Meeting Summary

The Future of Russian-US Strategic Arms Reductions: START III and Beyond

A Meeting Jointly Sponsored by the Center for Arms Control, Energy, and Environmental Studies, the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and the MIT Security Studies Program

The Royal Sonesta Hotel
Cambridge, Massachusetts
February 2 - 6, 1998

Published in June, 1998

About | Contents | Meeting Schedule | Participants | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4-5

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Day 1

Session 1: Monday, 0900-1030
Projected Forces with and without START II - David Mosher and Paul Podvig

Opening Remarks

Ted Postol opened, noting that discussion at the conference must be informed by political and economic realities, but that all present should focus also on the fundamental objectives of arms reductions, as well as how to implement them from a technical standpoint. He argued that there is a considerable danger of reductions that make for a less stable rather than a more stable situation.

Anatoli Diakov, in his opening remarks, reminded participants that the Duma was now carrying out its preliminary preparations for START II ratification. The mood of that ratification process, he said, will be greatly dependent on what "next steps" have been agreed to between the two sides, and the present conference can play a role in identifying the relevant issues.

Both Postol and Diakov expressed their thanks to the organizations that have provided funding for the conference (Ford, MacArthur, and W. Alton Jones Foundations), and Diakov thanked the US organizers, as well.

Presentation by David Mosher: US Nuclear Forces Under START II.

A likely US force mix under START II might include 500 Minuteman IIIs, loaded at one W-78 or W-87 warhead each; 14 Trident submarines, with 24 D-5 missiles loaded at 5 mostly W-76 warheads (with less than 400 W-88s) each (warhead types can be mixed on submarines); 21 B-2 bombers at 16 B-61/B-83 bombs each and 71 B-52s, loaded at eight, twelve, or twenty W-80 warheads, for a total of 3500 strategic warheads deployed.

The total stockpile, including the deployed weapons, the active, non-deployed stockpile for maintenance, and the inactive stockpile and hedge (in the event that Russia does not ratify START II) might add to some 10,000 warheads. Whether or not the hedge would be supplied with tritium is an open question. Note that there will be a total of seven different warhead types in the enduring stockpile, with the W-76s representing about half of what is deployed. Other types are maintained as insurance against a systemic failure of a warhead type.

Regarding policy, the nuclear posture review has been the most significant nuclear weapons policy statement in recent years. Its policy of lead and hedge until Russian START II ratification called for reducing delivery vehicles while maintaining the active stockpile at START I levels. Congressional requirements in recent years have supported this by prohibiting further reductions. The Quadrennial Defense Review also stated that the US would remain at START I levels until START II was ratified. The Department of Energy's Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program calls for components to be produced at START II rates, while the complex continues to be sized for START I level production. Most recently, a new Presidential Decision Directive reduced nuclear requirements in a way that would allow the United States to reduce its forces to START III levels, but only after that Treaty has been negotiated and ratified.

The Trident submarines are the main difference between START I and START II. The deferral of START II at Helsinki raises some questions regarding the C-4 SLBMs by prolonging their period of use until 2007. Yet, the weapons can't last beyond 2005 and the submarines themselves require substantial overhaul and refueling beginning in 2002. As for deactivation by 2003, as called for in the Helsinki declaration, there are questions regarding process. Many feel that simply removing the missiles would be foolish. Another option would be to remove the shroud or guidance system instead. But the truly fundamental question lies in the contradiction of maintaining weapons one plans to get rid of.


On whether either the test kits for the missiles or the D-5s would also expire soon and whether C-4 aging calls for the production of more D-5s, Mosher responded that the D-5s would last longer, about 25 years, and that the test kits were also fine. He emphasized that the key question is the maintenance of weapons that are actually slated for destruction. The first backfits of the C-4s with the D-5s are slated to start in 2000-2001 and it is as yet uncertain whether it is cheaper to sustain the C-4s or to buy D-5s.

It was noted that the four Trident subs that are to be decommissioned are seen by the Navy as a possible platform for non-nuclear precision strike weapons, such as the Army's ATACMs. In addition to these short-range weapons, there have been tests using ICBMs and SLBMs to launch conventional weapons.

