The Obama Administration has declared its determination "to
stop the development of new nuclear weapons; work with Russia to
take U.S. and Russian ballistic missiles off hair trigger alert;
and seek dramatic reductions in U.S. and Russian stockpiles of
nuclear weapons and material." In line with these goals and
the promise "to extend a hand if others are willing to unclench
their fist,"  the Administration has rushed to renew
negotiations with the Russian Federation (RF) on a follow-on
agreement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and
broader areas of cooperation. The negotiations will seek to reduce
the number of nuclear weapons and prevent further
proliferation, in accordance with the joint statements issued
by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry
Medvedev in London on April 1, 2009.
The recent upsurge in international calls to eliminate all
nuclear weapons has intensified the Administration's
hope to develop a new workable agreement with the RF by December 5,
2009, when START will expire. Yet the Strategic Offensive
Reductions Treaty (SORT), frequently referred to as the Moscow
Treaty, already requires the U.S. and Russia to reduce their
strategic nuclear forces below START levels. However, SORT lacks
the verification and control measures in START. Since at least
mid-2006, Moscow has called for maintaining START verification and
transparency measures, albeit modified to reduce expenses and make
the measures less cumbersome.
Admittedly, progress in bilateral U.S.-Russian relations,
particularly in reducing American and Russian nuclear arsenals,
could benefit both powers and the international community at
large. However, progress will not emerge
automatically simply on the strength of good intentions. Moreover,
while the quantity and quality of weapons possessed by nuclear
powers are key elements in assessing defense requirements, the
nature and state of relations between them are just as
important. Obviously, the United States has nothing to fear
from the nuclear arsenals of Britain and France, two
democratic Western allies, but the U.S. relationships with
Russia and China are clearly much more complex and
Haste in redefining the parameters of the U.S.-RF strategic
relationship, whether for political expediency or for any
other reason, is inadvisable and potentially dangerous for U.S.
national security interests. As the Obama Administration pursues
the available options on arms control, the Senate and the public at
large should not permit the Administration to neglect its
fundamental responsibility under the Constitution to provide for
the common defense of the American people and, by extension, U.S.
allies against attack.
Despite the political and economic turmoil of the decade before
the collapse of the Soviet Union and the early post-independence
period, Russia retains a significant nuclear weapons capability and
is the only global power capable of threatening the existence
of the United States. Notwithstanding the often repeated official
mantra that the two countries are diligently building up their
strategic partnership, their nuclear arsenals continue to play
mutual deterrence roles as reflected in their respective
nuclear postures and military policies.
In recent years, emboldened by economic growth driven largely by
rising oil and gas prices and progress in restoring the Russian
military and its power projection capabilities, the Kremlin has
moved to challenge America's global interests and positions. In a
series of high-profile statements, Vladimir Putin and his successor
Dmitry Medvedev denounced the international security and
economic system dominated by the United States and its allies.
In effect, these statements created an ideological foundation
for the predominantly anti-American and anti-NATO policies of the
Toward a U.S. Protect and Defend
The Administration needs to fashion an arms control policy
specifically tailored to meeting current and projected U.S.
defense needs. This policy should be based on an in-depth
professional analysis of political, legal, economic, and all
other pertinent aspects and implications of existing and
future negotiations and agreements with the Russian
Federation. It should also take into account Russian internal
and foreign policies, including Russian motivations and goals in
The Heritage Foundation has proposed a "protect and defend"
strategic posture for the U.S. that is based on shifting away from
the retaliation-based strategic posture of the Cold War toward a
more defensive posture that is adapted to the emerging
international structure. To the greatest extent possible,
this defensive posture would employ offensive and defensive forces
and conventional and nuclear forces to defeat any strategic attack
on the U.S. and its allies, as opposed to continuing the Cold War
strategy of maintaining deterrence by threat of a devastating
counterstrike. The protect and defend strategy also recognizes that
arms control can play a positive role in facilitating this shift.
In this context, the U.S. with Russia and other states could pursue
opportunities for both near-term and long-term arms control.
The Obama Administration needs to pursue the planned strategic
nuclear arms control negotiations with Russia with care and
patience. It should proceed on the basis of clearly defined
U.S. security goals and requirements, particularly those
established in the next Nuclear Posture Review. It also needs
to have as comprehensive and accurate understanding as
possible of Russian interests, goals, and methods in future
In the negotiations, the Administration should honor the
enduring requirements and standards for effective arms control,
which apply regardless of the negotiating forum and the topic of
negotiations. This will require pursuing a step-by-step approach
that separates the pursuit of near-term treaties with Russia from
long-term treaties and that narrows the focus of negotiations
toward concluding specific treaties. Ultimately, arms control
should complement U.S. military capabilities in providing for
basic national security.
