits. 

      But there are certain things now which lead people to be concerned including myself that that regime could be at risk and I'll talk about three challenges very briefly.  And my two co-panelists have already touched on these questions, but the first challenge is just you have a broad U.S.-Russia political relationship that is at its lowest point since the end of the Cold War, lots of mistrust, very difficult issues. 

      The question is can you get that relationship to a point where you can begin to engage on some of these questions that relate to arms control, avoiding military activities that could be problematic.  I think you probably have to start off with small steps. 

      One step, I think, would be of urgent attention should be some kind of a military-to-military dialogue at a time when American, NATO and Russian military units are operating in close proximity at a higher tempo than the past; some kind of regime to address issues so that you avoid dangerous military incidents, that you avoid things that could lead to accident or miscalculation. 

      A second challenge is the preservation of the treaty on Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces.  That treaty was signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 and it bans the United States and Russia from testing or deploying ground-based cruise or ballistic missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, and it resulted in the elimination of almost 2,700 American and Soviet missiles back by 1991. 

      The United States has charged Russia with testing a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile at intermediate range and as we heard two weeks ago, the U.S. military believes that the Russians have begun to deploy that missile.  The Russians have leveled several charges about American non-compliance with the treaty. And that poses a problem, can the treaty be preserved. 

      I think the Obama administration in its last several years was hoping to find a way to bring Russia back into compliance.  And I'll talk about the American violations in a moment.  That presumably is going to be much harder to do if we're now talking about Russia deploying a prohibited missile as opposed to testing. 

      You have discussions going on now, I think.  A senior American official yesterday raised the question, what leverage does the United States have to bring Russia back into compliance.  There have been suggestions on Capitol Hill about perhaps building an American intermediate-range missile.  And my guess is that would actually get the attention of Moscow.  Certainly, in the 1980s, the deployment of the American Pershing II and ground-launched cruise missile in Europe focused Soviet attention and was important to getting the treaty on Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces in the first place. 

      Personally, I would prefer to avoid steps that add to the numbers of nuclear weapons, but those who are advocating this idea I think need to answer two questions.  One, can the U.S. defense budget afford to build this missile and two, if the United States built it, would NATO agree to deploy it.  And unless the answers to both of those questions are yes, I'm not sure that's a doable option. 

      Other possibilities would be looking more at countervailing conventional capabilities.  I think I'd build on the point that while this is a treaty dispute between the United States and Russia, the real security threat, if Russia is in fact deploying an intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missile, is to its neighbors in Europe and Asia. 

      And I think it would be worthwhile for the U.S. government to be doing what it can to begin to get those countries that would be directly threatened by this missile -- Germany, France, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Japan, China and South Korea -- to begin to make this an issue on their agendas with Moscow. 

      My sense is we're probably not going to get a lot of traction making this just a U.S.-Russian issue.  We should be trying to make this an issue between Russia and the other countries for whom this missile would be a threat if in fact it is being deployed. 

      Also, there's an importance to dealing with the Russian concerns about American compliance.  I think that a couple of the Russian concerns are, probably can be handled fairly easily but there is one concern that to my mind has merit, and that is the Russian concern that the site in Romania to deploy SM-3 missile interceptors is a potential violation of the treaty or is a violation of the treaty. 

      And the argument goes, if you look at that site which is based on the Mark 41 Vertical Launch System, if you take those launchers and them on U.S. Navy warship, they can hold SM-3 interceptors but they can also hold sea-launched cruise missiles which are virtually identical to ground-launched cruise missiles.

      So, I think that's an issue the U.S. government needs to pay attention to in terms of preserving the treaty, and this will require a significant degree of political will on both sides.  Preserving the treaty at this point is going to be very, very difficult.  But if that treaty unravels, it has significant consequences and perhaps could lead to an unraveling of the overall nuclear arms control regime. 

      The third issue is the New START Treaty and what happens there.  Under the terms of New START, the United States and Russia by February of next year each are allowed no more than 1,550 deployed strategic warheads on no more than 700 deployed strategic missiles and bombers.  According to press reports in a February phone conversation, President Putin raised with President Trump the possibility of considering the extension of that treaty.  The treaty goes until 2021 but by its terms it can be extended to up to five years if the sides agree. 

      Reportedly, President Trump was a bit confused as to which treaty was being discussed and then was dismissive of it.  I hope that reflects the fact that the President is still learning about some of these questions.  It's very clear that his military supports this. 

