Jeffrey LewisSTART Joint Understanding

Yesterday, I wondered if the White House fact sheet on the START Follow-on was not the Joint Understanding itself.

Sometimes, of course, the press flacks just slap “fact sheet” on something and send it out the door.

In this case, however, the fact sheet appears to differ substantially from the actual Joint Understanding. Pavel Podvig notes that Russia posted the latter (in Russian) and provides an annotated translation (via GoogleTranslate). (I am placing the Russian text and Pavel’s translation in the comments.)

There are some intriguing differences that the US fact sheet obscures.

First, during the press conference, Medvedev said: “In our mutual understanding that has just been signed, we talk about the linkage between offensive and defensive weapons…” There is no hint of that in the fact sheet, but sure enough the Joint Understanding indicates that the final text will contain language linking offensive and defensive strategic weapons:

5. The situation on the relationship of strategic offensive and defensive strategic weapons.

Second, the Joint Understanding makes clear that negotiators have not settled on the final range for warheads or delivery vehicles — “specific figures … will be negotiated in future talks.” I speculated yesterday that the US and Russia just kicked the can down the road; that’s now clear from the Joint Understanding.

Third, the Joint Understanding states that the parties have agreed to give themselves seven years to implement any reductions. The pace is, as Pavel notes, “leisurely, to put it mildly” for an agreement that essentially codifies reductions that are underway.

Overall, however, there is nothing in the text that changes my basic opinion that this is a welcome, modest and necessary first step.

Still, I am not sure why the White House is reluctant to release the actual text of the agreement. Honestly, we can handle it.

Comments

  1. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    Here is the Joint Undertanding in Russian:

    6 июля 2009 года,
    Москва, Кремль

    Совместное понимание по вопросу о дальнейших сокращениях и ограничениях стратегических наступательных вооружений

    Президент Российской Федерации и Президент Соединенных Штатов Америки приняли решение о дальнейших сокращениях и ограничениях стратегических наступательных вооружений своих стран и о заключении в ближайшее время новой юридически обязывающей договоренности на замену действующего Договора о СНВ, а также поручили, чтобы новый договор, среди прочего, содержал следующие элементы.

    1. Положение о том, что каждая Сторона будет сокращать и ограничивать свои стратегические наступательные вооружения таким образом, чтобы через семь лет после вступления в силу договора и в дальнейшем предельные уровни для стратегических носителей лежали бы в пределах 500-1100 единиц и для связанных с ними боезарядов – в пределах 1500-1675 единиц.

    Конкретные цифры, которые должны быть зафиксированы по этим предельным уровням в договоре, будут согласованы в ходе дальнейших переговоров.

    2. Положения относительно подсчета этих предельных уровней.

    3. Положения, касающиеся определений, обмена данными, уведомлений, ликвидации, инспекций и процедур проверки, а также мер укрепления доверия и транспарентности, в соответствующих случаях адаптированные, упрощенные и сделанные менее затратными по сравнению с Договором о СНВ.

    4. Положение о том, что каждая Сторона будет самостоятельно определять состав и структуру своих стратегических наступательных вооружений.

    5. Положение о взаимосвязи стратегических наступательных и стратегических оборонительных вооружений.

    6. Положение о влиянии межконтинентальных баллистических ракет и баллистических ракет подводных лодок в неядерном оснащении на стратегическую стабильность.

    7. Положение о базировании стратегических наступательных вооружений исключительно на национальной территории каждой из Сторон.

    8. Учреждение исполнительного органа для решения вопросов, относящихся к реализации договора.

    9. Положение о том, что договор не будет применяться к существующей практике сотрудничества в области стратегических наступательных вооружений между одной из Сторон и третьим государством.

    10. Срок действия договора – десять лет, если до истечения этого срока он не будет заменен последующим договором о сокращении стратегических наступательных вооружений.

    Президенты поручают переговорщикам в ближайшее время завершить выработку договора с тем, чтобы они могли его подписать и представить на ратификацию в своих соответствующих странах.

    Подписано в городе Москве, 6 июля 2009 года, в двух экземплярах на русском и английском языках.

    Here is the GoogleTranslate version. I am sure some readers can suggest more felicitous translations pending the White House release of the _real_ Joint Understanding:

    July 6, 2009,
    The Kremlin, Moscow

    The joint understanding on the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms

    The President of the Russian Federation and President of the United States decided on Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, their countries and the conclusion in the near future a new legally binding agreement for the replacement of the existing Treaty on START, and instructed that the new agreement, among other things, contained the following elements.