Honoring these basic guidelines leads to the following
specific recommendations on arms control negotiations with
- Chronological deadlines should not drive negotiations to
renew START. Instead, negotiations should be guided by a clear
understanding of how this process and its expected results would
comply with the security interests and defense requirements of the
United States and its allies.
- Allowing START to expire is a much lesser evil than negotiating
a hasty agreement that may compromise U.S. interests.
- Parallel to or in lieu of START negotiations, the U.S. and
Russia should negotiate a verification and transparency protocol
(as a treaty document) to the Moscow Treaty. This is the most
immediate and important issue for U.S.-Russian arms control.
- While there may be informal linkages to other issues, formal
negotiations on other issues should be deferred until after the
conclusion of the negotiations on the verification and
transparency protocol to the Moscow Treaty.
- Contrary to the goal stated in the London joint statements,
negotiations to reduce nuclear arsenals below Moscow Treaty levels
should also be deferred until after the verification and
transparency protocol is concluded.
- Negotiations on any treaty that would further reduce nuclear
weapons must be based on careful planning, specifically completion
of a Nuclear Posture Review that establishes the broader
requirements for U.S. strategic forces and related goals for
longer-term arms control that are consistent with the protect
and defend strategy.
- Following the completion of the planning process, the U.S.
should seek a new joint declaration with Moscow that defines the
scope of the negotiations for a successor treaty to the Moscow
Treaty and other arms control negotiations that are consistent
with the protect and defend strategy.
Where Things Stand Now
In quantitative terms, strategic nuclear arms reductions by the
U.S. and Russia have progressed well since the end of the Cold War.
The U.S. and the Soviet Union signed START in 1991, while the U.S.
and Russia, as the primary partners following the collapse of the
Soviet Union, ratified it in 1994. START limited both sides to a
maximum of 6,000 deployed warheads, and both parties are now well
below this limit. The U.S. and Russia signed the Moscow Treaty in
2002, which was ratified in 2003. The Moscow Treaty limits both
sides to between 1,700 and 2,200 operationally deployed warheads,
which must be met by the end of 2012. Through these two treaties,
the U.S. and Russia have dramatically reduced the number of
deployed strategic nuclear warheads. According to the Congressional
Research Service, the U.S. had more than 12,000 deployed strategic
nuclear warheads in 1990, but under START the U.S. had reduced that
number to 5,914 as of January 1, 2008. In 1990, the Soviet Union
had more than 11,000 strategic nuclear warheads,
but as of July 1, 2008, Russia had reduced that number to 4,138.
Under the Moscow Treaty, both the U.S. and Russia are on the
path to reducing the numbers of operationally deployed strategic
nuclear warheads to between 1,700 and 2,200 each. According to a
newspaper report, the U.S. is ahead of schedule in making the
required reductions. However, Moscow contests this claim and
argues that the U.S. is simply using its own arbitrary counting
rules to demonstrate progress that does not correspond to
For the U.S. and Russia, the most immediate issue in strategic
nuclear arms reductions is that START is set to expire in December
2009. This is not an issue regarding the numbers of weapons
deployed. Both sides are well below the START limits and
working toward the lower limits established by the Moscow Treaty.
The problem is that the Moscow Treaty uses START's
verification and transparency provisions to inform each side
of the reductions that they are making. The issue is
complicated because the START provisions do not reflect the
Moscow Treaty's different definition of the limited weapons, which
are referred to as operationally deployed warheads. While
Article XXVII of START allows the parties to extend the treaty, a
simple extension will not resolve this problem with the
verification and transparency mechanism because the START
provisions are poorly suited for verifying the reductions required
by the Moscow Treaty. A simple extension of START would
perpetuate this mismatch.
The more fundamental, although longer-term, issue is determining
what kind of strategic nuclear arms control treaty would bolster
the security of both countries after the Moscow Treaty, especially
in the context of the more complicated and less predictable world
that is emerging. On this fundamental issue, the Obama and
Medvedev Administrations seem to be talking past each other.
