By MacKenzie C. Babb
IIP Staff Writer
26 October 2011
The New START arms-reduction treaty, an agreement between the United States and Russia to reduce each nation’s nuclear arsenals to their lowest levels in more than a half century, has been “a great success” since its February implementation, according to a senior U.S. diplomat.
“It really does provide both of us, both Russia and the United States, a good day-to-day insight into the operations of our mutual strategic forces,” Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller said. The deal is “great for mutual confidence and predictability.” Gottemoeller spoke about the treaty at a briefing on nuclear arms control at the Foreign Press Center in New York October 20.
Since the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) entered into force February 5, the assistant secretary said, the two sides have exchanged full data about their strategic nuclear forces. As of September 1, the United States reported 1,790 nuclear warheads while Russia reported 1,566.
The new treaty requires each country to reduce its forces during the next seven years to 1,550 nuclear warheads, down from the current limit of 2,000 warheads and 700 launchers.
In addition to trading data, the United States and Russia have conducted thorough on-site inspections of each other’s nuclear facilities, including both deployed and nondeployed weapons. Gottemoeller, who is the assistant secretary for arms control, verification and compliance, said these inspections have taken place on operational bases as well as at maintenance, repair and testing facilities and have gone “very smoothly.” She added that the checks have gotten off to a quick start, with the United States conducting 12 inspections and Russia 11 since the treaty’s implementation.
The assistant secretary also stressed the success of the treaty’s notification system.
Every time a missile moves, even in the course of routine deployments, such as going for maintenance or repair, notification is shared. Gottemoeller said there have been 1,500 notifications since the treaty’s implementation, which has helped to build mutual respect and confidence between the two countries.
The assistant secretary also highlighted the importance of the Bilateral Consultative Commission, which comprises U.S. and Russian nuclear experts who meet twice each year to discuss compliance issues and other routine questions. The commission met for the first time in April and gathered again October 19 for a two-week meeting in Geneva to work out basic treaty issues that have emerged since implementation.
Gottemoeller said the treaty speaks to “the accomplishments of the broader U.S.-Russian relationship over the last couple of years” and is a “great story in terms of our efforts to move toward elimination of nuclear weapons.”
The treaty, which replaces the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the 2002 Moscow Treaty, will remain in force 10 years after ratification. It does not block efforts to create missile defense systems.
President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the New START agreement April 8, 2010. The treaty is a critical centerpiece in President Obama’s foreign policy program and reflects his broader world view. Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to foster arms control and nuclear nonproliferation efforts worldwide.