    1. The provision that each party will reduce and limit its strategic offensive arms in such a way that seven years after the treaty enters into force and further limits on strategic delivery systems to be lying in the 500-1100 units and their associated warheads — in the 1500-1675 units.

    Specific figures are to be recorded on these limits in the contract will be negotiated in future talks.

    2. The provisions regarding the calculation of these limits.

    3. The provisions relating to definitions, data sharing, notifications, elimination of inspections and verification procedures, as well as confidence-building measures and transparency, where appropriate, adapted, simplified and made less costly in comparison with the START Treaty.

    4. The provision that each Party will independently determine the composition and structure of its strategic offensive arms.

    5. The situation on the relationship of strategic offensive and defensive strategic weapons.

    6. The situation on the impact of intercontinental ballistic missiles and ballistic missile submarines to conventional equipment for strategic stability.

    7. The situation on the basing of strategic offensive arms solely in the national territory of each Party.

    8. The establishment of the executive body to address issues relating to the contract.

    9. The provision that the treaty would not apply to the existing practice of cooperation in the field of strategic offensive arms between one Party and a third State.

    10. The validity of the contract – ten years if, prior to this deadline, it will not be replaced by the subsequent treaty on reducing strategic offensive arms.

    Presidents instruct negotiators will soon finalize a contract, so that they can sign it and submit for ratification in their respective countries.

    Signed at Moscow, July 6, 2009, in two copies in Russian and English.

  2. anon

    Game, Set, Match – Putin wins by making a hollow pledge to “help” & Obama gets another PR event.

    The Kremlin is partying tonight Party.

  3. bobbymike (History)

    There is absolutely NO reason for the US to further erode its’ deterrent and reduce warhead levels further. This is “feel good” foreign policy nothing more.

    I would be build the RRW, replace MMIII, fully fund advanced nuclear weapon concepts and for good measure develop and deploy a conventional prompt global strike capability.

  4. incunabulum (History)

    The Google translation is not very good.

    взаимосвязи probably refers to the actual technical interconnectivity between offensive and defensive strategic weapons systems. Or.. it could mean the “interrelationship” between the offensive and defensive strategic arms in a more figurative sense.

    I am not an expert in the START treaty language. If I can find a dual-language version of the original treaty, it may become more clear to what exactly “взаимосвязи” refers.

    Translating it as the “situation of the relationship” is even less helpful than the actual Russian version.

  5. incunabulum (History)

    Yep – I just checked the original treaty. We’re talking about telemetry here. Same wording as START Article 9, Paragraph 3.

  6. weaponeer (History)

    What’s To Talk About When There Is Nothing To Talk About

    by Aleksandr Golts

    Moscow Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal 07 Jul 09

    As you know, [Russian] actors in crowd scenes, when they need to portray noisy conversation, endlessly repeat the hallowed phrase “what’s to talk about when there is nothing to talk about.” Under pressure from Moscow, Washington chose a strictly militarized agenda — strategic arms, missile defense, control of nuclear materials — topics where Russia is at least in some respects equal to America. As a result, it got what it could expect to get. It became clear that, in short, there is nothing to talk about. Obama was presented with a photo album devoted to the two countries’ cooperation in the sphere of ensuring nuclear security. I suspect that this was in effect an account of how Russia annually spends the hundreds of millions of dollars that the United States sends to Russia under the Nunn-Lugar program. The agreement on the transit of American military freight to Afghanistan is an undoubted achievement. Although Moscow represented it as a concession, in fact it is obvious that the Americans, by fighting in Afghanistan, are safeguarding Russia’s security. But that, I suspect, exhausts the positive potential of the agreements reached.

    In the area that was declared to be the most important — strategic offensive arms reduction — precisely nothing was achieved. It was merely announced that “seven years after the treaty’s entry into force and thereafter, the upper limits for strategic delivery vehicles would be within the limits of 500-1,100 units, and for the associated warheads, within the limits of 1,500-1,675 units.” As far as warheads are concerned, Russia already has [only] 2,825 now. By 2012 it will have 1,700. It will not require gigantic efforts to cut 25 warheads over seven years. The situation with delivery vehicles is even more laughable. Russia currently has 634 strategic delivery vehicles and the Americans have about 1,000. To all appearances, they did not manage to agree on reasonable limitations. And therefore they announced an agreement establishing an inconceivable range where the lower limit (500 delivery vehicles) is less than half the upper limit (1,100). At the same time it is proposed to incorporate in the future treaty a bizarre clause “on the influence of intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles in nonnuclear form on strategic stability.”

