The Obama Administration has prioritized the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) follow-on negotiations. Completion of an agreement is a major part of the Administration’s effort to “reset” Russian relations and is seen as a stepping stone toward achieving Obama’s goal of a world without nuclear weapons. While President Obama wants to ratify a new treaty before START’s expiration on December 5, it is not yet signed. U.S. negotiators are facing a tough deadline, leading many to believe that the U.S. will grant unilateral concessions, as in the cancellation of the Bush-era Europe-based missile defense system. But Russian negotiators have formulated a comprehensive set of demands going far beyond missile defense, including objections to modernization of U.S. conventional and non-nuclear strike capabilities.
At the same time, a careful review of Russian nuclear policy and statements by the military and security elite reveal Russia’s continued strong commitment to nuclear weapons. Today more than ever, Russia increasingly relies on nuclear weapons, including a lower first-use threshold, and thousands of tactical nuclear weapons, which have been excluded from START negotiations. The United States and NATO still remain its proclaimed principal security concerns. Moreover, critics say that Russia is currently in violation and non-compliance with existing arms control agreements and commitments including START.
Will a new treaty be signed before December 5th and will the U.S. Senate ratify it? Will the U.S. make unilateral concessions in order to conclude negotiations and/or prevent a new arms race? Will the U.S. accept a Russian strategic posture designed to threaten the U.S. and its allies? Lastly, what are the areas where both countries’ national interests can coincide and what can be done to build on this coincidence of interests? Join us for a discussion on the evolution and current state of Russian nuclear doctrine and policy and the current state of START negotiations and other anticipated treaties.