Senate Democrats

Key Facts about the New START Treaty

On March 26, 2010, following a year of intense negotiations, Presidents Obama and Medvedev announced the completion of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).  Speaking at the signing ceremony in Prague last month, President Obama lauded the agreement as a critical step that “will move us further beyond the Cold War, strengthen the global non-proliferation regime, and make the United States, and the world, safer and more secure.”  The New START Treaty, which replaces the original 1991 START Treaty that expired in December, significantly advances U.S. and Russian leadership on nuclear security while preserving strategic stability in our relations.  It provides for marked reductions in the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals while ensuring a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent; puts in place a comprehensive verification and transparency regime to advance mutual trust; and ensures our military has the flexibility needed to protect and defend America’s security, while also retaining our commitment to the security of our European allies.

Yesterday, the Senate received the full New START Treaty, including the treaty text, the Protocol of the Treaty (which includes additional rights and obligations associated with Treaty provisions), and the Technical Annexes to the Protocol for its advice and consent to ratification.  The New START Treaty cannot enter into force until after a 2/3 majority of the Senate gives its advice and consent to ratification, and it is approved by the Russian Parliament.

In addition, the Administration has submitted to the Senate the Section 1251 Report (as required by Congress under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010) alongside the New START Treaty, which provides further detail on the plans for U.S. strategic forces under the new treaty.  The report includes the Administration’s plan to a) enhance the safety, security, and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile of the United States; b) modernize the nuclear weapons complex; and c) maintain the delivery platforms for nuclear weapons.  Further, the Administration will submit a classified report on verifying Russian compliance with the treaty, and the Senate will review a separate National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) assessing the Treaty’s implications for U.S. intelligence collection, to be submitted by the Intelligence Community this summer.[1]

The following report provides a general overview of the New START Treaty and underscores the widespread bipartisan support for this strong, verifiable nuclear arms agreement with Russia.[2]

Significant reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons arsenals.  The limit for deployed warheads set by the New START Treaty is 30 percent lower than the current limit of 2,200 for deployed strategic warheads (established under the 2002 Moscow Treaty, which the New START Treaty would supersede).  Additionally, the Treaty sets limits that are 56 percent lower for deployed strategic nuclear delivery vehicles and 74 percent lower than the limit for deployed warheads established in the 1991 START Treaty. 

The New START Treaty specifies warhead and vehicle delivery limits as follows:

·         1,550 deployed warheads.  Under the Treaty, all warheads on deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) are counted and all deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments are each counted as one warhead.

·         700 deployed ballistic missiles and heavy bombers, including ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.

·         800 deployed and non-deployed launchers and heavy bombers, including ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.  The larger limit allows for delivery vehicles, such as nuclear submarines, to be recalled from deployment to undergo routine maintenance without diminishing the deployed force.  

The Treaty limitations take effect seven years after the date the Treaty enters into force.

Flexibility for our nuclear force structure to better meet U.S. national security.  The New START Treaty affirms the right of the United States to determine the composition and structure of our strategic offensive arms.  While setting aggregate limits, the Treaty allows our military the flexibility to determine the structure of our strategic forces – including bombers, submarines, and missiles – within those limits. 

Strong, up-to-date verification measures to monitor compliance.  The New START Treaty would put in place a verification system that combines certain elements of the 1991 START verification regime with new elements that will allow for a monitoring regime that better reflects today’s realities and builds upon lessons learned from the 15 years of implementing START.  It provides for a variety of verification measures, including: the use of and non-interference with national technical means (e.g. satellites) for monitoring and verification; 18 on-site inspections per year, including ten Type One inspections of sites with deployed and non-deployed systems and eight Type Two inspections which focus on sites with only non-deployed strategic systems; data exchanges and notifications on numbers, locations, and technical characteristics related to the strategic offensive arms and facilities covered by the Treaty; unique identifiers assigned to each ICBM, SLBM, and heavy bomber to be included in notifications and subject to verification during inspection; and an annual telemetry exchange as a means to enhance transparency.  Given that the size of the arsenal and the facilities being inspected is far lower today under the new Treaty than when START I was negotiated, the total number of inspections allowed is at least effectively equivalent to those allowed under START I. [3]

The new verification regime was designed, as Secretary Gates has noted, to monitor compliance with the specific limits and rules outlined by the New START Treaty and, in effect, is simpler and less costly than the system under START I.  And, as Admiral Mullen has asserted, “It features a much more effective, transparent verification method that demands quicker data exchanges and notification.”[4]

