New START, a strategic arms control treaty with the Russian Federation that entered into force in February, is disadvantageous for the United States and advantageous for Russia. The treaty actually allows the Russians to build up their nuclear strategic forces. This raises the question: What did the U.S. negotiators actually achieve for the advancement of the U.S. national security?
According to the factsheet released on June 1, by the State Department’s Bureau of Verification, Compliance, and Implementation, the U.S. will have to remove 182 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers from their operational status. Russia can add 179. Regarding deployed accountable warheads, the U.S. will have to remove 250 accountable nuclear warheads from its operational arsenal; Russia can actually add 23.
The third central limit of New START—the number of deployed and non-deployed launchers of ICBMs, deployed and non-deployed launchers of SLBMs, and deployed and non-deployed heavy bombers—is 800. Here, the U.S. will be required to destroy in accordance with the provisions of the treaty 324 ICBMs, SLBMs, or bombers—Russia only 65.
Leaving the arms control parlance aside, the disparity between Russian reductions and U.S. reductions is clear. The situation is actually even worse than what the analysts at The Heritage Foundation predicted prior to the Senate’s advice and consent to the ratification of the treaty, especially regarding numbers of nuclear warheads, where Heritage estimated the number of Russian warheads at 1,739. (Russia ended up declaring 1,537.)
In November 2010, Senator Kit Bond (R–MO) stated that the treaty “forces the United States to reduce unilaterally our forces, such as missiles, bombers, and warheads, in order to meet treaty limits.” The State Department rebutted his point. But while the treaty imposes equal limitations on both parties, the United States is required to unilaterally remove from operational stage or destroy many more systems than Russia over the course of the next seven years. The State Department says that “having a single, equal numerical limit ensures parity and enhances predictability for both sides.” But there is no predictability if one of the parties to the treaty is permitted to actually add tens of delivery systems into its strategic arsenal.
All the reductions required from the U.S. are costly and will further increase the pressure on the already overstretched defense budget. Obama Administration officials were silent on the issue of costs related to New START implementation during Senate committee hearings prior to the Senate’s consent to ratification of the treaty. It is also unclear whether the air force or the navy will be required to build new storage facilities to accommodate missiles taken out of operational deployment as a result of New START.
The treaty is a bad deal for the U.S. national security. The release of the State Department’s factsheet just makes it official.
Co-authored by Michaela Bendikova