The Obama Administration seems focused on a quest for global
nuclear disarmament, while the Medvedev Administration appears to
be seeking a smaller, but modernized and more capable strategic
nuclear arsenal, which does not reflect a desire to achieve nuclear
disarmament. In fact, the Russian approach appears
more consistent with a strategic posture that would emphasize
Moscow's Views on Strategic Nuclear
Strategic relations between the United States and the Russian
Federation are of paramount importance for the Russian
leadership, just as they were for Soviet leaders. From Moscow's
perspective, they symbolize the equivalence of the geostrategic
potentials of the two powers that have the largest nuclear
arsenals. As former Russian President and current Prime Minister
Putin has noted:
Russia and the United States are the biggest nuclear powers. Our
economy might be smaller, but Russia's nuclear potential is still
comparable to that of the United States.… It is also
important that we have the years of experience, the technology and
the production potential, the technological chains and the
specialists. Russia is a great nuclear power. No one disputes or
doubts this. And the United States and Russia definitely have a
shared interest in ensuring security on this planet.
After the loss of the former Soviet Union's superpower
status, Russia has worked diligently to reestablish its
influence in Eurasia, the Middle East, and even Latin America.
While this lost status hurts the Russian pride, it also allows
Moscow to blame the U.S. for any problems in international
relations. On behalf of Russia, Putin officially asserted that "the
stagnation in disarmament…has not come about through any
fault of ours." At the same time, Russian leaders
have never missed an opportunity to praise the virtue of and their
adherence to the remaining regimes and treaties. This is not
because of some abstract devotion to so-called international
legality or infinite trust in treaty obligations,
but because these treaties were usually seen as an effective
way of preventing the U.S. and other powers from gaining
superiority over Russia in advanced weapon systems. In fact, Moscow
has demonstrated its readiness to abandon treaty obligations that
fail to serve Russian interests.
Russia's Nuclear Shield. While championing arms
control on its terms, Moscow continues to rely on nuclear weapons
and nuclear deterrence as quintessential elements of its grand
strategy. Russia's dependence on nuclear
weapons may be explained by the deficiencies of Russian
conventional forces, which remain in a deep structural
crisis despite continuous, albeit controversial reform
efforts. More importantly, a robust nuclear
deterrent allows Russia to claim a special role in
geopolitics. It is also a powerful lever in relations with
other existing and potential nuclear powers.
An elaborate system of doctrinal and strategy documents reserve
a special place for the Russian nuclear missile force. These
documents include the federal Law on Defense, the National
Security Doctrine, the Military Doctrine, and the
Foreign Policy Doctrine as well as policy
statements by high government officials, such as annual
presidential addresses to the Federal Assembly (the
legislature of the Russian Federation). Without naming
specific Russian adversaries, these documents leave little doubt
that the Russian nuclear triad (ballistic missiles, strategic
bombers, and ballistic missile submarines) is primarily intended to
deter the United States and NATO. Furthermore, the Russian military
doctrine maintains that "nuclear weapons of all states that possess
them are ultimately aimed at Russia."
In line with his views on the role of nuclear weapons, Vladimir
Putin provided the rationale for restoring the nuclear weapons
industry, the key component of the former Soviet
military-industrial complex and the bloodline of the RF Strategic
Deterrence Force today:
Our country's nuclear potential is of vital importance for our
national security interests. The reliability of our "nuclear
shield" and the state of our nuclear weapon complex are a crucial
component of Russia's world power status.
Moving Away from MAD. While praising the roles of the
Strategic Deterrence Force and the nuclear component of the
military-industrial complex, Russian politicians regularly pay
lip service to the abstract goal of total elimination of nuclear
weapons. In recent years, the Russians have rushed
to add their voice to growing calls in the West to eliminate
nuclear weapons. Apparently, Moscow does not want to lose an
attractive propaganda slogan in the competition for the
sympathies of world public opinion.
At the same time, a small but vocal
group of Russian traditionalists allege that calls for
eliminating nuclear weapons hide a sinister U.S. desire to deprive
Russia of its ultimate security guarantee:
Today, nuclear weapons are a factor of deterrence. However,
take a closer look: The Americans are already developing the theory
of strategic nonnuclear deterrence.… Actual use of nuclear
weapons…puts an end to any deterrence because it results in
irreversible processes. In contrast, strategic high-precision
nonnuclear weapons may be used both for deterrence and punishment.