Preserving stable deterrence.  The New START Treaty’s lower strategic force levels were directly informed by comprehensive and rigorous analysis conducted as part of the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR).  As top Pentagon officials have underscored, the NPR analysis necessary to support the START negotiations was prioritized by the Administration and completed last year – and used to inform the positions taken by the United States as it worked out the terms of the New START Treaty.  The NPR determined that stable deterrence can be effectively maintained while reducing U.S. strategic delivery vehicles by approximately 50 percent from the START I level and reducing deployed strategic warheads by about 30 percent from the level established under the 2002 Moscow Treaty.[5]

Ensuring a safe, secure and reliable nuclear arsenal – in order to maintain an effective deterrent, ensure U.S. national security, and protect our allies.  As the Obama Administration has pursued responsible reductions in our nuclear arsenal in concert with Russia, it has taken the necessary steps to ensure the safety, security, and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile.  The President’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget request includes significant new investments for the Stockpile Stewardship Program and its supporting infrastructure – including increased funding in the nuclear laboratories and facilities responsible for maintaining, monitoring, and storing nuclear warheads.  It would devote $7.0 billion, more than $600 million above the Fiscal Year 2010 funding level, for the Department of Energy to expand life extension programs (LEPs); provide for facility upgrades as well as upgrades to the infrastructure supporting LEPs; and to fund new initiatives in naval reactors work.  The Administration also outlined plans to increase funding for these activities by more than $5 billion over the next five years, and as outlined in the Section 1251 report, the Administration intends to invest $80 billion in the next decade to sustain and modernize the nuclear weapons complex.  The NPR affirms the President’s commitment to sustaining a safe and secure nuclear arsenal, with its emphasis on improving the U.S. nuclear infrastructure complex and bolstering programs to recruit and retain top scientists in our national laboratories.[6]  

Top national security officials, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James Cartwright, and Commander of U.S. Strategic Command General Kevin Chilton have endorsed the Administration’s plan.  Testifying in April, Thomas D’Agostino, Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration stated that “The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) reaffirms President Obama’s commitment to providing the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) the resources required to support the President’s nuclear security agenda and maintain the safety, security and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear deterrent without underground testing… and our budget request, if approved, would provide the resources required to make that possible.”[7]

No meaningful limits on U.S. missile defense systems.  The New START Treaty does not place any constraints on testing, development, or deployment of current or planned U.S. missile defense programs.  Although the Treaty does contain a statement in the preamble that recognizes “the existence of the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms,” it in no way limits our ability to continue developing and fielding missile defenses.  Further, the provision is not binding.

The New START Treaty does contain a ban on using additional ICBM silos or SLBM launch tubes to house missile defense interceptors, but top military leaders and national security officials have made clear that this is a meaningless restriction.  In the March 26 briefing announcing the Treaty, Secretary Gates stated this unequivocally, “There are no constraints on missile defense.”  And, as Lt. General Patrick O’Reilly, Director of the Missile Defense Agency noted in April 15 testimony: “The New START Treaty has no constraints on current and future components of the BMDS [Ballistic Missile Defense System] development or deployment.  Article V, Section 3 of the treaty prohibits the conversion of ICBM or SLBM launchers to missile defense launchers, and vice versa, while ‘grandfathering’ the five former ICBM silos at Vandenberg AFB already converted for Ground Based Interceptors.  MDA never had a plan to convert additional ICBM silos at Vandenberg and intends to hedge against increased BMDS requirements by completing construction of Missile Field 2 at Fort Greely.  Moreover, we determined that if more interceptors were to be added at Vandenberg AFB, it would be less expensive to build a new GBI missile field (which is not prohibited by the treaty). Regarding SLBM launchers, some time ago we examined the concept of launching missile defense interceptors from submarines and found it an unattractive and extremely expensive option.  As the committee knows, we have a very good and significantly growing capability for sea-based missile defense on Aegis-capable ships.  Relative to the recently expired START Treaty, the New START Treaty actually reduces constraints on the development of the missile defense program.” [8]

No constraints on long-range conventional strike capabilities.  The New START Treaty does not place any constraints on current or planned U.S. conventional prompt global strike capability, that is, the ability to strike targets anywhere in the world in a compact timeframe using conventional ballistic missiles.  Although long-range conventional ballistic missiles would count under the Treaty’s limit of 700 delivery vehicles and their conventional warheads would count under the limit of 1,550 warheads (because, as was true for START I, the New START Treaty makes no distinction between missiles armed with conventional weapons versus nuclear weapons), it would in no way prohibit the United States from building or deploying conventionally-armed ballistic missiles.