      Two weeks ago, the Commander of Strategic Command and Vice Chairman of Joint of Chiefs of Staff in testimony on Capitol Hill made clear they support the treaty.  They like the fact that it caps the overall levels of Russian strategic forces, and they like the fact that the treaty provides for semi-annual data exchanges, thousands of notifications every year, and the opportunity 18 times a year to go and look at Russian strategic forces. That gives both sides a lot more information about the other side in a way that prevents having to make worst case assumptions. 

      Now, yesterday, Chris Ford who's at the National Security Council staff indicated that the U.S. policy would be to observe New START up until at least February, 2018 which is when the limits take full effect.  And that period runs roughly with the time where the administration will be conducting its nuclear posture review. 

      I very much hope that that review results in an agreement to continue to observe New START and perhaps to extend it to 2026.  But then, the question comes up, could you do more.  I personally would like to see us do more.  I believe it's in the U.S. security interest to further reduce nuclear weapons.  I would prefer fewer Russian nuclear weapons that could target the United States.  And my guess is that Sergey would like fewer American weapons that could target Russia.  But I'm not sure if that's going to be where the Trump administration comes out. 

      If the Trump administration would like to pursue those further reductions, my guess is they're going to have to deal with several questions the Russians have raised over the last four or five years.  One would be missile defense which will be a very tricky issue in this town.  A second issue would be Conventional Prompt Global Strike. And then, the third question might be could you begin to limit some of the capabilities of third country nuclear forces. 

      That's going to be a question though not only of preserving the arms control regime, but could you strengthen that regime.  And that's going to be a question both for the Trump administration and also for how the Kremlin wishes to pursue it. 

      Finally, just my concern about what happens if the INF treaty does collapse and if you don't get an extension of New START.  For the first time in 50 years, the United States and Russia would be in a situation in which there are no negotiated limits covering their strategic nuclear forces.  And I think potentially that has significant costs, particularly for the United States.  First of all, we lose limits on overall capabilities; we lose the transparency, we're not going to know things like how many warheads are on deployed Russian systems. 

      There is a potential for a nuclear arms race which from the American perspective is not a good idea.  My guess is the Russians can build nuclear weapons more cheaply than we can.  It's not an area of American comparative advantage. 

      Moreover, if we start this competition around 2021, it would begin at a time when the Russians have hot production lines, they're in the midst of their strategic modernization program.  Our program only cranks up in the 2020s.  And it would have a significant impact or it could have a significant impact on the U.S. defense budget. 

      We already have a strategic modernization program which the Pentagon or the Obama Pentagon said they did not know how to afford.  How do you then add to that on the nuclear side when you also have a White House that wants to have a 350-ship Navy and additional manpower for the Army and the Marines? 

      The other cost we have there is that other countries will react, in particular my concern is about China.  China has modestly increased its nuclear forces, but if the United States and Russia are in a situation where they are not limited and the limits go away, can we count on the Chinese to show restraint? 

      So, it seems to me that there are real costs to an end of that negotiated arms control regime.  It needs to be preserved, that's in the interest of the United States; it's an interest to Russia and of Europe.  But it's going to be a difficult challenge in the next couple of years. 

      KIMBALL:  Thank you much. 

      We're going to open up the floor to questions.  And as you ponder your questions, I wanted to start with a specific question perhaps starting with Steve about how specifically to solve the INF puzzle. 

      And I would just note that while there have been some Republicans on Capitol Hill who have proposed the initiation of efforts to develop a U.S. INF missile in response, there are other members of Congress, particularly the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who have said,  "No, we should not do that. That would be unwise."  And they have suggested that there be a second meeting of the Special Verification Commission, the SVC which the treaty provides for. 

      So, is that part of the solution?  What is the SVC, what could they do in this context, and can these technical people deal with this by themselves or does it take leadership from above to solve this? 

      PIFER:  The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty established the Special Verification Commission, and one of its mandated tasks is to examine issues of compliance with the treaty.  And that's the point or the place where the United States and Russia can bring together the technical expertise to solve the problems. 

      I think the first question is, is there a political will.  And if there's a political decision to try to solve these problems, you then have the technical experts who could figure out ways to do it.  In our commission, we've had some discussions, and in our third report we write about some possible solutions. 

      For example, the Russian concern about America's use of what the Russians say are intermediate-range ballistic missiles in tests for missile defense.  One way to resolve that problem, and I think it actually is a problem that both militaries would like to resolve, because both militaries are going to be using intermediate-range missiles as targets for their missile defense test, is work out language, and the SVC, the Special Verification Commission, would be the place to do this, that would say this is what is a prohibited intermediate-range ballistic missile, this is what is a permitted test missile. 

