US-Russian Strategic Arms Control by f72ZHz


									      This research paper has been commissioned by the International Commission on Nu-
       clear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, but reflects the views of the author and
         should not be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Commission.

                                           Alexei Arbatov
                                            March 2009

Executive Summary

The 1991 START-1 treaty between the US and Russia is due to expire in December 2009
with as yet no viable arrangements in place to succeed it. Despite several rounds of
negotiations, the 2002 SORT treaty contains no agreed counting or verification measures, so
any reductions that occur under it are in effect unilateral. Russia has in addition a number of
serious concerns about it. In the seventeen years since START-1 was signed, Russia and the
United States have not implemented fully a single bilateral arms control agreement. Once
START-1 expires, only a handful of partial and largely symbolic treaties will remain to
govern their bilateral strategic relationship. Against this background, the NPT could be
further undermined if the 2010 RevCon fails—particularly as frosty relations again
characterize relations between these two powers.

The situation has arisen because of unilateralist policies pursued by the Bush Administration
and largely ineffectual responses by Russia. The latter has been further complicated Russia’s
fragile economy and by a resurgence of popular support for retention of the nuclear option.

While continuation of START-1 beyond its current expiry date might seem logical, it is not
an attractive solution. At the very least, its verification system is overly complex and costly.
The US has also preferred a new treaty which would only be politically binding, while Russia
wants it to be legally binding as well. In light of the current climate, a treaty based only on
trust and predictability is unlikely to work. In Russian strategic culture, moreover,
transparency for the sake of trust is a highly alien notion, especially with negative perceptions
in Moscow about NATO expansion, American ballistic missile defence system deployments
in Europe, and a strategic force balance felt to heavily favour the US.

While Russia and the US may no longer be overt enemies, they are far from being allies. Any
escalation in political differences set against the background of mutual nuclear deterrence
immediately triggers mutual hostility and suspicion, and may set off an arms race. Moreover,
the Russian–American strategic arms dialogue is an indispensable supporting pillar in the
overall relations between the two countries, and a stabilizing factor in international politics in

The best way out of the strategic deadlock would be to conclude a legally binding agreement
with the new US administration during 2009 before START-1 expires using the SORT treaty
as a basis. It would need, however, to contain something new, including a further lowering of
the ceiling in nuclear warhead and missile numbers. There are serious reasons to insist that
the United States agree to counting long-range conventional warheads along with nuclear
warheads. Provisions to allay Russian concerns about US capacity to reconstitute
decommissioned nuclear weapons quickly, and a ban on deploying strategic nuclear forces
outside national territory would also need to be agreed. Once they have propped up the
supporting pillar of Russian–American relations and global security, the two powers could
then work at a calmer pace over 3–4 years to draw up a more radical agreement for the post-
2012 period.


The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1, signed by the Soviet Union and the
United States in 1991, which came into force in 1994) is due to expire in December
2009. In compliance with the Treaty, Russia and the United States reduced their
strategic nuclear forces to 6,000 warheads and 1,600 delivery vehicles and introduced
a complex series of qualitative and structural limitations on this most destructive class
of arms. The Treaty was to be succeeded by the Moscow Strategic Offensive
Reductions Treaty (SORT), signed in 2002, which set a ceiling on strategic nuclear
forces at 1,700–2,200 nuclear warheads. But Russia and the United States failed to
reach agreement on counting rules (the number of warheads counted per each type of
missile and bomber) and verification rules, leaving the treaty hanging in the air.

Acting in the spirit of SORT, Russia and the U.S. have moved in parallel to further
reduce their strategic nuclear forces (to 4,100:5,900 warheads and 850:1,200 delivery
vehicles respectively, using the START-1 counting rules1), but without agreed
counting and verification rules these reductions can only be considered unilateral and
arbitrary steps. The broad verification system established by START-1 means that
both sides have a detailed picture of each other’s strategic nuclear forces, but once
START-1 expires, they will only be able to depend on national technical verification
means, which will essentially leave SORT with no foundation to rest on.
1. The Disarmament Vacuum
For the first time in 40 years2 Russia and America will face a legal vacuum and be
increasingly less well informed about each other’s strategic capabilities and intentions
in this area of military and political security of such paramount importance for both
countries and the world as a whole.

This situation did not arise overnight. In the fifteen years since START-1 was signed,
Russia and the United States have not implemented fully a single agreement in this
vital area for their military and political relations and global security. This is the case
with nuclear disarmament in general. The military security system based on treaties
and agreements reached through long decades of exhausting and unbelievably
complex negotiations has been all but completely dismantled today. In 2002, the
United States denounced the fundamental 1972 ABM Treaty. The 1993 START-2
Treaty did not come into force, nor did the START-3 Framework Treaty, the 1997
Agreement on Confidence-Building Measures related to ABM systems, or the 1996
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and work on the Fissile Materials Cutoff
Treaty (FMCT) has very much ground to a halt. Once the START-1 Treaty expires in
December 2009, the Moscow Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty will also cease to

