…read Arms Control Association Senior Fellow Greg Thielmann’s most recent threat assessment brief. It’s a comprehensive and outstanding take on the purpose of verification and how to think about it in the context of the (hopefully) soon to be signed New START agreement, especially the hand wringing over Votkinsk and telemetry. I’ve been trying to make many of the same points here at NoH, but Greg seamlessly ties it all together in less than 8 pages.
The bottom line, as Greg notes, is that while New START will draw upon much of what was in START I, the new treaty will contain new rules and limits. New rules and limits in turn require verification provisions that are actually pegged to those new rules and limits, not rules and limits from a treaty that was negotiated during the 1980s and early 1990s…
These new rules and limits will be rooted in the fact(s) that:
(1) U.S. defense planning is no longer guided by many of the (oftentimes crazy) scenarios vis-à-vis Russia (e.g. think protracted nuclear war) that dominated our thinking during the Cold War,
(2) the U.S. is starting with a lot more information about Russia’s strategic forces now than it did in the late 1980s and early 1990s when START I was negotiated and signed, and
(3) our own national technical means of monitoring and verification have vastly improved.
Consequently, what we’re likely to get in New START is an updated and streamlined system of verification procedures that will allow the U.S. to effectively verify Russia’s compliance with the new treaty. Elaine Grossman wrote a good story last week on what New START’s provisions on telemetry might look like. Hint: they’re going to be simpler!
Senator Lugar, who unlike some of his Republican colleagues has always taken verification seriously, recently expressed legitimate concerns that over time our information about Russia’s nuclear forces could diminish without the kind of intelligence we got from START I’s verification provisions.
Of course, our intelligence community would probably prefer to retain all of START I’s provisions (e.g. on continuous monitoring at Russia’s mobile missile production facility at Votkinsk and telemetry). Yet as Greg points out, while cooperative verification measures supplement and confirm information gleaned from national technical means, “enhancing collection per se is not a legitimate rationale for including them [verification provisions] in a treaty.”
If the purposes for which the Votkinsk and telemetry provisions were crafted in START I are no longer going to exist in New START, then it’s tough to make the case, particularly to the Russians, that these same provisions (at least in their current form) are necessary to build confidence and verify compliance this time around.