Frequently Asked Questions About New START

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
December 13, 2010
New START Treaty Signing

Our colleagues in the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance provide answers to frequently asked questions about the New START.


Q: Does the New START Treaty limit missile defenses?

A: Absolutely not. The New START Treaty does not constrain the United States from deploying the most effective missile defenses possible, nor does it add any additional cost or inconvenience.

As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates definitively stated, "The treaty will not constrain the U.S. from developing and deploying defenses against ballistic missiles, as we have made clear to the Russian government. The U.S. will continue to deploy and improve the interceptors that defend our homeland -- those based in California and Alaska. We are also moving forward with plans to field missile defense systems to protect our troops and partners in Europe, the Middle East, and Northeast Asia against the dangerous threats posed by rogue nations like North Korea and Iran."

STRATCOM Commander General Kevin Chilton also made it clear that " the combatant command also responsible for synchronizing global missile defense plans, operations and advocacy, I can say with confidence that this treaty does not constrain any current or future missile defense plans.""Relative to the recently expired START Treaty, the New START Treaty actually reduces constraints on the development of the missile defense program,"testified Lieutenant General Patrick O'Reilly, Director of the Missile Defense Agency.

For the Senate testimony of the Director of the Missile Defense Agency, click here. For general facts on Ballistic Missile Defense and the New START Treaty, click here.

Q: Is there a secret deal with the Russians on missile defense? Do they have a different idea about what our intentions are regarding missile defense?

A: There are no "secret deals" with Russia on missile defense.

The Administration has repeatedly communicated to the Russian Government at the highest levels that the United States will not agree to any limitations or constraints on U.S. ballistic missile defenses, and that the United States intends to continue improving and deploying BMD systems to defend the U.S. against limited missile launches, and to defend our deployed forces, allies, and partners against regional threats.

Lieutenant General Patrick O'Reilly, who heads the Missile Defense Agency, has confirmed that the New START Treaty does not limit our missile defense plans:

"I have briefed the Russians, personally in Moscow, on every aspect of our missile defense development. I believe they understand what that is. And that those plans for development are not limited by this Treaty."

The Administration has also repeatedly made clear that it is pursuing missile defense cooperation with Russia. As one example, at a June 17 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary Gates stated:

"Separately from the treaty, we are discussing missile defense cooperation with Russia, which we believe is in the interests of both nations. But such talks have nothing to do with imposing any limitations on our programs or deployment plans."

The Obama Administration believes that missile defense cooperation with the Russian Federation is in the national security interests of the United States, as did the Bush Administration. Restrictions or limitations on U.S. missile defense capabilities are not under discussion in any forum.

To learn the basic facts about missile defense, click here. For all the facts on missile defense cooperation, click here. To read the Senate testimony of Lieutenant General Patrick O'Reilly, head of the Missile Defense Agency, click here.


Q: Will we still have enough nuclear weapons to defend ourselves?

A: Yes, without a doubt. The New START Treaty ensures our military the flexibility to deploy and maintain our forces -- including bombers, submarines, and missiles -- in ways that best meet U.S. national security interests. This allows the United States to adjust our force structure over time as appropriate to the strategic circumstances.

The country's highest ranking military officer, Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, explained his support:

"I am convinced that New START...permitting as it does 1,550 aggregate warheads and the freedom to create our own force posture within that limit...leaves us with more than enough nuclear deterrent capability for the world we live in. I am convinced that it preserves the strength resident in our nuclear triad and that it retains our flexibility to continue deploying conventional global strike capabilities."

General James Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, concurred:

"So both for myself, as a previous commander at STRATCOM, and also for General Chilton, we both feel very comfortable with these numbers [in New START]...I think we have more than enough capacity and capability for any threat that we see today or might emerge in the foreseeable future."

The New START Treaty is in the best national security interests of the United States and there is every reason for the Senate to provide its advice and consent to ratification this year.

For facts about the U.S. nuclear force structure under the New START Treaty, click here. To understand why the New START Treaty makes America safer, click here.


Q: Why doesn't the New START Treaty cover tactical weapons?

A: From the outset, as agreed by Presidents Obama and Medvedev, the purpose of the New START Treaty was to reduce and limit the two nations' strategic offensive arms; therefore the issue of tactical nuclear weapons was not raised.

As Dr. James Miller, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, explained in his Senate testimony, "The reason for focusing first on strategic nuclear weapons was not because of the lack of importance of tactical nuclear weapons, but because the START Treaty was expiring and with it the verification provisions and limits under the treaty that we believe are essential to reducing uncertainty associated with Russian strategic forces." He added that "it will be extraordinarily difficult to take that next step [to reduce tactical nuclear stockpiles] if we don't first have START ratified and entered into force."

Deferring negotiations on tactical nuclear weapons until after a START successor agreement had been concluded was also the recommendation of the Perry-Schlesinger Congressional Strategic Posture Commission.

Former Secretary of Defense William Perry summed the issue up in his April Senate testimony:

"The focus of this treaty is on deployed warheads and it does not attempt to count or control non-deployed warheads. This continues in the tradition of prior arms control treaties. I would hope to see non-deployed and tactical systems included in future negotiations, but the absence of these systems should not detract from the merits of this treaty and the further advances in arms control which it represents."

The Administration is committed to seeking improved security of and reductions in Russian tactical nuclear weapons. We agree with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's call, in the resolution of advice and consent to ratification of the New START Treaty, to pursue an agreement with the Russians to address them. These negotiations offer our best chance to constrain Russian tactical nuclear weapons. We will consult closely with Congress and our Allies in planning and conducting any follow-on negotiations.


Q: Is the New START Treaty verifiable?

A: Yes. New START has a verification regime that is effective and robust, adapted to the requirements of the new treaty while building on the knowledge gained from the practices of the past.

