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The Future of U.S.-Russian Arms Control: Principles of Engagement and New Approaches

Heather A. Conley, Vladimir Orlov, Gen. Evgeny Buzhinsky, Cyrus Newlin, Sergey Semenov and Roksana Gabidullina
The Future of U.S.-Russian Arms Control: Principles of Engagement and New Approaches image

As one of its first security policy decisions, the Biden administration agreed to extend the New START Treaty for five years with no conditions.  The New START Treaty represents one of the last remaining vestiges of international arms control architecture and one of the few areas of potentially productive U.S.-Russian dialogue in an otherwise toxic bilateral relationship where trust does not exist.  Yet the security environment has drastically changed since 2010, when New START was negotiated. The Treaty covers only a part of the “security equation”, whereas missile defense, new weapon systems, space-based assets and advanced technologies are not subject to formal arms control agreement. Both Moscow and Washington – though to different extents – have grounds to be concerned about the nuclear capabilities of 3rd countries that are not parties to existing arms control arrangements.

Against this backdrop, how does one begin to reframe the U.S.-Russian arms control dialogue for the future?  Where does one start the negotiation or discussion?  New capabilities?  Rebuilding some semblance of trust reinforced by greater transparency measures?  Reaffirming and developing principles in multilateral fora rather than seeking formal treaties?  What can be realistically accomplished during the five-year extension period?  These questions provided the backdrop to a U.S.-Russian Track II Strategic Stability Dialogue held over four, in-depth conversations in November and December of 2020 hosted by Center for the Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Moscow-based PIR Center. This bilateral and bipartisan dialogue was unique in that it featured a wide range of views on arms control on both the American and Russian side. In doing so, the organizers sought to build the groundwork for an approach arms control talks that would withstand political fluctuations in both countries.

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Security Index №7(22), March 2021