U.S., Russia both meeting nuclear treaty goals

By Bob Unruh

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The United States and Russia both have confirmed they are in compliance with the New START treaty.

The Federation of American Scientists applauded the achievement as a bright spot in anotherwise troubled relationship.

“At a time when relations between the two countries are at a post-Cold War low and defense hawks in both countries are screaming for new nuclear weapons and declaring arms control dead, the achievement couldn’t be more timely or important,” wrote Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at FAS.

“This all points to the importance of the two countries agreeing to extend the New START treaty for an additional five years before it expires in 2021,” he explained. “Neither can afford to abandon the only strategic limitations treaty and its verification regime.

“Failing this most basic responsibility would, especially in the current political climate, remove any caps on strategic nuclear forces and potentially open the door to a new nuclear arms race. The warning signs are all there: East and West are in an official adversarial relationship, increasing military posturing, modernizing and adding nuclear weapons to their arsenals, and adjusting their nuclear policies for a return to Great Power competition.”

The reports from the two powers reveal that Russia and the United States now deploy a combined total of 2,838 warheads on 1,187 deployed strategic launchers. An additional 392 non-deployed launchers are empty, in overhaul, or awaiting destruction.

In 2011, when the treaty was initiated, the total was 3,337 warheads on 1,403 deployed launchers, with another 586 not deployed.

“In other words, since 2011, the two countries have reduced their combined strategic forces by: 500 deployed strategic warheads on 216 deployed strategic launchers and 194 non-deployed strategic launchers. These are modest reductions of about 15 percent over seven years for deployed forces.”

Russia reported 1,444 warheads on 527 launchers.

The U.S. said it has 1,394 warheads on 660 deployed launchers and 140 not deployed.

Kristensen said that means Russia since 2011 has reduced its deployed strategic warheads by 93, or only about 6 percent.

“The number of deployed launchers has increased a little, by 6, while non-deployed launchers have declined by 80, or nearly 24 percent.”

Further, the U.S. “since 2011 has reduced its deployed strategic warheads by 407, or nearly 23 percent. The number of deployed launchers has been reduced by 222, or 25 percent, while the number of non-deployed launchers had declined by 102, or 42 percent.”

He explained why the numbers aren’t identical.

“The reason for the different reductions is, of course, that the United States in 2011 had significantly more warheads and launchers deployed than Russia. During the New START negotiations, the U.S. military insisted on a higher launcher limit than proposed by Russia. So while Russia by the latest count has 51 deployed warheads more than the United States, the United States enjoys a sizeable advantage of 133 deployed strategic launchers more than Russia. Those extra launchers have a significant warhead upload capacity, a potential treaty breakout capability that Russian officials have often complained about.”

He continued: “The declared numbers are a reminder of how far the two nuclear superpowers still have to go to reduce their unnecessarily large nuclear forces. Ironically, because the U.S. military insisted on a higher launcher limit, Russia could – if it decided to do so, although that seems unlikely – build up its strategic launchers to reduce the U.S. advantage, and still be in compliance with the treaty limits.”

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