Russia suspends New START : What is its last remaining nuclear arms control treaty with US?

Russia suspends New START : What is its last remaining nuclear arms control treaty with US?

Context- Days before the first anniversary of the beginning of the war in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin announced in an address to his nation on Tuesday (February 21) that Russia is suspending its participation in the New START, the last remaining major military agreement with the United States.

Putin 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 “theater of the absurd”.


What is the New START?

  • 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.

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

According to the New START page on the website of the US Department of State, 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.
  • According to the State Department summary, these procedures govern the conversion and elimination of strategic offensive arms, the establishment and operation of a database of treaty-required information, transparency measures, a commitment not to interfere with national technical means of verification, the exchange of telemetric information, the conduct of on-site inspection activities, and the operation of the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC).
  • 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), and Type Two inspections focus on sites with only non-deployed strategic systems (up to 8 per year), the State Department note says.

What is the latest situation on compliance?

  • The State Department told Congress in January this year that 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, The New York Times reported.
  • The NYT report recalled that Russia had announced in August 2022 that it was suspending US inspectors’ access to its nuclear arsenal, and in November, it had canceled a diplomatic meeting of the bilateral commission.
  • Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency had reported then that the meeting was being postponed because the United States “did not want to take into account Russia’s priorities, they wanted to discuss only the resumption of inspections”.

Way Forward – Bilateral Arms Control agreements promote peace and stability in the world. Hence, cooperation rather than confrontation should be the goal.

Source- Indian Express

NEWS- Russia suspends New START : What is its last remaining nuclear arms control treaty with US?

Syllabus- GS-2; International Relations