      And then perhaps you could say, and either of the sides can have no more than X number of test missiles at any one time and they have to be limited to locations that are associated with missile defense tests.  So, that's the kind of technical solution that you could work out that could solve the problem. 


      Likewise, again, on the question of the SM-3 interceptors in Romania, are there are certain things that you could do at that site that would say this is a system that cannot contain a sea-launched cruise missile, or could you allow the Russians periodically to come and take a look and say, okay, there are 24 launch boxes there, open that box number 1 and 16, we get to choose and show us there's an SM-3 interceptor in there, not a sea-launched or not a cruise missile. 

      So, I think those are the kinds of solutions.  It's a little bit more difficult at this point in time on the outside to come up with potential solutions for the American charge because we don't yet have a lot of detail.  But you could see possibilities for inspections, things like that that might at least begin to define exactly is there a problem here.  And then, again, if there was a political decision in Washington and in Moscow to try to preserve this treaty, the people in the Special Verification Commission could come up with ways to do it. 

      ROGOV:  Let me add a few words.  I basically agree with what Steve said.  But I'd like to mention two factors.  One is that with each arms control treaty, we always face some problems and some allegations, claims and we had the mechanism to resolve those problems and get rid of those accusations. 

      With the INF Treaty, we face a very strange situation.  When Russia was claiming that the United States is violating the INF treaty presented the facts, on American side, the position is unprecedented; the United States says Russia violated the INF Treaty.  And when we asked what are the facts, the response is you know yourself, so we are not going to tell you.  That's kind of a shell game. And unless the United States makes public what exactly it considers to be a violation by Russia, it's going to be very difficult to resolve the problem. 

      The second factor is that when the treaty was negotiated and that was what, 30 years ago, some of the new technological developments have not been taken into account.  Who, for instance, thought 30 years ago about unmanned aerial vehicles which can fly hundreds if not thousands of miles and carry a heavy payload? 

      So, well, the treaty has some elements which have to be clarified. Besides, when the INF Treaty was signed, the Soviet Union and the United States had almost 3,000 medium range missiles and the rest of the world just a few dozen.  Today, Russia and the United States don't have such missiles, land-based medium range missiles.  But China has more than 1,000.  Other countries like India, Pakistan, North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel also have medium range missiles.  And in terms of geography, that means that the missiles from those countries can attack targets on the Russian territory, but not on American territory since, as you know, there are no more medium-range Russian missiles on Cuba for, what, for 65 years, or 55.  And it's very unlikely that Russia will deploy them in Cuba. 

      So, well, we have to think how to engage other countries because, well, in a multipolar system in which we live, it's insufficient for Russia and the United States only to create legally binding arms control arrangements.  We have to think how to engage China, how to engage the United Kingdom, India, France and others. 

      And that is also a very important issue, since other nuclear weapon states say, "Oh, no, no.  Well, we are not going to get into arms control regime because we're small guys.  But you have thousands of nuclear warheads so why should we? Reduce to our level, then we shall think."  And that, of course, creates a situation when we have more and more uncertainty about what can happen in the future. 

      In particular, for instance, when we think whether China will get engaged in nuclear buildup responding to what the Chinese perceive as an American provocation of deployment of American ballistic missile defenses like the THAAD system in Korea and other places.  So, well, it's not just simply the question of the letter of the INF Treaty.  We have to think about the entire set of issues related to the INF Treaty. 

      KIMBALL:  Ambassador Schmid, you had a comment on INF? 

      SCHMID:  A short remark.  I think what Steve said and what Sergey said is very reasonable, but I wanted to make clear one point.  In order to satisfy these needs, we shouldn't run the risk to lose the treaty, because if we lose it, then of course, we are reimporting the security problem we had to solve it by the treaty.  And I think the advantage is we could have, vis-a-vis China or other countries you mentioned, would be much less than the problem we would create in Europe. 

      KIMBALL:  Right. 

      Are there questions from our audience?  We've answered all of your questions with U.S.-Russia relationship.  That's amazing. 

      Yes?  Identify yourself and tell us. 

      HERMAN:  Yes, I'm Steve Herman from the Voice of America.  Thank you, all, for coming here today.  I'm just wondering, maybe a brief elaboration on the comments that Chris Ford made yesterday concerning the nuclear posture review, and that essentially everything is on table including moving CTBT over to the executive branch to effectively kill it I guess. 

      And also, President Obama made a big deal of his goal which obviously a lot of people would consider to be utopian of zero nuclear weapons in the world.  If this administration moves away from that, what is the symbolism that you interpret in that move? 

