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The Security Index Occasional Paper Series Came Out With The New Report «Strategic Offensive Arms Control In Russia-U.S. Relations: Lessons Learned» By Sergey Semenov

August 31, 2021

MOSCOW, AUGUST 31, 2021. PIR PRESS. The Security Index Occasional Paper Series came out with the new report «Strategic Offensive Arms Control in Russia-U.S. Relations: Lessons Learned» by Sergey Semenov. 

The recent years witnessed a near complete collapse of the bilateral arms control architecture between the Russian Federation and the United States of America. During the Geneva summit in June 2021, Presidents Putin and Biden agreed to relaunch the bilateral dialogue on strategic stability issues. This occasional paper is intended to analyze the lessons to be learned from the New START negotiations process and analyze the solutions found by the negotiators to reach an agreement.

Key findings:

  • The negotiations on the New START were able to produce a swift result thanks to the great political will displayed by the two sides.
  • The objective of the negotiations was to reduce the numerical limits on the strategic offensive arms and appropriately simplify and adapt the verification machinery. The parties differed on the extent to which verification procedures had to be adapted. The U.S. initially advocated for the retention of the most intrusive measures, including perimetral monitoring and unlimited exchange of telemetry, while the Russian negotiators saw no value added in such measures as they did not serve to verify specific provisions of the New START.
  • One of the major accomplishments of the Russian delegation is the inclusion of an additional limit on deployed and non-deployed launchers, which limited the breakout potential. Counting all warheads, both nuclear and conventional would have also precluded breakout scenarios with conventional ICBMs.
  • Among the key stumbling blocks at the negotiations was the issue of counting warheads deployed on heavy bombers. The U.S. insisted on instituting “real” counting rules for the air leg with appropriate verification measures at storage facilities. The Russian side managed to decline the proposal due to the associated technical and financial difficulties.
  • The eventual compromise on telemetry was conditioned by the U.S. home politics. While telemetry was not needed to verify the Treaty, U.S. Senate saw it as an important confidence-building measure to be retained. However, a limited number of exchanges does not allow the United States to use the data obtained to improve missile defense.
  • The critique of the New START presented by the Republicans may be summarized as “New START is deficient because it is not START”.