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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

American Forces Press Service

New START Treaty to Take Effect Feb. 5

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2011 – With President Barack Obama scheduled to sign the new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia today, the stage will be set for the formal exchange of papers later this week that will put the agreement into effect.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are set to exchange ratification documents Feb. 5 at the Munich Security Conference, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ representative to the treaty negotiations said here yesterday.

Edward L. “Ted” Warner told the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service that within 60 days of the treaty’s entry into force, both nations will have the right to conduct short-notice inspections of each other’s nuclear facilities.

“One of the crucial pieces of the more recent arms-reduction treaties, beginning with the START I treaty in the early 1990s, has been the provision for verification” of each other’s nuclear claims at operating bases, test ranges and storage sites, he said.

No inspections have taken place in either nation since START I expired in December 2009, he said, noting that the first START treaty represented “an enormous step forward in verification.”

The United States and Russia -- or its predecessor, the Soviet Union -- have signed a variety of strategic arms treaties going back to the early 1970s, Warner said. START I was signed in 1991 and ratified and entered into force in 1994. The Moscow Treaty in 2002 built on START I and lowered critical limits, particularly on deployed warheads, Warner said, noting that it expires in 2012.

“In the original START treaty, the limit was 6,000 warheads. In the Moscow Treaty, the limit was between 1,700 and 2,200 -- 2,200 being the legal limit,” he said. “In the new START treaty, which was concluded last April, the limit is now 1,550 strategic warheads.”

The U.S. Senate ratified the new START treaty Dec. 22, and the Russian parliament’s upper chamber ratified it Jan. 26.

The new treaty also limits strategic delivery vehicles, Warner added, which include intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles and heavy bombers, such as the B-52H Stratofortress and the B-2 Spirit. The new treaty requires that each ICBM, submarine-launched ballistic missile and heavy bomber have a unique numerical identifier to aid verification, Warner said.

“That unique identifier is in the database,” he explained. “It’s provided during the pre-inspection briefing, and when inspectors go to inspect the individual items they are able to check that number.”

Each nation is allowed 18 short-notice inspections a year over 10 years, he added, “giving both sides the opportunity to confirm that the other side is complying with the provisions of the treaty.”

Both nations’ nuclear arsenals include strategic weapons carried on very long-range systems and nonstrategic, or tactical, nuclear weapons that can be delivered by tactical aircraft and used for antisubmarine warfare, Warner said.

No formal treaty ever has limited or reduced the weapons associated with shorter-range tactical delivery systems, Warner said. But during the ratification process for the new START treaty, he added, some senators said the next round of negotiated reductions should include tactical nuclear weapons in addition to long-range, strategic systems.

“This will be very much a challenge,” Warner said, “because virtually all of these weapons are in secure storage areas, and one of our highest priorities has been … to cooperate with the Russians through the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program to help finance improved security arrangements.

“So on one hand,” he continued, “we want to make sure they’re safe and secure, and on the other hand, we want to bring them into the negotiating process in order to reduce the overall numbers.”

Future nuclear weapons limitation treaties may expand to include nations besides the United States and Russia, Warner said.

“If you take the numbers down enough on the arsenals of Russia and the United States, then the other declared -- and some undeclared -- nuclear powers are likely to have to come into the equation,” he said.

Declared nuclear powers include the United Kingdom, France and China, Warner said. “Others that are undeclared include India, Pakistan and, it’s widely believed, Israel,” he added.

In the meantime, Warner said, “there’s probably one more major bilateral nuclear arms reduction negotiation, and hopefully, agreement ahead between the United States and Russia.”

Such a future negotiation may be one “in which we try to not only further reduce the strategic nuclear forces of Russia and the United States, but also fold in these nonstrategic weapons, the so-called tactical nuclear weapons,” he said.

“I think it is commonly agreed that they ought to be limited as well,” Warner added, “and people from both sides will be exploring, at official and nonofficial levels, how one might construct a treaty that would limit all nuclear warheads.”

That will be an important new challenge, he said.

“We have never limited the full set of strategic nuclear weapons themselves before,” Warner said, “so this will be virgin territory.”

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