Jeffrey LewisSTART Talking

Remember how the intelligence community warned that it won’t be able to verify the Moscow Treaty after the START inspection protocol lapses?

The Bush Administration, Nicholas Kralev in the Washington Times, wants to keep it that way:

The Bush administration has rebuffed Russian overtures to negotiate a legally binding replacement of the 1991 START I treaty that reduced the two countries’ strategic nuclear forces but is set to expire in 2009, U.S. and Russian officials said yesterday.

An expert-level meeting between the former enemies to discuss options after the treaty’s expiration is expected to take place as soon as this month, but their differences are not likely to be resolved, the officials said.

While the Russians insist on a legally binding agreement, the Americans have focused on “transparency and confidence-building measures” that would still allow both sides to verify each others’ arsenals and capabilities.

Even getting a expert group has, apparently, been a huge problem, with Russian officials telling Kralev that “Mr. Joseph resisted expert-level talks and preferred ‘strategic political discussions.’”


  1. Mike (History)

    don’t worry – trust us.

  2. confusedponderer (History)

    Joseph channels Bolton. Ideology trumping common sense.

    No surprise at all. That’s absolutely in line with the Bush crew’s refusal of binding international treaties. After all, they’re a hegemonic super-duper power now (or still) and won’t allow themslves being slowed down by international law, or treaties, which are anyway a weapon used against the US by the weak.Global benevolent hegemons impose their will. They don’t do carrots, and they don’t need to negotiate anything, only determine the terms of unconditional surrender by the enemy. Consider the efficiency of that approach.

  3. Amyfw (History)

    The problem is that monitoring under the Treaty is a two way street. We get to see their stuff, they get to see ours. The intelligence community really wants to keep the provisions that allow us to see their stuff; the services and others in the Pentagon really want to get out of the provisions that they think impinge on their operations by allowing the Russians to see our stuff. Hence, replace mutual monitoring provisions with “transparency measures.” This means we get to see what we want to see, without having to show them stuff we don’t want them to see….

  4. Muskrat (History)

    The first problem is the calendar. Bush isn’t going to negotiate a real treaty with teeth and send it to the Senate in the middle of the ‘08 campaign. The new adminstration of President Vilsack/Obama/Colbert will only have a few months between figuring out the phones in the West Wing and the expiration of START I in December 2009—far too short to negoatiate and ratify any rigorous deal.

    Another probem with a legally-binding document would be that there would be considerable pressure to make the limit levels lower even than in the Moscow treaty (1700-2200). As meaningless as those limits are, given the lack of definitional rigor, it would take a great deal of arm wrestling to get the Pentagon to agree to even lower numbers.

    Also, as noted above, the real verification measures (i.e., telemetry rules, RVOSI) are unpopular with both Moscow and the US Services. Including them would be hard and slow, and leaving them out leaves you with a toothless tiger (AKA Treaty of Moscow).

    So what’s going to happen? Bush is going to punt, and the newbie will have to make a fast decision whether to essentially decide that arms control is dead and rely on Missile Defense, or step up and raise the ante by seeking a bigger, broader ac/non-pro norm. There are lots of big ideas available—revive the NPT, global ban on INF-range missiles, global flight test ban, real FISSMAT cutoff—but none are achievable without a) real sacrifice on the part of the U.S. institutional interests at Pentagon and DOE (and possibly AIPAC), and b) serious U.S. Leadership in the world to create and enforce a verifiable and enforceable consensus. If I had to bet I bet we get Missile Defense instead of policy, whoever wins.