      KIMBALL:  All right.  So just to repeat the question because we're recording it.  Question is a response to Chris Ford's comments about the nuclear reviews underway and how that affects you U.S. policy including the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.  Why don't we start with Steve?  I actually have a thought on this, too, but as the American, why don't you respond to our American President's aide's comments for the VOA? 

      PIFER:  OK.  Well, first of all, let me say that it was probably natural for Chris Ford to say we're doing the nuclear posture review and I believe he also said there's going to be a missile defense posture review and everything's on the table.  I mean, that's where the administration is going to start so I would not read too much into that. 

      The important question is where do they come out at the end 12 or 16 months down the road when they finish this?  I also wouldn't read too much into the comment which did get some media play about him saying we might reconsider the end goal of world without nuclear weapons because I believe he qualified it, said, you know, is that a goal in the near to midterm?  Is that realistic? 

      I personally support a world without nuclear weapons.  I actually think American security interests would be better off in that world and that the risk of the world, of that kind of world, there would be risks there but they are less than the risk of a nuclear world.  But I would also admit that it would be very hard to get there. 


      So I can see an outcome where the Trump administration might say, "Yes, that's our goal."  And, in fact, President Trump said that pretty much three weeks ago.  But they may come to a different conclusion than the Obama administration came to as to how realistic it is to make that a goal that drives your near and your medium term policy approaches. 

      KIMBALL:  You know, let me just add a couple of observations, too.  I mean when President Obama on April 5, 2009 gave his speech in Prague about steps towards a world without nuclear weapons, he was not talking about a, you know, a near-term objective of achieving global nuclear disarmament.  But he was echoing the call from George Shultz, Sam Nunn, Bill Perry and Henry Kissinger issued about a year earlier, which is an echo of Ronald Reagan, of Jack Kennedy, of President Johnson, President Nixon, President Carter about the importance of pursuing the goal of nuclear disarmament.  And that goal is a treaty obligation of the United States and all of the parties to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty under Article 6 of the treaty and the subsequent review conference statements and commitments made. 

      And, in fact, in the year 2000, five years after the NPT was extended indefinitely, the five permanent members of the Security Council made a joint statement of an unequivocal commitment to achieving the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.  It's a political statement, but it was important at the time. 

      So I would say to Chris Ford, I'll remind him that U.S. support for the goal of a world without nuclear weapons is non-negotiable.  This is not something up for review for President Trump to rethink as he sends out his next tweets.  This is a serious matter that has had a lot of consideration, bipartisan support.  And if United States does not commit to that in the long-term, it will have serious consequences across the system, particularly the nuclear nonproliferation treaty system. 

      And then just quickly on the review, the nuclear posture review, yes, as Steve said, everything is under reconsideration.  And I think what that should remind us about is that the policies that have been part of U.S. practice for several years, the 25-year long taboo on nuclear testing, no U.S. nuclear testing since September, 1992, the pursuit of further U.S.-Russian nuclear reductions, the policy that Obama put in place of no new nuclear weapons.  All of that is up for grabs again.  That does not mean that it's going to change, in fact, I think it'd be very difficult for Trump to change those things, but we should not take those policies for granted. 

      ROGOV:  Let me say a few words from a Russian point of view.  I was not at this meeting with Chris Ford, but I pay attention, as Steve said, that he claimed that the United States will stick to the START II Treaty until February 2018. 

      PIFER:  At least.

      ROGOV:  At least.  But the treaty expires only in 2021, so should I interpret this as a hint, as a message that after nuclear posture review will be finished, is finished, the Trump administration may decide to withdraw from the New START Treaty like George W. Bush did with the ABM Treaty. 

      That creates a lot of uncertainty, in particular since during the campaign Donald Trump made very contradictory statements about nuclear weapons.  Sometimes he supported no first use.  Sometimes he said, well, we shall win any nuclear arms race.  We shall always be number one. 

      Apparently, today there is no nuclear policy for the new administration, it's developing.  But the problem is that the Republican Party has almost no arms controllers left.  In 1972, it was Nixon and Kissinger and the Republicans who were launching to play the leading role in creating the arms control regime.  After Dick Luger left the Senate, are there any Republican senators who are supporting arms control regime? 

      And looking at the Republican platform, one gets the feeling that there is no arms control regime, arms control treaties the Republican Party will support.  Of course, if the Republican president, and you have now the Republican president or a Republican president, will propose some arms control initiatives, Republicans will probably support him. 

