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Agreement on Notifications of ICBM and SLBM Launches

The Agreement on Notifications of ICBM and SLBM Launches, signed during the 1988 Moscow Summit, reflects the continuing interest of the United States and the Soviet Union in reducing the risk of nuclear war as a result of misinterpretation, miscalculation, or accident.

A number of earlier U.S.-Soviet agreements address advance notification of some, but not all, strategic ballistic missile launches.

None of these earlier agreements, therefore, provided total coverage of all strategic ballistic missile (ICBM and SLBM) launches. In 1982, President Reagan proposed a number of new confidence-building measures for discussion at the U.S.-Soviet Strategic Arms Reductions Talks (START). Among these was a proposal for prior notification of all launches of ICBMs and SLBMs. During the course of the START negotiations, both sides drafted similar launch notification procedures which were incorporated into the joint draft of the START agreement text.

In May 1988, the United States proposed to the Soviets that, as a confidence-building measure, the sides conclude a separate agreement calling for advance notification of ICBM and SLBM launches. The Soviets agreed, and on May 31, 1988, in Moscow, U.S. Secretary of State Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze signed the Agreement on Notifications of ICBM and SLBM Launches. The Agreement provides for notification, no less than 24 hours in advance, of the planned date, launch area, and area of impact for any launch of an ICBM or SLBM. The Agreement also provides that these notifications be provided through the Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers. The Agreement entered into force on the date it was signed.

The U.S.-Soviet Joint Statement issued following the Moscow Summit included the following statement:

The agreement between the United States and the USSR on notifications of launches of Inter-continental Ballistic Missiles and Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles, signed during the Moscow summit, is a practical new step, reflecting the desire of the sides to reduce the risk of outbreak of nuclear war, in particular as a result of misinterpretation, miscalculation, or accident.

Afterwards, the START I Treaty was signed in 1991. This Treaty contains an obligation to notify any flight test of an ICBM or SLBM, including those used to launch objects into the upper atmosphere or space. In addition to the requirements under the Ballistic Missile Launch Notification Agreement (i.e., that the notifying Party provide planned launch date, launch area, and reentry impact area), the START I Treaty requires that the notifying Party must also specify the telemetry broadcast frequencies to be used, modulation types and information as to whether the flight test is to employ encapsulation or encryption.

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