Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies at MIPT

Next Steps in U.S.-Russia Arms Reductions

Eugene Miasnikov's remarks at the Conference "Next Steps in Arms Control: Nuclear Weapons, Missile Defense and NATO"1, Washington D.C., November 8, 2010

Transcripts of the Conference

Itís an honor and pleasure to be here today, and Iíd like to thank the organizers for granting me such an opportunity. Itís difficult to be optimistic after such persuasive presentations, but let me nevertheless try. Itís well-known that when the U.S. and Russian presidents signed the START accord, they came to an agreement that its ratification would be synchronized. Unlike the outcome of the New START ratification process in the United States, the result of similar procedure in Russia is quite predictable. Provided that the new treaty is approved by the Senate, the Russian parliament will almost certainly respond with no delay and approve the treaty.

The New START debates in the United States are followed in Russia very closely. Itís regrettable that the agreement became hostage of internal politics in this country. But I hope, and my colleagues hope, this issue will be resolved in favor of building a better relationship between our countries. The entry of the New START treaty into force is a necessary step in this direction, and I fully agree with the implications which the ambassador just talked about.

Many Russian experts also believe that New START should pave the way to broader dialogue on further nuclear reductions and improving strategic stability. By the way, the Russian expert community welcomes the fact that the phrase ďstrategic stabilityĒ has appeared in the new nuclear posture review. I fail to find this term in the previous NPR of 2001. Moreover, the new NPR sets up a goal to pursue bilateral dialogue with Russia aimed at promoting a more stable, resilient and transparent strategic relationship. Thus, we hope that further dialogue will also be more like between partners and friends rather than between rivals.

At the same time, the resolution of advice and consent to ratification of the START treaty by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee brought some disappointment because it was written in a language that was very mistrustful with respect to Russia. In particular, Russia is suspected of an intention to cheat, which is totally ungrounded. Russia has also neither will nor resources to build up its rail-mobile missile force, which appears to be a concern for some U.S. senators. After all, the new treaty contains paragraph two of Article 5, which allows both parties to raise the question of new kinds of strategic defensive arms for consideration in the Bilateral Consultative Commission. This clause can be easily applied in case Russia ever decides to develop its rail-mobile missiles.

Another worrisome point with respect to the SFRC resolution is that the document limits the U.S. administrationís flexibility to bargain on the issues which will definitely be the most interesting to the Russian side at the next round of talks. There is no secret that Russia is willing to discuss limiting strategic missile defenses and nonnuclear strategic capabilities. At the same time, the SFRC resolution makes clear that the United States administration shouldnít accept any restrictions on missile defenses and conventional systems having strategic range, and by that, it undermines efforts to reach the next arms control agreement.

In any event, the vote seems now on the U.S. side. Provided that New START enters is in force, what could be the next step? There are indications that the U.S. administration is willing to discuss limits on both operational and nondeployed nuclear warheads so that the nondeployed category would also include those nuclear warheads that are assigned to nonstrategic delivery systems. Both speakers talked about that.

How Russia might respond to such a proposal? As to nonstrategic nuclear weapons, the Russian official attitude is well-known and it hasnít changed for years. Before beginning the discussion of nonstrategic nuclear weapons, nuclear states need to withdraw their nuclear weapons from their soil. Since NATO is unlikely to decide to move nuclear bombs from Europe back to the States at the forthcoming Lisbon summit, there is little incentive for Russia to change its current attitude.

Some might argue that limiting nondeployed nuclear warheads is beneficial for Russia because it would help to diminish Russian concerns about U.S. breakout potential. Whatís interesting about current Ė actually, almost nonexistent debates in Russia on the START treaty Ė the concern is about U.S. upload capability are rarely raised compared to, for example, concerns about U.S. missile defenses. Possibly one explanation for that is the assumption that Russia is not ready yet to talk about nonstrategic nuclear weapons.

However, it would be wrong to assume that the Russian side is not interested in further nuclear reductions at all. Russia would in fact prefer to discuss a different agenda. As I mentioned, the issues of missile defense and strategic conventional weapons have to become the subject of the next round of talks as well. Otherwise, itís hard to expect any breakthrough in limiting nonstrategic nuclear weapons or even introduction of some transparency measures with respect to this category of nuclear weapons.

Moreover, Russia may not agree to discuss the issue of nonstrategic nuclear weapons in isolation from the problem of conventional forces in Europe, either an area for a compromise between two differing approaches. Let me focus on the issues that are the most important for the Russian side. It may seem that at least with respect to the issue of missile defenses, the sides are currently on the way to come to a mutually acceptable solution. The U.S. side recognizes a need to resolve the issue and tries to initiate joint scientific and technical programs on missile-defense cooperation with Russia.

It looks like there is a hope at least in this country that success of such programs will strengthen mutual confidence between the sides so that Russia will stop considering the future U.S. missile-defense system as a threat to itself. By proposing such a dialogue on joint missile-defense cooperation programs, the United States is likely making an attempt to separate the problem of missile defenses from the dialogue on strategic offensive forces and move it into an alternative frame of another dialogue focused on missile-defense cooperation.

Since approaches of the sides towards the problem of missile-defenses differ fundamentally, itís difficult to predict a success in the outcome of the current dialogue. However, even if you assume that the U.S. approach allows to solve the problem of missile defenses, a similar approach to the problem of strategic conventional arms is unlikely to work at current circumstances as both sides continue to practice the concept of mutually assured destruction. The issue of conventional arms can only be resolved within the frame of a dialogue on strategic offensive arms.

Perhaps the same is true for missile defense but we will see. Iíd be happy to elaborate on that in the Q&A session. I believe that an approach similar to the one that was used during negotiations on the New START treaty might become more successful. Russiaís primary interest was reduction of the U.S. strategic forces, and United States wanted transparency of the Russian strategic forces. In spite of asymmetry of the interests, the sides succeeded to achieve a compromise.

Similarly, a potential compromise in the next round of talks can be sought in a broader field. For example, Russia might gain substantial benefits for itself in solving the problems of missile defenses and strategic conventional arms, provided that it makes some concessions regarding nonstrategic nuclear weapons. Let me stop here. Iíd be glad to take your questions. Thank you for your attention.


1) The event was sponsored by Arms Control Association and the Heinrich Bo"ll Stiftung North America.