Top Military Leaders Support the New START Treaty

Secretary of Defense Gates: “The New START Treaty has the unanimous support of America’s military leadership – to include the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all of the service chiefs, and the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, the organization responsible for our strategic nuclear deterrent.  For nearly 40 years, treaties  to limit or reduce nuclear weapons have been approved by the U.S. Senate by strong bipartisan majorities. This treaty deserves a similar reception and result – on account of the dangerous weapons it reduces, the critical defense capabilities it preserves, the strategic stability it maintains, and, above all, the security it provides to the American people.”[9]

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen: “I, the Vice Chairman and the Joint Chiefs – as well as our combatant commanders around the world – stand solidly behind this new treaty,” noting that “through the trust it engenders… the cuts it requires… and the flexibility it preserves – this treaty enhances our ability to do that which we have been charged to do: protect and defend the citizens of the United States.”[10]  

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Cartwright: “So both for myself, as a previous commander at STRATCOM, and also for General Shelton, we both feel very comfortable with these numbers [in the New START Treaty].”

STRATCOM Commander General Kevin Chilton: “[T]he New START agreement warhead and platform numbers provide appropriate military flexibility….I am confident that the NPR and New START outline an approach that continues to enable the men and women of U.S. Strategic Command to deliver global security for America today and in the future.”

Missile Defense Agency Director Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly: “Relative to the recently expired START Treaty, the New START Treaty actually reduces constraints on the development of the missile defense program.”

Dirk Jameson, Lt. Gen. USAF, Retired (former Commander of U.S. ICBM forces and Deputy Commander-In-Chief of U.S. Strategic Command): “Today’s announcement that a new START Treaty will be signed very soon is another historic step in the history of Arms Control and a critical element in managing nuclear weapons safely and securely in a dangerous world.  Our country takes this step from a position of strength and with great confidence in the men and women who are stewards of our nuclear forces and systems.”  

Brigadier General John Adams, USA (Ret) (former Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence of the US Army Staff and Deputy US Military Representative at NATO Headquarters): “The President’s announcement today is a victory for US nuclear security.  It will ensure that we are able to continue to drawn down our excessive nuclear arsenals and direct our resources toward meeting the 21st century needs of the men and women serving in uniform at home and abroad.”

Col. Richard L. Klass, USAF (Retired):  “With the March 26th announcement that President Obama and Russian President Medvedev have reached a final agreement on a new strategic arms reduction pact, nuclear issues will be at the center of a major political debate in the United States for the next six to twelve months.  This is likely to be the most profound and consequential debate on nuclear weapons since the debate on whether to build a thermo-nuclear weapon sixty years ago at the dawn of the Cold War.  The follow-on to START will not only stabilize U.S. Russian nuclear relations, It will give a boost to efforts to control nuclear materials, ban nuclear tests, reduce the risks of proliferation and reduce the risks of nuclear terrorism.”

There Is Strong Bipartisan Support for the New START Treaty

Historically, arms control treaties have enjoyed strong bipartisan support and have been advanced by leaders from both parties over the past several decades, from President John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.  The New START Treaty is in line with past nuclear arms treaties, including the START I Treaty, the START II Treaty, and the SORT Treaty – all of which received nearly unanimous bipartisan support in the Senate.

Former Secretaries of State George Schultz and Henry Kissinger, former of Secretary of Defense William Perry, and Former Senator Sam Nunn:  In a joint statement, these former statesmen wrote, “we strongly endorse the goals of this Treaty, and we hope that after careful and expeditious review that both the United States Senate and the Russian Federal Assembly will be able to ratify the Treaty.”[11]

Senator Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:  “This treaty marks a significant step forward for both America and Russia.  It will cut by nearly a third the maximum number of deployed strategic warheads.  It institutes an effective new verification regime.  And overall, it puts us firmly on the path toward reducing our reliance on nuclear weapons… This treaty improves our security because it increases certainty, stability and transparency between two countries that together hold 95% of the world’s nuclear weapons – and it does so while retaining for America the flexibility to protect ourselves and our allies in Europe and around the world.”[12]

Senator Lugar, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:  “I support the New START treaty and believe that it will enhance United States national security.  It would reduce strategic nuclear launchers and warheads and replace the 1991 START I treaty that expired last year.  Equally important, it will provide forward momentum to our relationship with Moscow, which is vital to United States policy goals related to Iran’s nuclear program, nuclear nonproliferation, global energy security and to stability in Eurasia.  Further…it’s essential that a verification system be in place so that we have a sufficient understanding of Russian nuclear forces and achieve a level of transparency that prevents miscalculations.”[13]

