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Monday, January 10, 2011

Monitoring and Verification in Arms Control

Amy F. Woolf
Specialist in Nuclear Weapons Policy

The United States and Russia signed a new START Treaty on April 8, 2010. Many analysts, both in the United States and Russia, supported negotiations on a new treaty so that the two sides could continue to implement parts of the complex monitoring and verification regime in the 1991 START Treaty. This regime was designed to build confidence in compliance with the START and to provide transparency and cooperation during the treaty’s implementation. The verification regime in the new START Treaty differs in some respects from the regime in START. These differences reflect an interest in reducing the cost and complexity of the regime, updating it to account for changes in the relationship between the United States and Russia, and tailoring it to address the monitoring and verification complexities presented by the new limits in the new treaty. The verification regime is likely to receive scrutiny in both the Senate, which will ultimately vote on whether to consent to ratification, and the public.

Verification is the process that one country uses to assess whether another country is complying with an arms control agreement. To verify compliance, a country must determine whether the forces or activities of another country are within the bounds established by the limits and obligations in the agreement. A verifiable treaty contains an interlocking web of constraints and provisions designed to deter cheating, to make cheating more complicated and more expensive, or to make its detection more timely. In the past, the United States has deemed treaties to be effectively verifiable if it has confidence that it can detect militarily significant violations in time to respond and offset any threat that the violation may create for the United States.

The United States and Russia rely on their own national technical means of verification (NTM) to collect most of the information needed to verify compliance with arms control agreements. But, since the 1980s, the treaties have also mandated that the two sides share information through data exchanges and notifications, and conduct on-site inspections to confirm that information. The verification regime in START used these monitoring measures not only to confirm that forces were consistent with the limits in the treaty, but also to detect and deter potential efforts to violate the treaty. With the end of the Cold War and the new relationship with Russia, the United States and Russia may both have more confidence in the other side’s intent to comply with its arms control obligations. However, both will still want to monitor the other’s forces and activities to confirm compliance and to foster cooperation and transparency.

This report reviews some of the monitoring and verification provisions in the new START Treaty and compares these with some of the provisions in the original START Treaty. It focuses, specifically, on differences between the treaties in the provisions governing the exchange of data, known as telemetry, generated during missile flight tests; provisions governing the monitoring of mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs); and differences in the numbers and types of on-site inspections.

Date of Report: December 23, 2010
Number of Pages: 28
Order Number: R41201
Price: $29.95

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