UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

[CRS Issue Brief for Congress]

94054: Nuclear Arms Control and Nuclear Threat Reduction: Issues and Agenda

Updated October 30, 1996

Amy F. Woolf
Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division

CONTENTS

SUMMARY

MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS

The Arms Control Environment
Arms Control and Threat Reduction Efforts with the Former Soviet Republics
START I Ratification and Implementation
Treaty Ratification
Weapons Deactivation
START II
Prospects for Further Reductions
Ballistic Missile Defenses
Reductions in Non-Strategic Nuclear Forces
Cooperative Threat Reduction Programs (Nunn- Lugar)
Implementing the Programs
Experts' Discussions on Nuclear Weapons Control and Stability
Discussions on the Control of Nuclear Warheads and Materials
Negotiations on Multilateral Arms Control Issues
Nuclear Testing
Fissile Materials Production Ban

CHRONOLOGY

FOR ADDITIONAL READING


SUMMARY

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States and Russia have added many issues to their bilateral arms control agenda. And multilateral arms control negotiations have received a higher priority in U.S. policy than they did during the Cold War.

The 1991 START I treaty entered into force on December 5, 1994, after Ukraine joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). All five parties to the treaty -- the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus -- began to deactivate weapons that will be eliminated under the treaty prior to entry-into force. All the nuclear warheads have been removed from Kazakhstan and Ukraine; 18 remain in Belarus.

START II was signed January 3, 1993. The U.S. Senate approved the treaty on January 26, 1996. Many members of the Russian parliament have been critical of the treaty and it is unclear when or if it will be approved there.

The United States and Russia have reportedly completed a first phase agreement on the demarcation line between anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems and theater missile defense (TMD) systems so that they can agree on which systems are permitted under the 1972 ABM Treaty. Congress has been critical of this effort. Legislation introduced in the House and Senate would mandate the deployment of a national missile defense system by 2003; the legislation indicates that the United States should either negotiate changes to or withdraw from the ABM Treaty. Others object to this plan, in part, because it could undermine Russian support for START I and II.

Both the United States and Soviet Union withdrew most of their non-strategic nuclear weapons from service in 1992. The United States continues to encourage Russia to further consolidate its storage areas for non-strategic weapons to enhance their safety and security.

The United States is providing Russia and the other former Soviet republics with assistance under the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program to help with the elimination of nuclear weapons. Many Members of Congress remain critical of the program and its implementation. The Clinton Administration claims that the program is on track. The House has sought to reduce funding for the program, but, at the Senate's insistence, the FY1997 Defense Authorization Bill contains added funding and expands the scope of the program to enhance efforts to control nuclear materials in the former Soviet republics.

Several U.S.-Russian working groups are discussing nuclear stability and the control of nuclear warheads and materials. These groups have addressed issues such as the detargeting of nuclear weapons, the shut-down of plutonium production reactors, and data exchanges on nuclear warhead stockpiles. President Clinton participated in a summit in April 1996 that focused on further efforts to safeguard nuclear materials in Russia.

The United States is participating in multilateral negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear test ban and a ban on production of fissile materials in the U.N. Conference on Disarmament. Although India blocked the treaty in the CD, Australia introduced it in the U.N. General Assembly where it was approved by a vote of 158-3. The United States was the first nation to sign the CTBT on September 24, 1996.


MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

On October 17, 1996, Secretary of Defense Perry met with members of the Russian Duma (parliament). He spoke about the benefits of the START II Treaty in an effort to convince the Russians to approve the treaty's ratification. Reports indicate that the Duma members remain sharply critical of the treaty and are not likely to approve it any time soon.

Representatives from the United States and Russia were scheduled to meet in Geneva in late October to sign the first phase agreement on missile defense demarcation under the ABM treaty. Russia cancelled the meeting at the last moment.


BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS

The Arms Control Environment

The arms control agenda has expanded beyond the Cold War focus on strategic offensive forces to include a new class of "threat reduction" measures that seek to reduce the nuclear threat to the United States by assisting with the dismantlement of weapons and by enhancing the safety and security of remaining nuclear weapons and materials. In addition to formal treaties, the parties have also used informal agreements, cooperative efforts, and unilateral initiatives. The end of the Cold War has also brought new attention to multilateral arms control efforts, such as the negotiation of a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty.

Arms Control and Threat Reduction Efforts with the Former Soviet Republics

START I Ratification and Implementation

START I, signed on July 31, 1991, limits the United States and successors to the Soviet Union to 6,000 accountable warheads each on 1,600 strategic offensive delivery vehicles -- land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and heavy bombers. Because the treaty did not count all the weapons that bombers could carry under its limits, each side was expected to deploy 8,000-10,000 actual strategic offensive nuclear weapons under START I. (For details about START I, see CRS Report 91-575, START: Central Limits and Key Provisions.)

Treaty Ratification. The ratification process for START I began in May 1992 after Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus signed the Lisbon Protocol. This document names all four as successors to the Soviet Union in START I and commits Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as non-nuclear states and to eliminate strategic nuclear weapons on their territory.

The U.S. Senate gave its consent to the ratification of START I on October 1, 1992. Kazakhstan ratified START I in June 1992; it joined the NPT as a non-nuclear state on February 14, 1994. Belarus approved START I and the NPT on February 4, 1993, and formally joined the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state on July 22, 1993. The Russian parliament approved START I on November 4, 1992, but stated that it would not exchange the instruments of ratification until all three of the other republics adhered to the NPT as non-nuclear states. This condition, and the slow pace of Ukrainian action on START and the NPT, delayed the treaty's entry into force.

