Arms Control and the U.S. Russian Relationship



START I was signed by the United States and U.S.S.R. in July 1991. When the collapse of the U.S.S.R. left weapons on the soil of four successor states - Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine - the United States and Russia promptly sought the consolidation of those weapons in Russia. Through the l992 Lisbon Protocol and the January 1994 Trilateral Agreement brought about by U.S. leadership, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine agreed to accede to the NPT as nonnuclear weapon states and promised to eliminate all nuclear weapons from their territories within seven years. As a result, all former Soviet warheads designated under START I are to be transferred to Russian territory. Nuclear weapons have been removed from Kazakhstan and Ukraine, while those remaining in Belarus are expected to be received in Russia by the end of 1996. This was a momentous accomplishment by the administration that resulted from high-level and, when necessary, presidential attention. The same energy should be applied to other issues discussed in this report.

Following Ukraine's accession to the NPT, START I entered into force in December 1994. Under its terms, reductions will occur in three phases, the first of which ends in 1997, the second, in 1999; the third, in 2OO1. The final START I figures call for 6,000 accountable warheads and 1,600 delivery vehicles on each side, a significant reduction in nuclear arsenals. START I depends on a comprehensive verification regime based on a combination of national technical means, on-site inspections and exhibitions, monitoring of mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) production, and data exchanges. As of February 1996, with regard to total accountable warheads and strategic delivery vehicles, the United States and Russia had both completed phase one of START I ahead of the December 1997 deadline.


Signed in January 1993, START II would take the strategic reduction process a significant step further. Divided into two phases - the first ending on December 5, 2001, the second on January 1, 2003 - its chief features are a final limit Of 3,000 to 3,500 actually deployed strategic warheads by the end of phase two; the elimination of all MRVed ICBMs by the same date; and specific limitations on the number of submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) warheads allowed to both sides. START II would employ the same basic verification regime as START I, accompanied by new measures such as heavy bomber exhibitions and the creation of a Bilateral Inspection Commission to resolve compliance issues and oversee implementation of the treaty.

In January 1996, the Senate, by a vote of 87 to 4, ratified START II without amendment. It did, however, attach a number of conditions (stipulations that the president was required to accept prior to ratification) and declarations (nonbinding expressions of the "sense of the Senate" as to general issues of the treaty). The most significant declarations include: that if Russia does not ratify START II, the United States should not reduce its strategic nuclear forces below START I levels without Senate consent; that U.S. reductions under START II should be made symmetrically with those of Russia; and that the United States should seek further strategic offensive arms reductions with Russia consistent with U.S. national interests.


At present, the START regime - and with it the entire nuclear arms reduction and limitation process - faces two general problems. The first is the distinct possibility that the Russian Duma will not ratify START II in the next year - or that if it does so, it will attach formal conditions that are unacceptable to the United States. The second is that even if the Russian legislature does ratify the treaty, Moscow may not have the economic wherewithal - or, alternatively, be willing to commit whatever limited resources it has - to live up to its obligations under START I and II.

Each of these problems in turn relates to more general difficulties that are grounded in Russia's current economic troubles, its


domestic political uncertainties, the strategic perceptions and bureaucratic stakes of its military and security elites, and general tensions in the U.S.-Russian bilateral relationship. In particular, representatives of the Yeltsin government, Duma leaders, Russian generals, and other members of Russia's foreign policy elite have expressed the following concerns - all of which have been voiced more emphatically since the December 1995 parliamentary elections and during and after the July 1996 Russian presidential election.

Russian leaders have argued that the Duma's ratification of START II should be conditioned on the strictest possible U.S. adherence to the 1972 ABM Treaty. At issue are various initiatives in the United States, including in Congress, to deploy a theater missile defense and, some counsel, a thin national missile defense to protect the United States from limited ballistic missile attack. In reaction to these proposals, Russian strategists have hinted that retention of existing MRVed ICBMs - which are to be eliminated under START II - would be an effective strategic countermeasure if Moscow were to conclude that the United States had violated or abrogated the ABM Treaty through its development and deployment of a ballistic missile defense system.

Russian defense experts have also asserted that the costs associated with START II are easy on the United States but crushing for Russia. They point out the large expense entailed by the dismantlement of its MRVed ICBM force. This, they declare, is simply beyond Russia's financial capabilities. Moreover, these specialists contend that to balance U.S. strategic nuclear capabilities under START II, Russia would have to accelerate the production and deployment - at significant additional expens - of hundreds of new single-warhead ICBMS, and possibly produce and deploy several additional SLBM submarines.

