Toward a New Foreign Policy

By Wolfsthal, Jon Brook | Foreign Policy in Focus, December 10, 2001 | Go to article overview

Toward a New Foreign Policy


Wolfsthal, Jon Brook, Foreign Policy in Focus


The U.S. and Russia are on schedule to implement the terms of the START I treaty by the implementation deadline of December 31,2001. The terms of START I, however, leave both countries with 6,000 accountable deployed weapons and a multitude of uncounted but activated weapons. Moreover, Russia and the U.S. have negotiated and signed the START II Treaty. This agreement, though signed in January 1993, has not yet entered into force for either country due to the uncertainty regarding Washington's interest in developing national missile defenses. The terms of the agreement limit each country to no more than 3,500 deployed strategic warheads. These cuts, if implemented, would be deeper than they appear, since the treaty eliminates the somewhat misleading counting rules contained in START I and would result in actual deployed arsenals on both sides to no more than 3,500 weapons.

But with the joint decisions announced at the November 2001 summit between presidents Bush and Putin, START II was bypassed. Instead of seeking verifiable reductions through a treaty arrangement--which would also limit the types and numbers of deployed weapons--the two leaders have decided for now to announce unilateral cuts. President Bush announced that the U.S. would reduce its arsenal to between 1,700 and 2,200 weapons by the end of the decade, and President Putin announced his intention to make similar, but unspecifed, reductions.

The loss of the START II treaty and Helsinki summit provisions is unfortunate for several reasons, not the least of which is that START II banned the deployment of land-based missiles with multiple warheads. These missiles are considered very destabilizing, since they pose attractive targets to a would-be attacker. Banning such weapons would also help limit the potential future growth of arsenals, should political circumstances change radically. Moreover, the Helsinki statement pledged both sides to work toward agreement on monitoring warhead elimination and to discuss controlling tactical nuclear weapons. It is not yet known if the announcements of November 2001 will be codified in a treaty (preferred by Russia, resisted by the U.S.) and implemented under any meaningful system of verification:

Although President Putin did not make a specific announcement of what reductions would be made in the Russian nuclear arsenal, below is a summary of the types of reductions that can be expected based on the rapidly aging nature of the Russian strategic arsenal. It is important to keep in mind, however, that if international circumstances worsen, Russia could deploy an arsenal of almost 4,000 weapons, some four times larger than envisioned under the cuts described below. ICBMs--Russia currently deploys 738 ICBMs of 5 different types. Due to aging, all but one of these systems the SS-27 Topoi-M--will be retired from service by the end of the decade. This means that Russia needs to eliminate over 700 currently deployed ICBMs by 2010. The number of new missiles Russia will deploy, and the number of warheads mounted on those missiles, will depend on the overall relationship between the U.S. and Russia. Russia currently lacks the resources to carry out this elimination mission on its own, and the CTR program has plans to assist with the elimination of missiles, missile fuel, and silos--provided the program is funded and the cuts are required by the terms of arms reduction agreements. …

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