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Friday, January 21, 2011

Nuclear Arms Control: The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty

Amy F. Woolf
Specialist in Nuclear Weapons Policy

On May 24, 2002, President Bush and Russia’s President Putin signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (known as the Moscow Treaty). It mandated that the United States and Russia reduce their strategic nuclear weapons to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads by December 31, 2012. The U.S. Senate gave its advice and consent to ratification on March 6, 2003; the Russian Parliament did the same on May 14, 2003. The Treaty entered into force on June 1, 2003.

Russia entered the negotiations seeking a “legally binding document” that would contain limits, definitions, counting rules and elimination rules that resembled those in the START Treaties. Russia also wanted the Treaty to contain a statement noting U.S. missile defenses would not undermine the effectiveness of Russia’s offensive forces. The United States preferred a less formal process in which the two nations would state their intentions to reduce their nuclear forces, possibly accompanied by a document outlining added monitoring and transparency measures. Furthermore, the United States had no intention of including restrictions on missile defenses in an agreement outlining reductions in strategic offensive nuclear weapons.

Russia convinced the United States to sign a legally binding treaty, but the United States rejected any limits and counting rules that would require the elimination of delivery vehicles and warheads removed from service. It wanted the flexibility to reduce its forces at its own pace, and to restore warheads to deployed forces if conditions warranted. The Treaty contains four substantive Articles. The first limited each side to 1,700-2,200 strategic nuclear warheads, but states that the parties can determine the structure of their forces themselves. The second states that START I remained in force; the parties would use that Treaty’s verification regime to monitor reductions under the Moscow Treaty. The third established a bilateral implementation commission and the fourth sets December 31, 2012, for the Treaty’s expiration and noted that either party could withdraw on three months notice.

Under the Moscow Treaty, the United States retained most of the delivery vehicles planned for START II, which would have limited each side to 3,500 warheads. But the United States removed additional warheads from deployed forces and left out of its tally warheads that could be deployed on systems in overhaul or assigned to conventional missions. Russia eliminated many of its existing ballistic missiles and submarines, retaining fewer than 150 multiple warhead ICBMs, around 200 single warhead ICBMs, and 10 ballistic missile submarines.

According to official and unofficial reports, both sides have implemented the Treaty smoothly. However, they have not held all the planned consultations, as there has been little to discuss. Instead, the two nations began, in 2006, to hold discussions about the 2009 expiration of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which contains monitoring provisions that aid with verification of the Moscow Treaty.

Date of Report: January 3, 2011
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: RL31448
Price: $29.95

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