      But we see that the so-called defense hawks in the Senate and in the House already, well, threaten that they would not permit any arms control agreement, and that's in particular related to the bill which was introduced a month ago by Senator Cotton which suggests that the United States should deploy both defensive and defensive medium-range weapons and even give them to American allies, presuming Germany and others. 

      There is another element which creates uncertainty, and that, fundamental changes which the Republicans made in the National Missile Defense Act of 1999.  It was in 1999 that this act defined the purpose of the BMD as limited defenses.  So the word "limited" was dropped out last year and replaced by robust layered defenses including a suggestion that the United States should test and deploy space-based defenses. 

      Of course, well, that's a big concern for Russia and many people in Russia are beginning to believe in the worst case scenario.  Worst case scenario happens seldom, but the present uncertainty and the situation when we accuse each other of violation of legally binding obligations is not a very positive environment for preservation and strengthening of the arms control regime. 

      KIMBALL:  Ambassador Schmid? 

      SCHMID:  Coming back to your question, the zero option, I would (inaudible) what Daryl has just said.  This is stated in Article 6 of the NPT, and that's why it's not the free choice of the member states to adhere to it or not.  But there is something more to it.  This was an obligation undertaken by the nuclear weapon states.  In exchange for it, the non-nuclear weapon states renounced the acquisition of nuclear weapons.  I think we should never forget this.  This was the bargain.  And, of course, everybody knew that this objective of a zero option could only be reached step by step and not tomorrow morning. 

      But -- and I would recall what I've just said before, as soon as we face the risk that there would be no arms control instrument, of course, non-nuclear weapon states would see this as a non-compliance to the obligation of the other side under the NPT. 

      PIFER:  Just coming back to the point about what Chris Ford said yesterday, my assumption is that when he said at least through February 2018 an abundance of caution to preserve the flexibility for the administration. I personally am very confident that we'll observe the New START Treaty up through 2021 and the evidence I would offer is that we saw just a couple of days ago a press report saying that the Air Force intends to complete the removal of another 50 ICBMs by April, which would bring the U.S. ICBM force down to 400.  That is the New START planned force. 

      If, in fact, the Trump administration wanted to keep all options open after February of 2018, they might have slowed that program down to give themselves options to go beyond New START.  So I'm not sure that the administration has a decision yet about what happens after 2021, but I have a fair degree of confidence that the administration would adhere to New START through 2021. 

      KIMBALL:  All right.  Any other thoughts, questions?  Yes, sir, in the back. 


      KIMBALL:  A good question.  So the question I think was do the non-nuclear weapon states of the world, the majority, do they continue to believe in forswearing nuclear weapons given some of the difficulties that we now see with respect to the nuclear armed states not fulfilling their responsibilities on disarmament? 

      SCHMID:  As you -- as you can see, today I think the way that non-nuclear weapon states would go is not to rearm as well.  But if you look at the ban initiative, they try to find ways and means in order to reinforce efforts to disarm nuclearly (ph).  You can discuss if the ways and means they found so far are adequate ones, very helpful ones. 

      We -- our German position, for instance, the government's position is that this is not very helpful.  It could damage the NPD a well and that will sure speak for the step-by-step approach.  But it's quite obvious that if even the step-by-step approach doesn't work, then there will be reactions of the new nuclear weapon states vis-a-vis the NPT.  And I don't think, this is my personal view, that they would like to rearm, but I think they will try to find ways and means to circumvent the NPT.  This could be a serious risk and this wouldn't be a positive news for all of us. 

      KIMBALL:  Yes. 


      PIFER:  I would add that if you look at the two most significant nuclear proliferation challenges we seen now which would be North Korea and Iran, if the United States abandons its commitments to reduce nuclear weapons and ultimately move towards their elimination, if we move away from that, it will greatly diminish both the diplomatic and the moral authority of the United States to mobilize pressure on the part of third countries against Iran and North Korea.  So there's a very big risk in terms of our ability to contain proliferation in those cases where it perhaps is moving forward. 

      KIMBALL:  And, yes, and I would agree with that and we should also remember that we can't judge the effects of this in the short-term very well.  We need to think about the long term.  And we have to remember, the NPT was created in 1968.  There was a conference in 1995 about whether to extend it or not.  It was decided that it would be extended indefinitely.  We're now approaching the 50th anniversary of the NPT.  We have to think in these long timelines.  So what will happen 25 years from now if -- but I'll agree with Steve that it would diminish the U.S. moral authority, the Russians' moral authority if they're not making good faith progress on disarmament with respect to other states. 