Ukraine's President Kravchuk submitted START I and the NPT to Ukraine's parliament in late 1992. But action on both treaties was delayed by a lengthy debate over whether Ukraine should eliminate all of its nuclear weapons and by its insistence on financial compensation and security guarantees if Ukraine did become non-nuclear. The U.S. sought to address Ukraine's concerns about the cost of eliminating the weapons by offering assistance under the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program after Ukraine agreed to dismantle the nuclear weapons. The U.S. and Russia also stated that Ukraine would receive the same security assurances as other non-nuclear weapons states who are parties to the NPT after Ukraine acceded to the NPT. These assurances include a pledge of assistance to any state attacked with nuclear weapons and a pledge not to attack a non-nuclear weapons state with nuclear weapons.

When the Ukrainian parliament approved START I in November 1993, it stated that Ukraine would only eliminate 36% of its delivery vehicles and 42% of its warheads under START; these percentages corresponded to the overall START reductions for U.S. and Soviet forces. Because this contradicted the Lisbon Protocol and Ukraine's letter stating it would eliminate all of its strategic nuclear arms, START I still could not enter into force. On January 14, 1994, Presidents Clinton, Yeltsin, and Kravchuk resolved these issues by signing the Trilateral Statement. Ukraine agreed to transfer all the nuclear warheads on its territory to Russia and to eliminate the treaty- accountable delivery vehicles for these warheads during the START I elimination period. In exchange, Ukraine will receive compensation -- cash and fuel assemblies for its nuclear power plants -- and security assurances similar to those provided to other nations through the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and those provided to nations who are non-nuclear weapons states parties to the NPT.

The Ukrainian parliament approved the Trilateral Statement and rescinded its conditions in early February 1994. But it still did not join the NPT. President Leonid Kuchma submitted the NPT to the parliament in early October 1994. After further debate over security assurances, the parliament approved Ukraine's accession to the NPT on November 16, 1994.

On December 5, 1994, the United States, Russia, and Great Britain signed a memorandum granting security assurances to Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Ukraine then acceded to the NPT, the five parties to START I exchanged instruments of ratification and START I entered into force. Treaty implementation has proceeded with few problems. Russia and Ukraine have also noted that implementation of the Trilateral statement has proceeded well with the withdrawal of most nuclear warheads from Ukraine, in spite of some delays in the supplies of nuclear fuel that Russia is due to send to Ukraine. In addition, in May 1996, the Ukrainian news agency reported that Russia had agreed to provide Ukraine with $450 million to compensate it for the tactical nuclear weapons it returned to Russia in 1992. President Kuchma noted that this agreement would offset debts that Ukraine owed to Russia.

Weapons Deactivation. All five parties have begun to eliminate strategic nuclear weapons covered by START I. All of the Minuteman II missiles have also been removed from their silos and more than 170 silos have been eliminated according to the provisions outlined in START. The United States has also withdrawn from service and removed the missiles from all of its Poseidon ballistic missile submarines. All but 3 of the 31 Poseidons in the U.S. fleet have been eliminated according to the provisions outlined in the treaty.

Russia has also destroyed more than 450 ICBM launchers, 250 SLBM launchers, and 30 bombers as it reduces its forces to comply with START I limits. All 370 bomber weapons and 1,040 warheads on SS-18 ICBMs based in Kazakhstan have been returned to Russia for dismantlement. In early September 1996, officials in Russia and Kazakstan announced that all 104 SS-18 silos in Kazakhstan had been destroyed according to the treaty provisions. In January 1996, Secretary of Defense Perry, Russian Defense Minister Grachev and Ukraine's Defense Minister Shmarov destroyed the first of 130 SS-19 silos in Ukraine. This destruction process has continued; Senators Nunn and Lugar helped destroy a silo during a visit to Ukraine in October 1996. On June 1, 1996, Ukraine announced that it had completed the removal of all nuclear warheads from its territory. In addition, Russian officials have reported that Russia will buy 32 of the SS-19 missiles, 19 Blackjack bombers, and 25 Bear H bombers currently deployed in Ukraine.

All but 18 of the 81 SS-25 missiles based in Belarus have been returned to Russia. Belarus and Russia reportedly reached agreement in December 1995 for the removal of the remaining missiles. In June 1996, Russian officials complained that Belarus was disrupting the schedule. Some officials in Belarus disputed this, but others, including Sergei Posokhov, an aide to President Lukashenko, stated that the withdrawals had been suspended until Russia and Belarus agreed on compensation for Belarus for the nuclear materials in the warheads. He reported that Russia had agreed to pay Belarus and, as a result, the withdrawal of the missiles would be completed by the end of 1996. Alexander Lebed, President Yeltsin's security adviser at the time, met with officials in Belarus in September 1996 in an effort to resolve this dispute.

START II

The United States and Russia signed START II on January 3, 1993, after less than a year of negotiations. (See CRS Report 93-617, The START and START II Arms Control Treaties: Background and Issues.) START II limits each side to 3,500 accountable warheads on strategic offensive delivery vehicles. It also bans all multiple warhead ICBMS (MIRVed ICBMs) and limits the number of warheads on SLBMs. (See CRS Report 93-35, START II: Central Limits and Force Structure Implications.) During the Washington summit in September 1994, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin announced they would deactivate the missiles to be eliminated under START II quickly after the treaty is ratified. (See CRS Report 94-782, Nuclear Arms Control at the Washington Summit: Early Deactivation of Ballistic Missiles.)

