Two Sets of Arms Control Agreements Signed in Geneva
By Wendy Lubetkin
Washington File European Correspondent
Geneva - Arms control negotiators from the United States, Russia,
Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan signed a set of documents in Geneva
December 11 that provide for the phased elimination under the START
Treaty of the last SS-24 ICBMs remaining on Ukrainian soil.
The same five nations are set to sign a separate agreement December 14
related to the dismantling of infrastructures used as part of the INF
(Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty's extensive inspection
Both the START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) and the INF Treaty --
landmark treaties which launched the process of nuclear disarmament
between the United States and the former Soviet Union - face
important milestones next year.
The INF Treaty's successful inspection regime is set to expire on May
31, 2001. Although INF's ban on ground-launched missiles with ranges
between 500 and 5,500 kilometers is permanent, its inspection regime
and related infrastructures must be disassembled by the May 31
The deadline for eliminations under the START treaty falls on December
4, 2001. The final START limits of 1,600 deployed strategic nuclear
delivery vehicles and 6,000 deployed strategic warheads on each side
must be met by that date. "Both we and the Russians are down to
something a little bit over 6,000 deployed strategic warheads," said a
senior U.S. official who spoke on background. "We will both easily be
down below the 6,000 limit by next December. But the key thing is that
those limits are obviously too high since the U.S. and Russia already
have agreed to lower levels."
START II would bring levels almost 50 percent lower than START,
setting the total number of deployed strategic warheads at
3,000-3,500. In addition, START II would ban the deployment of the
most destabilizing type of strategic weapons system: land-based ICBMs
with multiple, independently targetable warheads. Although both the
United States and Russia have ratified START II, the Treaty has not
yet entered into force.
START III parameters agreed to by Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin in
Helsinki in 1997 call for bringing the level down even further to a
range of between 2,000 and 2,500, but formal negotiations have not yet
Although major issues on the future direction of strategic arms
control will need to be decided at the highest level by the next
administration, the official emphasized that, in the meantime,
essential work on the implementation of existing agreements is
continuing smoothly. "We are working here in a cooperative manner,
getting implementing agreements signed, and making the adjustments
that we need to get the job done," the official said.
The agreement in Geneva on a two-phased approach to dismantling of the
missiles in Ukraine was "in the national security interest" of the
United States, he said. "Remember that these missiles were once aimed
against the United States. It would have taken them between 15 and 30
minutes to reach the U.S., and each one could have destroyed a major
The agreement provides that a party to the treaty may request a phased
procedure for its own mobile missiles. After the dissolution of the
Soviet Union, Ukraine was left with about 200 ICBMs and hundreds of
nuclear warheads on its soil. All nuclear warheads, both strategic and
tactical, have already been removed from Ukraine. The missiles are
being eliminated in Ukraine in cooperation with the United States
under the U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program.
All ICBMs and related infrastructures based in Belarus and Kazakhstan
have already been either dismantled or removed from the country under
START. Around 40 SS-25 mobile missiles and their launchers were
removed from Belarus and returned to Russia, and 104 huge SS-18s were
removed from Kazakhstan and returned to Russia by the end of 1996 and
their silo launchers were eliminated.
The official said that 50 to 60 missiles remain to be eliminated in
Ukraine, most of which are SS-24s, "a fairly modern missile capable of
carrying ten warheads each." The main obstacle to getting on with the
dismantling effort has been wording in the START treaty implying that
the entire missile should be eliminated at one time.
American personnel are already in Ukraine to assist with the effort
under the CTR program but the process had become stalled over the
question of defueling the missile stages. The United States is still
working with Ukraine to find methods for safe defueling and for
Ukraine to use the fuel in its civilian economy.
The agreements signed December 11 in Geneva provide specific
procedures for the SS-24 ICBMs to be dismantled in two phases. "The
first phase of the elimination will destroy major components that are
essential to the integrity of the missiles. After completion of this
first phase, the missile will no longer be useable," the official
"The removal of all nuclear weapons from the territory of these three
Soviet successor states is a huge success in the history of nuclear
disarmament," the official said.
In a separate agreement, the same five countries will initial on
December 14 an amendment to the INF Treaty's Memorandum of Agreement
outlining "principles and procedures" for completing the continuous
monitoring inspection regime.
INF, the first treaty to lead to the complete elimination of an entire
class of missiles, places a permanent ban on the deployment of ground
launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500
kilometers. Although the Treaty itself has no time limit, its
comprehensive and successfully implemented thirteen-year inspection
regime will end on May 31, 2001.
The INF Treaty established continuous "portal" monitoring at gates to
major missile assembly plants in the United States and Russia. That
monitoring will end on May 31, although other types of monitoring will
continue under the START treaty.
"We are going to begin dismantling the INF specific equipment on April
15 and will conclude by May 31," the U.S. official said. "It has been
a thirteen year, successful inspection regime. And remember, it was
signed during the Cold War."
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: