New START contains an updated, streamlined, and more cost-effective system of verification procedures that are tailored to the treaty’s limits, reflect the realities of the current U.S. and Russian arsenals, and, most importantly, will allow the U.S. to effectively verify Russia’s compliance with the treaty. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen<a “=”” href=”http://armed-services.senate.gov/e_witnesslist.cfm?id=4619″> testified that, “in totality, I’m very comfortable with the verification regime that exists in the treaty right now.”
New START’s compliance provisions will also restore an essential window into the size and make-up of Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal that disappeared when START I expired more than a year ago. STRATCOM Commander Gen. Kevin Chilton argued that without the treaty “we would have no verification regime because…START I has expired. And so…we would lose any transparency or right to inspect the Russian force structure. And I think that’s important that we have that…visibility into their force.” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has echoed similar sentiments: “I think the earlier, the sooner, the better [for New START]. You know, my thing is: From an intelligence perspective only, are we better off with it or without it? We’re better off with it.”
While national technical means provides substantial information about Russian’s nuclear forces, the cooperative verification, monitoring, exchange, and notification provisions associated with New START provide additional essential information and context that cannot be acquired by any other means. Some of the treaty’s specific verification provisions include:
• Non-interference with national technical means of verification.
• Extensive regular data exchanges about U.S. and Russian nuclear forces and timely notifications of data changes, including information about the location of and the number of warheads deployed on each deployed delivery vehicle (a first for an arms control treaty). In addition, each deployed or non-deployed ICBM, SLBM, and heavy bomber will be given a unique identifier to facilitate monitoring and verification. The treaty also requires Russia to give 48 hours prior notice before any new missile leaves a Russian production facility, allowing the U.S. to further track how many missile the Russians have and how quickly they are producing them. As the Senate Foreign Relations Committee report on New START notes, “the United States will have a reasonable understanding of where each Russian ICBM, SLBM, and heavy bomber is based and whether that missile or bomber is deployed or in maintenance. Over time, moreover, the United States will get a sense of each missile and heavy bomber’s deployment and maintenance routine.”
• 18 annual on-site inspections will provide the U.S. with additional insight into Russia’s nuclear forces, including direct monitoring of Russia’s deployed nuclear warheads. While this is a smaller number of inspections than the 28 inspections allowed under START I, New START’s ten “Type One” inspections at bases for deployed missiles and bombers can verify data that required two inspections under START I. Coupled with the eight “Type Two” inspections of non-deployed systems, the 18 New START inspections are actually equivalent to 28 inspections under START I. What’s more, New START’s inspections only have to cover 35 Russian sites, whereas START I covered 70 sites in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. In sum, as Admiral Mullen notes, under New START “there are almost twice as many inspections per facility, per year than under the previous treaty.”
Some observers have expressed concern about New START abandonment of START I’s provisions on continuous monitoring of Russia’s missile-manufacturing facility at Votkinsk (the facility where Russia produces its Topol-M (SS-27) and Bulava (SS-26) missiles) and the exchange of telemetry.
In November 2008 the Bush administration presented the Russians with a proposal for a follow-on agreement to START I that did not include continuing monitoring at the Votkinsk. START I negotiator Ambassador Linton Brooks remarked last year that “the continuous monitoring at Votkinsk was done at a time when we were worried about large numbers of spare launchers and large numbers of spare missiles that could be brought together, and that has proven not to be a genuine worry.” While New START will not include on-site monitoring at Votkinsk, it will include provisions that will continue to allow the U.S. to monitor Russia’s missiles. For example, as noted above, the treaty requires Moscow to notify the U.S. 48 hours before new solid-fueled ICBMs and SLBMs leave Russian production facilities such as Votkinsk.
New START contains a simplified and less demanding provision on telemetry. Under START I, telemetry data was useful in helping the U.S. monitor Russian missile development and ensured that Moscow did not attempt to add warheads to its existing types of ballistic missiles. However, the very purposes for which the telemetry provision was crafted in START I no longer exist in the new treaty. According to Secretary of Defense Gates, “we don’t need telemetry to monitor compliance with this treaty.” That the U.S. negotiating team was still able to secure an agreement to exchange telemetric information on up to five missile launches a year is a nice win for transparency and confidence-building.
In evaluating New START’s verification provisions it’s important to remember three key points:
• First, there has been no on-site monitoring presence in Russia since START I expired last December. If New START is significantly delayed or rejected, the U.S. will continue to lack an essential window into the size and makeup of Russia’s arsenal.
