Strategic Arms Control After START: Issues and Options
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
The United States and Soviet Union signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in 1991; it
entered into force in December 1994 and is due to expire in December 2009. The United States
and Russia have held several meetings to discuss options for continuing their arms control
relationship, but have not agreed on whether to extend START or how to replace it.
START counts each deployed ICBM, SLBM, bomber as a single delivery vehicle under the
Treaty limit of 1,600 delivery vehicles and attributes an agreed number of warheads to each
deployed delivery vehicle. This attribution rule provides the total number of warheads that count
under the 6,000 warhead limit in the Treaty. To verify compliance with START, each side
monitors the numbers and locations of ballistic missiles, launchers and heavy bombers deployed
by the other country. The parties use a wide variety of means to collect information—or
monitor—these forces and activities. Some of these monitoring systems, such as overhead
satellites, operate outside the territories of the treaty parties. They also have also been required to
exchange copious amounts of data on locations, operations, and technical characteristics of the
treaty-limited items. This verification regime has allowed the parties to remain confident in each
other’s compliance with the Treaty.
The United States and Russia began to discuss their options for arms control after START expired
in mid-2006. They have, however been unable to agree on a path forward. Neither side wants to
extend START in its current form, as some of the Treaty’s provisions have begun to interfere with
some military programs on both sides. Russia wants to replace START with a new Treaty that
would further reduce deployed forces while using many of the same definitions and counting
rules in START. The United States initially did not want to negotiate a new treaty, but would have
been willing to extend, informally, some of START’s monitoring provisions. It has recently
agreed to conclude a new Treaty, with monitoring provisions attached, but this Treaty would
resemble the far less formal Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty that the two sides signed in
2002. In December 2008, the two sides agreed that they wanted to replace START before it
expired, but acknowledged that this task would have to be left to negotiations between Russia and
the Obama Administration.
The United States and Russia could choose from a number of options for the future of their arms
control relationship. They could allow START to lapse or they could extend START for five
years. They could extend START, then amend it to ease some of the outdated provisions. They
could negotiate a new Treaty, or they could pursue less formal arrangements to manage their
nuclear forces. Moreover, if a new treaty included further reductions in nuclear weapons, it could
use some START definitions and counting rules or the less formal Moscow Treaty declarations.
This report will be updated as needed.
Introduc tion ..................................................................................................................................... 1
The START Treaty...........................................................................................................................2
Monitoring and Verification......................................................................................................6
Synergy in Monitoring and Verification.............................................................................8
The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty.....................................................................................9
Preparing for START Expiration...................................................................................................10
U.S. and Russian Proposals.....................................................................................................13
Options for the Future...................................................................................................................16
Improving the U.S.-Russian Relationship.........................................................................17
Supporting Nuclear Nonproliferation Goals.....................................................................17
Promoting Transparency and Cooperation........................................................................18
Scope ....................................................................................................................................... 19
Reductions vs. Transparency............................................................................................19
Linkages ............................................................................................................................ 19
Allow START to Lapse.....................................................................................................21
Extend and Amend START...............................................................................................22
Choosing a Path.......................................................................................................................26
Table 1. Central Limits in START...................................................................................................3
Author Contact Information..........................................................................................................26
The United States and Soviet Union signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) on July
31, 1991. After the demise of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the parties signed a Protocol
that named the four former Soviet Republics with nuclear weapons on their territory—Ukraine, 1
Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia—parties to the Treaty. START entered into force on December
agreement, and, therefore, will expire on December 5, 2009. According to Article XVII of the
Treaty, the parties must meet “no later than one year” before this date to consider whether the 3
Treaty should be extended or allowed to lapse. If the parties agree to extend the Treaty, the
extension would last five years, unless START were replaced by a subsequent agreement during
The United States and Russia have held several meetings to discuss the options for continuing
their bilateral arms control relationship after START, but have not yet reached an agreement on
whether to extend START or on how to replace it. The discussions between the two parties, along
with the statements from Members of Congress and others following the process, reflect not only
on the specific issues that may be addressed in a possible follow-on Treaty, but, also on the
broader question of what, if any, role arms control should play in future U.S.-Russian relations.
The United States and Soviet Union negotiated START between 1994 and 2001. It contains many
detailed definitions and restrictions that not only limit the permitted number of nuclear warheads
but also restrain the locations and movement of delivery vehicles carrying nuclear warheads and
require extensive exchanges of data about them. Many of these provisions reflect the more
competitive relationship between the United States and Soviet Union, and the concerns that drove
their inclusion in the Treaty, may no longer seem as important to the U.S.-Russian relationship.
Specifically, some in the Bush Administration and the broader foreign policy community have
argued that, because the United States no longer structures its nuclear forces in response to a
Russian threat, it no longer needs a treaty that restrains and reduces the weapons that make up
that threat. They, therefore, question whether the START Treaty, or U.S.-Russian nuclear arms
control in general, remain important as tools in the political relationship between the United
States and Russia.
Some U.S. critics of arms control argue that the bilateral arms control process should fade away
after START expires. They note that START may have served its purpose by helping to reduce the
size of the Russian arsenal after the demise of the Soviet Union and by restraining the permitted
operations of the remaining forces, but its reductions have been overtaken by deeper cuts
mandated by the Moscow Treaty and the restrictions on Russian forces also serve to restrict the
flexibility of U.S. forces. In the current environment, the United States may be better served by
1 The leaders in Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan agreed to eliminate all of the nuclear weapons on their territories and
to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as non-nuclear weapons states. These three states have been
nuclear free since the late 1990s; all remaining Soviet-era nuclear warheads are deployed in Russia.
2 The United States and Russia signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (also known as the Moscow Treaty)
on May 24, 2002. They do not, however, consider this Treaty to be a successor to START. Article II of the Moscow
Treaty specifically states that the START Treaty remains in force. See CRS Report RL31448, Nuclear Arms Control:
The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, by Amy F. Woolf.
3 The Parties did not need to make a decision about the future of START in December 2008, they just needed to meet to
consider the question.
maintaining its own freedom of action in deploying and operating its nuclear forces than by
retaining START’s or similar restraints on U.S. and Russian forces.
Others, however, argue that START remains relevant to the U.S.-Russian relationship and
deserves to be either extended or replaced with a similar treaty. In this view, the predictability
created by START’s well-defined restrictions on Russian and U.S. nuclear forces can benefit both
countries. Moreover, continuing this cooperation can help to restore some trust in the relationship
between the two nations. In addition, some in Russia still feel threatened by U.S. nuclear weapons
and continue to value the restraints provided by arms control treaties.
Some Members of Congress have joined this debate, with several endorsing the view that
extending START, and its monitoring and verification provisions, will help improve the
relationship between the United States and Russia. For example, Senator Richard Lugar has
stated that “the current U.S.-Russian relationship is complicated enough without introducing
more elements of uncertainty. Failure to preserve the START Treaty would increase the potential 4
for distrust between the two sides.” Some also believe, as Senator Lugar has noted that the
“failure to renew START will be seen worldwide as weakening the international nuclear
nonproliferation regime and a further sign to many foreign leaders and experts that U.S. 5
nonproliferation policy is adrift.”
Congress has limited influence on the process of seeking a replacement for START. If the United
States and Russia amend START, or negotiate a new treaty to replace it, the Senate will have to
provide its advice and consent before the parties ratify the Treaty. However, if the two parties do
not reach any agreement and START lapses, or if they choose simply to extend START for five
years, according to the provision in Article XVII, the Senate would not have to approve or reject
the outcome. Nevertheless, Congress can, through resolutions, hearings, and consultations, offer
the Administration its views on the future of the START Treaty and the U.S.-Russian arms control
This report provides background information about the START Treaty and reviews the
discussions about a possible successor to START. It also presents a range of alternatives that the
United States and Russia might consider if they choose to follow START with a new framework
for the arms control process.
START limits long-range nuclear-capable delivery systems—land-based intercontinental ballistic
missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers—in the
4 Richard Lugar. Speech at Conference on Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction. January 20, 2008.
5 Richard Lugar. “Trust Still Needs Verification.” Washington Times. July 18, 2008. p. 24.
6 The full text of the Treaty and its many annexes is available at the U.S. State Department website:
United States and the four states of the former Soviet Union. The Treaty limits both the number of
delivery systems and the number of warheads carried on these systems. As Table 1 below
indicates, each side can deploy 6,000 “attributed” warheads on no more than 1,600 ballistic
missiles and heavy bombers, with no more than 4,900 attributed warheads on land-based and
submarine-based ballistic missiles.
Table 1. Central Limits in START
Deployed Strategic Nuclear Delivery Vehicles 1,600
Heavy ICBMs 154
Accountable Warheads on Deployed Delivery Vehicles 6,000
Ballistic Missile Warheads 4,900
Warheads on Heavy ICBMs 1,540
Warheads on Mobile ICBMs 1,100
Total Ballistic Missile Throwweight 3,600 metric tons0
Source: U.S. Department of State, Text of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty. http://www.state.gov/t/ac/
a. This is around 54% of the amount of throwweight deployed on Soviet missiles when the treaty was signed.
