Today, February 2, 2011, President Obama signed New START!!! NoH was invited to the ceremony, but sadly had other pressing business to attend to (I kid, I kid, both about being invited and the other pressing business)! The treaty has now officiall…
Following the Russian Duma’s third and final vote of approval of the New START treaty on Tuesday, the upper house of the Russian Federal Assembly (known as the Federation Council) gave its approval on Wednesday by a unanimous vote of 137-0. The treaty will enter into force once the U.S. and Russia exchange what are known as “instruments of ratification” (the official treaty documents that Presidents Obama and Medvedev actually sign). Last week we speculated that this could happen as early as next weekend on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. (UPDATE 1/31: The speculation was correct: The U.S. and Russia will exchange instruments of ratification on February 5 on the sidelines of the Munch Security Conference. Secretary of State Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov will do the honors.)
The initial exchange of data on missiles, launchers, heavy bombers, and warheads subject to the treaty is required 45 days after the treaty enters into force. The right to conduct on-site inspections begins 60 days after entry into force (i.e. sometime in April).
The ratification of New START is a big deal for all of the reasons the administration, the military, NoH, and so many others have laid out over and over again over the past two years. Yet Keith Payne is pointing to the Federal Assembly’s consideration of the treaty as evidence that he was right to oppose it. For Payne, the politics of churlishness appears to continue to take precedence over the best judgment of our military leadership…
In a parting shot at New START published in the National Review, Payne alleges that the Obama administration misinformed the Senate about the nature of the reductions required by the treaty. “The Obama administration typically presented the treaty as requiring Russian reductions,” he writes, while in reality Russia plans to reduce its stock of deployed delivery vehicles and warheads with or without New START. Payne has been beating this drum for over 18 months, but thinks he’s found the smoking gun in the form of Russian Minister of Defense Anatoly Serdyukov:
“Now — after the U.S. Senate has approved New START — senior Russian officials have confirmed the fears of U.S. skeptics. An Interfax-AVN article entitled “Russia’s Current Number of Nuclear Arms Well Within START Limits” reports that in a speech to the Duma about New START, Russian Minister of Defense Anatoly Serdyukov said that Russia will not eliminate any nuclear launcher or warhead before the end of its service life: “We will not cut a single unit.” The article reports that Serdyukov explained to the Duma that “Russia today has fewer nuclear warheads and delivery systems than the quantity set by the new Russian-American treaty” and that “by all the parameters, even launchers, we will only achieve the level that’s in the treaty by 2028. As for nuclear weapons, we will get there by 2018.” The Duma presumably appreciated the news.”
There is far less here than may meet the eye. First, the administration never argued that the treaty will require Russia to reduce its delivery vehicles. In a June 14 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated: “The Russians, the number of their strategic nuclear delivery vehicles is in fact below the treaty limits, but the number of warheads is above the treaty limits. So they will have to take down warheads.”
Regarding warheads, it appears that Defense Minister Serdyukov told the Federal Assembly that Russia won’t eliminate any systems before the end of their service life, which isn’t the same thing as saying that Russia won’t have to eliminate any warheads. According to unclassified estimates, Russia currently deploys approximately 2,600-2,800 warheads. In order to get down to the 1,550 limit in the treaty, Russia will eliminate the warheads on its oldest delivery vehicles – namely those on the SS-19 and SS-25 ICBMs and SS-N-18 SLBMs that it plans to retire in the coming years.
As I’ve noted before, the fact the some Russian reductions might happen in any event is beside the point. New START is not in the first instance a reductions treaty, although some reductions in deployed forces are required. Rather, the treaty’s legally-binding limits and data exchange, monitoring, and verification provisions will place a cap on Russia’s deployed forces. The administration has always been crystal clear about this. As STRATCOM Gen. Kevin Chilton pointed out in April 2010: “One thing I was pleased to see in the treaty were these limits because as you look to the future though Russia may be close to or slightly below them already, when you look to the future we certainly don’t want them to grow and they would have been unrestricted otherwise without these types of limits articulated in the treaty…”
Does Payne want to bet that Russia would continue to reduce its missiles and bombers without New START? Our military certainly wouldn’t make such an irresponsible wager. Without limits on the size of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, Russia would have less confidence in its ability to maintain a stable strategic nuclear relationship with the United States. This could prompt Moscow to maintain a larger number of deployed delivery vehicles (and by extension warheads) than it plans to keep under New START. Perhaps this is the outcome Payne hoped to see all along.