Not surprisingly, there appears to be little support - and indeed, much opposition - within Russia's defense establishment to committing even a small portion of its much reduced military budget to disarmament. Russian generals, in particular, have expressed frustration that amid severe funding constraints, money will be diverted from more pressing military concems such as


improving readiness, modernizing Russia's conventional forces, or feeding and housing its soldiers.

Related to Russia's claims regarding its inability to pay for START implementation, Russian officials have also contended that their nation simply cannot keep up with either the pace or volume of reductions mandated under START II, in particular those scheduled between the years 2001 and 2OO3. In addition, a number of Russian commentators have noted that it is in Russia's interest to avoid the costs of building a new single-warhead ICBM fleet if these weapons would eventually be subject to reduction under a future START III Treaty. Hence, they argue, Russia should press urgently for the conclusion of a new and "improved" START III agreement that would better suit Russia's strategic priorities and economic circumstances.

Further, some Russian defense analysts regard START II as simply strategically unsound and call for its renegotiation. In their view, Moscow will be giving up the most potent element of its nuclear arsenal - its MRVed ICBMS, which account for nearly two-thirds of Russian strategic warheads - while the United States retains significant advantages over Russia, most notably its highly developed MRVed SLBM capability.

Many of these Russian arguments are unsound and most are grounded in classic Cold War counterforce exchange ratios. Nevertheless, they do represent the majority view among strategic analysts and Duma members in Moscow.

Although not directly related to strategic arms control, NATO's plan to extend the alliance into East-Central Europe is seen by the Russian elite as a threat to Russia's national security and confirmation of the West's intention to exclude Russia from European security issues. Prominent Duma members have threatened to link ratification of START II directly to the issue of NATO enlargement. If NATO adds new members against Russian objections, they warn, Russia will not ratify START II or abide by its terms.


  1. The United States should reject any changes in the START II Treaty, with the one exception noted immediately below. Any


    renegotiation would likely be a slow and cumbersome process if it succeeded at all. It took the two sides many years to reach agreement on START I and START II, even as the bilateral relationship was improving. Renegotiation would be even more protracted at a time when U.S.-Russian relations are in difficulty.

  2. The United States should agree to a relaxation of the timetable for START II reductions. The Russians are very unlikely, for a variety of reasons, to meet the 2003 deadline for full START II implementation. Therefore, if it is required for START II ratification by the Duma, and if it is the only change in the START II Treaty, delaying until 2006 full Russian (and U.S.) START II implementation of its reduction to 3,000 to 3,500 strategic nudear weapons is in the U.S. national interest. This timetable issue should not be a treaty buster.

  3. A general U.S.-Russian statement of principles on START III should be urgently negotated between the two sides. The promise that negotiations to agree on substantially lower warhead and launcher ceilings would immediately follow START II - similar to the June 1992 framework of START II - could help alleviate the Duma's concerns about the need to field more single-warhead ICBMs or new SLBM submarines to replace MRVed ICBMs eliminated under the treaty, and thus improve the chances of Russian START II ratification.

  4. However, the United States should not undertake any new formal round of nuclear negotiations - START III - until Russia ratifies START II. Such linkage provides both an incentive for ratification (the possibility of an agreement that takes into account current Russian force projections) and a disincentive for failure to ratify (the certainty that there will be no formal agreement on the part of the United States to bring down its force levels in conjunction with likely decreases in Russian nuclear capabilities).

  5. The United States should increase financial and technical assistance for Russian implementation of the START treaties. In certain aspects, Russia's financial inability to complete START II reductions is real. The elimination of Russian war-


    heads and launchers will provide significant gains for American and global security; hence, the United States should pay somewhat more of the cost of Russian implementation, for reasons of plain self-interest, but only in the context of Russian restraint regarding modernization of its strategic nuclear forces.

  6. Consistent with the prevailing view in Congress, the United States should stress that any prospective decreases in its nuclear arsenal are generally contingent upon concurrent Russian reductions. This places the onus on Russia to ensure that nuclear reductions continue at the agreed pace.

  7. The United States should not be swayed by Russian attempts to link NATO enlargement to START II ratification. A number of Russian politicians and policymakers have tried to make Russian ratification conditional on a reversal of NATO's decision to enlarge. The United States should strenuously reject this as well as any other such artificial linkage. (See Section V for a further discussion regarding the trade-offs between the shape and substance of U.S.-Russian arms control and NATO enlargement.)