Within the aggregate limits on ballistic missile warheads, START also limits each side to no more
than 1,540 warheads on heavy ICBMs, which are defined as those with a throwweight greater
than 4,350 kilograms, and 1,100 warheads on mobile ICBMs. These two limits are an added
effort to restrain forces that the United States feared would provide the Soviet Union with an
avenue to exceed the warhead limit. The United States had long sought to use the arms control
process to limit, or eliminate, the Soviet monopoly on heavy ICBMs because it believed that the
Soviet Union could expand the capabilities of these missiles by deploying them with more or
higher yield. The United States did not have any ballistic missiles of this size, and had no plans to
develop or deploy them. The Soviet Union initially resisted U.S. pressures to limit these missiles,
but eventually agreed to halve their force of 304 SS-18 ICBMs, each of which was deployed with
As the START negotiations proceeded through the 1980s, the United States also grew concerned
about the Soviet deployment of ballistic missiles on mobile launchers. The Soviet Union had
begun to deploy single-warhead SS-25 missiles on road-mobile launchers and 10-warhead SS-24
missiles on rail-mobile launchers. The United States considered these missiles both a military and
an arms control problem. Because the United States did not think it could locate and track these
missiles all the time, it believed it would be difficult to target them during a conflict. Moreover,
because the Soviet Union had large land areas where it could operate and conceal these missiles,
U.S. negotiators argued that the United States would not be able to monitor mobile ICBM
deployments well enough to count the missiles and verify Soviet compliance with the limits in
The United States initially proposed that START ban mobile ICBMs, even though it was
considering the possible use of mobile launchers for its new 10-warhead Peacekeeper (MX)
ICBM and for a prospective small, single-warhead ICBM. But, after the United States and Soviet
Union began to consider options for a monitoring and verification regime that might track the
numbers of mobile ICBMs, they agreed to limit, rather than ban, these systems. The limited
numbers, when combined with location restrictions, notifications prior to movement, data
exchanges that identified the numbers of missiles and warheads based at approved locations, and
a continuous monitoring regime outside the final assembly facility for one type of mobile ICBM,
would help each side count the number of acknowledged mobile ICBMs and complicate efforts to
conceal extra missiles or warheads. Even though the United States eventually dropped its plans to
deploy mobile ICBMs, it agreed to apply these limits and restrictions to the Peacekeeper (MX)
missiles that were deployed in silos.
START also limits the total amount of throwweight on each side’s ballistic missiles, to an amount
equal to around 54% of the amount of throwweight on Soviet missiles before the Treaty entered
into force. Throwweight is the combined weight of the post-boost vehicle, warheads, guidance
system, penetration aids, and other equipment found on the front end of a missile. It is considered
to be a measure of a missile’s destructive capacity because larger missiles with greater
throwweight can carry larger or greater numbers of warheads. Hence, this limit was a further
effort by the United States to limit the potential for the Soviet Union to add warheads to its
missiles in violation of the Treaty’s limits. Because Soviet forces deployed when START was
signed carried had than three times as much throwweight as U.S. missiles, the United States did
not have to reduce its forces to comply with this limit. However, the United States could have
exceeded the limit on throwweight if it had deployed new, larger missiles while START remained
START counts each deployed ICBM and its associated launcher, each deployed SLBM and its
associated launcher, and each deployed heavy bomber as a single delivery vehicle under the
Treaty limit of 1,600 delivery vehicles. They count regardless of whether they are equipped with
nuclear or conventional warheads. They also continue to count under the Treaty limits until the
launchers or bombers are eliminated according to the Treaty’s detailed elimination procedures.
For example, a bomber, such as the B-1, that has been converted to carry conventional weapons
continues to count under the Treaty limits. Moreover, an empty missile launcher, either on land or
on a ballistic missile submarine, continues to count as if it still holds a missile and the missile still
carries the attributed number of warheads, even if the missile system is deactivated or the
launcher is converted to another purpose.
The number of warheads attributed to each type of missile or bomber is listed in an agreed data 7
base. For the most part, the number of warheads attributed to each type of missile equals the
maximum number of warheads that the missile had been tested with and could be equipped to
carry when the treaty entered into force. In some cases, however, such as for the U.S. Trident II
(D-5) missile, the number of warheads attributed to the missile (8) fell below the maximum
number the missile could carry (12). The Soviet SS-18 missile had also been tested with 12 or 14
warheads, but the data base counted it as carrying only 10. The parties adopted this formula of
counting delivery vehicles and attributing warheads to each type of delivery vehicle, because,
although they sought to reduce warheads, they could not monitor the actual numbers of warheads
deployed on the delivery vehicles but could identify and count the large delivery vehicles with
their monitoring systems.
7 The most recent data base exchanged among the parties to the Treaty can be found at U.S. State Department, Bureau
of Verification, Compliance, and Implementation. START Aggregate Numbers of Strategic Offensive Arms.
The number of warheads attributed to heavy bombers falls far below the maximum number that
could be carried on those aircraft. Heavy bombers that are not equipped to carry long-range 8
nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs)—such as the U.S. B-1 and B-2 bombers—
count as only one warhead under the START limits. This number applies even though these
bombers can carry at least 16 bombs and short-range missiles. Further, heavy bombers that are
equipped to carry ALCMs count as half of the maximum number of weapons they are permitted
to carry. START states that U.S. bombers can be equipped to carry up to 20 ALCMs, but they
only count as 10 warheads under the Treaty limit of 6,000 warheads. Russian bombers can be
equipped to carry up to 16 ALCMs, and count as only 8 warheads under the Treaty limit.
START allows the United States and Soviet Union to reduce the number of warheads attributed to
a particular type of ballistic missile through a process known as “downloading.” According to the
Treaty, each party can reduce the “attributed number” listed in the data base for up to three types
of missiles. If they do this, they must then reduce the number of warheads carried on each missile,
and if the number declines by more than 2 warheads, they must replace the platform on the
missile that holds the warheads, so that it does not have space for the larger number of missiles.
This “downloading” process would allow each country to spread its 4,900 ballistic missile
warheads among a greater number of missiles. The countries use short-notice on-site inspections
to confirm that the number of warheads actually deployed on a particular missile does not exceed
the number of warheads attributed to that type of missile in the data base. The United States has
taken advantage of this provision with its Minuteman III and Trident II missiles.
Existing types of missiles cannot be deployed with more warheads than the number attributed to
that type of missile in the data base. The number in the data base could only increase if the
missile were altered to meet the definition of a “new type” of missile. START bans new types of
heavy ICBMs. For smaller missiles, it contains an elaborate definition that is designed to allow
the parties to distinguish between modified versions of existing ballistic missiles, which would be
subject to the warhead attribution numbers already in the data base, and new types, which would
receive a new warhead attribution number. During the negotiations, the parties agreed that the
definition would reflect changes in missile characteristics such as the propellant used, the number
of stages, its length and diameter, and its throwweight, but they differed on the magnitude of the
changes that would define a “new type.” The United States feared that, with smaller changes, the
Soviet Union would be able to have a missile that was virtually identical to an existing missile
declared a new type with a greater number of warheads, and then might secretly backfit the older
version with more warheads, as well. This was one of the last issues resolved in the START 9
START contains detailed definitions of the items and activities limited by the treaty. The parties
have also been required to exchange copious amounts of detailed data on the technical
characteristics of the treaty-limited items. The Treaty mandates that the parties locate all strategic
8 Long-range nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missiles are those with a range of more than 600 kilometers.
9 The Soviet Union suggested that a 15% change in throwweight would be enough to distinguish a new type of missile,
while the United States wanted a throwweight change of 30% and a change in one other missile characteristic. They
eventually agreed to essentially split their differences and defined a new types of missile as one with a 21% change in
throwweight and at least a 5% change in the length of the first stage. This would make new types of missiles
significantly different from existing types.
forces limited by the Treaty at “declared facilities” which include production, assembly, testing,
storage, maintenance, deployment, and elimination facilities. It outlines detailed notifications that
must be provided and procedures that must be followed when items move from one location to
another. It further defines detailed procedures that the countries must follow when they eliminate
weapons limited by the Treaty, or close down facilities that had once housed these items.
Designed to reduce ambiguities and minimize the opportunities for dispute, these details provide
the “foundation” for the Treaty’s verification regime by drawing sharp distinctions between
permitted and prohibited forces and activities.
Verification is the process that one country uses to assess whether another country is complying
with an arms control agreement. To verify compliance, a country must determine whether the
forces and activities of another country are within the bounds established by the limits and
obligations in the agreement. Treaty language forms the core of the verification regime: it
describes the limits and obligations the countries must observe and allows them to identify the
forces and activities that comply with the terms of the Treaty. The identification of compliant
activities also helps a country focus on what it should look for when it collects information about
the other country’s forces and activities. No verification regime can ensure the detection of all
violations, but the START regime is designed to ensure that parties would have a high probability
of detecting militarily significant violations.
The parties to a treaty use a wide variety of means to collect information—or monitor—the forces
and activities of the other parties. Some of these monitoring systems, such as overhead satellites,
operate outside the territories of the treaty parties. But the parties can also cooperate in providing
information by exchanging data, displaying treaty-limited items, and allowing on-site inspections.
Once they have collected this information, the parties analyze and refine the raw data to help
develop a meaningful picture of each other’s forces and activities. They then evaluate the results
of the monitoring process, compare the observed forces and activities with the expected forces
and activities, and determine whether the other party has complied with its obligations under the
terms of the Treaty.
To verify compliance with START, each side monitors the numbers and locations of ballistic
missiles, launchers and heavy bombers deployed by the other country. To achieve this goal, the
countries have had to
• establish the number and location of deployed and stored ballistic missiles and
deployed bombers when the Treaty entered into force;
• confirm the technical characteristics of existing types of weapons and establish
the measurements for new types of weapons;
• add the number of ballistic missiles and heavy bombers deployed after the treaty
entered into force;
• subtract the number of ballistic missiles and heavy bombers eliminated,
according to treaty rules, during the life of the treaty;
• track treaty-limited items when they move between declared facilities;
• monitor the armament on permitted systems, to confirm that missiles and
bombers are deployed with the numbers and types of warheads permitted by the
START data base; and
• monitor ballistic missile flight tests to determine the characteristics of different
types of ballistic missiles.
START contains a complex verification regime that is designed to allow the parties to achieve
these objectives. Both sides use their own satellites and remote sensing equipment—their
National Technical Means of Verification (NTM)—to gather the vast majority of the information
each needs to monitor the other country’s forces and activities and to determine whether the other
country has complied with the limits in START. But the Treaty also contains a number of specific
verification provisions that are designed to help the parties gather and confirm the needed
information. For example, it bans measures that would interfere with the parties’ ability to collect
information with their NTM, and requires that they use data exchanges, notifications, and on-site
inspections to gather information about forces and activities limited by the Treaty. These
measures do not replace monitoring with NTM, but they can add detail to information collected
by NTM, enhance a country’s confidence in the meaning and reliability of the information, and
help deter violations. The Treaty also established the Joint Compliance and Inspection
Commission (JCIC), where the parties meet to discuss treaty implementation issues and
START contains several verification measures that allow the countries’ NTM to gain access to
information about the other country’s treaty-limited forces. These measures include a ban on
interference with NTM—for example, the parties cannot interfere with the launch or operation of
the other side’s satellites—and a requirement that they broadcast telemetry, the technical data
generated during missile flight tests over open channels. START also bans efforts to conceal
forces and activities from NTM and mandates that the parties display treaty limited items under
certain circumstances, so that NTM can confirm their locations and some characteristics.
The ban on data denial during missile flight tests was a particularly important feature of START
for the United States. Each nation transmits data, known as telemetry, during its flight tests of
ballistic missiles. Even without START, each nation monitored the other’s missile flight tests to
gain information about characteristics such as missile throwweight, launch weight, and the
number of reentry vehicles releases tested during the flight. The nations could deny each other
access to this data by encrypting it and transmitting it in coded form, recording it during the flight
and storing it aboard the missile for recovery after the test, or by jamming and otherwise
interfering with the other side’s receiving instruments. Because the United States believed that
this information would be critical to its efforts to monitor Soviet compliance with START, it
insisted that the Treaty contain a complete ban on the denial of data generated during flight tests.
Not only must the parties broadcast unencrypted data during the tests, they also agreed to
exchange the tapes of data recorded during the flight tests.
START mandates that the parties exchange detailed information about the numbers, locations,
and characteristics of treaty-limited ballistic missiles and heavy bombers. For the most part, this
information confirms information that each country collects with its own NTM. It can provide
additional details and help the countries interpret ambiguous or incomplete data. The countries
have also had to notify each other when they move ballistic missiles or bombers that are limited
by the treaty. These notifications help each country monitor the locations of the other side’s
permitted systems and detect the possible presence of excess or illegal systems.
Under START, the United States and Russia have conducted several different types of on-site
inspections. They use these inspections to collect information about permitted systems and
activities at declared facilities, but they are not permitted to go “anywhere, anytime” in search of
treaty violations. These inspections may not provide much new information that is needed to
verify compliance with the Treaty, but can confirm and add detail to information collected by
NTM and data exchanges. Further, with the short notice available before many of these
inspections, a country would find it difficult to hide evidence of a violation at a declared facility.
START has permitted inspections at all the declared facilities that produce, house, and support
ballistic missiles and heavy bombers. The countries use these inspections to confirm information
about the number of systems located at each facility. They have also viewed treaty-limited items
to confirm information about their characteristics; for example, they can use short-notice
inspections to confirm that the number of warheads on a missile does not exceed the number
attributed to that type of missile in the data base. Each country has also established permanent
monitoring systems around a final assembly facility for one of the other country’s mobile ICBMs
to help them count mobile ICBMs as they enter the force.
Each of the inspections permitted by the START Treaty is governed by complex and detailed
procedures that address everything about the inspection process. These procedures outline, among
other things, the airports the inspectors can use when they arrive in the country, the amount of
notice they need to give before the start of the inspection, the amount of time the host country has
to transport the inspectors to the selected site, the types of equipment the inspectors can use, the
amount of time that can transpire during the inspection, and the procedures the inspectors and
hosts would use to resolve questions that came up during the visit. These procedures and rules are
designed to outline the rights and responsibilities of both parties, and minimize any potential
conflict that might occur during inspections, but they also can create conflicts and of their own if
questions about procedures come up during the process. Most analysts agree, however, that the
START inspection process has had few significant problems over the years.
Each verification provision in START is designed to provide the parties with a distinct source of
information about the forces and activities of the other side. They also mesh together in a way
that is designed to deter violations and increase confidence in the parties’ compliance with the
Treaty. For example, much of the data collected during on-site inspections can also be collected
by NTM or shared during data exchanges. The inspections essentially confirm expected
information. Nevertheless, this redundancy can detect inconsistencies and thereby complicate
efforts to hide information and evade Treaty limits. For example, if one party did not notify the
other before it moved a treaty-limited item to a different facility, but the other party’s NTM
detected the movement, the inconsistency might raise questions about whether the first party were
trying to hide or conceal an item limited by the treaty. Over time, the START regime has also
allowed the parties to collect information that may not be central to the goals of the Treaty but
could still add to their understanding of the forces and operations of the other side. Many of the
Treaty’s supporters argue that this adds confidence and predictability to assessments of the other
side’s strategic forces.
In September 1990, before START entered into force, the United States had more than 10,500 10
accountable warheads deployed on nearly 2,250 delivery vehicles. By mid-2008, this number 11
had declined to 5,941 accountable warheads on 1,214 delivery vehicles. Soviet forces had
declined from more than 10,000 accountable warheads on 2,500 delivery vehicles in September
1990 to 4,138 accountable warheads on 839 delivery vehicles in mid-2008. All the nuclear
warheads from the SS-18 ICBMs and heavy bombers in Kazakhstan had been returned to Russia
by May 1995. All the nuclear weapons had been removed from Ukraine’s territory by June 1996,
and all 81 SS-25 mobile ICBMs had been moved from Belarus to Russia by late November 1996.
Ukraine has eliminated all the ICBM silos and heavy bombers that were deployed on its territory.
All the parties have also participated in the on-site inspections permitted under the Treaty. They
continue to meet, twice each year, in the JCIC. While both the United States and Russia have
raised some questions about compliance with the Treaty, both agree that there have been few
significant compliance disputes.
In 2001, during its first year in office, the Bush Administration conducted a Nuclear Posture
Review to evaluate the size, structure, and role of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. As a part of that
review, the Administration determined that the United States could reduce its strategic forces to
between 1,700 and 2,000 “operationally deployed nuclear warheads.” During a summit meeting
with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in November 2001, President Bush announced that the
United States would pursue these reductions unilaterally in the next decade, without signing a
formal arms control agreement. President Putin indicated that Russia wanted to use the formal
arms control process to achieve deeper reductions in nuclear arsenals, and emphasized that the 13
two sides should focus on “reaching a reliable and verifiable agreement.”
Within the Bush Administration, Secretary of State Colin Powell supported the conclusion of a
“legally binding” arms control agreement. He apparently prevailed over the objections of officials
in the Pentagon who reportedly wanted the United States to maintain the flexibility to size and 14
structure its nuclear forces in response to its own needs. Consequently, the United States and
Russia signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (also known as the Moscow Treaty) on
10 U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency Archives. START Data Base, exchanged September 1, 1990.
11 U.S. Department of State. Bureau of Verification, Compliance, and Implementation. Fact Sheet. START Aggregate
Numbers of Strategic Offensive Weapons. October 1, 2008.
12 The text of this treaty can be found at U.S. Department of State. Bureau of Verification, Compliance, and
Implementation. Treaties and Agreements. http://www.state.gov/t/ac/trt/10527.htm.
13 The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. Press Conference. President Bush and President Putin Discuss New
Relationship. November 13, 2001.
14 Jonathan Landay. “Rumsfeld Reportedly Resists Firm Limits on Nuclear Arms,” San Jose Mercury News. April 27,
May 24, 2002. It received the advice and consent of the Senate on March 6, 2003 and the
approval of the Russian parliament on May 14, 2003; it entered into force on June 1, 2003.