Former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger: In April testimony, he stated, “I think that it is obligatory for the United States to ratify. And any treaty is going to have limitations, questionable areas. There are some in this treaty. We need to watch them for the future, but that does not mean that the treaty should be rejected.”[14]

Ambassador Linton Brooks (former Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration and Chief U.S. Negotiator for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty under the George H.W. Bush Administration): “The primary benefits of the treaty are two. One is transparency.  Transparency leads to predictability; predictability leads to stability.  That’s why the last administration initially wanted a pure transparency regime.  So that’s one benefit.  The other benefit is, at a time when we and the Russians don’t have a track record of working as well together as we’d like, something that was reasonably difficult to do got done.  And so I think those two benefits are important benefits and obviously, having something that regulates the nuclear balance is important.”[15]

Ambassador Richard Burt (the Chief START Negotiator under the George H.W. Bush Administration): “A year ago Presidents Obama and Medvedev declared their joint commitment to achieving a world without nuclear weapons.  Today with the conclusion of the new START agreement – the first significant arms reduction agreement in nearly two decades – they took a major step toward achieving their goal of global zero.  This agreement will set the stage for further cuts in US and Russian arsenals and multilateral negotiations for reductions by all nuclear weapons countries

Steven Pifer (Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute, former Ambassador to the Ukraine and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State): “The new treaty will enhance U.S. security.  It will cut by 30-40 percent the number of Russian strategic nuclear warheads that can strike America.  We will know much more about Russian strategic forces with the agreement’s verification measures than without it.  And the United States will still maintain an effective deterrent, capable of protecting both America and our allies.”

Barry Blechman (Founder and Director of the Stimson Center, former member of the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States (1998-99), the Defense Policy Board (2002-06), and the Mayor’s Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Program Advisory Committee in the District of Columbia (2004-06)): “By agreeing to such major reductions in their nuclear arsenals, the US and Russia have taken a giant stride toward fulfilling their mutual commitment to eliminate nuclear weapons and, thereby, will be in a much stronger position to end the spread of nuclear weapons and eliminate the risk of nuclear terrorism – the two greatest threats to American security.”

Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen: “It’s a big deal in the sense the optics that here the two biggest possessors of nuclear weapons have agreed to reduce their inventories significantly, although we’re nearly down to those numbers already.  So it’s not that much of a substantive cut where we are today, but it’s a significant reduction from where we started from.  And secondly, there is not really that much of an impact upon the U.S. forces because we still have what we call a triad – air, land and sea.  So I think it’s significant in terms of the optics and the appearance and the fact that we are now working more closely with the Russians.”[16]



[1] National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, Section 1251.

[2] Please note that this report draws heavily from information provided by the Department of Defense and the Department of State, in the New START Treaty U.S. Senate Briefing Book, April 2008.  All Senate offices should have received a copy of the briefing book.

  [3] The White House Blog, The New START Treaty and Protocol, 4/8/10; Steven Pifer, 5/10.

[4] Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen, Briefing on the Announcement of the new START Treaty at the White House, 3/26/10.

[5] General James Cartwright testimony, via Kingston Reif, 12/8/09; Department of Defense, Fact Sheet: The NPR, Arms Control and Deterrence, 8/6/09.

[6] Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2011, Department of Energy.

[7] Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, 4/23/10; Thomas D’Agostino, Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, April 14, 2010.

[8] Secretary Gates, Briefing on the Announcement of the new START Treaty at the White House, 3/26/10; Lt. General Patrick O’Reilly, Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, 4/15/10, emphasis added.

[9] Secretary Gates, Wall Street Journal op-ed, 5/13/10.

[10] Admiral Mullen, Briefing on the Announcement of the new START Treaty at the White House, 3/26/10.

[11] Statement by George Schultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn on START Follow-On Treaty, 3/26/10.

[12] Senator Kerry, Opening Statement At Hearing On The New START Treaty, 4/29/10.

[13] Senator Lugar, Opening Statement for Hearing on the START Treaty, 4/29/10.

[14] James Schlesinger, Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/29/10.

[15] Ambassador Linton Brooks, Press Briefing on Understanding New START and the Nuclear Posture Review, 4/9/10.

[16] William Cohen Interview with Andrea Mitchell, via the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, 4/8/10.

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