An odd situation is created because in previous years the next generation of weapons was in development as the current one was tested. Because the missiles weren't built to last, the current problems of short lifetimes was created. Remotoring, which was done with Polaris and Minuteman, is difficult with the C-4 because of its fiberglass casing-although apparently the fiberglass casings were reused with Polaris. While there has been talk of developing a D-5 follow-on missile that the Air Force and the Navy could both use, the corporate Navy is not interested in nuclear weapons. It stays in the game as a result of pressure from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). However, some might say that this is simply a bargaining tactic on the Navy's part.

The new attack submarine in development has a modular section in the middle to hold missiles. The hull diameter is smaller than that of the Trident, although it cannot be smaller than 33 feet for something in the 7-8,000 ton class due to problems with the length to diameter ratio and the number of decks required. For example, in the Trident submarine the missile sticks out of the hull, but the more it does so, the more weight is required on the bottom and the wider the sides have to be.

Mosher presented his upper and lower bound estimates for a possible START III force, as well as an in-between "best guess" estimate. He noted that he did not think the lower or upper bound particularly likely. The best guess estimate assumes that bombers are kept and that the submarines remain loaded at 24. It is possible to remove submarine tubes or fill them with concrete, which is a good cost-saving idea, and likely quite feasible. However, this idea is one which the Navy strongly dislikes, perhaps because of concerns regarding targeting flexibility.

On whether there is a possibility of giving up Bangor and transitioning to a single Trident base, Mosher replied that the Navy is committed to two bases, although some consolidation is ongoing and there will only be a single training facility. Mosher explained that the submarines would be converted to D-5s over the course of two years, and would be shifted between bases to equalize numbers. The issue hinges on the comfort level of the Navy and OSD with a single base. It would be easier to track US subs if there was only one base. Bob Dietz noted that if only one base was retained, Bangor may be the better bet for secrecy.

It was asked whether the speeded up deactivation called for by Clinton and Yeltsin also presented practical problems and, if not, whether dropping the hedge on the part of the US would increase deactivation speed. Mosher responded that while there is no problem with deactivating by 2003, there are real problems of keeping the weapons until 2007.

Returning to the question of filling the tubes with concrete, it was noted that this is not an option permitted under START I, and may require a new agreement. From a US perspective it might be thought a new agreement would be appealing to Russia, given that it would decrease upload potential.

Regarding an argument that SALT II is a precedent for negotiating a follow-on treaty prior to ratification of a current one, it was noted that Congress as a whole opposes doing this with START II and III, although many others support the notion, recognizing Russian dissatisfaction with START II. However, START III negotiation may also not be easy. Further, the analogy to SALT II is faulty, given that the Reagan administration came into office firmly opposed to the treaty, while Congress was sympathetic to it-a reversal of the current situation. Still, proceeding to negotiate START III may well be a good idea.

Presentation by Paul Podvig: Projections of future Russian forces. (See also a complete text of the presentation).

Podvig's projections are made for 10 years in the future-to 2008. They assume no significant increases in production, no new programs, but that current programs are continued and that life-extension is undertaken. Looking at the numbers, one concludes that there is no real difference between START II and START III for Russia. Regardless, the major decreases in Russian numbers are due to losses of MIRVed weapons.

Regarding the weapons themselves, the SS-19, the oldest missile in the Russian arsenal, can be maintained at a level of 100 or so through 2008 by replacing some missiles with never-fueled missiles whose warranties have not yet entered into effect. The 39 SS-19s that had been stationed in Ukraine, for instance, are "dry" in this way. The SS-18 comes in three versions, of which the R-36M2 is the newest, built in 1988 and commissioned in 1989. There are at least 90 of these, which were deployed in Kazakstan. Their "newness" rests on a redesigned second stage, and perhaps other modifications. If the service lives of these weapons, some of which were not deployed until 1992/1993, were extended to 20 years, they might last quite a while. Thus, Russia might keep three SS-18 divisions.

Regarding the SS-24s, it is assumed that Russia will give up this modern solid propellant missile which was Ukrainian-made and designed (as is the SS-18, although there are maintenance agreements for it with Ukraine). Podvig was challenged regarding whether he didn't take too seriously whether a "dry" missile built years ago was not also degraded in terms of its guidance system, for instance. Podvig responded that the guarantee was real. While a five year extension may require little more than agreeing to degrade reliability estimates, it still means that the missile remains in service five years longer. Further, Russia has considerable experience with life extension. A missile is examined at intervals and then guaranteed for some future period of time. No repair work is done on them in this process and they are not drained or refilled.