  START Memorandum of Understanding of January 1, 2008.
  Formally, such intervals have occurred in the past. For example, the SALT-1 Interim Agreement ex-
pired in 1977, but the SALT-2 Treaty that replaced it was signed only in 1979. However, over the two
intervening years the basic ABM Treaty remained in force and intensive negotiations on SALT-2 con-
tinued. The second interval occurred in 1979-1991 when the U.S. refused to ratify SALT-2 (citing the
deployment of Soviet troops in Afghanistan). But the U.S. committed itself to not violating SALT-2
overall and only in 1986 exceeded one of its sub-ceilings. Furthermore, throughout the 1980s the ABM
Treaty remained in place and negotiations continued, first on nuclear and space weapons, and then on
START-1, and in 1987 the INF Treaty was concluded, which paved the way for START-1 and subse-
quent agreements.

exist. If Russia fulfills its threat to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces
Treaty of 1987 (INF) in response to the deployment of US ballistic missile defense
(BMD) sites in Europe, this would leave only the decades-old partial nuclear test ban
treaties of 1963 and 1976 and a few symbolic documents on this subject.

It is hardly surprising in this situation that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)
should be cracking at the seams and that the eighth NPT review conference in 2010
risks being the last. If this happens, the proliferation of nuclear weapons would
become inevitable and there would be a very high probability of their use or
acquisition by terrorists. To complete the picture, we should also note that the 1972
Convention on the Prohibition of Biological Weapons still does not have a
verification system, and the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
(which entered into force in 1997) has not been implemented according to schedule
by Russia and the United States for financial reasons (see Table 1).

This situation is largely the result of the destructive policy pursued by the USA under
the Republican Administration during 2001–2008. As for Russia, despite the Russian
authorities’ periodic calls to continue the nuclear disarmament process, they have
provided nothing substantial in a diplomatic or military-technical sense to act as a
counter to Washington’s policies. Recently, Moscow has been following the U.S.
example in bringing down the remnants of the world arms control system,
contemplating a withdrawal from the 1987 INF Treaty and suspending the
implementation of the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (the CFE Treaty).

Over this decade, American leaders and numerous politicians and theoreticians have
talked constantly about how, after the Cold War, Russia and the U.S. were no longer
enemies, and therefore arms control talks between them were no longer necessary.
However, life has gone on to dispel this naiveté (or outright hypocrisy). Virtually
nothing remains now of the arms control treaties, and not only have the two powers
not become friends, but winds reminiscent of the Cold War have begun to stir once
more, and signs of a renewed arms race are ever clearer.

The failure to reach agreement on a treaty to succeed START-1 has both political and
strategic causes.

2. Politics and Disarmament
The political essence of the situation lies in the fact that the Bush administration never
managed to overcome its allergy to disarmament agreements. Its reluctance could be
explained by its wish not to have its hands tied in any way, placing its hopes on U.S.
military and economic supremacy throughout the entire world. By the end of the Bush
administration’s tenure in office, America’s position in the world had worsened
significantly, of course, above all as a result of the failed operations in Iraq. Domestic
opposition in the USA itself, America’s allies and the majority of countries party to
the NPT are increasingly vocal in their calls for a new strategic agreement with
Russia. Military officials and the strategic expert community also support this idea,
valuing above all the unique comprehensive transparency regime that START-1
installed. But the Republican leadership had conducted talks as a mere formality,
more to make a show of doing something, than out of any serious desire to reach a
compromise, as was the case in earlier times.

Table 1
Disintegration of the system of nuclear disarmament treaties

 Document                                                   Year of signature   Status
 Limited Test Ban Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon             1963                In force, has a verification
 Tests in the Atmosphere, Outer Space and Under Water                           system in place
 Outer Space Treaty (Treaty on Principles Governing the     1967                In force, does not have a
 Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer                       verification system in place
 Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies)
 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)                      1968                In     force,    verification
                                                                                system is insufficient
 Sea Bed Treaty (Treaty on the Prohibition of the           1971                In force, does not have a
 Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and other Weapons                               verification system in place
 of Mass Destruction on the Sea-Bed and the Ocean
 Floor and in the Subsoil Thereof)
 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (Treaty between the          1972                Denounced by the United
 United States and the Soviet Union on Limiting Anti-                           States in 2002
 Ballistic Missile Systems)
 Interim Agreement between the USA and the USSR on          1972                Expired in 1977
 Strategic Arms Limitation Measures (SALT-1 Interim
 Threshold Test Ban Treaty (Treaty between the USA          1974                In force, has a verification
 and the USSR banning underground nuclear tests)                                system in place
 Treaty between the USA and the USSR on Peaceful            1976                In force, has a verification
 Nuclear Explosions                                                             system in place
 Treaty between the USA and the USSR on the                 1979                Did not come into force
 Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (SALT-2)
 Treaty between the USA and the USSR on Intermediate        1987                Implemented,       has     a
 Nuclear Forces (INF Treaty)                                                    verification    system    in
                                                                                place; Russia is considering
 Treaty between the USA and the USSR on Strategic           1991                Expires on December 5,
 Arms Reductions (START-1) Ukraine, Belorussia,                                 2009
 Kazakhstan joined in 1994
 Treaty between the USA and the USSR on Further             1993                Did not come into force
 Strategic Arms Reductions (START-2 Treaty)
 Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)               1996                Has not come into force
                                                                                (not ratified by the USA,
                                                                                China, India, North Korea
                                                                                and others)
 Fissile Materials Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT)                                        Negotiations began in 1993
                                                                                but deadlocked
 Framework Treaty between the United States and the         1997                Has not come into force
 Russian Federation on Strategic Arms Reductions
 Agreement between the United States and the Russian        1997                Has not come into force
 Federation on Confidence-Building Measures Related
 to ABM Systems
 Treaty between the United States and the Russian           2002                Status dubious, does not
 Federation on Strategic Offensive Reductions (SORT)                            have counting rules or
                                                                                verification system
            Agreements currently in force
            Agreements likely to end
            Agreements not in force