Many U.S. observers have praised START II's reductions as an appropriate response to the end of the Cold War. Some believe the two sides can reduce their forces further in a START III agreement. Others, however, believe the United States should proceed slowly with its reductions in case political uncertainty in Russia interferes with arms control.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held several hearings on START II between January and March 1995. The Senate Armed Services Committee reviewed the treaty in May 1995. The Foreign Relations Committee approved the resolution of ratification for the treaty on December 12, 1995. The full Senate approved the treaty by a vote of 87-4 on January 26, 1996. It attached numerous conditions and declarations to the resolution addressing such issues as verification and compliance, missile defenses and the ABM Treaty, and nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship.

Many Russian analysts and parliamentarians oppose START II. Some object because they generally do not support President Yeltsin's policies towards the United States and the West. Some have linked disapproval of the treaty to NATO's plans to expand into Eastern Europe. Others, however, criticize START II because they believe it will undermine Russia's superpower status by eliminating the core of Russia's strategic forces -- the MIRVed ICBMs. In addition, Russia may need hundreds of new single- warhead ICBMs to retain 3,500 warheads, an investment it may not be able to afford. Citing economic pressures, some Russians have suggested that the United States and Russia amend the treaty to slow the pace of eliminations and to allow Russia to convert more SS-18 silos to hold new single-warhead missiles. Others in Russia believe the two sides should skip START II and negotiate further reductions so that the United States will have to reduce to levels that Russia may end up at anyway. They also believe a new treaty might rectify perceived weaknesses in START II -- primarily the fact that the United States can keep half of its MIRVed SLBM warheads while Russia will eliminate all of its MIRVed ICBMs.

The Russian Duma began its consideration of START II in mid-July 1995. President Yeltsin and officials in his government have expressed strong support for START II. The new Defense Minister, Igor Rodionov, expressed his support for the treaty after meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Perry in October 1996. In addition, the Ministry of Defense reportedly told the Duma committees that Russia could not afford to retain high levels of strategic offensive forces and START II would ensure that the United States reduced its forces along with Russia. Yet the treaty continues to face significant criticism in Russia. Along with questions about the treaty limits and the costs of Russia's compliance with START II, some in Russia have argued that START II should not be ratified if the United States fails to continue to abide by the ABM Treaty. They believe that it would be unwise for Russia to reduce its strategic offensive forces if the United States began to build national missile defenses.

Further consideration of START II in the Duma was delayed by the Russian presidential election in June 1996. Many observers in the United States had expected the Duma to approve the treaty after further debate in the fall of 1996. However, opposition to the treaty may be mounting. Secretary of Defense Perry met with members of the Duma on October 17, 1996, and described to them the economic and strability benefits that the United States attributes to the treaty. But reports indicate that he was unable to alleviate their concerns and many remain sharply critical of the treaty. Some in Russia, including Alexei Arbatov, the Deputy Chairman of the Duma Defense Committee, have argued that the Duma will not ratify the treaty unless the United States agrees, at a minimum, to extend the implementation deadlines. He has also stated that the United States could help if it agreed to a framework for the START III Treaty that contained lower warhead numbers so that Russia will not have to build hundreds of new missiles to meet the START II limits.

Prospects for Further Reductions. Some officials in the Clinton Administration believe that the United States and Russia should quickly pursue further reductions in offensive forces, both to reduce the costs associated with nuclear weapons and to encourage Duma ratification of START II. Others, however, believe the two sides should focus on implementing START I and START II before they move to additional reductions. Some also fear that Russia would insist on unacceptable reductions in U.S. SLBM forces if the two sides pursue START III.

In statements released after their summit meetings in 1994 and 1995, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin stated that the two sides would begin discussions on START III after START II was ratified and entered into force. President Clinton stressed the U.S. commitment to move into another round of arms control in his speech to the United Nations on September 24, 1996. And Secretary Perry reportedly told the Duma that the United States would be willing to begin START III discussions as soon as START II enters into force, and that it would be willing to consider reductions to 2,000-2,300 warheads. Others, however, believe that instead of seeking further reductions in the number of deployed warheads on strategic forces, the United States should seek a START III treaty that focussed on the elimination of the actual nuclear warheads already removed from deployed weapons. Regardless, commitments to begin START III negotiations after START II enters into force have not satisfied Russian requests for a START III framework before the Duma approves START II.

Ballistic Missile Defenses

The 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and the 1974 Protocol limit the United States and Soviet Union to one site each for strategic ballistic missile defenses, with no more than 100 interceptor missiles at that site. The ABM treaty does not limit defenses against theater ballistic missiles, nor does it specify a dividing line between strategic and theater ballistic missile defenses. These two issues -- limits on the scope of national missile defense and the line between ABM systems and theater missile defenses (TMD) -- have been prominent in the debate over the FY1997 defense budget.

The United States and Russia began discussions on ABM/TMD demarcation issues in November 1993. The two sides initially disagreed on whether to use the speed of the interceptor missiles or target missiles to distinguish between ABM systems and TMD systems and where to mark the dividing line (ABM systems would have higher speeds for both targets and interceptors than TMD systems). The Clinton Administration sought a less restrictive threshold so the treaty would not impinge on U.S. plans for testing and deploying theater missile defense systems. Russia sought a more restrictive threshold to preclude an extensive U.S. TMD system from providing a nationwide defense. (For a discussion of demarcation issues see CRS Report 94-374, The ABM Treaty and Theater Missile Defense: Proposed Changes and Potential Implications.)