      QUESTION:  (inaudible) and this is about North Korea.  To what extent does North Korea's continuing development of ballistic missiles and the outcome of current confrontation over that program affect the U.S.-Russia issues, the U.S.-Russia agenda that you've been discussing? 

      KIMBALL:  Oh, I can take a crack at that, but if others want to contemplate that.  I mean I would -- I would say that, you know, if North Korea's nuclear missile program is not halted in the near term, and I think that requires pressure, more effective sanctions and engagement, if that does not occur they're going to have the ability to strike Japan, South Korea, even China and U.S. forces in the region with nuclear armed ballistic missiles.  They may not have an ICBM for several years even if they begin testing it in 2017. 

      What does that do?  I don't that affects directly the U.S.-Russia dynamics.  I think it would gravely affect U.S.-Chinese dynamics and that may, in the longer run, affect U.S.-Russia dynamics.  And what I mean is that, you know, as, if North Korea advances its nuclear and missile capabilities, the U.S., South Korean and Japanese response is going to be to install ever more capable missile interceptor systems.  Right now it's THAAD which is a relatively modest system.  The radar there actually can't detect all North Korean ballistic missile launches.  It's not the most effective system.  But there are more effective systems that are available, the AEGIS system on destroyers. 

      And if the North Koreans pursue an ICBM, I think one of the likely responses or impulses of the United States would be to bolster the ground-based ballistic missile interceptor capability in Alaska, which is actually quite minimal at the moment.

      So, you know, that is going to lead to a Chinese reaction, a very negative one.  And, you know, if China begins to increase its nuclear capabilities, I think Russia will have to pay attention, and it will make Russia far less interested in deeper nuclear reductions with the United States because it will continue, as Sergey said, to remind the world that, "Well, we don't just have the United States and NATO to worry about, we have these third countries that happen to be on our border."

      So, you know, the North Korean proliferation challenge does have serious ramifications for in the long run, the U.S.-Russia risk reduction agenda we're talking about.  Ambassador Schmid, you had some thoughts.

      SCHMID:  Just adding a question to this.  Of course, once you get North Korea with ICBMs, you need a missile defense against the ICBMs.  And this would be a worldwide missile defense.

      PIFER:  And I think just to reiterate what Daryl said.  You know, right now, the United States has a rather thin missile defense against the North Korean ICBM.  Interceptors in Alaska and California, the goal is I think to have 40 interceptors by the end of this year.  That probably doesn't threaten Russian forces or Chinese forces.

      But if the North Korean advances lead to an increase in that, even though I think -- where the U.S. military now is we accept we're not going to be able to defend the United States against a Russian attack and we probably couldn't stop a Chinese attack.  But what we may end up doing is if we have to push our numbers up to defend against North Korea, then do we lead the Chinese and the Russians to say they have to add, and we could get into this inadvertent U.S.-China cycle even though the goal of our missile defense is to stop a North Korean attack. 

      So this potentially has ramifications that go well beyond just the U.S.-North Korean balance.

      ROGOV:  So as the question deals with the Russian-American relations, I can  (inaudible).  Russia is very critical of North Korea, North Korean nuclear policy, North Korean testing.  We consider it's a very serious problem.  But at the same time, Russia is against a military solution to the North Korean challenge.

      And there is concern in Russia taking into account that the new U.S. administration speaks that the time for strategic patience is gone, that the United States may decide to run a preemptive attack on North Korean nuclear and missile facilities.  And that's right near Russian border.  So that would be a development which will have very serious consequences for Russia's security.

      Another factor is the Aegis Ashore in Europe, which the United States claims was not against Russian missiles but against Iranian and North Korean missiles.  Well, since -- as far as Iran is concerned, we have at least a 10-year grace period about the Iranian nuclear program, who is left?  North Korea.

      And it's extremely difficult for me to imagine a scenario when North Korea decides to attack with its missiles Germany.  So, well, this contributes to the Russian perception that the American ballistic missile defenses in Europe are in fact aimed against Russia.

      Can Russia play a more important role?  Since we are not providing North Korea with economic assistance or sophisticated weapons like we used to do many decades ago, we don't have much of a leverage.

      But we can work with the Chinese, engaging them to bring greater pressure on North Korea to give up some of its provocations.  But, on the other hand, if the United States says, well, that it's not going to negotiate with North Koreans, hardly Russia can do much.  But one possibility that we have a multilateral format dealing with North Korean problem like we had five plus one with the Iranian problem.

