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Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions (SORT) was signed by Russian and US presidents at Moscow Summit on May 24, 2002. The signing was preceded by six months of intensive bilateral negotiations between Russian and US experts.
Although de jure the signed document is a Treaty subject to ratification by Russian Federal Assembly and US Senate, de facto it is just a codification of unilateral statements made by the presidents at November, 2001 US-Russian Summit in the US. The main drawback of this document is that its provisions can be interpreted differently -- because key terms and conditions are not defined in it. Also, the document does not specifically define procedures of liquidation of weapons reduced and verification of the process.
Particularly, although the sides agreed to "reduce the levels of their strategic nuclear warheads to 1,700-2,200", they apparently have not reached a compromise in the definition of "strategic nuclear warheads" and, consequently, in warhead counting rules. It should be underscored, that START I Treaty uses different definition - "warheads attributed to strategic delivery systems" ("strategic warheads"). Appearance of an additional word "nuclear" in the new definition means that the Russian side in fact has agreed with the U.S. interpretation, which allows to deploy conventional warheads on strategic delivery platforms and at the same time excludes that platforms from counting. US Nuclear Posture Review released in January, 2002, assumes that further reductions will be conducted by means of downloading strategic platforms and shifting them to non-nuclear role. At the very beginning of SORT negotiations Russia insisted on irreversible reductions, which assumed "traditional" approach towards counting of strategic warheads (i.e. according to deployed launchers), and verifiable elimination of launchers reduced. The U.S. side made it clear that it wants to preserve the possibility to re-deploy reduced warheads should the need arise, and therefore refused to eliminate launchers.
Hearings on the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions (SORT) in the US Senate committees (started in July, 2002) demonstrate that US administration has already made a decision on how to implement the Treaty. In his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Secretary Colin L. Powell unambiguously stated that the US is going to count operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads only. Moreover, in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld made it clear that US is not going to discuss with Russia any verification measures for this treaty.
Although the signed document assumes that the the sides will have to work out the essence of the new document within the framework of Bilateral Implementation Commission, however, this process may last until the end of the term of the new treaty, namely December 31, 2012, since there are no additional limitations or specific phases of the new treaty implementation and each of the sides will itself determine the composition and structure of its strategic offensive arms. Which means that in fact both sides will implement reductions of their strategic forces by decreasing the status of readiness. That is, what was referred to as "diminishing the status of alert" before, now is suggested to be called "reductions". Furthermore, if no breakthrough is achieved over the problem of transparency of the reductions, the sides will have nothing left but "believe each other's word". However, US still possess rather effective means to control Russian nuclear arsenal -- Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. Elimination of Russian strategic weapons is currently implemented under this program, funded by the US Congress.
Thus, the SORT implementation mechanism is unlikely to become a natural extension of the START regime, which is what Russian side expected. Instead, it is likely to become a "parallel track", which will replace the START implementation mechanism after the START treaty's term ends in 2009.
In the end of June, 2002 text of the Treaty and article-by-article commentaries thereto were sent to the related committees of the State Duma and Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. Closed hearings of the treaty in the State Duma began October 1. According to existing information, open hearings are not scheduled.
President Putin sent the draft of the law on Treaty ratification to the State Duma in the Fall of 2002, and a working group subordinated to the Committees for International Relations and Defense has been established. This body included the State Duma members and representatives of respective ministries and departments. The working group worked out a new draft of the law and asked the State Duma Council to send it to President Putin with a proposal to withdraw the old draft and submit the new one. President Putin has agreed with the proposal of the working group and sent the new draft bill on ratification of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty to the State Duma on March 9, 2003. The State Duma approved the bill on May 14 2003 by a 294-134 vote. Simultaneously the Duma approved two statements: "În Securing Maintenance of Readiness and Development of the Strategic Nuclear Forces of the Russian Federation" and "On an Attitude of the State Duma on Strategic Offensive Reductions and Coordination Measures on Activities of Government Bodies of the Russian Federation in the Area of Strategic Offensive Reductions" (both in Russian).