• Second, it’s important not to mistake a new verification regime for a weak verification regime. While New START draws upon much of what was in START I, the new treaty contains new limits and rules which reflect the fact that the U.S.-Russia nuclear relationship is different than it was when START I was negotiated at the end of the Cold War. New rules and limits in turn require verification provisions that are actually pegged to those new rules and limits. Moreover, both the U.S. and Russia found many of START I’s verification provisions to be overly intrusive and costly. In the view of Admiral Mullen, the “verification regime that exists in [the New START Treaty] is in ways, better than the one that has existed in the past.” He also stated he is“convinced that the verification regime is as stringent as it is transparent…and born of more than 15 years of lessons learned under the original START Treaty.”
• Third, the adequacy of the New START verification regime should be judged on whether it is effective in verifying the limits and rules in the treaty, not on whether it is useful for intelligence gathering or has different provisions than earlier treaties. But as DNI Director Clapper concluded, the treaty is useful for intelligence purposes as well.
Finally, it is ironic that some of the same Republican Senators who supported the Moscow Treaty, which contained no verification provisions, are now accusing the Obama administration of being weak on verification. For example, in praising SORT on the Senate floor in April 2003, Sen. Jon Kyl stated: This treaty is a masterstroke. It represents, and, I am sure, will be sent as ushering in a wholly new approach to arms control for a wholly new era. The simplicity of this treaty is a marvel. It is extremely brief, indeed just three pages long. It is shorn of the tortured benchmarks, sublimits, arcane definitions and monitoring provisions that weighed down past arms control treaties.
Could Russia cheat by deploying or stockpiling more delivery vehicles and warheads than what is allowed by the treaty?
If by this charge critics mean that we can never have 100% confidence that Russia will be in compliance with all of the treaty’s limits and rules, then the critics are correct. However, this is an inappropriate standard by which to judge the merits of an arms control treaty. As Secretary Gates stated in a letter to the Senate: “The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Joint Chiefs, the Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, and I assess that Russia will not be able to achieve militarily significant cheating or breakout under New START, due to both the New START verification regime and the inherent survivability and flexibility of the planned U.S. strategic force structure.” The discovery of the deployment of undeclared warheads or ICBMs, SLBMs, or bombers would raise serious concerns regarding Russian compliance and intentions, especially if there were a pattern of “faulty declarations.” Moreover, if Russia were to try to gain an advantage by cheating, the U.S. could quickly “upload” reserve warheads on its missiles and bombers, a powerful deterrent to any future Russian cheating. In sum, Russia faces a very high risk of detection and would pay a very high cost if cheated on the agreement.
Did Russia violate START I?
Critics point to a 2005 report known as the Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments as evidence that Russia violated START I. According to the report, “a significant number of longstanding compliance issues that have been raised in the START Treaty’s Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission (JCIC) remain unresolved.” However, the most recent compliance report released by the State Department in July 2010 states that Russia was “in compliance with the START strategic offensive arms (SOA) central limits for the 15-year term of the Treaty.” Given the complexity of START I, a number of minor issues arose concerning the implementation of certain provisions. According to Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance, “the majority of compliance issues raised under START were satisfactorily resolved. Most reflected differing interpretations on how to implement START’s complex inspection and verification provisions.”
In a Senate floor speech delivered on November 5, 2009, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) stated that concerns about Russian cheating have been greatly overblown. According to Lugar, “such concerns fail to appreciate how much information is provided through the exchange of data mandated by the Treaty, on-site inspections, and national technical means. Our experiences over many years have proven the effectiveness of the Treaty’s verification provisions and served to build a basis for confidence between the two countries when doubts arose. The bottom line is that the United States is far safer as a result of those 600 START inspections than we would be without them.”
Is it possible to verify deployed strategic warheads?
Critics argue that a mere ten inspections per year are not enough to verify whether Russia is complying with the warhead limit. However, this claim misrepresents the purpose (and therefore effectiveness) of on-site inspections. As the Federation of American Scientist’s Ivan Oelrich recently wrote:
True, checking on 10 weapons sites is not enough to develop a statistical picture of Russian forces. But the treaty requires data exchanges to declare how many warheads are on which missiles….The inspections are not really to inspect the weapons themselves so much as to confirm the data exchanges. Say the Russians wanted to cheat by putting more warheads than allowed on, say, 10% of their missiles. (I pick 10% because I don’t think anyone is arguing that 10% more or fewer weapons will make any discernable military difference..). They would have to put the warheads on missiles and then lie on the data exchange and hope they don’t get caught. So, if we pick our inspection sites randomly, then there is a 10% chance they will get caught in one inspection and a 90% chance they will get away without detection on that one inspection. But there is only an 81% chance of getting past two inspections, 73% chance away with three, and so on. If we do 10 inspections, there is a 2/3 chance we will catch a violation of only a 10% cheat, hardly odds that would appeal to a prospective cheater. There is a 90% chance we would catch a 20% cheat. Just in the first 10 inspections. Remember that inspections continue over the years and our confidence will increase over time, approaching near certain that even small violations will be detected by the time the warhead limits are reached. Compare this to our complete lack of knowledge of warhead numbers without inspections.”