In 1994, the two sides had reportedly agreed to limit the speed of ground-based TMD interceptors to 3 kilometers/second (the U.S. THAAD system complies with this limit) but had not agreed on options that would protect U.S. sea- and air-based TMD systems. The Russians then withdrew their support for higher speed limits on sea- and air-based systems and renewed efforts to restrict the numbers and geographical locations of deployed TMD systems, a proposal the United States has consistently rejected. The United States returned to its position that the dividing line should be based on the target missile during tests of TMD interceptor missiles. The Russians reportedly rejected this approach in early July 1995. However, in November 1995, the United States and Russia reportedly reached an agreement in principle that combined both approaches. It would permit the testing of missile defense systems against targets with speeds less than 5 km/sec and ranges less than 3,500 km. The agreement also states that all TMD interceptors with speeds less than 3 km/sec are compliant with the ABM Treaty. In addition, the agreement calls for extensive data exchanges about the TMD systems and states that the parties will not deploy TMD systems in numbers or locations that could pose a realistic threat to the other sides' strategic offensive forces.

The agreement did not indicate whether faster interceptors, such as the Navy Upper Tier program, would be compliant with the Treaty, but Administration officials, including Secretary of Defense Perry, have indicated that faster systems would not be restricted unless they were tested or deployed against strategic offensive weapons. The United States intends to declare the Navy Upper Tier program to be treaty compliant. Some reports indicated that Russia did not agree with this interpretation; it wanted more advanced systems to be banned until the parties reach agreement on their permitted characteristics. However, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin reportedly resolved this issue during the Moscow summit in April 1996 and the negotiators in the SCC completed an Agreed Statement that echoed the U.S. position on June 24, 1996. Officials from the two sides were scheduled to meet in Geneva in late October 1996 to sign this first phase agreement. However, Russia cancelled the signing at the last moment, arguing that it was unwilling to sign the first agreement until the two sides reached agreement on the demarcation criteria for faster TMD systems.

In the FY1996 Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 104-106), Congress indicated that it considered any system tested against a target missile with a speed greater than 5 km/sec or a range greater than 3,500 km will be considered to be an ABM qualifying flight test. The legislation also indicated that unless a system is tested in an ABM- qualifying test, it is not subject to any application or obligation of the ABM Treaty. Hence, by inference, any system tested against a target that is slower than 5 km/sec or of shorter range than 3,500 km is a TMD system, regardless of the speed of the interceptor missile. The legislation indicated that any international agreement that is more restrictive than this language (as is the agreement described above) would be considered an amendment to the ABM Treaty and must be submitted to the Senate for advice and consent. The House and Senate sought to include similar language in the FY1997 Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 104-201). However, after hearing that the negotiators had reached an agreement in Geneva, the Senate agreed to drop language that would have permitted more advanced TMD systems from its version of the bill. Nonetheless, Members of Congress remain concerned about demarcation issues and are insistent that the Clinton Administration submit any agreement to the Senate for its advice and consent. Language requiring such action was deleted from the Defense Authorization Act when Administration officials indicated that the Administration believed the demarcation agreement represented substantive changes to the treaty. However, the Administration did not pledge to seek Senate approval for this agreement.

Congress has also pressed the Clinton administration to deploy a national missile defense system (NMD) to protect U.S. territory from long-range ballistic missiles, even if the United States would eventually have to withdraw from the ABM Treaty. Representative Hoke and Senator Helms both introduced legislation (H.R. 2483, S.1562) that would require the United States to withdraw from the ABM Treaty and deploy a multiple-site national missile defense system. Many others, including Representative Weldon who is a leading supporter of national missile defense deployments, do not believe that the United States should unilaterally withdraw. They believe that the United States and Russia should work together to alter or replace the treaty.

President Clinton vetoed the FY1996 Defense Authorization Act, which Congress approved late in 1995, in part because it would have required the deployment of a missile defense system that could protect the entire United States by 2003. The legislation also supported U.S.-Russian negotiations aimed at modifying the ABM treaty to permit a multi-site U.S. national missile defense system. Supporters of missile defenses argued that this requirement responded to emerging missile threats from rogue nations, such as North Korea and Iraq. Critics, however, noted that this would undermine the ABM Treaty and START I and START II because Russia has linked those treaties to continued adherence to the ABM Treaty. And they noted that these two treaties would eliminate far more warheads than any NMD system. When the conference committee reconvened in January, it removed the policy language mandating the deployment of an NMD system from the conference report and, instead, promised to introduce free-standing legislation.

On March 21, Senator Dole and Representative Livingston introduced the "Defend America Act of 1996" (H.R. 3144, S. 1635). This legislation contains language that is similar to the provisions that had been removed from the FY1996 Defense Bill. It states that it is the policy of the United States to deploy a highly effective defense of its territory by the end of 2003. It also urges the President to begin negotiations with Russia to amend the ABM Treaty. And, if the negotiations do not produce the necessary results within one year after the legislation is enacted, the President and Congress shall consider withdrawing the United States from the ABM Treaty.