The US Senate unanimously approved the US-Russian Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty on March 6, 2003. The Senate defeated two amendments to the treaty ratification resolution. One would have required Senate approval before the United States could withdraw from the treaty. The second amendment would have required annual intelligence reports on treaty compliance.
This page will be updated, as the events evolve.
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Current Events and Comments
- Exclusive: The State Duma Has Ratified SORT Treaty, - in Russian, (Pyotr Romashkin, expert on defense and security issues in "Yabloko" faction of the State Duma, May 16, 2003)
- SORT Treaty: For the Sake of Peace and Stability, - in Russian, (Parlamentskaya Gazeta, May 15, 2003)
- Statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the RUssian Federation on the Adoption by State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation of a Federal Law on Ratification of the Treaty Between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on Strategic Offensive Reductions, May 14, 2003.
- The Statement by the State Duma În Securing Maintenance of Readiness and Development of the Strategic Nuclear Forces of the Russian Federation", May 14, 2003.
- The Statement by the State Duma on an Attitude of the State Duma on Strategic Offensive Reductions and Coordination Measures on Activities of Government Bodies of the Russian Federation in the Area of Strategic Offensive Reductions, May 14, 2003.
- Alexander Yakovenko, the Official Spokesman of Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Answers a Media Question Regarding the Consideration at a Session of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation of the Question of the Ratification of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, May 13, 2003.
Official Statements and Documents
- SORT Resolution of Ratification, U.S. Senate, March 6, 2003
- Transcript of Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Georgy Mamedov Remarks and Answers to Questions at Press Conference for Russian and Foreign Media, Moscow, March 7, 2003
- Statement by Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs concerning US Senate Ratification of Russian-American Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, March 7, 2003
- Counted Hours Left before a War with Iraq, - in Russian, (by Vadim Solovyev, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, February 21, 2003) - an interview with Col. Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, first deputy chief of Russia's general staff.
- Statement By Alexander Yakovenko, The Official Spokesman Of Russia's Ministry Of Foreign Affairs Regarding Decision of Council of State Duma of Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation on Question of Ratification of the SOR Treaty, February 12, 2003
- Russian MFA Press Release On Meeting of Working Group of State Duma of the Federal Assembly on Preparation of Draft Federal Law on Ratification of the SOR Treaty, January 21, 2003
- General's Horoscope, - in Russian, (by Yulia Kalinina, Moskovskiy Komsomolets, January 9, 2003) - an interview with Major-General Yevgeni Buzhinskii, the Head of the International Treaties Department, Deputy Head of the Main Directorate for International Military Cooperation of the Russian Ministry of Defense
- Yuri Baluyevsky: 'The Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions Meets Russia's Interests of Today and Tomorrow', (Yaderny Control Digest, Winter-Spring 2003) - in PDF format
- Russian MFA Official Press Release On Joint Meeting of the Russian Federal Assembly State Duma Committees on Defense and on International Affairs Devoted to Ratification of Russian-American Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, December 17, 2002
- Alexander Yakovenko, the Official Spokesman of Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Answers a Media Question Regarding the Process of Ratification of the Russian-US Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, December 10, 2002
- Estimated Costs and Savings from Implementing the Moscow Treaty, (Congressional Budget Office, Letter to Honorable Joseph R. Biden Jr., September 2002)
- Alexander Yakovenko, the Official Spokesman of Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Answers a Question from Russian Media About When Meetings of Russian-US START/ABM Working Groups Will Be Held, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, September 24, 2002