Regarding the SS-11 life span, Podvig noted that the SS-11 was a successful experiment in life extension. It is his understanding that the warheads were removed for safety reasons while the missiles remained in their silos far beyond their original lifetime.

Session 2: Monday, 11:00 - 12:30
Summary of Projected Forces With and Without START II (Paul Podvig)

Paul Podvig (continued from first morning session)

Podvig continued his discussion of the Russian ICBM force. The SS-25 is the only Russian missile still in production. 288 SS-25 missiles existed in July 1990, but the force had increased to 360 by January 1997. The original service life of ten years for the SS-25 is being extended to fifteen years, but Russia is less confident in the life-extension of the solid-propellant missiles than in the liquid fueled missiles with which it has more experience. Diakov added that Russia's life extension programs are planned to increase the life expectancy of their nuclear warheads from 7-10 years to 20-25 years. 1997-1998 might be the last year of SS-25 production as Russia turns to production of its new missile, the SS-27 (Topol-M). This solid-propellant missile will be deployed in silos, possibly in SS-18 silos. There are currently two deployed SS-27s, one of which is a training missile. Due to economic constraints, Russia is currently producing ten missiles per year though its capacity is eighty missiles per year.

Looking at the effect of arms control treaties on the future of Russia's force, Podvig predicted that in 2008, under START I limits only, the force would consist of about 467 ICBMs and 2269 ICBM warheads. START II ratification and implementation would further reduce the force to only 314 single warhead ICBMs. This is the primary effect of START II on Russian forces. These are conservative estimates based on current production rates, but an increase in funding to these programs might result in a larger force than predicted here. Military estimates may be different because they do not incorporate life-extension programs into their predictions.

With regard to the Russian submarine forces, there are currently eleven Delta IIIs which will be phased out of service by 2005. Russia has chosen to dismantle these submarines in favor of directing additional money into newer submarines. There are seven Delta IVs in the Russian navy, two of which might be scheduled for dismantlement (for the above reason), but five of which will remain active. Two Typhoon-class submarines have been deactivated, and Podvig assumed that one more will be deactivated by 2008. It is possible that all the submarines of this class may be decommissioned, but it is likely that the three most recently built Typhoons will remain. A consideration for the future of the Typhoons is the replacement of the missiles that they carry. The replacement missiles have failed several flight tests and their development is therefore well behind schedule. This problem might lead to the early decommissioning of all of the Typhoons. The construction of the first of a new class of SSBNs, the Yuri Dolgorukii, began in December 1996. It is expected to enter service in 2002 or 2003. Each of these new submarines will carry 12 or 16 missiles, with perhaps four warheads each. The number of submarines to be retained in the Russian fleet is not affected by the ratification and implementation of either START I or START II.

Current Russian bombers have relatively new air frames. The Tu-95MS Bear was built between 1984 and 1991 and may remain in the bomber force until 2009. This bomber carries six cruise missiles. Although some versions of this bomber can carry up to 16 cruise missiles, doing so greatly reduces their range. The Tu-160 Blackjack was deployed almost exclusively on Ukrainian territory under Soviet rule. When the Soviet Union broke up, Russia was left with only six of these aircraft, which were built in 1991-1992. Production of the Blackjack is unlikely to be resumed. Implementation of START I and START II will not force changes in the numbers of bombers. In addition, the life of Russia's strategic aircraft is probably longer than the conservative estimates which are usually given.

There are several differences between the results of implementing START I vs. START II. First, START I leaves Russia with more total strategic warheads (4,000 vs. 2,100). Second, START I is somewhat cheaper for Russia because SS-18 dismantlement and silo conversion is not necessary. Third, under the implementation of START I only, the US retains its full MX and Trident II counterforce capability, leaving Russian launchers more vulnerable. The reduction of US counterforce capability is regarded in Russia as the best argument for ratification of START II. However, the upload potential which the United States could have after the START II implementation could greatly undermine this argument.

Implementing START III counters two of the problems that Russia finds with START II. First, START III would be cheaper because Russia does not have to convert its SS-18 silos. Second, START III might reduce both the US counterforce and upload potentials, reducing Russian fears of strategic inferiority.