By Kingston Reif and Jessica Estanislau
Now that the U.S. Senate has approved the New START treaty, the next step on the way to final entry into force (and the resumption of on-site inspections of U.S. and Russian deployed nuclear forces) is approval by the Russian legislature – aka the Federal Assembly of Russia. The Federal Assembly consists of a lower house (the Duma) and an upper house (the Federation Council). Russian law requires that both houses approve the treaty by a majority vote. All indications are that this will happen before the end of the month.
Don’t expect a knock down, drag out fight over the treaty in Russia (as was the case in the U.S.). The Russian legislative and executive branches are tied much more closely at the hip than their U.S. counterparts. In other words, what Medvedev and Putin want, Medvedev and Putin will get. And they want New START.
Which raises the question: Why has Russia waited until now to act on the treaty? When the two sides signed New START last April, Moscow made it very clear that the Russian parliament would be synchronizing its ratification process with the U.S. process. The reason for this is that the Russians feared that if they quickly ratified the treaty only to see the U.S. Senate eventually reject it, they would be the ones left holding the bag.
While the Russian legislature’s approval of the treaty remains assured, it has adjusted the review process to address the conditions attached to the New START resolution of ratification by the U.S. Senate…
In July 2010, the international affairs committee and the defense committee in the Russian Duma recommended that the Duma ratify New START (without any reservations) at around the same time the U.S. Senate gives its approval. However, in the aftermath of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s action on the resolution of ratification, which appended a total of 26 conditions, understandings, and declarations about how it interpreted the treaty, and due to continued delays in the full Senate’s consideration of the agreement, both Duma committees retracted their endorsement in order to reconsider the treaty.
Following the full U.S. Senate’s approval of New START on December 22, the Duma quickly gave its preliminary approval on December 24th by a vote of 350-58. Prior to the Duma’s second reading of the treaty on January 14, Russian lawmakers added six articles to the ratification text that outline the Duma’s understanding of the treaty. Further tweaks to the text could be made in the lead up to the third and final vote in the Duma scheduled for January 25 or 26, after which the Federation Council is expected to give its prompt approval to the treaty. (UPDATE 1/21: In addition to the ratification text responding to the U.S. resolution of ratification, the Duma international affair committee has also prepared a supplementary statement “On the Provision of Combat Readiness and Development of the Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, the Nuclear Arms Segment and Defense Plants Operating in it.”)
Pavel and Jeffrey have posted a translation and some analysis of the Russian ratification text. Nothing issued by either side changes the actual text of the treaty. From our vantage point most of it amounts to rhetorical throat-clearing in response to the Senate’s action on the treaty – save for perhaps the statement in Article 2 re: new kinds of strategic offensive weapons. The parts on Russian strategic force modernization and missile defense are nothing new. And it’s interesting that the ratification text describes the controversial New START preamble as having “indisputable significance” (according to the State Department’s translation) as opposed to being “legally binding.” Or is this simply a distinction without a difference? In any event, as Pavel notes, “nothing [in the ratification text] strikes me as irreconcilable.”
Some New START critics have already latched on to the Russian ratification process to claim that their fears about the treaty are being realized. NoH will touch on these claims in a later post. In the meantime, look for Presidents Obama and Medvedev (or duly designated ambassadors) to exchange instruments of ratification sometime in late January or February, perhaps on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference to be held February 4-6.
Rose Gottemoeller, Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation and the chief negotiator of the New START agreement, spoke to the press at the United Nations on Tuesday after a briefing with the Russian Ministry of Fore…
As I blogged in late February, there has been progress toward implementing the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal. I also pointed out that obstacles remain to the deal’s entry into force, including completion of an agreement regarding a nuclear spent fuel reprocessing facility and approval by New Delhi of a liability limitation bill for U.S. firms.
