Multilateral Arms Control Is a Worthy Goal, But Not At the Expense of Current Vital Agreements


CONTACT: Anna Schumann
Communications Director
202.546.0795 #2115


(April 26, 2019 – WASHINGTON) President Trump has ordered his administration to push for new arms-control agreements with Russia and China, but details on how to achieve such an ambitious goal were lacking.

Senior Policy Director Alexandra Bell said that this Administration’s interest in taking on larger nuclear strategic stability efforts is laudable, but the first and most pressing focus should be the extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia. Multilateral arms control is a much more complicated and long-term process.

“The United States and Russia have over 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons. China’s nuclear arsenal is substantially smaller (about 1/20 the size) and they will be the first country to point that out. We already have efforts to engage China on arms control and those efforts can and should be expanded, but not at the cost of other standing bilateral arms control agreements. We have almost 50 years of experience in creating bilateral arms control with Russia – you cannot just replicate that dynamic overnight with an entirely new player.”

Bell, a former State Department official who focused on New START and other arms control agreements, is concerned that President Trump’s larger ambitions will derail or sideline the possible extension of the treaty before its expiration in February of 2021.

“According to the Trump Administration’s own assessment of the treaty, New START effectively increases transparency, predictability and stability in the U.S.-Russian strategic nuclear relationship. If we lose the Treaty, we lose the intelligence and data that gives us a real-time view into Russia’s strategic arsenal. Without New START, our leaders will have to make choices about our own nuclear arsenal without the best possible information. If enhancing American security is the goal of the Trump Administration, then the choice is clear: Extend New START and then work to create broader multilateral arms control agreements.”

Fast facts about the New START:

  • United States and Russia signed the Treaty on April 8, 2010; the Treaty entered into force on February 5, 2011.
  • Both countries are required to limit the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 and the number of deployed and non-deployed launchers to 800.
  • The treaty allows each country to conduct 18 on-site inspections per year through duration of treaty and provides for frequent data exchanges.
  • Both the United States and Russia are in compliance with the obligations laid out in the Treaty.
  • The Treaty expires on February 5, 2021. With the consent of both countries, the treaty can be extended for another five years.