Jeffrey LewisSTART: Dead Treaty Walking

Josh Meyer in the Los Angeles Times has an excellent article
about the potential casualties of the Russia-Georgia conflict — including the START Treaty.

Some high-level meetings have been postponed indefinitely, including a trip to Russia by John Rood, the acting undersecretary of State for arms control and international security, to discuss various security issues and to negotiate a new pact to replace the existing Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START.

For those of you who don’t follow this stuff, START — and its essential verification provisions — expire on December 5, 2009.

The treaty states that the parties shall meet to extend the treaty “no later than one year before the expiration of the 15-year period” — ie December 5, 2008. Apparently, the US position is that we have to have the meeting by December 5, 2008, but can have subsequent meetings and make the decision any time after that date.

I have been told that the Russians are taking a tougher reading — that the decision to extend must be taken by December 5, 2008. That is, in part, because they want our of some START restrictions in exchange for continuing the verification provisions. (WMD Insights has a nice, readable review of Russian motivations.)

We need to extend START — well at least the verification provisions. The problem is that the US opposes a legally-binding verification protocol. The US is frittering away time trying to convince Paula DeSutter and crew, who have been whining about how much paperwork START is. Seriously.

Anyway, I suspect the Russians will let up on their interpretation — but it is going to cost us. Boy, don’t you wish we’d done this a year ago? (See Frickin’ Extend START Already, June 21,2007.)

It seems pretty unlikely that the US and Russia will be able to complete an agreement by December 2008. But it is possible to get something done by December 2009. There are a lot of proposals, but I think one of the most interesting is an “Enhanced SORT.”

At least that’s the case made by Alexei Arbatov and Rose Gottemoeller in the most recent Arms Control Today (New Presidents, New Agreements? Advancing U.S.-Russian Strategic Arms Control). And, you can leave comments on the article at the new ACA reader site.


  1. Muskrat (History)

    Enhanced SORT? You Mean SORT II? You remember what happened to SALT II and START II, right?

    Also, given the ratio of the sizes of START I and START II, and how short SORT I was to begin with, SORT II would have to consist of “The Parties will, you know, just cool it with the nukes, man.”

    It might be the first Treaty in history whose signature blocks are longer than the text.

  2. Major Lemon (History)

    Condi said last week that Russia was on a “one-way path to isolation and irrelevance”. Presumably we all agree with her for once??