With the news last week that the government decided not to introduce the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill in the Indian parliament, there is still no telling when U.S. firms will be able to start reaping the benefits from nuclear trade with India. The tragic comedy that many opponents of the deal warned it would become seems to be playing out as predicted: U.S. efforts to rewrite the rules on international nuclear trade are likely to end up benefiting firms in Russia, France, and other nations much earlier (and perhaps even far more) than their U.S. counterparts…
The proposed liability limitation bill would shield U.S. suppliers from liability in the event of a nuclear accident and make plant operators responsible for damages from any accidents. It would cap legal liability for international nuclear reactor operators at $65 million and limit the Indian government’s financial obligation to roughly $385 million. It would also require that all assertions of wrongdoing be filed inside of 10 years.
Without such legislation U.S. firms would likely be unable to get the necessary insurance to engage in nuclear cooperation. Competitors to U.S. firms such as France’s Areva and Russia’s Rosatom do not require liability limitation legislation because they are covered by protections from their home governments.
While the Indian cabinet has approved the legislation, consideration of the bill was pulled on March 15 by the lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha. Speaker Meira Kumar deferred consideration after receiving notice from at least four members of the opposition that they intended to block the bill at the introduction stage, as they found it to be in violation of the Indian Constitution and several former Supreme Court rulings.
The ruling government in India largely supports the bill, as it is in their interest to fully implement the U.S.-India Nuclear Energy Cooperation Deal. They argue that the nation requires a liability structure to bring it up to par with global standards, especially given the frequent power blackouts that affect even the capital, New Delhi. Analysts believe Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wanted to secure approval of the legislation before he travels to Washington in April for President Obama’s Nuclear Security Summit. They now estimate he will seek passage of the bill before Obama visits India later this year.
Critics of the bill in India include members of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Party of India (Marxist). They have voiced concern that the bill is being forced through parliament as a result of U.S. pressure, noting that the ruling government is “safeguarding the interests of the United States at the expense of the safety of Indian people.” They argue that the legislation does not provide adequate protection for residents and leaves the bulk of responsibility for any ensuing land reclamation efforts to Indian citizens. Under the bill, the majority of compensation for victims of nuclear accidents would fall on Indian taxpayers.
One observer notes, however, that the bill does have a loophole allowing the operators of Indian nuclear power plants the “right of recourse” against supplier firms if an accident results “from the willful act or gross negligence on the part of the supplier of the material, equipment or services, or of his employee.” This right is not included in the IAEA’s Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC), which India also plans to join, and, according to the observer, should work to allay Indian concerns that the supplier is completely protected, even if the amount is capped. Omer Brown of the DC-based council for the Contractors International Group on Nuclear Liability (CIGNL) also emphasized that joining the CSC would ensure that India would be “eligible to get supplemental funds from the CSC international fund paid by the United States and other CSC Member States.”
Information Minister Ambika Soni has stated that the ruling coalition would pursue an understanding with the opposition prior to sending the measure back to parliament. Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan also supports reconsideration, noting that “there is no urgency to introduce the bill.” Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Nirupama Rao, who was in Washington early last week, continued to insist that the U.S.-India deal was “proceeding smoothly and satisfactorily,” adding that “we are in the process of operationalizing the agreement through close coordination between our two governments.”
In other news, little progress appears to be being made in negotiations on a spent fuel reprocessing arrangement, which is an additional required step before the U.S. and India can begin nuclear trade. Current estimates are that negotiations may not conclude until after the May NPT RevCon.
One thing we know for sure is that while the U.S.-India deal remains in limbo, countries such as Russia and France, which do not face the same impediments to nuclear trade, will continue to eat up more of the lucrative Indian nuclear energy market pie, estimated to exceed $150 billion in coming years . Will there be any pieces left for the U.S. by the time all of the roadblocks are removed?