Both the House National Security Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee reported this bill out on party-line votes. However, neither chamber has yet voted on the measure. The Senate failed to invoke cloture and limit debate on the bill in early June. In late June, the Senators agreed to hold separate votes on NMD alternatives after they completed the Defense Authorization bill. These alternatives include the Defend America Act, a bill that codifies the Administration's approach to NMD deployment, and a third alternative, proposed by Senator Nunn, that would outline specific criteria that the United States would use in determining whether to deploy NMD and would propose that the United States and Russia return to the original language in the ABM Treaty to permit the deployment of two NMD sites. However, the Senate failed to find time to address these issues as it sought to complete appropriations bills before adjournment at the end of September 1996.

In the House, the Defend America Act stalled in late May when a Congressional Budget Office report indicated that the full NMD system called for in the legislation could cost $31-$60 billion. This high price surprised many Members and undermined support for the legislation. Many supporters of NMD claim that the report overstates the requirements in the bill and, therefore, the costs of the system. They note that a less robust system, such as the single-site, ground-based concepts developed by the Army and the Air Force, could cost as little as $14 billion to deploy and operate. CBO has acknowledged that a less robust initial system could cost around $14 billion. The Administration is reportedly encouraging House Members to support substitute legislation proposed by Representative Spratt. This bill reportedly supports continued research and development on NMD systems, but does not mandate a deployment date.

Reductions in Non-Strategic Nuclear Forces

In late 1991, President Bush and Soviet President Gorbachev each announced extensive withdrawals of non-strategic nuclear forces. These withdrawals occurred as reciprocal unilateral measures; they were not codified in a formal treaty. The United States withdrew all land-based and sea-based tactical nuclear weapons (those with ranges of less than 360 miles) from bases outside the United States -- a total of 2,100 land-based tactical nuclear weapons and several hundred sea-based tactical nuclear weapons. The United States did not withdraw several hundred air-delivered weapons deployed at air bases in Europe that support the U.S. commitment to NATO.

The Soviet Union withdrew several thousand land-based nuclear weapons and sea-based tactical nuclear weapons. In 1992 Russia and the other republics continued these withdrawals, moving all former Soviet tactical nuclear weapons to central storage areas in Russia by July 1992. In February 1993, the Russian Navy announced it had dismantled all sea-based tactical nuclear weapons that had been removed from its fleet.

Many observers believe that the United States and Russia should further reduce their non-strategic nuclear weapons to reduce the possibility that these weapons might be lost or stolen from storage facilities in Russia. Some believe the two sides should permit inspections of storage and elimination facilities so they could be confident that each had tight control over the warheads and materials removed from them. Others believe the two sides should negotiate a treaty eliminating all non-strategic nuclear forces because these weapons are a remnant of the Cold War stand-off in Europe.

The Defense Department's 1994 Nuclear Posture Review recommended further changes for U.S. sea-based non-strategic nuclear weapons. The U.S. Navy had retained the capability to restore some nuclear weapons to aircraft carriers, attack submarines, and other surface combatants in case conditions warranted. The Nuclear Posture Review concluded that this capability was no longer needed on U.S. aircraft carriers and other surface combatants. Training and other support activities on these ships would cease. The Navy would, however, continue to maintain the capability to launch nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missiles from attack submarines. The Nuclear Posture Review also concluded that the United States should maintain its commitment to NATO, and it recommended against further withdrawals of air-delivered weapons and dual- capable aircraft based in Europe. In early April 1996, Russian President Yeltsin suggested that all nations withdraw their nuclear weapons to their own territories; this would lead to the removal of U.S. nonstrategic nuclear weapons from Europe. The United States and its NATO allies did not accept this proposal.

Cooperative Threat Reduction Programs (Nunn-Lugar)

In November 1991, Congress allocated $400 million in Department of Defense funds to help the former Soviet republics transport, store, disable, and dismantle nuclear weapons. The funds were to provide Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan assistance in transporting, storing, safeguarding, and destroying nuclear and other weapons; storing fissile materials; dismantling missiles and launchers; eliminating chemical and biological weapons capabilities; preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; preventing diversion of weapons-related scientific expertise; and other efforts designed to reduce the military threat from the former Soviet Union. (For details see CRS Report 93-1057, The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program for Soviet Weapons Dismantlement: Background and Implementation.)

Congress allocated an additional $400 million to support the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program each year in FY1993, 1994, and 1995 and an additional $300 million in FY1996. But criticism of the program has mounted in recent years. Some Members of Congress feel that the program is no longer focused on weapons dismantlement. Others note that the United States has not actually verified the dismantlement of any nuclear weapons. In addition, several Members have expressed concerns about the slow implementation and about the lack of accountability for funds that have been spent on specific projects.

Members of Congress have also expressed concerns about the focus of the Nunn Lugar programs. For example, the FY1996 Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 104-106) bans the use of Nunn-Lugar funds for the construction of housing for military officers in the newly independent states. Secretary Perry had insisted that this portion of the program was needed to ensure the dismantlement of strategic nuclear weapons because the regiments could not be disbanded, under Russian and Ukrainian law, until the officers had housing off base. The legislation also bans the use of CTR funds for defense conversion or environmental restoration projects.