What about the expected time frame for START III reductions? Podvig said that the only reason he used the 2007 date was that this was the date specified in the Helsinki agreement. The date seems to have no relationship to the actual planned dismantlement time of the weapons likely to be reduced. However, although Podvig thought that the chosen time frame was largely arbitrary, he speculated that there might be some relation to the warranty expiration of some of the Russian strategic systems.

Eugene Miasnikov emphasized that there are many internal impediments to Russian ratification of START II, and the high costs of implementation are one of them. There are also external issues impeding ratification. In 1993-95, opponents of START II most frequently used the argument that Russian strategic submarines are vulnerable. Some experts were also concerned with survivability of mobile land based missiles. These arguments are also repeated now from time to time. However the emphasis of discussion has now shifted to three other issues. First, the breakout potential of the U.S. forces. Second, Moscow is concerned about the US pursuit of ballistic missile defenses. Finally, Russians see NATO expansion both as highly antagonistic and as a threat to Russian security which cannot be countered conventionally.

Petr Romashkin challenged the argument that the implementation of START II was more expensive than START I. Podvig agreed that in the long run the cost of maintaining forces at the START I levels is, in fact, greater than the cost of the START II implementation.

Steve Fetter reported that there were estimates that Russian forces may drop below 1,000 warheads whether or not START II is ratified due to the cost of maintaining and updating these forces and the approaching warranty expiration of several systems. Podvig doubted the accuracy of these estimates. Ted Postol remarked that it would certainly be possible to maintain Russian forces by technical means if the resources were committed. The important factor was the presence of a political commitment to maintain or update Russian nuclear forces.

Joshua Handler presented his estimates of future Russian forces, which took into account an increase in ICBM production when the Russian economy stabilized. However, he predicts that SLBM and bomber forces will still be significantly reduced. His high, medium, and low estimates for Russian warheads in 2007 (after the implementation of START II) were 2,400, 1,400, and 700 warheads respectively. By 2012, Handler expected that his high and medium estimates would shrink further, but the lower estimate would remain relatively steady.

Eugene Miasnikov agreed that the future of Russian forces was largely dependent upon the state of the economy and the amount of resources slated to nuclear programs but pointed out that the reforms currently underway, in addition to defense conversion, were currently using up resources. Even more importantly, by 2008, Russian conventional forces would be greatly reduced and certainly nowhere near the size of other forces in the region. Therefore, a better economy would likely mean the diversion of greater resources to strategic programs. Thus, people should not disregard the possibility that the future scenarios with higher numbers of warheads may be more accurate. Ted Postol added here that economies are highly elastic so that if the Russians perceived a threat, they would likely reprioritize and spend more money on strategic forces than current trends indicate.

Was it crucial for Russia to maintain strategic parity? Although there was general agreement that strategic parity was not necessary, it was recognized that Russian reductions below the number of U.S. forces would be a daring move. Roland Lajoie notes that such a move could put pressure on the United States to further reduce its forces.

Session 3: Monday, 14:00-15:30

Objectives of Future Reductions -- Ted Postol

Postol prefaced his talk with its title, 'The Objectives of Arms Reductions Over the Long Term, from a Narrow Point of View.' He noted that two important reasons for a quick transition to lower force levels are that it would reap economic benefits as well as be potentially much safer than current levels.

The narrow topic of the talk concerned the danger to Russian strategic forces posed by the U.S. Trident II SLBM force. To illustrate the problems that this weapon could cause, especially as regards accidental launches and misinterpretations, Postol began by recounting a recent 'false alarm' incident.

In January 1995, a high-trajectory scientific rocket was launched from a Norwegian island site towards the North Pole. It was a 4-stage vehicle: the 2 lower stages burned rapidly; the 3rd propelled the payload to 70 km altitude, and the 4th to 150 km before burning out. This rocket caused a nuclear alert within the Russian command and control system. Postol recounted that he was unable, at the time, to determine why such a launch situation might lead to an alert, given the existence of Russian early warning radars, and his resulting analysis led to the following conclusions.

First, the rocket rose over the horizon (from the Russian point of view) directly on a great-circle route from American ICBM fields at Grand Forks. Second, its high trajectory could have brought to mind talk of high-altitude 'blinding' detonation tactics designed to defeat early-warning and communications systems.

