U.S.-Russia Nuclear Arms Negotiations: Ukraine and Beyond
Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
Chairmen Poe and Rohrabacher, Ranking Members Sherman and Keating, and members of this Committee, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you about the Administration’s arms control policy toward Russia.
Today, I want to speak to you about: 1) why arms control agreements with Russia continue to be an important tool to enhance the security of the United States, our allies and partners; 2) how we have used numerous arms control tools since the crisis in Ukraine began to increase transparency and stability in support of our broader regional efforts; and 3) the seriousness with which the Administration takes compliance with arms control treaties.
First, as has been recognized for over four decades, arms control is a tool that can be used to enhance the security of the United States, our Allies and our partners. It is one of the many diplomatic, military, and economic tools that the United States uses to address 21st century challenges. Many of our allies and partners are signatories and States-Parties to these same arms control agreements and we have worked closely with them to negotiate and implement these agreements. The Obama Administration has continued the longstanding bipartisan approach to arms control with Russia that had its origins in the days of the Cold War. The administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were the architects of many of our most successful and enduring arms control efforts. Let me affirm that the United States is committed to maintaining strategic stability between the United States and Russia and to encouraging mutual steps to foster a more stable, resilient, predictable, and transparent security relationship.
That said, Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine have undermined trust. While diplomacy between the United States and Russia continues, no one can ignore that Russia’s actions in Ukraine have violated the very principles upon which cooperation is built. Further, as we consider arms control priorities this year or in any year, we will continue to consult closely with our allies and partners every step of the way. Our security and defense, as well as that of our allies and partners, is non-negotiable. We will only pursue arms control agreements that advance our national interest.
The New START Treaty and Next Steps
During the Cold War, Washington and Moscow found it in our mutual interest to work together to cap and then to begin reducing the number of nuclear weapons to reverse the nuclear arms race and improve mutual security and stability. For the same reasons, we judged that the New START was in the U.S. national security interest, and that is why we continue to implement the New START Treaty with Russia even today. We are now in the fourth year of implementation and, despite the crisis in Ukraine, we and Russia continue to implement the Treaty in a business-like manner.
Since entry into force in 2011, the United States has inspected—with boots on the ground—Russian nuclear weapons facilities 58 times. Moreover, the United States and the Russian Federation have exchanged more than six thousand notifications on one another’s nuclear forces since entry into force. These notifications provide predictability by enabling the tracking of strategic offensive arms from location to location, giving advance notice of upcoming ballistic missile test launches, and providing updates of changes in the status of systems covered by the Treaty. For example, a notification is sent every time a heavy bomber is moved out of its home base for more than 24 hours. Additionally, when either party conducts a flight test of an ICBM or SLBM, they are required to notify the other party one day in advance.
The Treaty’s verification mechanisms allow us to monitor and inspect Russia’s strategic nuclear forces to ensure compliance with the Treaty. For both the United States and Russia, accurate and timely knowledge of each other’s nuclear forces helps to prevent the risks of misunderstandings, mistrust, and worst-case analysis and worst-case policymaking. Put another way, the New START Treaty’s verification regime is a vital tool in ensuring transparency and predictability between the world’s largest nuclear powers.
The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) highlighted the importance of aligning U.S. forces to address the 21st century security threats. As a result of further analysis called for by the NPR, the President announced in Berlin last June that, after a comprehensive review of our nuclear forces, we have determined that we can ensure the security of the United States and our allies and partners and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent while safely pursuing up to a one-third reduction in deployed strategic warheads from the level established in the New START Treaty. We have sought to negotiate reductions with Russia, but to date Russia has not expressed interest in nuclear reductions below the New START levels. We will also continue to work within NATO to develop ideas for reciprocal measures that we could in the future propose to Russia to build confidence and increase transparency with regard to non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe. This will lay important groundwork for the future when conditions may be more conducive to progress in this area. Any changes to NATO’s nuclear posture must be taken by consensus within the Alliance.
Conventional Arms Control
In the realm of conventional arms control, the United States and our allies have been using arms control mechanisms in an effort to promote stability in Europe, provide transparency on Russia’s provocative actions in and around Ukraine, and assure our allies and partners in the face of Russian aggression.
The Vienna Document on Confidence and Security Building Measures is a series of politically binding confidence and security-building measures (CSBMs) designed to increase openness and transparency concerning military activities conducted inside the OSCE’s zone of application (ZOA), which includes the territory, surrounding sea areas, and air space of all European (Russia from the western border to the Ural Mountains) and Central Asian participating States. The Vienna Document allows for a variety of information exchanges, on-site inspections, evaluation visits, observation visits, and other military-to-military contacts to take place according to Vienna Document provisions. In the case of the United States, only military forces and activities inside the ZOA are impacted.
It was designed to increase openness and transparency on military activities across Europe and Russia. Since the crisis in Ukraine began, allies and partners from six countries have participated in four Vienna Document inspections in Russia and Ukraine. Using additional Vienna Document provisions, inspectors continue a near-continuous presence in Ukraine, providing insight into events there. So far, inspectors from 16 countries have participated in five such missions since March 20.
Ukraine has also implemented provisions of the Vienna Document in order to host observers to dispel any concerns about its own military activities by inviting all OSCE participating States to Ukraine from March 5-20. A total of 77 people from 32 OSCE states and the OSCE Secretariat participated in this visit. Ukraine called on Russia to host a similar visit in western Russia near the border with Ukraine, but Russia has not offered to do so.