The negotiators looked for ways, informed by earlier experiences, to make the verification regime simpler and safer to implement and, at the same time, minimize disruptions to the day-to-day operations of both sides' strategic forces. Data exchanges and on-site inspections work together with other verification means to ensure compliance with Treaty obligations. Our satellites and other methods, known as National Technical Means (NTM) of verification, a comprehensive data exchange, regular notifications to update that exchange, and on-site inspections, combine to enable us to observe and evaluate Russian activities.

The New START Treaty will allow for a resumption of vital on-site inspections of Russian strategic nuclear facilities, which have not been in effect since the December 2009 expiration of the START Treaty. There is no substitute for on-site inspections.

General Kevin Chilton, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) explained to the Senate that "...without New START, we would rapidly lose some of our insight into Russian strategic nuclear force developments and activities, and our force modernization planning and hedging strategy would be more complex and more costly."

We face a choice: If we ratify this Treaty, we will have a verification regime in place to track Russia's strategic nuclear weapons, including U.S. inspectors on the ground. If we do not, we will have no verification regime -- no inspectors, little insight into Russia's strategic arsenal and no framework for cooperation between the world's two nuclear superpowers.

Simply put, the United States is more secure and safer when our country is able to gain a better understanding of the Russian strategic arsenal.

The New START Treaty's chief negotiator, Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, explains the key facts about the verification regime here. For additional facts and information, click here.

Q: Why are these verification measures different from the ones in the 1991 START Treaty?

A: The New START Treaty has a verification regime that is effective and robust, adapted to the requirements of the new treaty while building on the knowledge gained from the practices of the past.

Experienced inspectors and weapons system operators served on the U.S. and Russian negotiating delegations for the New START Treaty. These experts made important contributions that helped us develop verification measures that are adapted to the requirements of this treaty, while also being simpler, less operationally disruptive and less costly to implement than the original START verification measures.

These new provisions were developed with the concerns and perspectives of the U.S. Department of Defense in mind. Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, agreed that the "...verification regime that exists in [the New START Treaty] is in ways, better than the one that has existed in the past." He also stated he is "...also convinced that the verification regime is as stringent as it is transparent… and born of more than 15 years of lessons learned under the original START Treaty."

The U.S. Intelligence community, as well as our entire military leadership, has testified about how important it is to reestablish our critical on-site inspections in Russia, as quickly as possible. Lieutenant General Donald Kerrick (Ret.), explained why:

"Now, after nearly a year in the dark, the Senate has the opportunity to turn the lights back on by ratifying the New START Treaty. The treaty must be promptly ratified for a very straightforward reason -- it makes America safe. As a former director for operations for the Defense Intelligence Agency, I can say definitively that this treaty makes an enormous difference to our nation's security."

Learn more about the New START Treaty verification measures here and here.


Q: Is the Administration committed to keeping our remaining nuclear weapons safe?

A: The United States is committed to ensuring the safety, security and effectiveness of our nuclear stockpile, as long as nuclear weapons exist.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu informed the Senate that "...the New START treaty will enhance, not harm, our ability to maintain the safety, security and effectiveness of our nuclear weapons stockpile."

The Administration plans to invest more than $85 billion over the next decade to modernize the U.S. nuclear weapons complex that supports our deterrent. This represents a $4.1 billion increase over the next five years relative to the plan provided to Congress in May. This level of funding is unprecedented since the end of the Cold War.

Tom D'Agostino, the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, confirmed this commitment:

“Having been appointed to my position by President George W. Bush, and reappointed by President Barack Obama, I can say with certainty that our nuclear infrastructure has never received the level of support we have today. The president has projected $85 billion over the next 10 years, a substantial increase over the program he inherited. My predecessor said it best when he said he would have 'killed' for a budget like ours."

For more about plans for nuclear modernization, click here.


Q: Why do we need to pass the New START Treaty now? Why can't we wait?

A: It is a national security imperative that the United States ratify the New START treaty this year. Every day that passes is another where the United States lacks the ability to inspect Russian strategic nuclear forces.

President Obama outlined the danger of the current situation:

"Without the New START treaty being ratified by the Senate, we do not have a verification mechanism to ensure that we know what the Russians are doing, and they don't know what we're doing. And when you have uncertainty in the area of nuclear weapons, that's a much more dangerous world to live in."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also warned about the consequences of delay:

"Our ability to know and understand changes in Russia's nuclear arsenal will erode without the treaty. As time passes, uncertainty will increase. With uncertainty comes unpredictability, which, when you're dealing with nuclear weapons, is absolutely a problem that must be addressed."

At the core of the 1991 START Treaty was President Reagan's favorite maxim, "Trust, but verify." Since it went out of force over a year ago, there is only trust without verification. The U.S. Intelligence community, as well as our entire military leadership, has testified about how important it is to reestablish our critical on-site inspections in Russia as quickly as possible. There is no substitute for on-site inspections. James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, said, "I think the earlier, the sooner, the better," with regards to ratifying the New START treaty.

Seven Months in the Senate: The New START Treaty was submitted to the Senate on May 13, 2010. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a Resolution of Advice and Consent to Ratification of the New START Treaty by a strong, bipartisan vote of 14-4 in September. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, under the leadership of Chairman John Kerry and Ranking Member Richard Lugar, undertook a thorough review of the Treaty that included hearings, many briefings and nearly 1,000 questions answered for the record. Among the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, there were 18 formal hearings on the New START Treaty before this Congress. They developed a resolution of ratification that led to the successful vote.

It is time for the full Senate to give its advice and consent to ratification of the New START Treaty.

For more on why it is important to pass the New START Treaty as soon as possible, click here. For a comprehensive look at the verification measures in the New START Treaty, click here.


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