The third point was the most telling. The Trident 1st stage burns out at an altitude similar to that of the 3rd stage of the science rocket. The Trident 2nd stage burnout would come at a point which would look quite like the 4th stage burnout of the scientific vehicle.

Given the tens of seconds of reaction time which such a launch would permit Russian strategic forces, it is quite understandable that this report was passed up the chain by the observing units. It is not their job to make policy, but to report what they see. Although the alert likely wasn't that serious, it serves to demonstrate the alert levels that Russian and U.S. militaries remain at today.

There is talk of the effect of the accuracy and lethality of U.S. ICBM forces on Russian forces, but ICBMs are easily observable and their states can be continually monitored. However, the Trident system poses a more difficult observation and warning problem for the Russians. From U.S. Navy open-source statements, the Trident can definitely achieve 100-meter, and perhaps 50-meter, accuracy at 4,000 nautical mile (7,400 km) range. This is easily accurate enough to hit and threaten fixed hard targets such as Russian ICBMs.

U.S. Navy Admiral Nanos has stated that the Mk. IV warhead used in the Trident (100kt yield) is of little value versus hardened targets because it is designed only for airbursts. However, if we examine published Defense Nuclear Agency research on dust clouds and pressure effects from 100kt airbursts (performed to evaluate MX 'dense-pack' basing schema in the 1980s), we see that they demonstrate that 100psi-200psi 'hard' targets can be destroyed with a 100kt warhead bursting at an altitude of approximately 560 feet (170 meters). Although the overpressure at ground zero for such a burst would not be as large as for the same warhead detonating at ground level, at ranges of 100 to 500 meters from ground zero the overpressures are quite similar. Thus, a 50-meter CEP 100kt warhead (such as the W76 used in the Trident II) has a probability of destruction(Pk) of a 3000psi target of about 0.85; and a 2-on-1 attack has a Pk of about 0.95-0.97. This is higher than for a surface burst from the newer W88 warhead!

Thus Russian missiles in silos are highly vulnerable to an attack by Trident. Moreover, it is questionable if Russian forces could even manage a launch-on-warning under a well-coordinated Trident attack, given the short warning times of such launches.

If you have a highly vulnerable force (subject to preemption) you will want a very high-quality and rapid attack assessment capability, and very rapid and survivable communications. These requirements place high demands on systems and personnel, and are coupled by vulnerability.

The actual susceptibility of forces to attack is a matter of guesswork; arms reductions will directly impact vulnerability. Rather than 'bean-counting', Dr. Postol averred that both sides need to look at the structure and the security of their forces, and the effect that reductions will have on both. In general, having vulnerable forces leads (in his analysis) to a situation with such high requirements on personnel and C4I systems that any threat to these systems is magnified, leading to a degradation of stability.


Valeri Yarynych stated that he agreed with Postol's assessment of the vulnerability of Russian silo-based force, but raised questions regarding the vulnerability of mobile missiles, and asked how Postol felt START II would affect the situation. Postol responded that although he did not like START II's structure, he felt that Russian ratification of the treaty is important in order to keep the process of arms reductions moving. As far as mobile missiles are concerned, he noted that while in theory they are less vulnerable, the Russian force is operated in such a way as to make them in fact more vulnerable. Due to security and budget concerns, the missiles generally remain in garrisons when not on high alert, rendering them highly vulnerable to pre-emptive attack.

What would be the potential effectiveness of such a Trident attack, what would be the potential environmental damage to the U.S., and what would be the possibility for retaliation following such an attack? Postol noted that although he has faith in rational decision makers not to launch such an attack, the problem here is one of crisis decision making, where people under enormous pressure could begin to consider 'damage limiting' actions. Although the U.S. would certainly suffer enormous damage if it were to launch such an attack, Dr. Postol worries that this outcome might, in time of severe crisis, nevertheless be seen as preferable to not launching.

Petr Romashkin asked whether an analyses such as this, if performed and published by both Russian and U.S. analysts, would affect decision-making. Dr. Postol responded that one reason for activities such as this conference is to allow both sides to talk about these problems without the hampering effect of security considerations. He went on to note that he was not confident rationality would prevail in time of crisis, making the effect of his analysis on rational policy moot.