This is why in America…they are now seriously looking at
strategic nonnuclear deterrence that offers significantly more
flexible capabilities for use and punishment of any aggressor
specifically for purposes of deterrence.
A significant litmus test of the Russian leadership's real
attitudes toward nuclear weapons and nuclear disarmament is its
position on overcoming the vestiges of the Cold War in strategic
relations with the United States. Moscow rejected the Bush
Administration's offer to give up the paradigm of mutual assured
destruction (MAD) in favor of nonaggressive and defensive
postures. The Putin government called the U.S.
withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty a "serious
mistake." In a widely held Russian view, keeping
both powers vulnerable to inexorable and devastating retaliation is
the only viable guarantee against a premeditated first strike.
Moreover, mutual vulnerability to retaliation theoretically
assures Russia equal or near-equal strategic status
vis-à-vis the only remaining superpower. Keeping that
status, or at least the semblance thereof, is quintessential for
the Russian policymaking elite after other attributes of Russia's
grandeur-territorial, demographic, economic, military, power
projection, and others-have diminished dramatically.
The MAD-based U.S.-RF relationship organically presupposes
continued tensions and the need for rigid controls over the nuclear
weapons of both countries. Moscow is interested in maintaining the
system of continuous strategic negotiations with Washington for
many reasons. These negotiations are marked by the aura of
uniqueness and unparallel significance in international
relations. They symbolize the equal status of the involved
parties. The Russians, like the Soviets before them, believe that
the negotiations together with the accompanying summitry create a
powerful background for and define the tone of all other bilateral
exchanges. They also see direct linkages between maintaining the
bilateral strategic balance and the global security situation,
including Russia's relations with NATO, the fate of the
Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, the roles of tactical nuclear
weapon systems and antiballistic missile defenses in Europe
and other regions, the future of the nuclear nonproliferation
regimes, and nuclear weapons testing.
Nuclear Policy Under Putin and Medvedev. The Putin and
Medvedev governments developed an elaborate system of asymmetric
responses to American and Western policies and programs that they
deemed threatening or inimical to Russian interests. For example,
in ballistic missile defense, in which Russia lacks the funds to
develop equivalent Russian strategic defensive systems, it
moved to develop strategic offensive capabilities with a strong
anti-ABM component. The anti-ABM component was backed by a
large-scale public diplomacy campaign, active measures, and
influence operations to generate public opposition to the
deployment of missile defense systems in Europe. Other Russian
asymmetric responses included threats to withdraw from the
Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF ) Treaty and to make
tactical nuclear weapons an important component of the Russian
In the absence of any real negotiations at the late stages of
the Bush Administration,Russia opted for intense propaganda
campaigns denouncing and discrediting American policies. The
anti-American pitch of these campaigns would often reach levels
typical of the worst periods of major-power confrontation
during the Cold War. U.S.-Russian relations reached a
particularly intense peak in August 2008 in connection with the
conflict in South Ossetia and the signing of agreements on the
third U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) site in Eastern
Europe. Moscow resorted to demonstrations of
military power in the Western Hemisphere and other
provocative moves, such as proposing to deploy tactical missiles in
the Kaliningrad region.
The Soviets widely used such tactics to demonstrate Soviet
toughness and to probe the opponent and establish limits of his
tolerance. However, as a rule, whenever bilateral negotiations were
restarted after periods of acute deterioration, the Soviet Union
would soften its extreme positions and maximal demands to
demonstrate the flexibility and the spirit of compromise in
Soviet policy and diplomacy. Russia appears to be employing similar
Currently, Moscow appears to be on the threshold of a shift
in attitudes. While it is still not ready to give up completely the
provocative and acerbic anti-Americanism of recent months, it is
already signaling its readiness to open up an active dialogue
with Washington across the entire agenda of bilateral relations,
beginning with the fate of START. This shift was codified by
Russian acceptance of the language in the April 1 joint
statements on strategic nuclear arms control and the broader
U.S.-Russian relationship. One important reason is the
deteriorating economic situation in Russia in the aftermath of
the global crisis.
Russian leaders claim that there will be no major disturbances
for the bulk of the population. They also insist they will keep the
military appropriations intact, especially for maintaining and
modernizing the Strategic Deterrence Force. As Putin announced on
February 10, 2009, at a meeting of the RF's Council of the General
and Chief Designers (Sovet general'nykh i glavnykh konstruktorov)
representing key military enterprises, appropriations for the
state defense order (gosoboronzakaz) will remain at 1.3
trillion rubles ($37 billion) as planned earlier.