    To call things by their names, the agreement amounted effectively to enshrining the status quo.

    In the process, all the real conflict issues were simply avoided. Thus, it is merely indicated that the future agreement should contain “provisions in relation to the counting of these upper limits.” Yet this is one of the main conflicts. The Americans would like, in the future treaty, only to count “operationally deployed warheads,” that is, those that are actually on missiles. At the same time warheads located in depots should be left out of account. Here it is necessary to understand that the existence of these stockpiles in the depots enables the United States to refrain from resuming nuclear tests. At the same time it should be borne in mind that Russia has no possibility of stockpiling its warheads, because of their extreme age.

    The second problem is the conditions for counting strategic delivery vehicles. Because of the fact that the number of nuclear warheads is being reduced, the Americans would like not to destroy the surplus delivery vehicles, but to deploy conventional, non-nuclear munitions on them — for instance, on Trident submarine missiles and cruise missiles. In this context it is proposed to exempt nonnuclear delivery vehicles (which are outwardly no different from nuclear ones) from the terms of the treaty.

    Finally, it is obvious that no consensus was reached on an issue that was declared to be the main one — the linkage between strategic arms reduction and the creation of a global missile defense system. Obama and Medvedev only agreed to instruct “our experts to conduct joint work to analyze the ballistic missile challenges of the 21st century and prepare the appropriate recommendations, bearing in mind the priority use of political and diplomatic methods.” That is to say, once again, an agreement on nothing.

    In effect, it turns out that the results of the contact with official Putinist Russia is negligible. Today we will learn the results of Obama’s contact with Russian society.

  7. weaponeer (History)

    ARMS CONTROL AMNESIA (OPINION)

    By KEITH B. PAYNE
    Wall Street Journal: July 6, 2009

    The new talks with Moscow could put the U.S. nuclear deterrent in jeopardy. Here are the facts.

    Three hours after arriving at the Kremlin yesterday, President Barack Obama signed a preliminary agreement on a new nuclear arms-control treaty with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The agreement — a clear road map for a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) — commits the U.S. and Russia to cut their nuclear weapons to the lowest levels since the early years of the Cold War.

    Mr. Obama praised the agreement as a step forward, away from the “suspicion and rivalry of the past,” while Mr. Medvedev hailed it as a “reasonable compromise.” In fact, given the range of force levels it permits, this agreement has the potential to compromise U.S. security — depending on what happens next.

    In the first place, locking in specific reductions for U.S. forces prior to the conclusion of the ongoing Nuclear Posture Review is putting the cart before the horse. The Obama administration’s team at the Pentagon is currently examining U.S. strategic force requirements. Before specific limits are set on U.S. forces, it should complete the review. Strategic requirements should drive force numbers; arms-control numbers should not dictate strategy.

    Second, the new agreement not only calls for reductions in the number of nuclear warheads (to between 1,500 and 1,675), but for cuts in the number of strategic force launchers. Under the 1991 START I Treaty, each side was limited to 1,600 launchers. Yesterday’s agreement calls for each side to be limited to between 500 and 1,100 launchers each.

    According to open Russian sources, it was Russia that pushed for the lower limit of 500 launchers in negotiations. In the weeks leading up to this summit, it also has been openly stated that Moscow would like the number of deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched missiles (SLBMS), and strategic bombers to be reduced “several times” below the current limit of 1,600. Moving toward very low numbers of launchers is a smart position for Russia, but not for the U.S.

    Why? Because the number of deployed Russian strategic ICBMs, SLBMs, and bombers will drop dramatically simply as a result of their aging. In other words, a large number of Russian launchers will be removed from service with or without a new arms-control agreement.

    The Obama administration will undoubtedly come under heavy pressure to move to the low end of the 500-1,100 limit on launchers in order to match Russian reductions. But it need not and should not do so. Based solely on open Russian sources, by 2017-2018 Russia will likely have fewer than half of the approximately 680 operational launchers it has today. With a gross domestic product less than that of California, Russia is confronting the dilemma of how to maintain parity with the U.S. while retiring its many aged strategic forces.

