Administration Pushes to Finish “New START”

By Tom Z. Collina

U.S. and Russian negotiators are set to meet this month as part of an effort to wrap up negotiations by December on a new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia, administration officials said recently.

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1 comment:

William E. Jackson, Jr. said...

Is there not is a serious "disconnect" between the legal limits in past(and prospective future) agreements on strategic arms control and the actual numbers of strategic nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles (missiles and bombers) still in existence in both Russia and the United States? Newspaper reports often confuse the two. For example: “Before Arms Pact Expires, U.S. Seeks Ways to Keep Watching Russia," NYT, October 20, 2009.

Under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) signed in 1991—and scheduled to expire on December 5—both Russia and the U.S. were required to downsize their deployed strategic arsenals to 1600 delivery vehicles carrying no more than 6000 warheads. Under the “new” START treaty now being negotiated, the arsenals of intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched missiles, and long-range bombers supposedly would be cut to approximately 1500-1675 warheads deployed on 500-1100 delivery vehicles.

It is difficult to figure out what the report in the NYTimes means by the new START bringing the legal ceiling on warheads and delivery vehicles “down even below today’s much lower levels” on the ground.

Indeed, it is estimated by the ACA that Russia still has approximately 3,900 strategic warheads and 800 delivery vehicles; and that the United States has more than 5,500 strategic warheads and approximately 1,200 delivery vehicles. Of course, the final numbers will be determined in part by how the “operationally deployed” warheads on missiles are counted.

But let us not kid ourselves on the daunting size of the two strategic nuclear arsenals still in existence, and beware of shell games in which both Washington and Moscow promise more than can be delivered.

William E. Jackson, Jr.

[Executive Director of the U.S. General Advisory Committee on Arms Control, 1978-80.]