The overall defense order for 2009-2011 is set at 4 trillion rubles
($114 billion). The Russian missile-space industry is not
supposed to suffer from any cuts either, although it is not clear
whether this is a realistic agenda.
Another reason for the mellowing of Russian attitudes may
be seen in the shifts in U.S. policies, such as the Obama
Administration's formal entry into negotiations with Moscow on
START and the possible deal on the third BMD site.
Many in the Russian policymaking elite are likely interpreting
these American moves as indicators of growing American geopolitical
weakness. Moscow may decide to use the situation to its full
advantage by procrastinating a little longer before agreeing to any
substantive compromises, such as the new arms control treaty with
the United States. For example, to build up the atmosphere of the
intrigue, the Kremlin refused to make any immediate deal linking
the ballistic missile defense site in Europe with Russia's
tougher stand on the Iranian nuclear program.
Moscow's Weak Bargaining Position. However,
parallel developments in Russia raise many questions about Moscow's
military strategy, capabilities, and arms control positions.
Russian military experts outside of the government predict that the
ongoing reforms of the armed forces may eventually throw the
Russian military machine into total disarray, possibly
resulting in "unilateral Russian disarmament." These reforms,
led by the Defense Ministry under Anatolii Serdyukov, have included
significant personnel reductions, especially of the officer and
general corps, which have led to protests and resignations by some
prominent Russian military officers.
Furthermore, some of these experts predict that, with or without
new arms control agreements, the Strategic Deterrence Force will
inexorably drop to 1,000 warheads in the foreseeable future, with
even fewer warheads deployed on missiles and other delivery
systems. Russia is having great difficulty in replacing its aging
Soviet-built missiles, as epitomized by the repeated failures of
the Bulava SLBM (submarine-launched ballistic missile) program
at the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology (Moskovskii Institut
Teplotekhniki). Consequently, these experts argue that
Moscow should agree to any reductions offered by Washington without
raising its traditional conditions and objections, such as those
related to the third BMD site in Eastern Europe and
prospective NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia.
However, official Moscow refuses to recognize any weakness in
its bargaining position and has declared that it will negotiate
with Washington only on the basis of full equality. Moreover, it
"plans to conclude all new agreements with the U.S. in the sphere
of disarmament on terms more favorable to itself, while still
observing the relevant international legal standards."
The announced Russian agenda for resumed bilateral strategic
negotiations includes many controversial issues and establishes
linkages between different aspects of military-political
relations, not only between the United States and the Russian
Federation, but also between Russia and NATO. In particular, as
defined by the Russian Foreign Ministry,
[Moscow wants] the future Russian-American agreement on SOW
[strategic offensive weapons] to be legally binding, and
limiting not only warheads but also the means of their
delivery-the intercontinental ballistic missiles,
submarine-launched ballistic missiles and heavy bombers. We also
think it imperative to exclude the possibility of deploying SOW
outside national territories, and assure the inadmissibility
of the "uploading" and "compensatory" potentials.
Other ambitious Russian plans related to bilateral
strategic exchanges include:
- Rejection of the launch-on-warning concept and the gradual
extension of launch-preparation times under stringent mutual
- Reaching a compromise on U.S. BMD deployments in
- Downgrading the role of nuclear weapons in the military
doctrines of the Big Five states;
- Ensuring ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
(CTBT) by the U.S. and China and, subsequently, by India, Pakistan,
Israel, and North Korea;
- Conducting U.S.-RF negotiations on nonstrategic nuclear
- Expanding the U.S.-RF nuclear dialogue to include Britain,
France, and China. 
In light of these plans, the fundamental question for the U.S.
is whether it should rush into new mutually binding and
far-reaching agreements with Russia at a time when the United
States has not yet defined its own security requirements and the
outcome of internal Russian developments in the strategic
and military-political areas remain unclear and uncertain.
Observing the General Rules of Arms
President Obama does not have extensive experience in the
intricacies of negotiating, bringing into force, and executing arms
control treaties. The country's security interests will be harmed,
perhaps severely, if he and his Administration are lured into any
of the many pitfalls in the arms control process. To avoid these
pitfalls, he will need to observe the general rules of arms
control, which apply to all arms control endeavors.