    Mr. Medvedev’s solution is to negotiate, inviting the U.S. to make real cuts, while Russia eliminates nothing that it wouldn’t retire in any event.

    This isn’t just my conclusion — it’s the conclusion of many Russian officials and commentators. Russian Gen. Nikolay Solovtsov, commander of the Strategic Missile Troops, was recently quoted by Moscow Interfax-AVN Online as saying that “not a single Russian launcher” with “remaining service life” will be withdrawn under a new agreement. Noted Russian journalist Pavel Felgengauer observed in Novaya Gazeta that Russian leaders “have demanded of the Americans unilateral concessions on all points, offering practically nothing in exchange.” Precisely.

    Beyond the bad negotiating principle of giving up something for nothing, there will be serious downsides if the U.S. actually reduces its strategic launchers as much as Moscow wishes. The bipartisan Congressional Strategic Posture Commission — headed by former secretaries of defense William J. Perry and James R. Schlesinger — concluded that the U.S. could make reductions “if this were done while also preserving the resilience and survivability of U.S. forces.” Having very low numbers of launchers would make the U.S. more vulnerable to destabilizing first-strike dangers, and would reduce or eliminate the U.S. ability to adapt its nuclear deterrent to an increasingly diverse set of post-Cold War nuclear and biological weapons threats.

    Accepting low launcher numbers would also encourage placing more warheads on the remaining ICBMs — i.e., “MIRVing,” or adding multiple independently targeted warheads on a single missile. This is what the Russians openly say they are planning to do. Yet the U.S. has long sought to move away from MIRVed ICBMs as part of START, because heavy MIRVing can make each ICBM a more tempting target. One measure of U.S. success will be in resisting the Russian claim that severely reducing launcher numbers is somehow necessary and “stabilizing.” It would be neither.

    Third, the new agreement appears to defer the matter of so-called tactical nuclear weapons. Russia has some 4,000 tactical nuclear weapons and many thousands more in reserve; U.S. officials have said that Russia has an astounding 10 to 1 numerical advantage. These weapons are of greatest concern with regard to the potential for nuclear war, and they should be our focus for arms reduction. The Perry-Schlesinger commission report identified Russian tactical nuclear weapons as an “urgent” problem. Yet at this point, they appear to be off the table.

    The administration may hope to negotiate reductions in tactical nuclear weapons later. But Russia has rejected this in the past, and nothing seems to have changed. As Gen. Vladimir Dvorkin of the Russian Academy of Sciences said recently in Moscow Interfax-AVN Online, “A treaty on the limitation and reduction of tactical nuclear weapons looks absolutely unrealistic.” If the U.S. hopes to address this real problem, it must maintain negotiating leverage in the form of strategic launchers and weapons.

    Fourth, Mr. Medvedev was quoted recently in RIA Novosti as saying that strategic reductions are possible only if the U.S. alleviates Russian concerns about “U.S. plans to create a global missile defense.” There will surely be domestic and international pressure on the U.S. to limit missile defense to facilitate Russian reductions under the new treaty. But the U.S. need for missile defense has little to do with Russia. And the value of missile defense could not be clearer given recent North Korean belligerence. The Russians are demanding this linkage, at least in part to kill our missile defense site in Europe intended to defend against Iranian missiles. Another measure of U.S. success will be to avoid such linkages.

    In short, Russian leaders hope to control or eliminate many elements of U.S. military power in exchange for strategic force reductions they will have to make anyway. U.S. leaders should not agree to pay Russia many times over for essentially an empty box.

    Finally, Russian violations of its existing arms-control commitments must be addressed along with any new commitments. According to an August 2005 State Department report, Russia has violated START verification and other arms-control commitments in multiple ways. One significant violation has even been discussed openly in Russian publications — the testing of the SS-27 ICBM with MIRVs in direct violation of START I.

    President Obama should recall Winston Churchill’s warning: “Be careful above all things not to let go of the atomic weapon until you are sure and more than sure that other means of preserving peace are in your hands.” There is no need for the U.S. to accept Russian demands for missile-defense linkage, or deep reductions in the number of our ICBMs, SLBMs and bombers, to realize much lower numbers of Russian strategic systems. There is also no basis for expecting Russian goodwill if we do so.

    Mr. Payne, a professor of defense and strategic studies at Missouri State University, is a member of the Perry-Schlesinger Commission, which was established by Congress to assess U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities. This op-ed is adapted from testimony given before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on June 24.