The Moscow Treaty states that the United States and Russia will reduce their “strategic nuclear 15
warheads” to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads by December 31, 2012. The text does not
define “strategic nuclear warheads” and, therefore, does not indicate whether the parties will
count only those warheads that are “operationally deployed,” all warheads that would count under
the START counting rules, or some other quantity. The text does refer to statements made by
Presidents Bush and Putin in November and December 2001, when each outlined their own
reduction plans. As a result, the United States and Russia each use their own definition when
counting strategic nuclear warheads, and neither uses the START counting rules. The Treaty does
not limit delivery vehicles or impose sublimits on specific types of weapons systems. Each party
shall determine its own “composition and structure of its strategic offensive arms.” In addition,
the Treaty does not contain any definitions or descriptions of the types missiles and bombers
whose warheads count under the Treaty limits.
In addition, the Moscow Treaty does not contain any monitoring or verification provisions.
During the hearings on the resolution of ratification, the Bush Administration noted that the
United States and Russia already collect information about strategic nuclear forces under START
and during implementation of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. At the
time, some in Congress questioned whether this information would be sufficient for the duration 16
of the Treaty, since START expires three years ahead of the Moscow Treaty. This break in the
time lines is one of the primary reasons why many analysts and Members of Congress believe the
two sides should at least extend the monitoring and verification provisions in START through the
end of the Moscow Treaty.
In September 2006, U.S. Undersecretary of State Robert Joseph and Russian Deputy Foreign
Minister Sergei Kislyak met to initiate a new strategic security dialogue. This dialogue evolved
into a series of meetings that addressed a range of issues. START was included, but was not high
on the agenda of the meetings. During the first meeting, and at a second one in December 2006,
the two sides outlined their goals for the talks. Russia indicated that it wanted to follow START
with a new formal treaty that would be “similar in size and complexity to START” and would use
many of the same definitions and counting rules as START. Russia also suggested that the two
sides establish a regular working group, with meetings chaired at the Assistant Secretary level, to
work out the details of this new Treaty. According to a Bush Administration official, the United
States had “no appetite for those big, giant documents that try to script every single element of 17
strategic forces.” The Administration emphasized that the United States and Russia no longer
15 For details on the substance of the Treaty, see CRS Report RL31448, Nuclear Arms Control: The Strategic Offensive
Reductions Treaty, by Amy F. Woolf.
16 For details, see U.S. Congress, Senate. Committee on Foreign Relations. Hearing. Treaty on Strategic Offensive
Reductions. Testimony of Secretary of State Colin Powell. July 9, 2002.
17 Sebastian Sprenger. “Nations to Kick off Initiative Against Nuclear Terrorism Next Week. Separate U.S.-Russian
meeting on START expected.” Inside Defense.com, October 26, 2006.
needed arms control agreements to manage their strategic relationship. The United States also did
not want to set up a working group or negotiate a new Treaty to follow START, and preferred to 18
pursue broader “strategic discussions” within a political framework.
In spite of their differences, the United States and Russia agreed that they should continue to
implement some of the monitoring and verification provisions in START after the Treaty expired.
Russia proposed that they include these verification provisions in a new, legally binding Treaty
that would also limit the number of warheads permitted on each side. According to one Russian
official, these measures would have to be a part of a legally binding agreement to be permitted by 19
domestic Russian law. The United States, however, argued for a less formal arrangement of
transparency and confidence-building measures. These could include voluntary notifications and 20
site visits, but would not contain the detailed procedures and provisions included in START.
Although Undersecretary of State Joseph initially rejected the idea, the two sides did hold a series
of meetings chaired at the Assistant Secretary level in search of a possible monitoring and
verification agreement. They continued to disagree, however, on whether the verification
measures should be voluntary or legally binding, and whether they should be attached to a formal
treaty that would also limit the numbers of deployed warheads.
In addition to the periodic meetings at the Undersecretary level (Joseph/Kislyak, then
Rood/Kislyak) and the working group meetings at the Assistant Secretary level, the United States
and Russia held several high level meetings that addressed the future of U.S.-Russian arms
control. For example, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Russia’s Foreign Minister
Sergey Lavrov in July 2007. Their formal statement after the meeting said that “The United States
and Russia reiterate their intention to carry out strategic offensive reductions to the lowest
possible level consistent with their national security requirements and alliance commitments.” It
added that the “Ministers discussed development of a post-START arrangement to provide 21
continuity and predictability regarding strategic offensive forces. But the United States still did
not accept Russia’s proposal to pursue a formal Treaty.
The U.S. position began to shift later in 2007. Secretary Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert
Gates held joint meetings in Moscow with their counterparts in October, and concluded that,
although the United States was still seeking something “far less formal than a major treaty” it
might accept, according to Secretary Gates, “a binding agreement” preserving some of START, as 22
long as it was “narrowly focused.” Nevertheless, the United States continued to reject a formal
treaty that would limit the number of nuclear weapons. When Secretary Gates and Secretary Rice
traveled to Moscow to discuss START again in March 2008, Secretary Rice argued the current
U.S.-Russian relationship does not require “the kind of highly articulated, expensive limitations 23
and verification procedures that attended the strategic arms relationship with the Soviet Union.”
18 Nicholas Kralev. “Russia, U.S. to Discuss START.” Washington Times. March 6, 2007. p. 1.
19 Wade Boese. “U.S., Russia exploring post-START Options.” Arms Control Today. May 2007.
20 Nicholas Kralev. “Russia, U.S. to Discuss START.” Washington Times. March 6, 2007. p. 1.
21 U.S. State Department. Office of the Spokesman. Joint Statement by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and
Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov. July 3, 2007.
22 Ken Fireman. “Gates, Rice made Last-Minute Offer of New Arms Ideas in Moscow.” Bloomberg News, October 13,
23 Wade Boese. “U.S., Russia at Odds on Key Arms Issues.” Arm Control Today. April 2008.
Russian officials, however, continued to reject the U.S. proposals for an informal “notification”
Presidents Bush and Putin failed to break this stalemate when they met in Sochi, Russia in April
2008. Although they signed a new Strategic Framework that contained a pledge to enact nuclear
weapons reductions “to the lowest possible level consistent with our national security
requirements and alliance commitments,” they failed to agree on the way forward in their arms
control relationship. Russia still wanted to negotiate a Treaty based on the START framework; the 24
United States was only willing to codify some verification measures.
The talks continued through the spring and summer of 2008, although, according to some news 25
reports they were “irregular and unproductive.” Some reports suggested that the United States
might suspend the talks in response to the Russian incursion into Georgia in August, 2008, but 26
both sides agreed the talks were important enough to continue in September and October.
Nevertheless, the two sides remained far apart. Russia was unwilling to recede from its call for a
formal Treaty with detailed definitions and counting rules; the United States still preferred a less
formal agreement that outlined transparency and confidence-building measures. The United State
did, however, recognize that Russia would not permit on-site visits without a formal Treaty, so
Washington proposed in October 2008 that the two sides attach an informal transparency regime
to a legally binding Treaty that essentially reiterated the limits and declarations outlined in the
Moscow Treaty. Russia rejected this proposal. In a speech delivered on October 10, Russian
President Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia attaches “exceptional importance to concluding a
new, legally binding Russian-American agreement on nuclear disarmament” to replace START.
He further noted that “what we need is a treaty and not a declaration,” which is a reference to the 27
format used in the Moscow Treaty.
The United States and Russia, along with representatives from Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan,
met in the JCIC from November 13 through 21, 2008. This forum provided the venue for the
formal meeting, mandated by START, where the parties considered whether to extend the 28
Treaty. They did not reach any agreements during this meeting, other than to note that they were
leaving the options open for the Obama Administration. The United States and Russia held one
final meeting in their series of strategic security discussions on December 15, 2008; bi-lateral 29
arms control was one of many issues on the agenda. They held extensive discussions about the
U.S. draft treaty, but they failed to reach agreement on any of the outstanding issues.
24 Wade Boese. “Bush, Putin Leave Arms Disputes Unsettled.” Arms Control Today. May 2008.
25 Wade Boese. “Russia Wants Limits on Prompt Global Strike.” Arms Control Today. June 2008.
26 Wade Boese. “U.S.-Russian Strategic Dialogue in Limbo.” Arms Control Today. October 2008.
27 Wade Boese. “Bush Administration Sets Russian Arms Talks.” Arms Control Today. October 2008.
28 U.S. Department of State. Bureau of Verification, Compliance, and Implementation. Statement by the United States
Representative to the Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Fact
Sheet. November, 21, 2008.
29 U.S. Department of State. Office of the Spokesman. “Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International
Security John C. Rood To Travel to Moscow for Bilateral Strategic Security Dialogue Talks.” Media Note. December
Neither the United States nor Russia believes the two parties should extend the START Treaty.
Neither wants to continue to implement all the monitoring and verification provisions included in
START; the lengthy and highly detailed lists of procedures and requirements have proven costly
and complicated. In some cases, these details were designed to address concerns about the
potential for cheating and evasion that no longer exist in the current environment. Moreover, as is
noted below, some of the limits and restrictions have begun to interfere with ongoing weapons
programs for both nations. A simple extension of START would not reduce these pressures, and,
unless the parties could agree on a new Treaty, could remain in force for five years.