Note. The table does not include agreements on nuclear-free zones as these are documents of more
general political nature.

Russia, for its part, has been passive over recent years, and when it comes to
disarmament issues has shown nothing near the interest it takes in, say, energy policy,
sales of military equipment and nuclear technology abroad, foreign debt issues and
the acquisition of foreign assets, and geopolitical relations with NATO and its CIS
neighbors. The new Russian political elite that came to power after the Cold War has
no historical and institutional memory of the decades of effort that went into the
victories and failures of disarmament as one of the most important areas of national
and international security. Only the prospect of missile defense deployment by the
U.S. in Europe has got Moscow seriously worried and has forced the Russian
leadership to start actually paying more attention to the nuclear disarmament issue.

But the years of negligence in the United States and Russia alike have not passed
without a trace. Fragmentation among the different state agencies, the state
administrations’ condescending attitude to the ideas of the independent expert
community, and even the departure of qualified civil and military specialists from the
ministries and agencies, have all left their mark. Individual specialists remain, but no
longer is there the former US–Russian/Soviet community of diplomats, military
personnel, scientists and defense industry representatives who shared a collective
experience of cooperation amongst themselves and talks with their counterparts to
resolve the innumerable complex issues on the long road from SALT-1 in 1972 to
START-3 in 1997.

In Moscow it is difficult to develop a flexible line on disarmament issues, all the more
so at a time when the political elite and public opinion are largely behind nuclear
weapons as the “ultimate guarantee” of national defense and security. Aside from
everything else, Russia is simply not in the best position to undertake strategic
negotiations at the moment—the result of the protracted economic crisis of the 1990s
and mistakes in the strategic arms development program over this decade. (The main
cause of these mistakes has been pressure from the different branches of the Armed
Forces and the General Staff on the government to carry out the “balanced
modernization” of all the components of the strategic nuclear triad in an attempt to
emulate the American model, but with the strategic nuclear forces receiving much less
money than U.S. forces do).
3. The Technology and Tactics of Disarmament
Essentially, the simplest solution would be to extend the START-1 Treaty beyond
December 2009 until a new agreement is drawn up. However this option presents a
number of serious shortcomings. The reductions and controls set by START-1 have
all been well and truly implemented now. The quantity of Russia’s and the United
States’ strategic forces is considerably lower today than the numerical ceilings set by
the Treaty, but some of the qualitative limitations can be very restrictive.

For example, the Treaty does not allow Russia to equip its main new intercontinental
ballistic missile (ICBM) system, the Topol-M, with multiple independently-targeted
re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) without considerably modifying the dimensions of the
entire missile, which can only be done at unacceptable financial and technical cost.
But equipping the Topol-M with MIRVs is the most efficient way to neutralize U.S.
missile defense systems, make Russia’s strategic nuclear forces more viable overall
and, if necessary, make it possible to rapidly increase their strike potential.

Apart from that, the START-1 verification system, which is shaped by the Treaty’s
complex system of limitations, is overly burdensome and costly for both sides (it
involves more than 15 different types of inspections and more than 150 different types
of notifications, as well as various limitations and specific demands concerning tests,
deployment and the day-to-day operation of the strategic nuclear forces).

This is why the two sides have proposed concluding a new agreement on strategic
arms. Russia has proposed drafting a new treaty to succeed START-1. The SORT
Treaty had been supposed to succeed START-1 and remain in force until 2012. But
Russia has a negative view of SORT in its current form, which has arisen from three
main issues.

First, it limits only nuclear warheads (START-1 speaks simply of “warheads”). U.S.
plans to equip some of its strategic missiles (in particular Trident-2 SLBMs) with
conventional precision-guided warheads as part of its “Global Strike” concept (which
has Russia greatly concerned) would take these assets beyond the 1,700–2,200
ceilings on nuclear warheads. Besides, the plan to equip 4 Ohio submarines with
about 600 long-range sea-launched conventional cruise missiles (SLCMs) would also
create a huge arms limitation “exemption”. Telling the difference between SLBMs
and SLCMs in submarine missile tubes might be feasible with on-site inspections, but
distinguishing nuclear and conventional SLCMs in those very tubes would require
quite intrusive verification procedures, which probably neither the U.S. nor Russia
would welcome. Converting a larger number of heavy bombers (not counted presently
by the USA in its strategic forces) to carry conventional cruise missiles would add
another 1,500 or so weapons to US strategic precision guided potential.

