Last week the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation sent around a short primer on some of the problems that continue to divide the U.S. and Russia as they try to negotiate a “New START” agreement to replace START I, which expires on December 5.
The AP’s David Nowak cited our analysis in his report on U.S. National Security Advisor James Jones’ recent visit to Moscow to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other high-ranking Russian officials. Writes Nowak:
But the Washington-based Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation recently noted several sticking points that may take negotiations into the 11th hour.
The obstacles include a divergence on the number of so-called delivery vehicles – a reference to missiles and bombers. Washington has reportedly proposed a limit of 1,100 such weapons platforms, while Russia wants less than half, a discrepancy too great to forge an agreement, the center concluded.
To clarify, while we highlight several issues that could prevent an agreement from being reached on or before December 5, we do not suggest that these divisions are insoluble. For example, as we note, “The wide range for delivery vehicles reflects the opening positions of the two countries….Such a wide range will almost certainly not be in the Treaty, as the U.S. and Russia will either have to agree to a single number or a narrower range.”
As of today, the discrepancy in the U.S. and Russian positions on a number of key issues is still “too great to forge an agreement” (though if this report is accurate, perhaps the delivery vehicle divide is close to being bridged). But given the modest goals laid out by Presidents Obama and Medvedev in July, resolving these problems should be eminently doable. The question is whether it’s doable before December 5.