      So in my interpretation, North Korea could be one of the areas where Russia and the United States can cooperate.  But, again, well, it's very difficult right now to understand what is the new administration policy towards North Korea.

      KIMBALL:  Although I would just add, the U.S. policy towards North Korea may become clearer sooner because President Xi will be having a fabulous weekend in Mar-a-Lago and he'll be speaking with President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson.  And it is my guess -- I don't have any inside information but it's my guess that that is the point at which the U.S. policy will, you know, essentially be clarified, because this problem with North Korea is even more urgent in terms of the timing than the Russia-U.S. issues we were just discussing. 

      Other thoughts, questions?  Yes.


      KIMBALL:  All right.  So the -- how could INF unraveling lead to a broader unraveling of the nuclear arms control architecture and -- that's a good question.  How could the other nuclear armed states be engaged in a nuclear risk reduction dialogue?  What are the modalities?  So let me ask you, Sergey and then Steve, to talk about the modalities on engaging third party nuclear states.  There are no easy answers as one but there are some ideas.

      ROGOV:  Well, let me start by saying that there are nuclear weapon states and nuclear weapon states.  And it's not easy to find the common denominator for other nuclear weapon states.  But I want to talk a little bit about the European situation.

      When the nuclear arms control process started, the Soviets, when Steve and I were very young, insisted that we should count in the nuclear balance and restrict not only American strategic weapons but also American forward-based tactical nuclear weapons, and there were thousands of them at the time.  And British and French nuclear weapons, since the United Kingdom and France are members of NATO.

      So, well, that was I presume our position almost at the beginning of each next tour of strategic arms reductions.  And each time, we agreed not to count American tactical nuclear weapons which could reach the Russian territory from Central Europe, and not to count the British and French nuclear weapons, but narrow the definition of the strategic stability only to the long-range ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers which the United States and Russia possessed.

      And this is related to the present problem including the INF.  As Mr. Ambassador said, Russian medium-range missiles could attack targets in Europe and in Asia.  But not on American territory.  But American medium-range weapons like Pershing II could attack Moscow, could attack other targets in the European part of the Soviet Union. 

      So, for us, they were strategic weapons.  And in this sense, the whole story of INF was the Soviet decision to agree to a complete elimination of medium-range missiles, which could cover Europe and Asia, in return for elimination of American medium-range missiles which were an element of American strategic posture playing an extremely dangerous role for us with the short flight time of 10 or 12 minutes.

      So well, in the scenario of the preemptive decapitating and even disarming strike, the Pershing IIs were quite prominent.  So, well, that means that what seemed to be a Russian concession agreeing to eliminate completely the entire class of weapons was -- I believe that was a great gain for Russian security, because we got rid of that American possibility to start a surprise attack with a first salvo of the American forward deployed weapons.

      And when we talk now about the present problems of the INF, there are some people in Russia who complain that we face thousands of medium-range missiles in Asia, but have no symmetrical system which could counterbalance those medium-ranges, not American but medium-range missiles of Russia. 

      And from time to time, there is a discussion in Russia that, well, the INF Treaty is something which may be not so good for Russia.  But if the INF Treaty collapses and the United States again deploys the new generation of medium-range missiles, it will be not in western Germany.  It will be in Estonia, in Poland, and Romania.  And the flight time to Moscow will be just a few minutes.  So that's what makes many Russia very much concerned about, well, proposals like which I've mentioned of Senator Cotton.

      (UNKNOWN):  Rubio.

      ROGOV:  No, that -- Rubio also made noises about it but Cotton introduced the bill on preservation of the INF Treaty, which actually means total abolishment of it.  So well, the -- in this scenario, Russian security will be enormously jeopardized.  Another point is -- there is a discussion that, on Russian tactical nuclear weapons.  And we have more tactical nuclear weapons than the United States, although the official number has not been announced but nobody questions that issue.

      But in Europe, Russia faces in the balance with NATO not only 200 of American forward deployed tactical nuclear weapons, but 500 of British and French nuclear weapons, which are not covered by the START Treaty.  So in terms of the Russia-NATO balance, there is a situation where not only tactical nuclear systems of Russia and the United States should be counted but also the British and French.  It's a very complicated scenario and sometimes it's forgotten, but this should be kept in mind.

      KIMBALL:  Steve, some thoughts on this and...

      PIFER:  Yes, we did actually a fairly long paper at Brooking back last August looking at the question.  I'd start out by saying that if you look at the levels of American and Russian nuclear weapons, probably 4,000 to 4500 weapons on each side.  And then compare them to third countries, the largest country would be France at 300, China about 280, the U.K. about 220.  That's a huge gap.  And I would argue there's probably room for another U.S.-Russia bilateral negotiation without getting to third countries.