Together with conventional SLCMs and ALCMs on attack submarines and heavy
bombers converted earlier (B-1b and B-52H), this would constitute an impressive
force of around 4,000 long-range missiles. Russia’s strategic community believes
such a force is excessive for local contingencies and cannot but project it against
Russia’s strategic deterrent potential in new conventional disarming strike scenarios.
This new serious concern is reflected in Russia’s military doctrine as a “threat of air-
space aggression” to be deterred and, if necessary, repelled by Russian nuclear and
conventional forces.

Second, there is Moscow’s rejection of the de facto counting rules which (the way the
U.S. de facto implements them) set ceilings only on “operationally deployed”
warheads. That means counting warheads and bombs which are declared by each side
as actually deployed at the current moment on missiles and bombers, and not counting
warheads and bombs that could be deployed based on the amount of available “vacant
seats” on various types of delivery vehicles.

This approach makes it possible for the USA to carry out SORT reductions primarily
through “downloading”, i.e., removing and stockpiling some of warheads, cruise
missiles and bombs from multiple-warhead ballistic missiles and bombers, while not
dismantling the delivery vehicles themselves. The difference between force loading in
accordance with the START-1 counting rules and the “operational” loading of

strategic nuclear forces declared by the Pentagon can be great indeed and currently
amounts to around 300 delivery vehicles and 3,000 warheads3 (Table 2).

Table 2
U.S. strategic nuclear forces according to START-1 counting rules and the “operational
deployment” declared by the Pentagon

    Type of weapon    Number of delivery vehicles            Number of warheads
                      START-1             “Operational       START-1         “Operational
                                          deployment”                        deployment”
    ICBM              550                 Around 460         1600            Around 660?
    SLBM              432 on 18 Ohio      Around 336 on 14   3216            Around 1728?
                      class submarines    Ohio class
    Heavy bomber      243                 Around 100 (21     1098            Around 500?
                                          B-2 and 76 B-52)
    Total             1225                Around 900         5914            Around 2871?

Source: Kimball D. G. START Anew: The Future of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
Presentation for Roundtable Discussion, Carnegie Moscow Center. May 12, 2008

Contrary to the common misconception, the problem is not that the United States only
wants to stockpile rather than eliminate nuclear warheads. Over almost forty years of
strategic arms limitations and reduction, the parties have never reached agreement on
eliminating nuclear warheads, leaving it up to each side to decide (though the
START-3 framework treaty did include the intention of discussing this issue). The
real problem is that in removing some of the warheads from the delivery vehicles, the
U.S. is not dismantling the missiles, planes and submarines. Hence, the Russian fear is
that hypothetically the U.S. can quickly return the warheads to the delivery vehicles
after withdrawal from the treaty and considerably increase its nuclear capability. The
asymmetrical situation in the two sides’ strategic nuclear forces’ technical features
and development phases determines that by 2012 Russia’s delivery vehicles will be at
full load capacity as set by the 1,700–2,200 ceilings and Russia will therefore not
have this same possibility to return warheads and increase its potential.

Since 2002, Russia has not recognized the “operational deployment” method for
counting arms and has not accepted the verification methods proposed by the U.S. But
Moscow has not accused the U.S. of violating SORT because the counting rules and
reductions timetable were never agreed upon in the first place. This explains the
ambiguous situation of this treaty, which formally exists, but is not actually being
implemented and does not figure in calculating the strategic balance.

The third problem is that, unlike START-1, SORT does not prohibit the deployment
of strategic nuclear forces outside national territory, which hypothetically could lead
to problems if NATO, in carrying out its eastward expansion, takes its base
infrastructure with it (this concerns bombers above all).

    U.S. SORT Declaration, May 2008.

Moscow has clear reasons for not wanting a new arms control treaty based on SORT.
However it would not be easy for Russia to achieve a better deal now than
immediately after signing SORT in 2002. Certainly, the new Democratic
administration, in contrast to the Bush administration, has committed itself to a new
legally binding strategic reductions treaty. Also, its willingness to have a foreign
policy success is much greater in view of the economic crisis and dire problems of
Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran. Nonetheless, America’s situation in strategic balance and
future outlook are brighter today than they were earlier in the decade. The U.S. can
keep its existing 1,200 delivery vehicles and 5,900 warheads in service for another 20
years at least if it wants.

