by Kingston Reif
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace published “Beyond Treaties: Immediate Steps to Reduce Nuclear Dangers,” a report on reducing nuclear risks that included a contribution from Kingston Reif, Director of Nuclear Non-Proliferation. Reif’s contribution to the report is below. Click here for the full report.
The United States and Russia should exchange data on offensive forces.
The 2009 final report of the bipartisan Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States stated that “as the two countries with the vast majority of the world’s nuclear weapons, and with large nuclear weapons complexes, the United States and Russia have a shared responsibility to increase nuclear transparency and to set a high standard in their own postures.” The exchange of information on offensive forces beyond that mandated by New START would strengthen predictability, reduce uncertainty, and pave the way for negotiations that would limit all types of nuclear warheads, including tactical warheads.
Ideally, a data exchange would include information on U.S. and Russian deployed strategic warheads, non-deployed strategic warheads, tactical warheads, and retired warheads. However, such an exchange may be too ambitious outside of a formal arms control agreement.
As a more achievable first step, the two states should consider privately exchanging data related to retired and dismantled warheads. If the United States and Russia cannot agree to exchange information on weapons they no longer need, it is difficult to imagine that they will ever agree to exchange information on any weapons that remain in their active stockpiles beyond those that are deployed. Particularly useful information to exchange includes:
- The number of tactical weapons that have been dismantled
- The number of warheads dismantled each year
- A comprehensive history (from birth to death) of each warhead that has been retired, including information about the date it entered the stockpile, on which system it was deployed, and when it was dismantled
- Information on fissile materials in excess of military needs resulting from warhead dismantlement
Additionally, it would be helpful if Russia followed the lead of the United States and provided detailed, public information on its nuclear delivery vehicles and warheads limited by New START.