The Administration requested $327 million for CTR programs in FY1997. In its version of the Defense Authorization Bill (H.R. 3230), the House reduced this amount to $302.9 million and restricted the funds to "core" dismantlement programs. The legislation would again ban the use of funds for housing construction, environmental restoration, and defense conversion. However, the House defeated an amendment that would have barred CTR expenditures in Russia and Belarus until the President certified that these nations had altered a number of their defense and foreign policies. The Senate, on the other hand, not only approved the Administration request for $327 million, its version of the Defense Authorization Bill (S. 1745) contained a new amendment sponsored by Senators Nunn, Lugar and Dominici that would expand U.S. efforts to contain and control nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the former Soviet Union and provided and additional $94 million to DOD and DOE for this effort. The House-Senate conference committee accepted the Senate version and approved $364.9 million for DOD efforts under CTR, in addition to the funds provided to DOE. These were included in the FY1997 Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 104-201) when President Clinton signed it on September 23, 1996.

Implementing the Programs. Early CTR projects focussed on transportation of nuclear warheads within the former Soviet Union; the United States provided secure rail cars, storage containers, and kevlar blankets to protect nuclear warheads moving to storage areas inside Russia. The program has also funded science and technology centers in Moscow and Kiev to provide research and employment opportunities for nuclear scientists and engineers. The United States is also helping Russia design and construct a storage facility for materials removed from dismantled nuclear warheads and offering Russia assistance with its nuclear materials and nuclear weapons control and accounting systems. Recent projects are helping Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan eliminate strategic nuclear weapons and facilities. Russia will also receive CTR funds to help it dismantle nuclear weapons slated for elimination under the START treaties.

By late 1995, DOD had signed dozens of implementing agreements with Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine and had identified projects that would use more than $1.1 billion. By early 1996, nearly $1 billion had been obligated in existing contracts with the former Soviet republics. In addition to the DOD part of the program, the Energy Department's nuclear weapons labs have proceeded with programs to help safeguard materials and knowhow at Russia's nuclear research labs. For example, in 1995, scientists from Los Alamos began installing an accounting system for fissile materials at Russia's Arazmas-16 laboratory. Funds added to the FY1997 Defense Authorization Bill will expand these programs.

Experts' Discussions on Nuclear Weapons Control and Stability

In September 1993, Secretary of Defense Aspin and Defense Minister Grachev established a working group of experts from the U.S. DOD and the Russian MOD to discuss ways to improve strategic stability, increase mutual confidence, and relax the Cold War nuclear force postures. One of the first topics this group addressed in late 1993 was ballistic missile "detargeting." In an agreement that took effect on May 30, 1994, the two nations agreed that no country would be targeted by any strategic forces on either side. Historically all U.S. missile systems were assigned a target setting associated with actual war plans when they were in alert status. Detargeting would change the weapon system control settings so that the missiles would contain no targeting information, or, for those systems that require a constant alignment reference, so that the missiles would be oriented towards open ocean areas. Many observers praised the detargeting agreement as an overdue sign that the United States and Russia no longer consider each other enemies. Some also saw it as a symbol of movement away from the nuclear hair-trigger. Others, however, argued that its benefits were strictly symbolic because both sides could quickly retarget missiles during a crisis. Many also noted that the measure was not verifiable, so neither side could be sure that the other's missiles were actually detargeted. Some observers noted that the two sides should take further steps, such as removing warheads from missiles, if they really wanted to improve stability and relax the nuclear hair-trigger.

The DOD-MOD experts group met again in May 1994, when U.S. experts gave a detailed briefing on U.S. strategic exercises. This was designed as a confidence-building measure that might reduce Russian uncertainty about U.S. intentions during exercises. The United States also shared information on threats to both sides from short-range ballistic missiles, and the two sides discussed holding a joint exercise in which they would coordinate their defenses against short-range ballistic missile attacks. Russia has proposed that the two sides establish keep-out zones for attack submarines to keep them a specified distance away from the shores of the other nation. The United States has rejected this proposal as an infringement on the freedom of the seas.

During their summit in September 1994, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agreed that the group of experts should continue to seek "to develop concrete steps to adapt the nuclear forces and practices on both sides to the changed international security situation." The group has continued to meet periodically and to plan cooperative activities, such as a joint TMD exercise. The first phase of this project occurred in June 1996, in Colorado Springs. At that time, the Russians deployed SA-12 interceptors and the U.S. deployed Patriot batteries in a simulated combat scenario to defend against a common enemy. A field exercise that includes launches of U.S. and Russian theater missile defense systems may occur later in 1997.

Discussions on the Control of Nuclear Warheads and Materials

During the January 1994 Moscow summit, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agreed to establish a joint working group to consider steps to ensure the transparency and irreversibility of the process of reducing nuclear weapons. These measures could include the exchange of data on weapons stockpiles and possibly inspections at weapons storage and elimination facilities. The Presidents also reaffirmed their intention to complete a joint study of the possibilities for terminating the production of weapons- grade plutonium and agreed to consider putting a portion of fissionable material under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. In March 1994, the United States announced that 7 of the 100 tons of plutonium the U.S. had produced for nuclear weapons had been stored in areas that were to be inspected by the IAEA. In mid-September 1995, the Clinton Administration announced that it would place an additional 20 tons of plutonium removed from nuclear weapons under IAEA safeguards. In September 1996, Secretary of Energy O'Leary announced that the United States had placed 200 tons of nuclear material under the IAEA's inspection system. The United States and Russia also announced that they had agreed on steps that would eventually place some of Russia's nuclear weapons materials under IAEA safeguards.