Russia’s situation is much more complicated. By the end of the Yeltsin years,
Russia’s strategic nuclear forces totaled 1,160 delivery vehicles and 5,840 warheads,
and today Russia has 850 delivery vehicles and 4,150 warheads. Modernization is
proceeding very slowly, especially as concerns the sea and air-based components of
the nuclear triad. Regardless of whatever new treaties might be concluded,
decommissioning old weapons and limitations on commissioning new weapons mean
that by 2012 Russia’s strategic nuclear forces will total no more than 460 delivery
vehicles and 2,000 warheads, and completely new weapons systems will account for
less than 30 percent of delivery vehicles and no more than 25 percent of warheads4
(see Tables 3 and 4).

Table 3
Russia’s strategic nuclear forces, January 2008 (START-1 counting rules).

    Type of weapon         Number of delivery vehicles       Number of warheads
    ICBM                   104 RS-20                         1040
                           122 RS-18                         732
                           201 RS-12M (Topol)                201
                           48 RS-12M2 (Topol-M) silo-        48
                           6 RS-12M2 (Topol-M) mobile        6
    Total ICBM             481                               2027
    SLBM                   96 RSM-50 (6 submarines)          288
                           60 RSM-52 (3 submarines)          600
                           96 RSM-54 (6 submarines)          384
                           36 RSM-56 (2 submarines)          216
    Total SLBM             288                               1488
    Heavy bombers          64 Tu-95MS16                      512
                           15 Tu-160                         120
    Total heavy bombers    79                                632
    Total                  848                               4147

Source: Kimball D. G. START Anew: The Future of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
Presentation for Roundtable Discussion, Carnegie Moscow Center. May 12, 2008

  See: Yesin. V. “Strategicheskiye yaderniye sily Rossii v XXI veke”. Natsionalnaya oborona. —
2007. — No. 11. — Nov. — pp. 21—27.

Table 4
USSR/Russian strategic nuclear forces, 1990-2012
 Type of         1990                  1999                    2008                  2012
 weapon   Number     Number     Number     Number       Number     Number     Number     Number
               of         of         of         of         of         of         of         of
            delivery   warheads   delivery   warheads   delivery   warheads   delivery   warheads
            vehicles              vehicles              vehicles              vehicles
 ICBM      1398        6612       756        3540       481        2027       220-260    810-980
 SLBM      940         2804       328        1376       288        1488       136-148    592-664
 Heavy     162         855        81         926        79         632        50         400
 Total     2500        10271      1165       5842       848        4147       406-458    1802-

Sources: Yesin V. I. Strategicheskiye yaderniye sily Rossii v XXI v. // Natsionalnaya oborona. —
2007. — No. 11. — November.; Khramchikin A. A. Na povestke dnya – sozdaniye novoi armii //
Nezavisimoye voennoye obozreniye. — 2008. — Feb. 8.; Kimball D.G. “START Anew: The Future of
the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty”. Presentation for Roundtable Discussion, Carnegie Moscow
Center. May 12, 2008 (
4. In Search of a Solution
If the history of Russian-U.S. strategic relations over the last 15 years has proved
anything, it is two main points. First, it takes more than just no longer seeing each
other as enemies to genuinely change the mutual deterrence model of strategic
relations based on mutual capability and plans to deal each other a devastating nuclear
strike. To be able to ignore each other’s nuclear forces within reach of their respective
territories, powers need to become full-fledged military and political allies (as is the
case with the USA, Britain and France), but there is a vast distance to cover from
confrontation to this kind of alliance. As long as this distance has not been covered,
partnership relations continue to require serious and consistent arms control talks and
disarmament agreements so as to ensure that cooperation rather than confrontation
prevails in military relations. Otherwise, any escalation in political differences set
against the background of mutual nuclear deterrence immediately triggers mutual
hostility and suspicion and may set off an arms race (as happened with regard to US
missile defense, NATO expansion, and war in Georgia in August 2008).

Second, the Russian-American strategic arms dialogue is an indispensable supporting
pillar in the overall relations between the two countries, and a stabilizing factor in
international politics in general. Without it, the endless conflicts and differences in the
world could get out of control. The political situation and arms control are
intrinsically linked: a good political climate helps strategic arms talks and vice versa.
This makes it difficult to envisage a new agreement should NATO pursue plans to
take in Ukraine or Georgia, or should the U.S. launch a military strike against Iran,
even though both sides objectively need a new treaty regardless of the current
political situation. At the same time, arms control negotiations and forthcoming
treaties usually oblige states to be more cautious and reserved in their foreign policies.
For Russia, strategic arms talks are also proof of its particular status in the world and
unique relations it has with the United States in contrast to other nuclear powers and
non-nuclear states with growing economic might.

Aside from the specific military aspects, it is also quite important to prevent the
emergence of a strategic arms control vacuum or even a lengthy hiatus after START-1
expires in 2009. This is all the more important with the next NPT review conference
due to take place in 2010. If nuclear disarmament comes to a standstill, the non-

nuclear-armed parties to the NPT will be fully justified in accusing the nuclear
weapons powers of being in direct violation of their obligations under Article VI of
the NPT (“to hold negotiations… on ending the nuclear arms race”) and will block
various attempts to strengthen the nonproliferation regime.