Bob Dietz noted that just looking at the feature set of the Trident shows how hard the U.S. designers and planners pushed for accuracy. Postol added that while in conventional military operations the creation of confusion is useful, in nuclear planning creating confusion is hazardous.

What was the U.S. seeking in terms of arms cuts? Postol responded that this was an abstract analysis; in technical terms, the best solution is to have, on each side, very secure small forces that have no hope of successfully engaging each other. Small, effective SLBM forces on both sides are both effective in this regard and technically feasible for both sides. He emphasized that nuclear SLCMs would be counterproductive, and should not be deployed.

Aleksey Ovcharenko stated his agreement with Dr. Postol that ICBMs and land-based forces are destabilizing, especially when compared to sea based forces (although, he noted, Cols. Yarynych and Romashkin would disagree - laughter). However, he added, Russian SLBM forces are a quite capable reserve against attacks such as those in Dr. Postol's analysis.

What about the possible vulnerability of SLBM command and control systems? Postol replied that during his tenure at the Pentagon, analysts worried about this a great deal. However, when it was tested through wargames which assumed 'worst-case' scenarios, the submarine force always received action messages, even if slightly delayed and not coordinated. He added that VLF communications with the submarine force are constant, and on its loss (as during a nuclear strike) the submarines are under orders to immediately attempt to regain contact through all possible means. Aleksey Ovcharenko added that Postol was quite correct; the communication links to submarines are multiply redundant and tested, and that Russian forces use the same sort of aircraft, ship, and satellite relay system as do the American forces.

The session closed with Petr Romashkin announcing that he was prepared to argue with any and all points made by Dr. Postol during the next day's session (laughter).

Session 4: Monday, 16:00 - 17:30

Objectives of Future Reductions -Eugene Miasnikov. (See also a complete text of the presentation).

Miasnikov argued that further nuclear arms reductions were necessary because current levels remained excessive, could lead to another nuclear arms race, contributed to nuclear proliferation, and were expensive to maintain. Russia and the United States were also obligated to pursue nuclear disarmament under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Although ratification of START II had run into problems in Russia, this did not mean that there was a lack of public support for nuclear disarmament. In fact, there was a general understanding that nuclear arsenals should be reduced further. However, the problems with START II demonstrated that a new treaty would have to be fair to both sides. To reach a START III agreement, it would be necessary to avoid the problems that had been encountered with START II and to take into account Russian concerns.

The problem with START II is that it would exacerbate the asymmetry between U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. Most of Russia's arsenal consists of warheads on strategic systems that would have to be eliminated, and eliminated warheads would require years to redeploy. Russia was also required to eliminate launchers while in many cases the U.S. was only expected to proceed with down-loading its forces. This asymmetry provided the U.S. with a substantial advantage in breakout potential that was not addressed by the Helsinki agreement. For example, the agreement did not specify the disposition of the warheads left over after START II was implemented. The United States and Russia were taking small steps toward warhead control but the best that might be expected would be an agreement on controlling warheads already scheduled to be liquidated.

A recent MIPT Center study concludes that within the framework of a START III agreement, it would be possible to reduce nuclear arsenals to a level of 1500 warheads while preserving strategic stability. Cuts in warheads and launchers would be required. For example, SLBMs can be reduced to 200 launchers through irreversible technical changes and the number of silos cut to 200 to address Russian concerns about breakout potential. Technical steps needed to be introduced to distinguish deployed warheads from those that constitute a breakout potential. With regard to Trident SLBMs and SS-19 and Minuteman III missiles, old RV platforms needed to be eliminated. The transfer of conventional systems back to nuclear delivery systems should be prohibited. Russian experts are also concerned by appearance of the term "nuclear warheads" for ICBMs and SLBMs in Helsinki agreements, because it may provide an opportunity for one side to evade the terms of a treaty by deploying conventional warheads on strategic delivery systems if these delivery systems are not eliminated by the Treaty.

Ratification and implementation of START III would depend on other issues, such as NATO expansion and the development of missile defense systems by the United States. The counterforce capability of conventional weapons also needed to be addressed. Other measures could include limits on anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and improvements in the transparency of nuclear arsenals. Deeper reductions in strategic weapons would have to take into account the question of survivability.