In a speech to Russian diplomats in June 2006, then-President Vladimir Putin proposed that the 30
United States and Russia begin negotiations to replace START with a new Treaty. Since then,
Russia has consistently and repeatedly insisted that the two sides replace START with a treaty
that would not only reduce each side’s strategic offensive forces to 1,500 warheads, but would 31
count the warheads on all deployed delivery vehicles, as START has done. Such an agreement
would maintain the predictability and the stability afforded by START, an outcome that would not 32
be possible in the absence of a detailed, legally binding Treaty. The new treaty would not need
to keep all the provisions of START, but should preserve “the main systematic structure of the 33
agreement,” including limitations on delivery vehicles and warhead deployments.
Reports indicate that Russia would like the new treaty to relax START’s requirements for new
types of ballistic missiles. As was noted above, START contains a precise definition of the
changes needed to have a new missile counted as a “new type.” These provisions were designed
to prevent Russia from deploying its SS-25 missile with more than one warhead. But Russia has
developed the RS-24 missile, a new variant of its single-warhead SS-27 missile, which is, itself, a
variant of the SS-25, and it plans to deploy this new missile with three warheads on each 34
missile. Because the missile does not satisfy the Treaty’s “new types” definition, it would be
limited to a single warhead under START, and a three-warhead version would violate the Treaty.
This missile had its third successful test launch in late November 2008, and recent press reports
indicate that Russia now plans to deploy this missile in December 2009, as soon as START
expires. Russian officials have indicated that this missile is critical to the future of Russia’s
strategic forces, not only because it can carry up to three warheads, but also because it will 35
incorporate technologies that would allow it to penetrate U.S. ballistic missile defenses.
30 Wade Boese. “Russia Seeks New Nuclear Accord.” Arms Control Today, September 2006.
31 Wade Boese. “Arms Issues Divide U.S. and Russia.” Arms Control Today. September 2007.
32 Nikolai Sokov, “START I Replacement: The End of Cold War Disarmament.” PONARS Policy Memo No. 418.
Monterey Institute of International Studies. December 2006.
33 Arms Control Association, Interview with Sergey Kislyak, Russian Ambassador to the United States. December,
34 Pavel Podvig. “Why START is Important.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. July 3, 2007.
35 “Russia To Deploy Missile To Counter US Missile Shield Next Year.” London Daily Telegraph. November 29,
According to some reports, Russia would also like the new Treaty to ease some of the restrictions 36
that START imposes on mobile ICBMs. Although these restrictions were intended to apply to
both parties, the United States has never been affected by them because it never deployed mobile
ICBMs. These provisions, including limits on the size of deployment areas, notifications about
exercises, and the rights to special on-site inspections after the missiles have dispersed for
exercises, were designed to complicate any effort to hide extra missiles within the legal
deployments of mobile ICBMs. But they also impinge on the operations of the permitted missiles 37
and add to the costs of operating the systems.
Over the years, Russia has also expressed concerns about the U.S. ability to add warheads to its
missiles quickly by restoring warheads that had been removed under START’s downloading
provisions. It may insist that a new Treaty require the United States to replace the platform on all 38
downloaded missiles, instead of just those that have had more than two warheads removed.
Russia would like to retain some of START’s monitoring and verification provisions, although it
would like to make them less costly and cumbersome. For example, the two sides could reduce
the numbers of short-notice inspections permitted each year, and replace these inspections with
less formal “visits.” The parties could also reduce the number of mandatory notifications, which
were intended to help each side monitor the numbers and locations of treaty-limited items, and 39
replace them with routine, periodic data exchanges.
When U.S. and Russian talks on the future of START began in 2006, the United States expected
START to expire and the parties to pursue their own priorities when modernizing and modifying
their nuclear forces. However, the participants in the U.S. government were divided on the
question of whether to extend START’s monitoring provisions. According to some reports, U.S.
officials believed the two sides should evaluate whether they even needed to continue to
implement these provisions because, even without START, the amount of military cooperation 40
and transparency between them had increased over the years. They further argued that the
inspections regime had become too costly and cumbersome for the United States, and could
interfere with military operations, without providing certain knowledge about Russian’s nuclear
forces. Moreover, in the new security environment, the United States no longer needs detailed
information about Russian forces; it just needs to understand the general trends and pending
changes in force size and structure. Therefore, the two sides need, at most, an informal system
with less structured visits and looser inspections.
Others argued that the START regime provides valuable information about Russian forces that is
not available elsewhere, while also helping to build confidence and cooperation between the two
36 Anatoli Diakov and Eugene Miasnikov. “ReSTART: The Need for a New U.S.-Russian Strategic Arms Agreement.”
Arms Control Today. September 2006.
37 Nikolai Sokov. “Review of Disarmament Issues in U.S. Russian Relations.” James Martin Center for
Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies. November, 2007.
40 David Francis. “Arms Expert Calls for START Verification Extension.” Global Security Newswire. November 8,
sides.41 Further, reports indicate that officials in the U.S. intelligence community have argued
that, without START’s cooperative monitoring provisions, it will not be able to assess, with 42
confidence, Russia’s compliance with the limits in the Moscow Treaty.
While the United States has not identified any of the central limits in START that impinge on its
current plans and programs, some officials have expressed concerns that an extension of these
provisions, or their inclusion in a new Treaty, could affect future plans, such as the possible
deployment of conventional warheads on ballistic missiles and the potential deployment of these 43
conventional missiles at sites that are not listed in the Treaty. This concern has emerged as a
major roadblock in the recent U.S.-Russian discussions about what type of treaty should follow 44
START. Russia has insisted that the new treaty count the warheads that could be deployed on all
strategic delivery vehicles, as START did, in part to capture the warheads that could be carried on
missiles converted to carry conventional weapons. It wants to count these warheads to limit the 45
U.S. ability to break out of the treaty by converting the missiles back to nuclear warheads. The
United States, however, does not want the warheads that could be carried on these missiles to
count under the Treaty because it does not want any limits on conventional warheads or any
forced trade-offs between numbers of nuclear and conventional warheads.
U.S. officials have also expressed concerns about some of START’s monitoring and verification
provisions. For example, the Navy has indicated that Russian requests for re-entry vehicle
inspections on U.S. ballistic missile submarines can interfere with the scheduled maintenance and
operations of the submarines, because the Navy must bring the submarine into port and the
missile into a handling facility on the base. The treaty’s limits on the number of warheads that can
be removed, or downloaded, from Trident submarines might also interfere with the Navy’s
deployment plans for the future, particularly the United States chooses to remove more warheads
from Trident missiles as it continues to reduce the overall number of strategic warheads in its
Some in the U.S. government have also argued that START’s provisions requiring the exchange
of telemetry data during flight tests of ballistic missiles will interfere with U.S. military plans and 46
programs. In particular, the United States uses retired Minuteman II ICBMs as target vehicles
during tests of its missile defense capabilities. Because these missiles are still limited by the
START Treaty, the United States must provide Russia with all the telemetry generated during
these flights. Yet, the data from these tests may reveal information not only about the Minuteman
II ICBMs but also about the goals of the flight test and the characteristics of the missile defense
interceptors. This concern has been a key issue in discussions about whether, and how, the United
States and Russia should extend some of START’s monitoring provisions.
41 Carol Giacomo. “U.S. to let START nuclear treaty expire.” Reuters. May 22, 2007. See also, Jonathan S. Landay.
“Dispute Delays Arms Control Talks with Moscow.” McClatchy Washington Bureau. June 18, 2007.
42 Wade Boese. News Analysis: “The Bush Administration and Verification.” Arms Control Today, April 2005.
43 Phil Gardner, Michael George, Vera Lev, and Sandra McMahon. Extension of the START Treaty? An SAIC
Emerging Issues Project. December, 2005.
44 Walter Pincus. “U.S., Russia Split over Scope of Arms Treaty Follow-up But Concur on Goal, Negotiator Says.”
Washington Post. December 22, 2008. p. 19.
45 “Russia Concerned by U.S. Position on START, Deputy Foreign Minister Says. Interfax, December 19, 2008.
The Bush Administration eventually proposed that the two sides replace START with a short,
legally binding Treaty similar to the Moscow Treaty and a longer, non-binding appendix on
transparency and cooperation. This transparency regime would be far less detailed and complex
than START. It would allow for informal visits, without the detailed plans and notifications
required by START, and probably would relax the telemetry provisions, or at least exempt
Minuteman II flights during missile defense tests from the requirement to broadcast and exchange
telemetry. Moreover, as is noted above, the legally binding portion of the U.S. proposal would not
contain any of the detailed definitions and counting rules of START; the parties would declare
their numbers of deployed warheads, as they do under the Moscow Treaty.
Many expect the Obama Administration to review the U.S. position on the future of START and
the U.S.-Russian arms control process. In response to questions posed by the Arms Control
Association, then-candidate Obama stated that, he would “seek Russia’s agreement to extend
essential monitoring and verification provisions of START before it expires.” He also said that he
would seek “real, verifiable reductions in all U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons—whether 47
deployed or nondeployed, whether strategic or nonstrategic.... ” His transition team has since
reaffirmed these goals. While this statement does not specify whether the new President will
support an extension of START or its replacement with another agreement, it indicates that he is
more open to completing formal agreements with Russia, in general, and to negotiating further
reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear forces.