The best way out of the strategic deadlock would be for Russia to conclude a legally
binding agreement in this area with the new Democratic administration in the U.S.
during 2009 before START-1 expires.

Given the shortage of time, this implies a fairly simple agreement not requiring
lengthy new negotiations. Even if the new U.S. administration decides it wants to
pursue some new radical and innovative project of its own in this area it would need
quite some time for negotiating it, and in the meantime U.S.–Russian strategic
relations still need to be supported by a solid legal foundation.

This new agreement, which could be called “START-plus”, could take the nuclear
warhead ceiling of 1,700–2,200 warheads set by SORT and further lower it to 1,500
warheads or less. What is of greatest importance is not the numerical designation of
the new ceiling (be it 1,500 or 1,300 warheads), but the counting rules and permitted
methods of reductions as well as verification procedures.

Above all, the four main issues would be: how to deal with the U.S. BMD deployment
plan for Europe, how to define the starting point for further reductions, how to count
the conventional warheads that the Americans plan to deploy on some missiles and
platforms, and how to deal with the U.S. principle of counting only “operationally
deployed” nuclear arms.

First. The BMD problem may eventually need new and complicated negotiations. For
the time being it should just be postponed, by the USA shifting the deployment time
to more a distant future and by creating a joint US–Russian expert group to study the
threats from Iran and other threshold states. Depending on the progress on “START-
plus”, the issue of BMD might become much easier to resolve.

Second. Establishing the present state of strategic forces may present some
difficulties. During the past eight years the USA has reduced its forces in an arbitrary
way through the above mentioned principle of “operational deployment”. Hence
Russian counting of present U.S. forces (based on START-1 counting rules) differs
from that of the U.S. quite significantly (by about 3,000 warheads). Coming to
common figures on warheads and delivery systems may require intrusive inspections.
Russian forces are easy to count: actual numbers are not much different from START-
1 rules. (The discrepancy is due to some SS-18 and SS-19 empty silos that have not
yet been destroyed, one Typhoon and one Delta-V SSBNs. All are counted as
deployed with missiles while in fact they are not operational weapons.)

Third. The U.S. practice of reducing through converting strategic weapons for non-
nuclear missions and by downloading, may represent a much more difficult problem,
and the Democratic administration may not be easier to deal with on this issue.

Russia’s current position is to take care of these issues through the limitation on the
delivery vehicles (missiles and heavy bombers). These were limited in the SALT-1,

SALT-2 and START-1 Treaties (in the latter case by a 1,600 ceiling), but were not
limited in START-2, START-3 or SORT. The logic of omitting such limitations had
been the promotion of strategic stability by reducing the concentration of warheads on
missiles and bombers and thus making the forces less vulnerable and preemptive
counterforce (disarming) strikes less feasible. However, the by-product of such a
policy was the inclination (foremost by the USA) to reduce the warhead numbers
through partial downloading of missiles and bombers instead of dismantling them.
This was faster and cheaper disarmament, but at the same time this made disarmament
easily and quickly reversible. There was no way to verify the elimination of removed
warheads and to prevent their quick return from storages to the deployed forces.

Still, it seems that introducing a new ceiling on delivery vehicles would hardly resolve
the above problems effectively. Neither the United States, nor Russia is planning to
increase the overall number of strategic missiles and bombers in the foreseeable
future. Establishing a very stringent limit (say, 500 delivery vehicles) most probably
would not be acceptable to the USA since it would imply severe (and costly) cuts in
missiles, submarines and bombers. Besides, it would make forces more vulnerable
(because of high concentration of warheads on delivery vehicles) and the strategic
balance less stable. Fixing a relatively high ceiling for delivery vehicles (say, 1000 or
more) would not take care of the issues of conversion and “downloading-

Preferably more flexible and mutually acceptable solutions would be achievable.

As for conventional warheads, there are serious reasons to insist that the United States
agree to their being counted along with nuclear warheads as long as they are deployed
on strategic ballistic missiles. The alternative would be to carry out extremely
intrusive verification measures, something the U.S. and Russia would be unlikely to
accept at the present time. The Americans have no plans for now to deploy large
numbers of these weapons (maximum several dozen) on Trident-2 SLBMs, and with a
relatively high ceiling (1,500) this would have little impact on their overall nuclear

As for conventional cruise missiles on four Ohio-class submarines, they could be
treated in the same way as heavy bombers converted for non-nuclear missions are
treated by START-1. Just as with such bombers, the submarines refitted for cruise
missiles must have observable differences from ballistic missile submarines. The
basing of converted SSBNs should be permanently determined and declared to the
other side. (The rules about converted bombers according to START-1 are stricter—
they must be based separately from nuclear armed planes, nuclear weapons must be
stored no closer than 100 km from their bases).