  8. SW (History)

    “Honestly, we can handle it” – You mean, honestly, we can handle falling into a classic trap of two language versions of a diplomatic document saying different things, thus allowing for very different interpretations of the content by both parties?

    The possible reason for failure of the actual English language text of the Joint Understanding to appear in public may be a misalignment between the Russian and English versions, with attendant differences of opinion between Russia and the US on what it is exactly that they have committed to in Moscow.

    If you listen to the original Russian audio of the press conference, you will hear that in the sentence you have quoted, Medvedev actually uses the key word ‘взаимосвязь’. In the English audio track, an excellent interpreter immediately renders ‘взаимосвязь’ into English as ‘linkage’, which is spot on.

    Pavel Podvig is a native Russian speaker, and does not need interpreters. His choice of Google as a translation tool for the Joint Understanding, and the resulting translations of “положение” as “situation”, and “взаимосвязь” as “relationship” are somewhat surprising.

    “Положение” may mean “situation”, but also “position” (on something) or “status” (of an issue). “Bзаимосвязь” primarily means “interconnection” or “linkage”; “relationship” is a secondary meaning.

    The Russians may well take the paragraph 5:

    “Положение о взаимосвязи стратегических наступательных и стратегических оборонительных вооружений”

    to mean “The position on linkage between strategic offensive and strategic defensive weapons”,

    and not the much milder “The situation on the relationship of strategic offensive and defensive strategic weapons”, as proposed by Podvig.

    If, due to inadequate translation, the meaning of the Russian text diverges from the English version, the Russians might now believe that the United States have actually conceded the linkage between START II and missile defense sites in Europe. Make of it what you will, but, as per standard negotiation custom, the Russians are bound by the Russian text, not English.

    They might believe accordingly, that the Poles and the Czechs can now go flap in the breeze with their wish to become meaningful US allies, the US credibility with NATO has been damaged, and the Russian influence in Central and Eastern Europe reinforced. Not a bad outcome from a bad translation. Might it be that the White House is reluctant to release the English text due to a belated realisation that, for want of one decent Russian translator, the пoложение signed off in Moscow may have given away, for free, some valuable ground?

    Moral: “Доверяй, но проверяй”.

  9. Robert Civiak (History)

    The way I read the translation (I do not speak Russian), the text merely says that the final agreement will contain the following elements…. Even assuming the strongest version of element number 5, “The position on linkage between strategic offensive and strategic defensive weapons,” it is left unsaid what that position will be, i.e. how linkage will be addressed or even if there will be any linkage.

  10. Scott Monje (History)

    By “interconnection between strategic offensive and strategic defensive weapons,” they simply mean that Russia’s offensive arsenal becomes more vulnerable to a given level of defense as the arsenal grows smaller. Therefore, they want any further reductions connected to the issue of defenses. I would translate “Положение о” as “A provision on”—as in, the treaty will include “a provision on” X, Y, or Z.

  11. Allen Thomson (History)

    The Russians may well take the paragraph 5:

    “Положение о взаимосвязи стратегических наступательных и стратегических оборонительных вооружений”

    to mean “The position on linkage between strategic offensive and strategic defensive weapons”,

    ———————

    That’s sure how I’d translate it. Bзаимосвязь, as noted, first of all has the sense of “interconnection”, or “mutual connection”: “Bзаимо-” is “mutual” or “inter-” and “связь” is “link”, “connection.”

  12. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    The official translation is:

    A provision on the interrelationship of strategic offensive and strategic defensive arms.

  13. FSB

    Let’s hope the US drops the missile “defense” (aka Operation “Broken Condom”) due its own flaws (untested, false sense of security, encourages Iran to make more weapons) rather than because Russia is against it.

  14. Allen Thomson (History)

    > The official translation is:

    > “A provision on the interrelationship… “

    Well, I guess that’s not an outright bad translation, but to the modest extent I understand Russian, “связь” means a closer relationship than, like, “relationship.” It’s more like “link” or even “bond.”

  15. incunabulum (History)

    I hate to be stubborn, but I still don’t like the official translation.

    Even though I admitted that the word взаимосвязи is vague, I’ll be surprised if it isn’t related to how the systems are actually connected. Do the offensive and defensive sytems share a network? Do they speak to one another in a machine-to-machine or telemetry or pro forma manner? What data is shared?

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