The United States and Russia have two distinct issues to consider when they contemplate the
future of their arms control relationship. First, what, if anything, should they do within the next
year to extend or replace START? And, second, should they seek to negotiate a new treaty to
replace the Moscow Treaty before it expires in 2012? Moreover, should the provisions in a new
Treaty focus on transparency and confidence-building measures, or should the two nations also
seek to impose deeper reductions on their strategic offensive forces?
It is unlikely that the United States and Russia will be able to negotiate and ratify a new Treaty
before the end of 2009, even though both sides have said they want to do so. The Obama
Administration has to name the senior State Department and Defense Department officials who
may craft U.S. policy on arms control and nuclear weapons, develop its negotiating positions for
a future arms control treaty; and negotiate and reach agreement on a wide range of issues with
Russia. Both sides must present the treaty to their legislatures for advice and consent. Moreover,
during its first year in office, the Obama Administration must conduct a Nuclear Posture 48
Review, which could recommend changes in both U.S. nuclear weapons policy and the U.S.
force structure. These changes could affect U.S. arms control proposals, but the study will not be
completed until early 2010.
The United States and Russia could choose from a number of options for the future of their arms
control relationship. They could allow START to lapse or they could extend START for five
47 Arms Control Today 2008 Presidential Q&A: Democratic Candidate Barack Obama. Arms Control Association.
September 24, 2008.
48 The mandate for the new Nuclear Posture Review is contained in the FY2008 Defense Authorization Act. (P.L. 110-
181, Sec. 1070).
years. They could negotiate a new Treaty, or they could pursue less formal arrangements to
manage their nuclear forces. A new Treaty could include further reductions in nuclear weapons, or
it could simply establish a transparency regime that called for continued cooperation in
monitoring without further reductions in deployed weapons. In their discussions thus far, the
United States and Russia have agreed they do not want to extend START, but they have been
unable to agree on what kind of arrangement will follow START, in part because they do not
agree on the goals they seek to achieve in their discussions. Hence, this paper will review some of
the possible goals for the future of the U.S.-Russian arms control relationship before it reviews
the range of options.
Many of the public discussions about the future of the U.S.-Russian arms control process focus
on whether arms control can help the United States and Russia manage and improve their broader
political relationship. As was noted at the beginning of this report, many observers, including
some who served in the Bush Administration believe that the U.S.-Russian relationship has
evolved to the point where the parties no longer need arms control as a symbol of their
cooperation on resolving common security issues. Others, however, including some Members of
Congress, believe that START and the arms control process still represent “the foundation of the 49
U.S.-Russian strategic relationship” and a “key basis for trust between the two sides.”
During the past few years, the public debate over arms control and nuclear weapons has
increasingly focused on the role that the U.S.-Russian arms control process can play in furthering
broader international nuclear nonproliferation goals. For example, many analysts have argued that
a U.S.-Russian agreement to either extend or replace START can demonstrate their commitment 50
to their arms reduction obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and can, therefore
help strengthen the nonproliferation regime, in general, and help ensure a successful outcome at
the 2010 review conference of the NPT. Others, however, argue that the nations who are currently
seeking nuclear weapons would not be swayed in their decisions by any steps taken by the United
States or Russia, as their nuclear programs derive from their own political and security concerns.
Moreover, they note that the United States and Russia have already reduced their Cold-War era
nuclear arsenals sharply, without reaping any benefits in their efforts to stem nuclear proliferation.
Many analysts in the United States and officials in the Bush Administration have argued that, in
the current security environment, the United States and Russia no longer need to worry about all
the details related to the size or structure of the other side’s nuclear forces, they just need to 51
understand the general trends. Both have reduced their forces in recent years and neither needs
49 Senator Richard Lugar. “ Trust Still Needs Verification.” Washington Times. July 18, 2008. P. 24.
50 Jenifer Mackby ad Edward Ifft. “The End of START.” Special to the Washington Post, April 20, 2007.
51 Jonathan S Landay. “Dispute Delays Arms Control Talks with Moscow.” McClatchy Washington Bureau. June 18,
to fear that the other would attack it with its remaining forces. Therefore, they no longer need to
negotiate formal treaties to establish and maintain balance between their two force structures.
Moreover, these treaties undermine the flexibility that each nation may need to adjusts its forces
in response to future threats from emerging adversaries.
Although Russia recognizes that the relationship between the two nations is not as tense as it was
during the Cold War, it still sees threats to its security from U.S. policies and programs. Therefore
Russia continues to value arms control measures that restrain U.S. forces because these measures
provide both stability between the two sides forces and predictability for Russia when it considers 52
how U.S. forces may evolve.
Many analysts in the United States also believe that the stability and predictability offered by
arms control agreements are valuable enough to offset any limits the treaties may create for U.S.
flexibility. Some argue that the process of implementing an arms control treaty, with its
communication and cooperation, by itself, is important, so that the parties can avoid
misunderstandings while they work together to reduce nuclear forces and nuclear dangers. Others,
however, emphasize that the actual limits and restrictions in the treaty, as much as the cooperation
to implement them, determine the amount of stability and predictability offered by the treaty.
They note that the United States and Soviet Union included many of the detailed provisions in
START because both wanted to restrain and reduce the nuclear forces of the other side to reduce
the threat from those forces, and both agreed to include detailed monitoring and verification
provisions so that they could be more confident about achieving the goal of reducing the threat.
Many have argued that, at least in the near-term, the United States and Russia should seek to
replace START with a regime that will ensure transparency and build confidence, even if it does 53
not mandate deeper reductions in nuclear weapons. This type of agreement will ensure that
some form of monitoring and verification provisions remains in place after START expires and
while the Moscow Treaty remains in force. A confidence-building regime can foster cooperation
between the two sides even if the data it provides is not needed to verify compliance with an arms
control Treaty. As one observer has noted, START “forces the United States and Russia to 54
communicate,” and to interact in ways that can build trust between them. Therefore, an
agreement that allowed the parties to continue with data exchanges, notifications, and some
inspections, even without further reductions, could prove valuable.
Some argue that the United States and Russia can promote transparency and continue their
cooperation without signing a formal arms control agreement. They note that the two sides will
continue to cooperate on reducing nuclear dangers through the nonproliferation and threat
52 In a recent interview with the Arms Control Association, Russia’s Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak,
who, as Deputy Foreign Minister participated in talks on the future of START, stated that “the mutual constraints
provided for in START should not be lost because they do provide stability and are one of the important things that
also should be preserved and should not be discarded.” See, Arms Control Association, Interview with Sergey Kislyak,
Russian Ambassador to the United States. December, 2008. http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2008_12/KislyakInterview.
53 Edward Ifft. “The Future of START.” June 11, 2007.
54 Pavel Podvig. “ Why START is Important.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. July 3, 2007.
reduction programs that the United States funds to improve security and eliminate weapons in
Russia. These efforts can be bolstered by informal visits to weapons deployment areas and
storage facilities. Moreover, some have argued that the formal monitoring and verification
provisions in START can create tensions and undermine cooperation with their rigid requirements
and stringent rules, which do not allow the parties to adapt their activities when conditions 55
Some analysts have argued that START provides the United States and Russia with the
framework they could use to move quickly to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that would
both reduce forces below the Moscow Treaty limits and outline a wide-ranging monitoring and 56
verification regime. This approach would not only satisfy Russia’s preference for pursuing
deeper reductions in a follow-on to START in the near-term, but would also allow the United
States and Russia to demonstrate bold leadership to the international community in the months
before the 2010 NPT Review Conference. The two sides may not have time to complete this type
of agreement before START expires, but this could still advance the arms control agenda by
highlighting their commitment to pursue a Treaty on deep reductions even if START were to
lapse in the near-term.
On the other hand, some have argued that a shorter, less detailed document, like the Moscow
Treaty, might be sufficient to foster communication and cooperation. Even without specific
definitions and restrictions, such a document can still demonstrate the parties’ intent to reduce
nuclear arms. Further, with fewer detailed restrictions, both sides would be able to maintain the
flexibility they might need to alter their forces to meet unanticipated changes in the international
security environment. Moreover, the negotiations could probably proceed more quickly than
those that sought to produce a lengthy, detailed treaty. The United States and Soviet Union took
seven years to negotiate START, but the United States and Russia completed the Moscow Treaty
in less than a year.
The START Treaty limits only strategic offensive delivery vehicles and the warheads carried by
those forces. But the history of U.S.-Soviet arms control negotiations is full of examples where
one or the other side has tried to include limits or restrictions on other types of weapons. Over the
years, both countries have sought to include some types of limits on their shorter-range non-
strategic nuclear weapons in arms control agreements; analysts continue to suggest that these 57
limits are both necessary and inevitable in a future agreement. The two sides have also often
linked progress in discussions on missile defense programs with progress on limits on strategic
offensive nuclear weapons. This linkage was explicit in the 1970s, when the first Strategic Arms
55 Phil Gardner, Michael George, Vera Lev, and Sandra McMahon. Extension of the START Treaty? An SAIC
Emerging Issues Project. December, 2005.
