Jeffrey LewisExtend START

Jennifer Mackby and Edward Ifft remind us that START is set to expire and that letting START expire would suck:

The crowning international security agreement that reduced and stabilized nuclear forces in the former Soviet Union and the United States is set to expire in 2009. [snip] START established an ingenious and highly effective monitoring/verification regime that also provided the basis for the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), or Moscow Treaty, which has no verification provisions of its own.


  • It created unprecedented transparency and confidence in nuclear weapon deployments, characteristics and activities. An elaborate system of over 150 types of notifications provides an accurate picture of the number and locations of each side’s strategic nuclear forces.
  • The sides are forbidden to interfere with each other’s National Technical Means (NTM), operating in a manner consistent with generally recognized principles of international law.
  • A system of on-site inspections (approximately two per month) provides assurance that systems are in their proper places and the allowed numbers of missiles, heavy bombers and warheads are not exceeded.
  • A ban on most forms of telemetry encryption during flight tests of strategic ballistic missiles provides additional confidence that such tests are not being used for illegal purposes
  • Agreed procedures for the conversion or elimination of systems provide assurance that reductions are genuine and cannot be easily reversed.

All of these valuable, hard-won benefits would be lost if START were allowed to end and not be replaced by another legal regime.

For some reason, we just can’t get beyond our fear of commiment and extend the verification provisions, despite some encouraging words from Ambassador Burns.

Mackby and Ifft also mention an article that Anatoli Diakov and Eugene Miasnikov published in Arms Control Today proposing “a new verification mechanism, which would replace the one in START and at the same time retain current levels of transparency [including, presumably] START’s data exchanges, notifications, and inspections …” (You should also read Nikolai Sokov’s letter)

Diakov and Miasnikov discuss the interaction between conventional strike and START, noting that Russia and the United States could easily reach an agreed statement on Conventional Trident.

One method for Congressional to encourage the current Administration to get talking on START and other efforts, like the Joint Data Exchange Center, would be to restrict funding for certain Administration initiatives, like Conventional Trident Modification, to the research and development stage until the Administration works out appropriate transparency and confidence-building mechanisms.