Was safe to assume that the Russian nuclear submarine force would remain invulnerable given increasing U.S. ASW capability? Miasnikov responded that his studies showed that it was impossible for the U.S. to monitor all nuclear submarines and preempt a retaliatory strike. Nevertheless, it was widely believed in Russia that the nuclear submarine force was vulnerable. The continuation of U.S. ASW activities near Russian submarine bases was a problem. Ted Postol argued that Russian submarines were vulnerable if they were noisy and operated incorrectly. However, Russia was pursuing efforts to make them quieter and more difficult to detect. He agreed that there was a problem of education that needed to be addressed and that the U.S. should not be conducting ASW exercises off the Russian coast.

Steve Fetter thought that the breakout potential of the U.S. arsenal was exaggerated and asked why it was such a concern in Russia. The first stage of MX missiles was going to be destroyed and the nuclear fire control systems in bombers were being removed. Recertifying those bombers for nuclear missions would take several years. In response, Miasnikov observed that the manufacturer of the MX was already talking about a replacement using the 2nd and 3rd stages of the MX, the U.S. was refusing to make technical modifications on various storage equipment and procedures, and that recertification could be simplified if relations between the U.S. and Russia became tense.

Would precision-guided munitions (PGMs) and NATO expansion would make an agreement more difficult to reach? Miasnikov explained that these issues could be resolved in parallel to START III negotiations. Based on the discussion of START II, it seemed that ratification of START III would be a function of these issues. The problem of PGMs, which might threaten the survivability of nuclear weapons, could be addressed through discussion of confidence building measures.

David Mosher suggested that reducing nuclear arsenals to 1,000 weapons or less would require a change in how Russia and the U.S. viewed deterrence. Until both sides recognized the sufficiency of an existential deterrent of 50-100 weapons, they would continue to disagree. If Russia's forces were non-targetable, NATO expansion and other issues might not be so problematic. If Russia thought 500 warheads provided adequate deterrence, it might be less concerned with asymmetry.

Would mobile missiles be an important part of Russian future strategic forces? Miasnikov replied that mobile missiles would continue to be part of Russia's nuclear arsenal given current tendencies, the forces that were now in the inventory, and the lack of sufficient time to restructure the industry.

Did he agree with the objective of invulnerable strategic forces and the 10-15 year timeline proposed by Ted Postol for further nuclear reductions? Miasnikov agreed with the objective, but noted that the counterforce potential of conventional weapons would also be relevant. The timeline was more difficult to predict given all of the other factors involved, such as politicians' intentions and public opinion.

Would Russia demand an end to U.S. ASW operations off its coast if the number of SSBNs was reduced to a particular number? Postol stated that the real problem with U.S. ASW operations was not that they posed a threat to the survivability of Russian submarines, but rather that they constituted a safety threat. Paul Podvig said, however, that there was a Russian perception that its submarines were vulnerable and that restricting ASW operations was therefore a very popular idea in Russia. Moreover, such measures could be easily implemented and would be well received in Russia. Miasnikov recalled that an agreement was reached in 1972 to prevent accidents involving surface or air forces and it should now be extended to submarines.

Paul Podvig commented that U.S. policies on PGMs, NATO expansion, and START I implementation raised suspicions about U.S. intentions. The U.S. seemed to be acting in an unfriendly manner and ignoring Russian concerns. Doubts about U.S. intentions heightened concern about breakout potential. Deeper cuts in nuclear arsenals and a relationship of trust were interrelated but somehow they had become detached. What measures could be taken within START II and III to build trust between the U.S. and Russia?

Was there was any concern about the early warning system and how its development might affect strategic forces in the future? Petr Romashkin responded that the early warning system, especially the land-based component, had broken up after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The space-based component remained but required significant resources to operate and additional funding for the system was unlikely. To Paul Podvig, Russia's ability to keep the space-based system operating despite its economic difficulties and the expense involved provided reason for some optimism about the future of the early warning system. Ted Postol suggested that if Russia needed to improve its capability to monitor large ground areas with geostationary satellites, the U.S. could help by providing Russia with the necessary sensor technology.

For more information, please, contact Prof. Theodore Postol (617-253-8077, U.S.A.) or Prof. Anatoli Diakov (095-408-6381, Russia).