      Now, having said that, if you look at what the Russian government has said going back to 2011, 2012, there seems to be an insistence on the Russian part that there has to be something done with third countries.  It's not easy.  Even though the Russian government and Foreign Minister Lavrov several times have said the next negotiation has to be multilateral, there's never been a suggestion by the Russian government as to what that negotiation would look like.

      And I think that's because it's very, very hard.  How do you get the -- let's just take the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China.  The five countries that are on the U.N. Security Council as permanent members.  How do you come up with a negotiation that deals with that?  My guess is Britain, France, and China would not have accepted if it says the United States and Russia can be up here at 4,000 and you stay at 300. 

      We're not going to be able to negotiate something like the Washington Naval Treaty of the 1920s which had different levels for different countries.  So that's a big problem.  My suggestion would be is that the United States and Russia engage in a negotiation that brings their levels of nuclear weapons down below New START, brings in all of the stuff that's not covered by the New START Treaty, non-strategic weapons.  And then the United States and Russia jointly ask the British, and French, and Chinese to say, "Look, as long as the U.S. and Russia are coming down towards that treaty that goes below New START, we, the British and French and Chinese, will not increase our weapons."

      You're going to have to narrow that gap to the point before you can get to a real negotiation where you start doing numbers because it's very difficult to see any state saying, "Sure, I'll take a number of 400 while you're allowed 4,000."  I don't see how that works.  So it's tough. 

      On the question of how the INF treaty unravels.  Here's my theory.      If we can't come to grips with the compliance issues and if, as I believe is happening, Russia continues to deploy a ground launched cruise missile of intermediate range, I think the regime is in danger.  You've already seen in Congress the proposals, one of which is to declare Russia in material breach.  Typically, you do not do that until you're saying that the violation is to such a point where it destroys the fundamental purpose of the treaty.  That declaration is typically a precursor to withdrawal from the treaty.

      Other ideas that have come in Congress, again, deploying an American intermediate-range missile basically contribute to the downfall of the treaty.  If the INF Treaty collapses, you also have proposals in Congress that would say we should defund American implementation of the New START Treaty. 

      So you could see this carrying over to the New START, it might not -- it might not end the New START Treaty, but it would make very difficult for extending the New START Treaty beyond 2021 and it would not be in the interest of either the United States or Russia in 2021 to find that the INF treaty was gone, the New START treaty was gone.  And that for the first time in 50 years, there were really no negotiated treaty limits covering U.S. and Russian nuclear forces.

      KIMBALL:  So we're running short on time, I wanted to try to sum up some of the ideas that my colleagues have expressed here in terms of a positive agenda for action.  And I'm drawing bits and pieces from several of their comments here, and I mean -- so first of all, the United States and Russia have an urgent need to reduce overall tensions.  There will be a summit between the two presidents at some point later this year.

      There are ways that they can lower the temperature through a joint statement that expresses their support for cooperative measures in other areas.  And also that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought, the words of Gorbachev and Reagan from about 30 years ago, still true today.

      Another key part of reducing tensions would be to set up the kind of long term negotiation that Steve just talked about with other nuclear armed states.  A pre-condition would be to, at the very least, extend New START for another five years maintaining the existing balance and enabling if the two sides wished engage in further talks about a wide range of issues, conventional strike, missile defense, strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, over the course of that longer period when New START would continue.

      The INF treaty violations, I think we all agree here, it is absolutely essentially the two sides sit down together again to try to work through what the dispute is, how it can be resolved, that takes leadership from the top.  And in the meantime, it's important that there aren't actions like those that Steve was just describing that make a bad situation worse. 

      And not to neglect this, it is just as important, as Ambassador Schmid was describing, there are dangerous military incidents that are occurring on a fairly regular basis.  It is important to avoid those and that requires military to military conversations. 

      And there is the longer term conventional balance that we spoke about here today.  The conventional forces in Europe treaty no longer exists.  That was another key instrument to ending the Cold War but there can and should be a new dialogue on how there can be mutual restraint measures including some regional arms control limits that provide greater confidence and predictability going forward in the future. 

      And there some ideas that the German government has begun to forward in this regard that could be built upon.  So I think those are some of the key themes from our presentations today.  I hope this has been helpful.  And there's even more, of course, in the third report of the Deep Cuts Commission, which we have copies of.  So thank you very much for being here. 

      Please join me in thanking our expert speakers.


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Posted: March 22, 2017


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