Compared to bombers there is an additional complication with respect to Ohio
submarines carrying cruise missile: conventional SLCMs are virtually impossible to
tell from long-range nuclear sea-launched cruise missiles (also called TLAM-N),
deployed on some attack submarines and surface ships. In association with START-1
the two sides agreed to limit their nuclear SLCMs on attack submarines and surface
ships to a ceiling of 880 without intrusive verification but with some transparency as
to the numbers and types of launchers and naval vessels. In fact both sides deployed
much smaller numbers of long-range nuclear naval cruise missiles (180–300 SLCMs).

In line with the thrust of nuclear disarmament the ceiling on nuclear SLCMs should
be reduced at least to around 300–400 in any case. If the United States does not
provide a sufficient possibility for verification to differentiate between nuclear and
conventional SLCMs on Ohio submarines, all those deployed on this type of SSBNs
should be counted against the above ceiling. For Russia it would set an important
precedent for the future should the U.S. decide to expand its “Global Strike” forces
and equip strategic delivery vehicles with a far greater number of precision-guided
conventional warheads.

For strategic bombers it would be reasonable to use the START-2 provision for
counting their actual loading of nuclear bombs and air-launched cruise missiles
(ALCMs) with full possibility for verification through on-site inspections. (START-1
counted such weapons according to artificial coefficients which actually
underestimated the actual bombers’ loading capacity.) With respect to the bombers
converted for non-nuclear missions, the rules of START-1 should be sufficient
(observable technical differences, separate basing, nuclear air-launched weapons
storages no closer than 100 km to such bases).

Even if all those verification requirements are met, this would not resolve the problem
of what is seen in Russia as an emerging new strategic threat—a US conventional
strategic precision-guided disarming strike potential. However, unless a ceiling is set
for all strategic delivery vehicles regardless of their loading (nuclear or conventional)
“START-plus” would hardly be capable of resolving this question. The provision of
conversion rules covering heavy bombers for conventional missions in START-1
established a precedent which would be hard to discard.

At best the problem of strategic conventional forces should be addressed by agreeing
on a maximum percentage (or number) of strategic warheads that may be reduced in
the course of nuclear force cuts through converting delivery vehicles for non-nuclear
missions. For instance, it could be agreed that no more than 30% of the warheads
slated for reduction could be cut through converting submarines, missiles and
bombers for non-nuclear missions5.

As for Russian concerns about the existing and newly converted conventional
strategic weapons, separate talks should address this problem, with an emphasis on
unilateral restraint, confidence building measures and deployment limitations.

Four. Regarding the counting of “operationally deployed arms”, as was noted above
Russia should be worried not by U.S. plans to stockpile nuclear warheads, but by the
fact that when the warheads are downloaded the delivery vehicles are not dismantled.
The U.S. continues to provide surplus loading space that makes it possible to return
the warheads to the vehicles and rapidly build up the actual force (reconstitution
capability). The two parties first had to address this problem when working on
START-1, as this treaty allowed for the reductions to be partially carried out through
downloading. Rules for downloading were drawn up in accordance with which no
more than two warheads could be downloaded from each delivery vehicle without
replacing the warhead dispensing platform, and no more than four warheads could be
  For example if the USA has to reduce its forces by 2,100 warheads to reach 1,500 ceiling, it would
have the right to cut 700 warheads by retaining some submarines, missiles and bombers and converting
them for conventional cruise missiles and munitions.

downloaded even if this mechanism was replaced. As replacing the warhead
dispensing platform is a costly and lengthy process (sometimes requiring new tests to
be conducted) this rule placed strict restrictions on reconstitution capability. Also, not
more than two types of missiles could be downloaded in this way and no more than
1,000 warheads could be downloaded altogether.

This could be used as the basis for a compromise solution today, too, in order to make
deeper cuts in strategic nuclear forces strategically acceptable to the U.S. and not too
costly (in terms of the costs of dismantling launchers, missiles and submarines), while
at the same time reducing Russia’s concerns about American reconstitution capability.
One option could be to “liberalize” the START-1 unloading rules somewhat,
allowing, say, no more than 3–4 warheads to be downloaded without replacing the
MIRV dispensing platform and no more than 4–5 with the replacement of the “bus”.

Russia would have no trouble fitting into a 1,500 ceiling by decommissioning arms at
the end of their service lives, thus saving the considerable sums of money spent on
prolonging their service lives through the Zaryadye Program. It could maintain its
nuclear triad with around 300 ICBMs (700 warheads), 8–9 submarines (600
warheads) and 25 bombers with 200 air-based cruise missiles. If it switched from the
triad to a more economical two-leg structure (converting bombers for non-strategic
and non-nuclear missions) it could have the same sea-based forces and 400 silo-based
and mobile ICBMs (900 warheads).