During meetings in Moscow in May 1994, this working group agreed that the two sides would phase out reactors that produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. The United States has not produced plutonium since 1988, when U.S. facilities were closed for environmental and safety reasons. The two sides have agreed that Russia will close its three reactors that produce energy and weapons-grade plutonium by the year 2000 and that the two sides will work together to create alternative energy sources to replace these reactors. Russia also agreed that it would not use any plutonium created in these reactors prior to their shut-down for weapons. The two sides agreed that they would work out verification arrangements for all reactors that can produce weapons-grade plutonium over the next six months. Vice President Gore and Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin signed this agreement during their June summit meeting in Washington.

The Safeguards, Transparency, and Irreversibility working group has continued to discuss measures "to improve confidence in and increase the transparency and irreversibility of the process of reducing nuclear weapons." The two sides have agreed, in principle, to exchange data on warhead stockpiles. However, they have not been able to finalize the details of this data exchange. Some observers believe that the parliamentary election in Russia in late 1995, when Communists gained the largest bloc of seats, has slowed or stalled the process. In November 1995, the Russian negotiators cancelled a planned session of the talks so that the a new interagency review could be completed and the negotiations have not resumed. Many, including the U.S. ambassador to the talks, James Goodby, hope that they will resume in time to reach an agreement before Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin meet in Moscow in April for a summit on nuclear safety and security.

U.S. Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary and Viktor Mikhailov, head of Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy (MINATOM), have also met and agreed that their two organizations should host reciprocal inspections at facilities containing the plutonium components removed from dismantled nuclear warheads. During these visits, the two sides will also explore methods that they might use to measure the amount of plutonium removed from weapons, and to demonstrate a process that might help verify that the plutonium had not been lost, stolen, or recycled for further weapons use. DOE and MINATOM officials agreed in May 1994 to hold initial familiarization visits in July. Initial visits occurred at Rocky Flats in the United States and Tomsk-7 in Russia, but Russia has reportedly blocked further visits at Tomsk and Krasnoyarsk due to concerns about "military sensitivity."

During their January 1994 Moscow summit, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin also agreed to study options for the long term disposition of fissile materials, particularly plutonium. The working group on the Disposition and Accumulation of Fissile Materials has met with its Russian counterparts. However, the Russian side shown little interest in measures that would render plutonium unusable for other purposes.

During their summit meeting in Moscow in May 1995, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin reaffirmed their support for the efforts of the transparency and irreversibility working group. They also noted, in a statement completed at the summit, that the two sides would not use fissile materials removed from nuclear weapons to manufacture new nuclear weapons and that they would not produce new fissile materials for nuclear weapons. President Clinton has directed Federal agencies to cooperate closely with Russia on measures that would strengthen the security of nuclear weapons and materials. These measures include efforts to help Russia develop accounting and control systems for nuclear weapons and materials, and increased funding for efforts to help Russia construct a secure fissile material storage facility.

The participants in the Nuclear Safety and Security Summit in Moscow in April 1996 adopted further measures to ensure the safe and effective management of fissile materials removed from nuclear weapons. They agreed to place materials no longer needed for defense purposes under IAEA safeguards and they recognized the importance of transparency in their efforts to manage these materials. But they did not make any progress in efforts to select a safe and secure method for the long-term disposition of plutonium. Shortly before the summit began, Energy Minister Mikhailov indicated that Russia would place the storage facility for plutonium that is currently under construction near Chelyabinsk under IAEA control, but that facility will only hold about 40% of Russia's plutonium. Mikhailov indicated that Russia is not yet ready to place the rest of its plutonium under international safeguards.

Negotiations on Multilateral Arms Control Issues

Nuclear Testing

The Clinton Administration has strongly supported negotiations towards a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty (CTBT). (For details on the debate over nuclear testing, see CRS Issue Brief 92099, Nuclear Weapons Testing: Should There be Further Restrictions?) It has extended the U.S. moratorium on nuclear testing through September 1996, when it hopes the CTBT will be complete. Great Britain, which tests its weapons at the U.S. test site, also observes a testing moratorium. Russia has observed a moratorium since late 1991. However, in January 1996, the United States detected an event at the Russian test site that might have been a nuclear test. The Administration says that the data is ambiguous. Russia denies that it has resumed nuclear testing and, in April 1996, pledged its support for a zero-yield nuclear test ban. China has conducted several tests per year. However, after its test on July 29, 1996, China announced that it join the moratorium with the other nuclear powers.

France joined the moratorium in April 1992, but President Chirac announced in June 1995 that France would conduct 7-8 tests before the CTBT was completed in 1996. The United States regretted that the tests occurred and called on all nations to live up to their obligations to conclude a CTBT as soon as possible. France conducted its sixth test in this series on January 27, 1996, then announced that it would cease testing and press for nuclear disarmament and a CTBT.

CTBT negotiations began in 1994 in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva. The negotiations received a boost in late January 1995 when the Clinton Administration announced the United States would no longer insist on a 10-year "easy- out" withdrawal clause in the treaty. In April 1995, Great Britain and France announced they would no longer insist that the treaty permit nations to test nuclear weapons "in exceptional circumstances." In addition, on August 11, 1995, President Clinton announced that the United States would not insist that the CTBT permit any "small" hydronuclear tests. A committee of eminent scientists had concluded that these tests would do little to support the U.S. nuclear arsenal. If problems did arise, the United States would need to conduct far larger tests to identify the magnitude of the problem and to fix the weapons. Secretary of Defense Perry concurred with this conclusion and agreed with the U.S. position that the CTBT contain a clause that permitted nations to withdraw if their "supreme national interests were threatened" so that the United States could resume nuclear testing if it discovered a significant problem with its nuclear arsenal. Some critics, however, believe that this type of ban will undermine U.S. confidence in its nuclear arsenal. Nevertheless, Britain, France, and Russia have all agreed to support a zero-yield test ban.

