Magazine article Arms Control Today

Russia Declares Itself No Longer Bound by START II

Magazine article Arms Control Today

Russia Declares Itself No Longer Bound by START II

Article excerpt

RESPONDING TO THE U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty the previous day, Russia declared June 14 that it would no longer be bound by the START II nuclear arms reduction agreement.

Moscow's announcement was more symbolic than substantive because START II had never taken effect and was unlikely to do so after Russia tied its fate to that of the ABM Treaty two years ago. In addition, Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin signed a new strategic reductions treaty May 24 that effectively superseded START II.

International law requires countries not to undermine the object of treaties they have signed, even if those treaties have not entered into force. However, in its June 14 statement Russia declared it no longer considered itself legally obligated to refrain from actions forbidden by START 11 because it believed the treaty was dead.

Russia's action did not surprise the Bush administration. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters June 17, "We knew they were going to do this, and they've now done so."

If it had entered into force, START II would have required the United States and Russia to reduce their deployed strategic nuclear forces to no more than 3,500 warheads apiece. START II also banned multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) on ICBMs. In 1992, President George H. W. Bush described MIRVs as "the most destabilizing strategic weapons."

According to a U.S. official, the collapse of START II has not upset the Bush administration because the United States and Russia have already "moved beyond" the accord with the May 24 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty. The new treaty, if it enters into force, will commit each country to limit its deployed strategic nuclear forces to fewer than 2,200 warheads by the end of 2012. (See ACT, June 2002.)

Previously viewed as a major accomplishment of START II, the MIRV ban is not part of the new agreement, but the Bush administration appears indifferent. …

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