56 Daryl G. Kimball. “START Over.” Arms Control Today. June 2007.
57 Oliver Thranert. U.S. Nuclear Forces in Europe to Zero? Yes, But Not Yet. Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace. December 10, 2008.
Limitation Talks (SALT I) produced both the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Interim
Agreement on Offensive Arms. This linkage between offenses and defense remains important to
Russia, as is evident in its concerns about the U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense site in Poland
and the Czech Republic.
Several analysts have also suggested that future treaties should limit not only deployed warheads, 58
but also the numbers of warheads that each side retains in its stockpile of reserve warheads.
While no arms control treaty has ever sought to reduce either nation’s stockpile of reserve
warheads, as the number of deployed warheads declines further, the number of warheads in
storage could create an imbalance if either side could return them to deployment quickly.
Moreover, reductions in the numbers of stored warheads, and their consolidation in fewer storage
facilities, might ease concerns about the possibility that some might be stolen from insecure
Although the United States and Soviet Union signed START as a bilateral agreement, it evolved
into a multilateral treaty when Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and Kazakhstan succeeded the Soviet
Union as parties to the Treaty. Each of the four former Soviet states is subject to the limits,
restrictions, and monitoring provisions in START, even though Russia is the only one with
nuclear weapons left on its territory. Each also has a voice and a vote in the deliberations in the
Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission established by the Treaty. If the parties agree to
extend START, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan will remain as parties to the Treaty unless they
agree to amend it to include only the United States and Russia. If the United States and Russia 59
sign a new Treaty, these other three states probably would not be included.
Analysts have long suggested that, as the United States and Russia reduce their forces to ever
lower levels, they may eventually open up the arms control process to other nuclear weapons
states. This was rarely an issue during the Cold War, because the United States and Soviet Union
each deployed thousands of warheads on their strategic offensive nuclear weapons. France, Great 60
Britain, and China have deployed just a few hundred warheads each. Most analysts agree that
these other nations should not join the process until the United States and Russia reduce to 1,000
or fewer warheads. Hence, as the United States and Russia decide how, or whether, to advance
their bilateral arms control agenda, they may also begin to think about when, or whether, to
expand the process to include other nuclear nations.
58 President-elect Obama has indicated that he would seek to include limits on weapons in the stockpile in a future arms
control treaty. See “Arms Control Today 2008 Presidential Q&A: Democratic Candidate Barack Obama.” Arms
Control Association. September 24, 2008.
59 According to an official with the U.S. State Department, Russia “prefers working bilaterally with the United States
on nuclear weapons issues and wants to ‘exclude’ Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine from future arrangements.” See
Wade Boese. “START Decision Put Off to 2009.” Arm Control Today. December, 2008.
60 For summaries of the nuclear forces of these nations, see, Robert S. Norris and Hans Kristensen. “Chinese Nuclear
Forces, 2008.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. July/August 2008; Robert S. Norris and Hans Kristensen and Robert S.
Norris and Hans Kristensen. “British Nuclear Forces, 2005.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. November/December,
The United States and Russia could allow START to lapse at the end of 2009. The Bush
Administration initially preferred this option because it did not want to continue the formal U.S.-
Russian arms control process at all, but also believed that START could lapse without signaling
the end of U.S.-Russian nuclear cooperation or even the end of formal arms control. As the Bush
Administration eventually suggested, the two sides could agree, without signing a formal Treaty,
to continue to implement some of the monitoring provisions in START so that they could both
gather information needed to verify compliance with the Moscow Treaty and retain the
cooperative relationship that had developed during START’s verification process. This path
could, however, conflict with Russia’s domestic law as it would need to be a party to a legally
binding Treaty before it could allow foreigners to have access to sensitive military and nuclear 61
sites. To rectify this problem, the parties might seek to negotiate a separate executive agreement
or memorandum of understanding to allow the visits. Alternatively they could, as the Bush
Administration suggested, attach the monitoring provisions to a simple treaty document that
essentially restated the provisions of the Moscow Treaty.
If the parties allowed START to lapse, and did not have the time to agree on a replacement before
December 2009, they could still pursue negotiations on a treaty that would eventually replace
both START and the Moscow Treaty. Concerns about the absence of any arms control limits
might inspire them to press forward on this task and seek compromises in a short amount of time.
Conversely, if the absence of arms control limits did not appear to upset stability or the level of
cooperation between the parties, then the pressure to reach a new agreement might diminish.
Hence, this path may be attractive to those who believe that the United States and Russia no
longer need formal treaties to manage their relationship, but it may appear too risky to those who
believe that the arms control process remains an important part of the relationship.
Neither the Bush Administration nor the current Russian leadership want to extend START in its
present form, particularly for the full five years allowed under the terms of the Article XVII. Yet,
this path may be the only one available if the parties want to retain some of the START
monitoring and verification provisions in the near term. They could possibly agree to extend
START for a shorter period of time, perhaps two years, while they negotiate a new Treaty that
would replace START. But this option is not mentioned in the current Treaty, so it might need to
be treated as an amendment to the Treaty and require the advice and consent of both nations’
legislatures. The U.S. Senate might not object to a short-term extension of START, particularly
since several Members have already called on the parties to extend the Treaty’s monitoring and
verification regime, but Russia’s parliament may not be as accepting. The current tensions in the
U.S.-Russian relationship, along with ongoing concerns about U.S. plans to deploy missile
defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic, could lead some in Russia to question whether any
extension of START, with its limits on Russia’s ability to modernize its forces and deploy
multiple warhead ballistic missiles, serves Russia’s interests.
61 Alexei Arbatov and Rose Gottemoeller. “New Presidents, New Agreements? Advancing U.S.-Russian Strategic
Arms Control.” Arms Control Today. July/August 2008.
Instead of amending START so that they could extend it for less than the mandated five years, the
parties might extend START according to the Treaty provisions, which they could do without
seeking approval from their legislatures, then try to amend the Treaty to adjust the provisions that
each finds too binding in the current environment. For example, Russia might want to alter the
“new types” rule in START, or it might seek a waiver from the rule for the RM-24 missile; the
United States might want to alter the provision requiring the exchange of telemetry from missile
flight tests, or seek a waiver for retired Minuteman II missiles that are used as missile defense
targets. Both sides might want to modify the verification protocol to remove some of the more
costly and intrusive requirements, particularly if the parties believe the data they provide is no
longer critical to understanding the other side’s nuclear forces. Consequently, they might be able
to craft a “package” of amendments that would incorporate each side’s highest priorities.
Both the United States and Russia would have to submit this package for approval by their
legislatures. Some in the U.S. Senate might object to the changes that relieve Russia of some of
its obligations, but a package that addressed both nations’ concerns might still win the approval of
the necessary 67 Senators. The Russian parliament might object to any agreement that extended
START without addressing Russia’s concerns about U.S. missile defense plans. However, it
might, nevertheless, accept an amendment package that addressed some of Russia’s concerns with
the provisions in START. In addition, if the United States and Russia extended START for five
years before negotiating the amendments, the Russian parliament would have to accept either the
unmodified extension, or the amendment package.
Regardless of whether they allow START to lapse or extend it before December 2009, the United
States and Russia could continue negotiations on a new Treaty. If they completed the Treaty
before an extended START expired, the new Treaty could replace START, or, if it were similar to
the Moscow Treaty, with aggregate limits but no detailed definitions, counting rules, or
monitoring provisions, it could run concurrently without substituting for START.
As was noted above, Russia would like the new treaty to be a complete package of further limits
on nuclear weapons, detailed definitions and counting rules, and monitoring and verification
provisions. The Bush Administration, on the other hand, would have liked the new treaty to
essentially replace the Moscow Treaty, with some informal monitoring provisions to offer a
measure of transparency and cooperation. A future Treaty could take either of these forms, or it
could focus solely on monitoring measures by establishing a legally binding framework for
transparency and cooperation not linked to the need to verify compliance with restrictions on
nuclear forces and activities.
A new treaty could contain START-style definitions and counting rules, along with deeper
reductions in the permitted numbers of warheads. This combination of provisions would continue
to reduce U.S. and Russian deployed forces and would also provide transparency and
predictability for the future. Without the START-style definitions and counting rules, neither side
would be able to confirm that the other has complied with the Treaty’s reductions because each
will not know what the other side considered to be limited by the treaty.
At the same time, a Treaty that required the United States to reduce its forces below the Moscow
Treaty limits of 1,700-2,200 warheads, but also used the START counting rules to calculate the
number of warheads attributed to deployed delivery vehicles could force the United States to
make hard choices and significant changes in the structure of its nuclear forces. Under START, all
deployed delivery vehicles count under the Treaty’s limits (Russia has proposed that the same be
true in a new agreement); the parties then calculated the number of deployed warheads by
multiplying the number of deployed delivery vehicles by a number of warheads listed in the data
base for that type of delivery vehicle.