In late May 1996, the Dutch Ambassador who chairs the CD committee negotiating the CTBT put forward a new draft treaty that sought to bridge the remaining differences. This draft did not include provisions for peaceful nuclear explosions, which China had insisted on throughout the negotiations. And, in early June, China announced that it would accept a ban on all tests, including peaceful explosions, if the issue could be raised again at a future treaty review conference. China also indicated that its new position was contingent on the use of international monitoring facilities, rather than national technical means for verification. The United States has objected to this proposal; it would like any evidence of noncompliance to be sufficient to support requests for on-site inspections. However, in early August 1996, the United States and China reportedly reached agreement on modified verification provisions that removed the last of China's objections to the draft treaty.

The United States had also objected to the draft treaty provisions for entry-into-force because it would require that numerous specified nations, including India and Pakistan, approve the treaty before it could enter into force. The other nuclear weapons states all supported this provision. The United States agreed to accept this provision as long as the treaty contained alternatives so that India could not block the treaty with its refusal to sign. However, India blocked adoption of the final text of the CTBT. It refused to sign the treaty because it does not contain a binding time table that the nuclear weapons states will follow to eliminate all their nuclear weapons. And it refused to approve the Treaty for signature by others because it believed that the provision requiring India to approve the treaty before it can enter into force violates India's sovereign right to choose whether or not to sign the treaty. As a result, on August 20, 1996, India blocked the consensus that the CD needed to forward the treaty to the United Nations for consideration and signatures. Nevertheless, on September 9, 1996, Australia introduced a resolution in the U.N. General Assembly that contained the text of the CTBT. The General Assembly approved this resolution on September 11 by a vote of 158-3, with 5 abstentions. India, Libya, and Bhutan were the only nations to vote against the treaty. When the CTBT opened for signature on September 24, the United States was the first to sign.

Fissile Materials Production Ban

Many in the arms control community believe a cut-off in the production of weapons- grade plutonium and highly enriched uranium would slow the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia both possess large stockpiles of these materials. But nations in the early stages of a nuclear program often lack enough materials to produce weapons and a production cut-off could hamper their programs.

President Bush announced in July 1992 that the United States would no longer produce nuclear weapons-grade plutonium or highly enriched uranium, but he continued to oppose a negotiated ban on production. (The United States had not produced these materials for years, and the necessary facilities had been closed for safety and environmental reasons.) In a speech to the United Nations on September 27, 1993, President Clinton called for an international treaty to prohibit the production of highly enriched uranium and the separation of plutonium for nuclear explosives or outside international safeguards. In October 1993, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution to negotiate a treaty that would prohibit the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices. This treaty would be nondiscriminatory; unlike the NPT, the ban would apply equally to nuclear and non- nuclear states.

The U.N. Conference on Disarmament (CD) established a committee to negotiate the fissile materials production ban in March 1995. However, the participants were not able to agree on the future treaty's scope. One key unresolved issue was the question of whether the ban should cover existing stocks of fissile materials or simply ban future production. To spur the negotiations, President Clinton announced on March 1, 1995, that the United States would remove 200 tons of fissile materials from the U.S. stockpile of weapons-grade materials. Nonetheless, the negotiations have remained stalled in late 1995 because many of the non-nuclear weapons states believe the agreement should also lead to reductions in existing stocks of fissile materials and nondeployed stocks of nuclear warheads. In his speech to the United Nations on September 24, 1996, President Clinton again called on the participants in the CD to proceed with negotiations on a fissile materials production ban.


CHRONOLOGY

06/28/96 --Negotiations towards a CTBT stalled.

06/01/96 --Ukraine announced that all nuclear warheads had been returned to Russia.

01/26/96 -- The U.S. Senate consented to the ratification of the START II Treaty.

05/11/95 --Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was approved for indefinite extension.

12/05/94 -- Ukraine formally acceded to the NPT and START I entered into force.

11/16/94 --Ukraine's parliament approved Ukraine's accession to the NPT.

05/30/94 -- U.S. and Russia completed the "detargeting" of their ICBMs and SLBMs.

03/15/94 --U.S. extended moratorium on nuclear testing through September 1995.

01/14/94 -- U.S., Russia, and Ukraine reached agreement on the elimination of nuclear warheads on Ukrainian territory.

01/03/93 --U.S. and Russia signed START II.


FOR ADDITIONAL READING

CRS Issue Briefs

CRS Issue Brief 92099. Nuclear Weapons Testing: Should There be Further Restrictions? by Jonathan E. Medalia. (Updated regularly)

CRS Reports

CRS Report 94-374. The ABM Treaty and Theater Missile Defense: Proposed Changes and Potential Implications, by Steven A. Hildreth.

CRS Report 93-1057. The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program for Soviet Weapons Dismantlement: Background and Implementation, by Theodore Galdi.

CRS Report 96-804. Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Programs: Issues for Congress, by Amy F. Woolf.

CRS Report 93-617. The START and START II Arms Control Treaties: Background and Issues, by Amy F. Woolf.

CRS Report 93-35. START II: Central Limits and Force Structure Implications, by Amy F. Woolf.

CRS Report 93-237. Nonproliferation Regimes: Policies to Control the Spread of Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Weapons and Missiles. Coordinated by Zachary S. Davis.



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list