Russia suspends New START Treaty


  • Recently, Russia is suspending its participation in the New START Treaty, the last remaining major military agreement with the United States.

    • Russia said the fact that the US wants to inspect Russia’s military facilities — a requirement under the treaty — while at the same time saying openly that its goal is Russia’s strategic defeat, was the “theatre of the absurd”.

What is the New START Treaty?

  • The name START comes from the original “Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty”, known as START-I, which was signed between the US and the erstwhile USSR in 1991, and came into force in 1994.
  • START-I, which capped the numbers of nuclear warheads and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that each side could deploy at 6,000 and 1,600 respectively, lapsed in 2009, and was replaced first by the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT, also known as the Treaty of Moscow), and then by the New START treaty.
  • The New START, officially, the “Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms”, entered into force on February 5, 2011, and placed new verifiable limits on intercontinental-range nuclear weapons.
  • The two countries had to meet the treaty’s central limits on strategic offensive arms by February 5, 2018, and to then stay within those limits for the period the treaty remained in force.
  • The US and Russia Federation subsequently agreed to extend the treaty through February 4, 2026.
New START Treaty
Courtesy: Indian Military Review

What limits did the New START impose on the two countries?

  • The central limits of the treaty that the US and Russia met by February 5, 2018, and have adhered to since then are:
    • 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments;
    • 1,550 nuclear warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments (each such heavy bomber is counted as one warhead toward this limit);
    • 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.

How is compliance with the treaty ensured?

  • Detailed procedures for the implementation and verification of the central limits, and all treaty obligations, are part of the treaty terms.
  • The treaty provides for 18 on-site inspections per year for US and Russian inspection teams.
    • Type One inspections focus on sites with deployed and non-deployed strategic systems (up to 10 per year)
    • Type Two inspections focus on sites with only non-deployed strategic systems (up to 8 per year).
  • Since the New START Treaty’s entry into force, as of February 1, 2023, the two parties have conducted 328 on-site inspections, exchanged 25,311 notifications, held 19 meetings of the Bilateral Consultative Commission, and held 42 biannual data exchanges on strategic offensive arms subject to the treaty.

What is the latest situation on compliance?

  • Russia was not complying with the New START, only remaining nuclear arms control treaty between the two countries, jeopardizing a source of stability in their relationship.
  • Russia’s refusal to facilitate inspection activities prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the treaty and threatens the viability of U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control.
  • Russia has also failed to comply with the New START treaty obligation to convene a session of the bilateral consultative commission in accordance with the treaty-mandated timeline.
  • Russia had announced in August 2022 that it was suspending US inspectors’ access to its nuclear arsenal, and in November, it had cancelled a diplomatic meeting of the bilateral commission.

Source: Indian Express

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