The United States would have a harder time. By 2012, with a ceiling of 1,500
warheads, their strategic nuclear arsenal could include, for example, 14 submarines
with 336 Trident-2 missiles and around 1,000 warheads (3 per missile), 200
Minuteman-3 ICBMs (1 warhead each), and around 300 warheads (bombs and cruise
missiles) on 30 bombers (the remaining planes would be scrapped or converted for
non-nuclear missions). If the U.S. decided to save on replacing the MIRV dispensing
platforms for its Trident-2 missiles and left 4–5 warheads on each missile it would
have to cut back its number of Minuteman-3 ICBMs and sea-based bombers with
cruise missiles or take 2–4 submarines out of its strategic nuclear arsenal (Tables 5–
8). Alternatively, to keep more submarines, the USA could remove some of the
SLBMs from each boat and make the spare missile tubes unusable for ballistic
missiles. (But the option of loading them with conventional or nuclear SLCMs should
be resisted since it would enormously complicate the counting and verification

Table 5
SORT-2 (1,500 warheads): Russian strategic nuclear forces – triad structure
 Type of weapon                  Number of delivery vehicles           Number of warheads
 ICBM                            300                                   700
 SLBM                            136-148 (8-9 submarines)              600
 Heavy bombers                   25                                    200
 Total                           470                                   1500

Table 6
SORT-2 (1,500 warheads): Russian strategic nuclear forces – diade structure
 Type of weapon                  Number of delivery vehicles          Number of warheads
 Land-based ICBM                 400                                  900
 SLBM                            136-148 (8-9 submarines)             600
 Total                           550                                  1500

Table 7
SORT-2 (1,500 warheads): U.S. strategic nuclear forces if five warheads downloaded
 Type of weapon                   Number of delivery vehicles          Number of warheads
 ICBM                             200                                  200
 SLBM                             336 Trident-2 (14 submarines)        1000
 Heavy bombers                    30                                   300
 Total                            570                                  1500

Table 8
SORT-2 (1,500 warheads): U.S. strategic nuclear forces if three warheads downloaded
 Type of weapon                   Number of delivery vehicles          Number of warheads
 ICBM                             100                                  100
 SLBM                             240 Trident-2 (10 submarines)        1200
 Heavy bombers                    20                                   200
 Total                            360                                  1500

An alternative and simpler way would be to agree to limit the number of warheads
that could be cut through downloading using the START-1 precedent. It limited such
reductions by 1,000 warheads, and the new treaty could set the figure at 500-700.

The above calculations are of course just an illustration of the alternative ways of
dealing with the contentionious issues to open the way for the new treaty. In this
context a lot depends on both sides’ diplomatic ability to find the optimum solution.
Even a strong U.S. reconstitution capability is less dangerous if the Trident-2 MIRV
dispensing platforms are replaced, although it would be more to Russia’s advantage,
of course, to have a maximum number of U.S. delivery vehicles destroyed. But by
making some concessions to the Americans in one area (like downloading rules)
Russia could get concessions in other areas of greater importance to it, for example, a
ban on deploying strategic nuclear forces outside national territory, counting rules for
bombers based on real loading, or limiting conversion for non-nuclear munitions.

If the new US administration decides to live up to its nuclear disarmament
commitments, inspired by the famous 2007 article of the “four wise men” from the
United States6, and would prefer for both sides not to retain a considerable build up
and reconstitution potentials, it would be welcome to go for deeper reductions with
more stringent downloading rules. In case the new treaty is not finalized before
December 2009 the two parties could sign a Framework treaty (as on START-3 in
1997) fixing the new ceiling and main principles and making a commitment to
finalize the details by the 2010 NPT Review Conference.
Once they have propped up the “supporting pillar” of Russian–American relations and
global security, the two powers could then work at a calmer pace over 3–4 years to
draw up a more radical agreement for the post-2012 period.

This new treaty could involve deeper strategic nuclear cuts, bringing levels down to,
say, 1,000–1,200 warheads, verifiable lowering of operational readiness and
cancelling launch-on-warning planning (hair trigger alert). However, not only are

 G.P. Shultz, W.J. Perry, H.A. Kissinger, and S. Nunn, “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons”. The Wall
Street Journal, January 4, 2007.

such measures complicated in and of themselves, but they also require a lot of work
on resolving a whole number of complicated related issues. These include limiting or
jointly deploying missile defense systems, dealing with precision-guided strategic
non-nuclear long-range weapons, space weapons, theater (tactical) nuclear weapons,
ending NATO’s expansion, reviving the CFE treaty, getting other nuclear powers
involved in the disarmament process and consolidating the nonproliferation regime.7

Finally, there is also the question of destroying the nuclear warheads, both tactical and
strategic, that come under the cuts (especially cuts carried out through downloading).
Eliminating the nuclear explosive devices would be a purely symbolic and difficult
act to verify if not accompanied by the conclusion of an FMCT and agreements on
verifiable control over (and utilization of) existing stocks of nuclear warheads and
materials. This is a new and as yet unexplored area of nuclear disarmament, but it
would certainly come to the forefront as deployed nuclear forces are cut to
progressively lower levels.

  These subjects are examined in detail in a new book by Russian and American experts which is pres-
ently in the process of translation into English: Nuclear proliferation: new technologies, arms and trea-
ties. /Yadernoye rasprostraneniye: noviye tekhnologii, vooruzheniya i dogovory / Edited by A. Arbatov
and V. Dvorkin; Carnegie Moscow Center. — M., 2008.

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