- What To Do With The Treaty On Strategic Offensive Reductions?, - in Russian (by Anatoli Diakov, Timur Kadyshev, Eugene Miasnikov and Pavel Podvig, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, September 20, 2002). See also Gennady Khromov's comments (in Russian), the author is a participant of INF, START and other arms control treaties negotiations
- What Kind Is A New START Agreement Going To Be? - in Russian, (an excerpt from Vladimir Pozner's Vremena program, aired on ORT TV Station on May 12 10:30 PM )
- Needless Obligations. Why Does Russia Want A Treaty With No Substance?, (by Anatoli Diakov, Timur Kadyshev, Eugene Miasnikov and Pavel Podvig, Izvestia, March 18, 2002, p. 4)
- Take Russia’s "Yes" for an Answer, (by Pavel Podvig and Frank von Hippel, Global Beat Syndicate, March 18, 2002)
- Russia Should Be Careful About Its Wishes - They May Come True, - in Russian, (by Pavel Podvig, SMI.Ru, February 20, 2002)
- Pentagon's New Nuclear Policy, - in Russian, (by Eugene Miasnikov, January 22, 2002)
- The End of Strategic Arms Control?, (by Pavel Podvig, PONARS Policy Memo No. 217, December 2001)
- No Breakthrough on Strategic Reductions at the Summit, (by Eugene Miasnikov, November 15, 2001)
- Ending the Cold War Once and For All. Trust isn't enough. It takes treaties, (by Pavel Podvig, GlobalBeat, November 15, 2001)
- President Bush's Nuclear Arithmetic, - in Russian, (by Eugene Miasnikov, Izvestia, November 12, 2001)
- U.S.-Russian Relations in Nuclear Arms Reductions: Current State and Prospects, (ed. by Anatoli Diakov, Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies, Dolgoprudny, 52 pages, July 17, 2001). Complete report in Russian is available in PDF format, (350 Kb). See also a transcript of the press conference held on July 3rd, 2001 at the National Press Development Institute, - in Russian
- Previous publications at the special section Further Nuclear Reductions: Our Center's Vision
Opinions of Experts
- Senate Endorses Nuclear Reductions Treaty; Duma Delays, (by Christine Kucia, Arms Control Today, April 2003)
- The Russian Nuclear Arms Control Agenda After SORT, (by Nikolai Sokov, Arms Control Today, April 2003)
- Reefs on the Path to Disarmament, - in Russian, (by Vladimir Volkov, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, March 28, 2003)
- Exclusive: New Draft Bill on Ratification of the SOR Treaty, - in Russian, (by Pyotr Romashkin, March 12, 2003)
- U.S., Russian Legislatures Take Up SORT Ratification, (by Christine Kucia, Arms Control Today, March 2003)
- Beyond Arms Control: How to Deal with Nuclear Weapons, (by Rose Gottemoeller, Senior Associate Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 23, 2003)
- Lawmakers Dissatisfied with Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, - in Russian, (Pyotr Titov, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, February 7, 2003)
- Bush Plans Permanent U.S. Nuclear Advantage Under Moscow Treaty, (Natural Resources Defense Council, February 4, 2003)
- Flawed Nuclear Treaty Up For Senate Review, (Arms Control Association, Press Advisory, January 31, 2003
- Opinion: On Strategic Offence - Strategic Defense Problem, - in Russian, by Emid Ashratov, January 29, 2003
- Opinion: There Is No Strategic Offence - Strategic Defense Problem, (by Valery E. Yarynich, November 24, 2002)
- A Treaty that Works Against Us, - in Russian, (by Pyotr Vladimirov, Pravda, November 22, 2002)
- How Many Devils Can Fit on a Needle Point or Does the Strategic Arms Control Have a Future?, - in Russian, (by Yuri Fyodorov, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 21, 2002)
- Opinion A Treaty for the Sake of a Treaty?, - in Russian, (by Gennadiy Khromov, participant of INF, START I and other arms control treaties negotiations, September 27, 2002)
- A Breakdown of Breakout: U.S. and Russian Warhead Production Capabilities, (by Oleg Bukharin, Arms Control Today, October 2002)
- Testimony Submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee For a Hearing on the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty between The United States and Russia, (by Rose Gottemoeller, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowmnet for International Peace, September 12, 2002)
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