Bush, Putin Pledge Nuclear Cuts; Implementation Unclear
Bleek, Philipp C., Arms Control Today
NEWS AND NEGOTIATIONS
ON NOVEMBER 13, President George W. Bush pledged to reduce the deployed U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads over the next 10 years, prompting Russian President Vladimir Putin to say that Russia would try to "respond in kind."
The cuts, announced at the beginning of a three-day U.S.-Russian summit held in Washington, D.C., and Crawford, Texas, would represent a substantial reduction in the deployed U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals, which currently consist of about 6,000 warheads each, as agreed under the START I accord.
Deploying only 1,700-2,200 strategic warheads would bring the U.S. arsenal below the proposed START III limit of 2,000-2,500 warheads, agreed to by Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin in 1997, and well below the 3,000-3,500 ceiling formalized in START II, which has not entered into force. Bush's proposed level of strategic warheads also falls beneath the 2,000-2,500 range that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had previously suggested was the lowest level they could support.
The promised nuclear cuts would fulfill a key campaign pledge by the president. As a candidate, Bush promised to move beyond "Cold War nuclear targeting," saying he would pursue "the lowest possible number [of warheads] consistent with our national security," which he characterized as "significantly" below START II levels. (See ACT, September 2000.)
It is not yet clear what the United States will do with the thousands of warheads to be removed from service. In Crawford on November 15, Bush told a group of high school students, "We are talking about reducing and destroying the number of warheads to get down to specific levels."
But national security adviser Condoleezza Rice subsequently indicated that the warheads might not actually be destroyed. "We will not have these warheads near the places at which they could be deployed," she said, adding that specific disposition plans remain to be "worked out." If they were not dismantled, the warheads could be placed in the United States"active reserve" stockpile, which currently contains about 2,500 warheads.
Also at issue is whether the reductions will be formalized in a treaty. Announcing the cuts from the White House, Bush indicated that the "endless hours of arms control discussions" that led to the START agreements were no longer needed because the United States and Russia have "a new relationship based on trust."
But speaking at the Russian embassy later that day, Putin aired a different view, saying, "The world is far from having international relations that are built solely on trust, unfortunately. …