The Moscow Treaty, on the other hand, does not assume all delivery vehicles carry deployed
warheads, and allows the parties to exclude those that do not. As a result, the United States does
not count the launchers or warheads on 2 of its 14 Trident submarines because they are in
overhaul and not “deployed.” These would count under the START rules. It also has removed
more than 2 warheads from some Trident missiles, without changing the front end of the missile.
Under START, these missiles would count as 6 warheads each; in its declaration under the
Moscow Treaty, the United States counts only the aggregate number of actual deployed warheads;
it does not even have to specify how many warheads are deployed on any given missile or
submarine. Moreover, under the Moscow Treaty, the United States counts only the bomber
weapons maintained in the active stockpile at U.S. bomber bases. Under START each bomber
equipped to carry cruise missiles would count as 20 warheads, regardless of available weapons or
These differences produce striking differences in the number of warheads that count under each
Treaty. In May 2008, the United States declared that it had 2,871 operationally deployed strategic 62
warheads that would count against the Moscow Treaty. At the same time, when it exchanged
START data with Russia in July 2008, it stated that it had 5,951 warheads attributed to deployed
ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and heavy bombers. Many of these attributed warheads could be 63
eliminated with some accounting changes, but it is clear that under START definitions, the
United States would have to count hundreds of warheads that it excludes from the Moscow Treaty
total because it does not consider them to be operationally deployed.
To bring its warhead totals down to 1,500 or less, while using definitions and counting rules
similar to those in START, the United States could seek to deploy each of its remaining Trident
missiles with a smaller number of warheads. However, if START rules apply, a reduction of more
than 2 warheads would necessitate the costly replacement of the platform on the post-boost
vehicle on each missile. The United States could suggest that the new Treaty relax this rule, but
Russia may object as it has been concerned about the U.S. ability to upload its missiles and
increase its warheads in a crisis. Russia has long suggested that the parties tighten the
downloading rules to minimize the possibility.
62 U.S. Department of State. 2008 Annual Report on Implementation of the Moscow Treaty. Bureau of Verification,
Compliance and Implementation. Washington, D.C. May 13, 2008.
63 For example, this total includes 400 warheads attributed to Peacekeeper missiles. These missiles have been
deactivated, but the United States did not eliminate the silos according to START Treaty rules, so the warheads still
count. It also excludes up to 768 warheads that could be deployed on four Trident submarines. The U.S. Navy has
converted these submarines to carry non-nuclear cruise missiles, but, because it did not remove the launch tubes for the
Trident missiles, they still count under START as if each launch tube held one missile and each missile carried either
six or eight warheads.
As an alternative, the United States could reduce its total warheads by eliminating some of its
deployed launchers (bombers, ICBMs, or SLBMs), or even removing one leg of its “strategic
triad” from the nuclear force. However, the United States probably would not want to reduce the
number of B-52 and B-2 bombers, as these fly conventional missions in ongoing conflicts, so it
might have to remove them from the nuclear force altogether. It also might be difficult to reduce
the Minuteman fleet of ICBMs below the current number of 450 without also reducing the
number of bases and cutting into the number of personnel trained to operate the system. Further,
as the number drops, it may be also be difficult to justify the costs associated with retaining the
Most experts agree that the Trident submarines are going to be the mainstay of the U.S. nuclear
arsenal in the future. But, unless the United States cuts deeply into the other “legs” of its strategic
triad, deep reductions in total warheads may require reductions in the number of Trident
submarines. If the United States were to reduce its Trident fleet to 10 or fewer submarines, it
might not be able to operate out of two bases, as it does now, and retain submarines on patrol in
the areas from where they would fire their missiles, in both oceans. Changes in this deployment
pattern might require changes in the missions and targets of the submarine fleet. The President
and the U.S. military would probably want to consider the implications of these basing and
operational changes before deciding whether to accept arms control limits that produce such
Hence, if the United States agrees to replace START with a new Treaty that reduces warheads
below the levels in the Moscow Treaty but retains many of the definitions and counting rules of
START, it will have to make difficult choices about how to structure and operate its nuclear force.
These decisions are not likely to come easily or quickly, and could delay both the start and the
finish of negotiations on a new Treaty.
The complexities detailed above demonstrate why the Bush Administration has been unwilling to
follow START with a similar, detailed document. Even those in the Administration who believe
that the U.S.-Russian arms control process should continue argue that the two sides should pursue
a Treaty that did not contain the level of detail in START. For example, during a speech before
the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in October 2008, Secretary of Defense Robert
Gates said, “I am not sure that agreements that are the size of a telephone book and take years to
negotiate are in the interest of either party.” He went on to say, “I believe we should go for
another agreement with Russia. I believe it could involve further cuts in the number of warheads.
I believe we do need the verification provisions. But I think it ought to be an agreement that is
shorter, simpler, and easier to adjust to real-world conditions than most of the arms control 64
agreements I’ve seen over the last 40 years.”
A shorter, less detailed Treaty may not, however, provide the level of transparency or
predictability sought by many analysts. Under the Moscow Treaty, which is short and contains
few details, neither the United States nor Russia has to offer any transparency into the structure of
its nuclear forces. Each simply has to declare how many warheads it has deployed on its
operational forces. Further, because the Treaty includes no time lines for the reduction process
64 Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence in the 21st Century. Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace. October 28, 2008. http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/1028_transcrip_gates_checked.pdf.
and no definitions of the items limited by the Treaty, neither side can predict with confidence the
process or outcome of the other side’s reductions. As a result, some argue that, while the shorter
negotiations may seem preferable, a shorter Treaty with an absence of details would not
necessarily serve the goals of an arms control process that sought to strengthen the relationship
between the United States and Russia or to reduce the perceived threats from their nuclear
Some Members of Congress and analysts outside government have called on the United States
and Russia to extend the monitoring regime in START, even if they cannot reach agreement on
further reductions in nuclear forces. In a “Dear Colleague” letter circulated in July 2007,
Representative Ellen Tauscher, Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on
Strategic Forces, noted the “transparency required by the START verification regime has bred 65
confidence in both Russia and the U.S. enabling cooperation on a range of nuclear arms issues.”
An agreement that established a transparency regime without imposing any further reductions on
nuclear weapons could allow the United States and Russia to sustain their confidence in their
knowledge of each other’s nuclear weapons deployments. The START regime’s extensive
exchanges of data about the characteristics of each party’s weapons systems provide each party
with significant amounts of information that would not have been available, or would have been
difficult to acquire, otherwise. The parties can be confident in the accuracy of this data because
they have the opportunity to visit the sites and view the weapons themselves. Moreover, START
required each party to notify the other when they changed the numbers or locations of strategic
systems. Even if the parties have not agreed to limit or reduce their nuclear weapons, they could
continue to house their weapons at agreed sites, provide data about their characteristics and
capabilities, and provide notifications when they moved them.
Some have also argued that, by continuing to cooperate in monitoring the locations and
characteristics of deployed nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia would be better
positioned to monitor compliance with the Moscow Treaty. The notifications and data exchanges
would continue to inform them about the numbers and locations of missiles and bombers, while
on-site visits would give them an opportunity to count the warheads deployed on some missile.
These inspections would not, however, provide the parties with an opportunity to calculate all the
warheads that would count under the Moscow Treaty. Because START inspections were designed
to confirm that the number of warheads deployed on a particular missile did not exceed the
number declared in the data base, they do not provide a way to count the total number warheads
deployed on the entire force. However, by confirming that the deployed warhead number did not
exceed the number in the data base, the inspections could provide the parties with some
confidence in the number of warheads they might then use in their calculations of deployed
warheads across the force.
65 Representative Ellen Tauscher. Call on the President to Extend the Most Significant Remaining Arms Control
Agreement of Our Time. July 2007.
Although President-elect Obama has stated that he would like the United States and Russia to
negotiate deeper reductions in their nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia still may not
be on the same path forward in their arms control relationship. They still have to decide what, if
anything, to do about START before it expires, and what, if any, type of Treaty they should
negotiate to replace START in the longer term. They may agree that the Treaty should contain
more details than were included in the Moscow Treaty, but they will still have to decide which of
START’s counting rules and definitions will continue to apply, whether the new Treaty would
ease or tighten the rules governing the downloading of missiles and the deployment of new types
of missiles, and which of the Treaty’s monitoring and verification provisions they would continue
to implement. Moreover, they would have to decide whether to include only deployed warheads,
or all deployed and reserve warheads, and whether to link reductions in strategic weapons to other 66
issues, like nonstrategic nuclear weapons or missile defense.
Because each side would like some of START to continue and some of it to end, both may find it
difficult to reach an agreement on the substance of a new treaty that matches their priorities. On
the other, if they balance and offset their differing preferences and priorities they may be able to
craft a compromise that provides them with more transparency and predictability than the
Moscow Treaty, but less precision than the START Treaty.
This report will be updated, as the process moves forward and the two sides decide which path to
pursue after START.
Amy F. Woolf
Specialist in Nuclear Weapons Policy
66 For a detailed proposal that addresses these issues, see Alexei Arbatov and Rose Gottemoeller. “New Presidents,
New Agreements? Advancing U.S.-Russian Strategic Arms Control.” Arms Control Today. July/August, 2008.