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The New START Treaty signed by the U.S. and Russian Presidents on April 8, 2010 in Prague is currently considered for ratification by legislative bodies of both states, and there is still a chance, that it might enter into force this fall. Many supporters of the treaty suggest that negotiations on the next phase of reductions should begin promptly. The official Washington revealed its intention to start discussions that would cover both strategic and non-strategic nuclear arms.2 Moscow is likely playing a waiting game thus far. However, one may presume that even if the Russian side agrees to come to the negotiating table, on its turn, it will attempt to include the problems of missile defense and conventional strategic arms into the agenda of the discussions.3
This paper is devoted to the problem of strategic conventional arms.4 As shown below, U.S. and Russia disagree on the impact of strategic conventional arms on strategic stability. Moreover, the sides do not even share a common vision on what types of conventional arms should be referred to as strategic. In further analysis the term strategic conventional arms is defined as arms that carry conventional payloads and might have a counterforce capability, and, hence, exert an influence on strategic balance between the U.S. and Russia.
This article provides an analysis of the New START treaty limitations with respect to strategic conventional arms. The analysis shows that the new treaty contains the following measures:
- Numerical limits on Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), ICBM and SLBM launchers, deployed warheads on conventional ICBMs and SLBMs;
- Transparency measures with respect to those strategic delivery systems equipped for conventional armaments, for which similar systems equipped for nuclear armaments exist (ICBMs, ballistic missile submarines, heavy bombers);
- Limited transparency measures with respect to those strategic delivery systems equipped for conventional armaments, for which similar systems equipped for nuclear armaments have been eliminated or converted to systems equipped for conventional armaments (SSGNs, heavy bombers).
Our analysis also shows that the strategic conventional arms are limited by the New START Treaty to a much lesser extent than by the old treaty. Moreover, the New Treaty does not prohibit development of some types of strategic arms that were banned by the previous treaty.
The article also discusses ways for solving the problem of strategic conventional arms.
Complete article in PDF (84 kB)
1) Eugene Miasnikov, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies at Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.
2) Nuclear Posture Review Report, 6 April 2010,
3) Anatoli Diakov, Timur Kadyshev and Eugene Miasnikov, Remarks on Further Reductions of Nuclear Weapons, Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies at MPTI, Dolgoprudny, February 3, 2010.
4) On the impact of conventional precision guided weapons on strategic stability, see, for example: Eugene Miasnikov, Limiting Counterforce Capability of Precision Guided Weapons, In: Reset of U.S.-Russian Relations in Nuclear Sphere, Ed. by Alexei Arbatov and Vladimir Dvorkin, Carnegie Moscow Center, 2010, in print; Eugene Miasnikov, The Counterforce Potential of Precision Guided Munitions, In: Nuclear Proliferation: New Technologies, Weapons, Treaties, Ed. by Alexei Arbatov and Vladimir Dvorkin, Carnegie Moscow Center, Moscow, 2009, pp. 84-103.