However, before examining the specific rules of arms control, it
is even more important for President Obama to honor the
requirements of the Constitution. Article II, Section 2,
Clause 2 states that the President may make a treaty as long as
two-thirds of the Senate concurs prior to ratification. Clearly,
international agreements that would limit the armaments of the
U.S. military are so important that they should be negotiated and
drafted as treaties, subject to Senate advice and consent. This
view is reinforced by statutory law, which states that agreements
by the U.S. government to reduce or limit U.S. armaments should be
concluded through the treaty-making power of the President under
the Constitution. Further, it is generally understood by
both the executive branch and the Senate that any
international agreement that would substantively modify an
existing treaty should also be concluded as a treaty.
Fortunately, Russia, for reasons unrelated to U.S. constitutional
requirements, wants any new strategic nuclear arms limitation
agreement with the U.S. to be concluded as a treaty, and the U.S.
accepted this in the joint declaration on strategic nuclear arms
control on April 1, 2009.
Even so, the experience of START II ratification in Russia urges
additional caution. After formal approval at the top
executive level, the ill-fated treaty became embroiled for many
years in a complicated and controversial approval process in
the Federal Assembly. Today, even though United Russia, the
pro-Kremlin ruling party, has a comfortable majority in the State
Duma (the lower house of the Federal Assembly), a newly negotiated
instrument could still become an object of intense rivalries among
groups in the Russian military-political establishment, potentially
leading to years of legislative bickering.
The Obama Administration should, therefore, observe the
following eight rules in pursuing a new strategic nuclear arms
limitation treaty with Russia:
Rule #1: The U.S. should not enter
into a negotiation from which it is not willing to walk away.
In arms control, the cost of avoiding failure can exceed the
cost of failing. There are numerous examples of U.S. negotiating
partners making unacceptable demands. A prominent example that
illustrates the importance of following this rule is the
exchange between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Secretary
General Mikhail Gorbachev at the Reykjavik Summit in 1986.
Secretary Gorbachev made the unacceptable demand that the U.S.
abandon its Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) missile defense
program in exchange for eliminating strategic nuclear
ballistic missiles. President Reagan quite properly refused to
buckle to this demand, and as a result they failed to reach an
agreement. However, this initial "failure"
established the circumstances in which the U.S. and the Soviet
Union negotiated the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF )
Treaty, which entirely eliminated intermediate-range nuclear
missiles, and START, which significantly reduced strategic
nuclear forces while preserving the SDI program.
As the Obama Administration enters into strategic nuclear
arms limitation negotiations with Russia, the Russians will almost
certainly make unacceptable demands. For example, Russia may demand
that the U.S. abandon plans to expand NATO. The U.S. should reject
this kind of demand, even if at the cost of a collapse in
negotiations. Other similarly unacceptable demands by Russia should
be met with the same response.
Rule #2: Arms control should not
become an end in itself.
The distinction between ends and means can become blurred in the
conduct of arms control. The 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact, formally
known as the Pact of Paris, embodied the principle that
agreements are the culmination of the "peace process."
Informally named after U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg and
French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand, who backed the
proposal and encouraged other nations to approve it, the pact's
purpose was ambitious and ultimately unachievable. In utopian
grandeur, it henceforth outlawed war and forbade its use as "an
instrument of national policy." At the outset, 15 nations signed
the pact. Eventually, nearly every nation in existence at that time
The central flaw in the Kellogg-Briand Pact is that it confused
the ends with the means. It followed from a premise that war
itself, distinct from the purposes for which it is waged, is evil
and thus can and should be outlawed. Paradoxically, if war were
truly outlawed, the means ultimately needed to enforce such a
provision would be war itself.
The failure to appreciate this distinction doomed the
Kellogg-Briand Pact. By the 1930s, it became clear to many states
that the Kellogg-Briand Pact was utopian. Japan determined that war
was a useful instrument of national policy in subjugating
Manchuria and ultimately creating a puppet state. In 1932, Japan
attacked the city of Shanghai. Its actions were a prelude to a
cycle of rearmament and conflict in Asia and Europe that culminated
in World War II. The United States did not recover from its period
of unfounded faith in the Kellogg- Briand Pact until Japan attacked
U.S. naval forces at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Only then
was the American public convinced that only its own will to defend
itself, not the terms of an unrealistic treaty, would fulfill its
aspirations for security.
Arms control is a means to the end of national security. It is
not the sole means, and it should be balanced with the means of
military preparedness in the pursuit of national security.
Negotiations with Russia that fail to reflect this balance will be
jeopardizing U.S. national security.
