Jeffrey LewisRevisiting Votkinsk

Nicholas Kralev has an interesting story on the impending closure of the Votkinsk Portal Monitoring Facility.

The key grafs confirm that rumor that the Bush Administration made the concession to Russian on ending monitoring at Votkinsk in November 2008:

Congressional officials said they were told by the Obama administration that it “got stuck” with a deal made by the Bush administration to close the monitoring facility at Votkinsk. They also said the Bush administration did not want to extend START at all.

Paula A. DeSutter, assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance and implementation in the Bush administration, said she sent the Russians a post-START proposal in November 2008, but it was not a negotiated agreement.

She confirmed that it did not include continuing the Votkinsk mission, but attributed that to the Bush team’s decision “not to limit delivery vehicles,” so it did not need to count every missile Russia produced. “We didn’t need the entire verification regime from START,” she said.

DeSutter suggests the Administration could have just “added” monitoring back in if it wanted, which just floors me.

I had somehow missed that the Bush Administration tabled a proposal to the Russians in November 2008. They had to know, as everyone else did, that Obama was going to win. But they went ahead anyway. David Gollust from VOA reported it on November 6, 2008;

The two powers have been holding general discussions for some time on how to replace their 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, which expires at the end of 2009.

Rood said the previously-undisclosed U.S. proposal, conveyed to Moscow late last month, represents a shift in U.S. thinking by focusing on limiting nuclear warheads, rather than missile launchers, as in the START treaty.

“We now have put forward a legally-binding treaty. We think that the focus on nuclear warheads is appropriate in this treaty and that is what is reflected,” Rood said. “The START treaty itself did not set limits on nuclear warheads, it set limits on delivery systems, and then a formula was used to attribute a certain number of nuclear warheads to delivery systems. But the treaty we have put forward has, at the center of its focus, limitation on strategic nuclear warheads.”

Some of the verification hypocrites (ie we only need verification for treaties signed by Democratic Presidents) have been arguing that verification is only necessary now that the Obama Administration is considering significant reductions in the number of nuclear warheads. It would be nice to know the Rood warhead levels just to see how low DeSutter et al were prepared to go on trust alone.


On a related note, a Japanese reporter with a Japanese television station is trying to write a story on Votkinsk. If you are interested in being interviewed, please drop me at line at:

armscontrolwonk [at]


  1. anon (History)

    The Bush Admin had spent a considerable amount of time refining and altering its position on START expiration. It never, ever wanted to extend START (and Kyl never complained about this). It wanted START to lapse, totally. But some, like Lugar and Tauscher, complained about the impending loss of monitoring and verification. So, by the last year of its term, it put together a package that was basically the Moscow Treaty, with an informal “visits and verification regime” (i.e. no required monitoring, but you could still visit START-type sites.) It presented this in November, at its last meeting before the 1-year decision point for what to do about START. If Russia had agreed to this proposal (append a voluntary monitoring protocol to the Moscow Treaty), then that would have been announced at the meeting — i.e. “we’ll let START lapse, but we’ve agreed to replace it with this great non-Treaty and non-monitoring regime.” Russia didn’t bite, it still wanted a new START-like Treaty to replace START.

    Paula is somewhat disengenious about Votkinsk. We didn’t establish perimeter and portal monitoring there so that we could confirm compliance with START’s launcher limit. We used it as a part of the comprehensive monitoring system for mobile ICBMs. First, we used it to confirm the absence of SS-20 production for INF, then we used it to help monitor START’s limit of 1,100 warheads on mobile ICBMs. We did calculate warheads by counting launchers and multiplying by the attribution number, so, in that sense, we did use it to count launchers as they entered the force, but that was only part of issue. We also monitored the launchers when they were deployed and when they were eliminated, so we could estimate the total number deployed and multiply by the attribution number. We would still have done this, even if we did not limit launchers, so we could calculate a number of deployed mobile ICBM warheads. The Bush proposal not only dropped the limit on launchers, it dropped the limit on warheads. Paula is wrong, they did not propose that we “count warheads,” under the Moscow Treaty and their Nov 2008 proposal we would simply declare the number of deployed warheads. We would not count launchers OR multiply with attribution numbers to calculate warheads. Hence, we no longer needed to know the number of deployed launchers.

    If you don’t care how much stuff the other guy has, your requirements for monitoring and verification drop sharply.

    John Kyl had no objections to this, and actually praised the absence of monitoring and verification in the Moscow Treaty.

  2. Patricia Lewis (History)

    On Saturday 5th December, a senior class of postgraduate Masters students at the Monterey Institute’s Center for Nonproliferation Studies will be presenting and signing “SMART” a parallel-track Strategic Arms Reduction (START)-follow-on treaty that they have negotiated over several months.

    Mirroring the official process, the international group of students formed expert delegations as if they were the United States and the Russian Federation. They instituted working groups on a range of issues including verification, missile defenses and a follow-on mechanism for the next treaty negotiation. The Strategic Mutual Arms Reduction Treaty (SMART) has a schedule for missile reductions, a verification regime, storage of warheads and provisional application, and is replete with MOUs and protocols.

    Not entirely by coincidence, the parallel-treaty signing ceremony will take place in Monterey on the very day that the real START agreement expires. Ambassador Linton Brooks, Head of the U.S. Delegation on Nuclear and Space Talks and Chief Strategic Arms Reductions (START) Negotiator, will be present at the ceremony on the occasion of the Twentieth Anniversary of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies. The signing ceremony will follow a staged reading of Pulitzer-Prize Winner Richard Rhode’s new play “Reykjav√≠k”.

  3. Eugene Miasnikov (History)

    The fact that START follow-on treaty is not going to include monitoring at Votkinsk plant is actually another indication that definitions for “strategic delivery vehicles” are going to be changed

    If a new treaty is going to count those launchers only that are associated with “operationally deployed” strategic nuclear warheads (we may call them “operationally deployed launchers”), the fact that a mobile ICBM leaves its production facility does not make it “strategic delivery vehicle” yet by new definitions in contrast to START (Par. 6 b) of the Article III
    If so, the Russians seem to have a strong argument for abandoning monitoring at Votkinsk facility.

  4. Oliver


    Isn’t there anything the BUSH admin could not and did not fuck up?
    Those Bastards :-)

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