Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller spoke to the U.S. Strategic Command 2011 Deterrence Symposium on August 4, and her comments regarding progress on the New START treaty were encouraging.
Gottemoeller stated that the Treaty, which entered into force on February 5, has been “very successful,” and she likened its implementation to a “fast moving train.”
To date more then 1,000 notifications have been passed between Washington and Moscow, tracking movements and changes in the status of each country’s strategic offensive arms and delivery vehicles. Gottemoeller noted that U.S officials and their Russian counterparts have been “constantly in communication,” strengthening mutual understanding and confidence.
On site inspections began as of the first week of April, and Gottemoeller said they have proceeded at an “intense pace.”
When START I expired in December 2009, Russia was no longer required to provide notifications about changes in its strategic nuclear arsenal, and the United States was unable to conduct on-site inspections. As George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, James Baker III, Lawrence Eagleburger and Colin Powell wrote in the Washington Post last December: “America’s understanding of Russia’s arsenal (was) degraded, and resources (were) diverted from national security tasks to try to fill the gaps.”
Since April, eight on site inspections have taken place, and the two sides are keeping up with one another. Inspectors are even receiving data about warhead loadings on their counterpart’s missiles, and can confirm these numbers on any randomly selected ballistic missiles – an inspection right achieved only in the new treaty.
Both parties have also displayed their strategic systems to each other, strengthening and validating the verification regime. The U.S. presented its B-1B and B-2A heavy bombers to the Russians and the Russian Federation showed its RS-24 Inter Continental Ballistic Missile and associated road mobile launcher to the U.S. This exchange marked the first time U.S. officials have ever had the opportunity to view this new Russian strategic system.
These successes rebut criticisms that New START was just a long list of U.S. concessions made to the Russians. As Gottemoeller noted, “concerns that were raised during the ratification debate are being assuaged now essentially by the process of implementation.” In the last few months, U.S. officials and military planners have regained crucial insight into Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal.
New START, Gottemoeller said, has been a “bright spot” in U.S.-Russian ‘reset’ of relations. It is a testament to the growing strength of the partnership that since the passage of New START, two additional arms control agreements have been implemented: the 123 Agreement for nuclear cooperation with Russia entered into force in January 2011 shortly after the ratification of New START, and the Plutonium Disposition Agreement, meant to eliminate excess weapons-grade plutonium, was brought into force recently on July 13.
Gottemoeller expressed confidence in chances for further arms control agreements with Russia, as well as multilateral dialogue within the P-5 (United States, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom) and further bilateral conversations to lay the groundwork for negotiations with other nuclear powers.
Certainly, positive results from the Treaty’s implementation should encourage Washington and Moscow to pursue formal negotiations on a new treaty to further reduce their nuclear arms, which should contain verifiable limits on all types of nuclear warheads, including tactical warheads.
Emma Lecavalier is a Summer 2011 intern with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.