Last week marked the 4 year anniversary of New START, the most recent arms control treaty responsible for further reductions to the bloated nuclear arsenals of both the United States and Russia. The treaty is a landmark agreement, demonstrating the value of diplomacy and the ability to increase security while simultaneously reducing both nuclear weapons and spending.
Under the treaty, the US and Russia will continue to reduce their nuclear arsenals under the ceiling of 1,550 deployed strategic offensive nuclear weapons by February 5, 2018. In addition, the treaty provides for verification and transparency measures to ensure compliance and increase confidence between the two nuclear powers, including data exchanges, notifications related to the changing status of nuclear weapons and their facilities, and as many as 18 annual on-site inspections.
New START was negotiated, ratified, and put into force during the Obama administration’s first term to replace the expiring START treaty, a product of President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush’s efforts to reduce the United States’ and Russia’s staggering 30,000+ nuclear weapon arsenals. While the arsenals are not nearly as large as they used to be (the US has some 7000 total nuclear weapons), further reductions are still needed and practical. New START will be in force until Feb. 5th, 2021, when a new agreement will need to be brokered.
Writing on the occasion, Jon Wolfstahl, Senior Director for Arms Control and Nonproliferation at the State Department, commented that “the success of New START is a reminder of the contribution that arms control agreements play in our national security, and how such agreements can help manage the risks of unpredictable relations between major states.” We couldn’t agree more.
Unfortunately, given tensions with Russia over its aggression in Ukraine, New START may be in jeopardy. Some members of Congress have already called for an end to our cooperation with Russian on nonproliferation efforts. This is the wrong answer. We must continue to engage with Russia, wherever possible, on implementation of New START and other arms control and nonproliferation efforts. Abandoning the successful framework now would be premature and foolhardy.