The use of these tools in Ukraine demonstrates that the Vienna Document can help provide insight and transparency into military activities during a crisis. However, it is not designed to address a crisis when one OSCE participating State ignores the OSCE principles and commitments it has undertaken. Moving forward, the United States will work with our allies and partners to develop ideas to update the Vienna Document to reflect lessons learned.
The United States and its Treaty partners have also made active use of the Open Skies Treaty to monitor events in Ukraine and Russia. The Open Skies treaty establishes a regime of aerial observation flights over the territories of its signatories. The Treaty is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving Treaty partners the ability to gather information through aerial imaging on military forces and activities of concern to them. During special OSCE meetings on April 7 and 17 that were convened under Vienna Document provisions to address unusual military activities, the U.S. delegation was able to display Open Skies Treaty imagery of the Russian forces, in order to show that concerns about Russia’s actions and military movements are valid and disturbing. Unfortunately, the Russian Federation has refused to provide information that could dispel the concerns of other states.
Since the Ukraine crisis began, the United States and 15 Treaty partners have flown 11 missions over Ukraine and Western Russia yielding imagery of thousands of square miles of territory. These flights have resulted in valuable data and insights for not only the United States but our partners and allies who are also States Parties.
One particularly notable event which has occurred in light of the crisis: the Treaty’s provision for “Extraordinary Observation Flights” was invoked for the first time. Per Ukraine’s request, two extraordinary flights were conducted over Ukrainian territory to observe whether Russia forces had moved beyond Crimea. In response to this request, Sweden flew from Kiev south to Odessa, with observers from Norway, Belgium, and the U.K. on March 13. On March 14, the U.S. flew along Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia, with observers from Canada and Estonia. These flights provided reassurance to Ukraine and demonstrated our commitment to work with allies to uphold key elements of the Euro-Atlantic security architecture. The following week, Russia accepted an extraordinary flight by Ukraine over its territory near the border. The U.S. is in Kyiv this week flying another extraordinary flight over eastern Ukraine in response to the latest Russian activities.
Since then, a number of allies have conducted observation flights in Russia. We are working closely with allies to maximize the benefit of these missions, coordinating on mission planning as well as sharing imagery and analysis. As an example of the utility of these flights, the German/U.S. mission on March 24 over Russia near the border with Ukraine provided unclassified imagery helping substantiate Russian military activity in Belgorod, Boguchar, and Rostov despite Russia’s denials.
We believe these arms control mechanisms have great importance not only in providing insight and transparency into Russian actions in and around Ukraine, but demonstrating support for our allies and partners in ensuring their sovereignty and territorial integrity. More broadly, such mechanisms contribute to greater transparency and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region.
I want to underscore that our NATO allies and other partners in Europe are strong supporters of arms control in Europe and our active participation and leadership in those efforts.
Let me turn now to the issue of compliance. First and foremost, the Administration takes compliance with all arms control agreements extremely seriously. For this reason, this Administration worked hard to produce a compliance report in July of 2010 – the first delivered to Congress after a five year lapse – and has produced one every year since. Prior to this Administration, 2005 was the last year that a report had been delivered to Congress.
We endeavor every year to produce a compliance report by April 15. This is challenging, as the reporting period ends at the end of each calendar year, leaving us just three and one half months to gather the necessary input from the Departments of State, Defense, and Energy, as well as the Intelligence Community. Given the volume of information and seriousness with which the Administration conducts its annual compliance review, a thorough collecting, weighing, and reviewing of all available information throughout the reporting period is required and takes time. As such, despite our best efforts we have not always been able to complete the coordination process in time to provide the report by April 15. This will be true again this year, however, the report will be fully coordinated and available later in the spring. The report is currently in final interagency review.
Let me add that when countries do not uphold their arms control obligations, we hold them accountable. Russia ceased implementation of its Conventional-Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) obligations in December 2007. After two intense diplomatic efforts to break the impasse and encourage Russia to resume implementation, in November 2011, the United States ceased carrying out certain obligations under the CFE Treaty with regard to Russia. We were joined by our NATO Allies that are party to the Treaty, as well as Georgia and Moldova, in taking this step – in all, 24 of the 30 countries that are party to the Treaty.
As we have previously stated, we have concerns about Russian compliance with the INF Treaty. We have raised them with Russia and are pressing for clear answers in an effort to resolve our concerns because of the importance of the INF Treaty to Euro-Atlantic security. We’ve briefed our NATO allies on our concerns and will continue to coordinate with them on this and other matters that affect our common security. We have been keeping Congress informed on this matter through briefings with relevant congressional committees and will continue to do so. We will continue to work with Russia to resolve our concerns, and to encourage mutual steps to help foster a more stable, resilient, transparent security relationship. We’re not going to drop the issue until our concerns have been addressed. As I hope you understand, I am not able to go more deeply into this subject in an open hearing, and would ask that you not press me to do so in open session.
As another example of how we seek to address compliance concerns, several years ago we had questions with regard to China’s implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Through active engagement with Chinese officials about whether China should have declared production and subsequent consumption of a particular chemical, our technical experts outlined U.S. concerns and China addressed each of our questions in a collegial and productive manner to close out this issue.
Arms control treaties and agreements continue to be an important tool that can enhance the security of the United States and our friends and allies. The successful implementation of the New START Treaty, and the important contributions that the Open Skies Treaty and the Vienna Document have played recently in Ukraine, demonstrate the continued relevance of arms control for our national security. Thank you very much. I look forward to your questions.