Rule #3: In arms control, process
should not dominate substance.
It is all too easy to succumb to the temptation to assign more
value to the process of arms control than to its substance. Valuing
process over substance took the U.S. in the wrong direction
during the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) process with the
Soviet Union in the 1970s. In this case, the SALT process was
perceived to be the barometer of the U.S. détente policy
toward the Soviet Union. As long as SALT continued, the
détente policy was perceived to be effective.
Meanwhile, the Soviet Union was taking numerous steps to undermine
détente in areas outside of arms control. Effective arms
control became the casualty in this misguided, process-dominated
exercise. The resulting 1979 SALT II Treaty did not reduce the
number of strategic nuclear warheads; it only limited their future
growth. In the end, President Jimmy Carter
withdrew the SALT II Treaty from Senate consideration because
Soviet actions to undermine détente in areas outside arms
control, particularly the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in
December 1979, could no longer be masked by a process-dominated
arms control exercise.
The Obama Administration similarly seems on the cusp of defining
its planned negotiations with Russia as the barometer of its
initiative for "resetting" U.S.-Russian relations. If
these negotiations are defined in that broader context, process
will come to dominate substance, and the resulting treaty will
likely serve neither the central purposes of arms control nor U.S.
Rule #4: The U.S. should seek treaties
in narrowly defined subject matters.
Arms control negotiations can easily be expanded to cover overly
broad subject matters, which is exactly what the Russians are
proposing. When U.S.-Soviet arms control negotiations were resumed
in 1985, one option was to lump together negotiations on INF
forces, strategic nuclear forces, and space and defense forces. The
Reagan Administration wisely chose to place these negotiations
on separate tracks, although under a purely rhetorical umbrella
labeled the Nuclear and Space Talks. These separate tracks
produced the INF Treaty, which was signed in 1987, and START, which
was signed in 1991. A space and defense treaty with the newly
independent Russia was within reach in 1992, but the Clinton
Administration chose to walk away from the negotiations in 1993.
If the Obama Administration chooses to lump together
negotiations to limit strategic nuclear arms with a sweeping set of
negotiations to achieve worldwide nuclear disarmament, the
negotiations with Russia will almost certainly bog down. The
negotiations would become unfocused, likely putting conclusion
of an effective treaty out of reach.
Rule #5: The U.S. should seek treaties
that reduce the likelihood of conflict, not only the number of
The central purpose of arms control is to reduce the likelihood
of war, not only to limit the number or quality of armaments.
However, this more important purpose can become lost in the
The 1972 ABM Treaty barred the United States and the Soviet
Union from fielding defenses to protect their national
territories against missile attack. As such, it sought to limit,
both qualitatively and quantitatively, the level of armaments in
both countries.XREF The problem with the treaty, despite the
severe limitations on defensive arms, was that it undermined
strategic stability and increased the likelihood of conflict.
It provided an incentive for the Soviet Union to achieve a
first-strike capability against which the United States could not
respond. U.S. negotiators of the treaty had stated that the United
States would withdraw if a circumstance of instability arose.
Yet by the early 1980s, it had became clear that the ABM Treaty
had opened a destabilizing and dangerous window of vulnerability,
but the United States failed to withdraw from the treaty. Hence,
the ABM Treaty experience offers a valuable lesson: Purposeful
vulnerability does not promote arms control. Instead,
increasing stability and reducing the risk of conflict are far more
important considerations than limiting the quantity and
quality of arms.
If the Obama Administration simultaneously seeks numerical
limitations on strategic nuclear arms and the weakening of U.S.
nonnuclear defensive capabilities, it would risk creating a
circumstance in which an openly belligerent Russia, China, or
other emerging nuclear powers can contemplate first-strike options.
The limited progress toward stability that has been achieved
is already being eroded by Russian threats to withdraw from the INF
Treaty. START may not survive after December 5, 2009, and the
Moscow Treaty needs a negotiated addendum on verifications and
Rule #6: The U.S. should seek treaties
that are adequately verifiable.
An effective arms control treaty will provide verification
and transparency mechanisms that provide both sides with confidence
that the arms limitations are being honored. The level of
intrusiveness required depends on the risk that potential
noncompliance would pose to national security.
The 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty contains many
flaws. Among the most prominent is that the CTBT
is not adequately verifiable. First, it established an extremely
stringent requirement for verification by adopting a "zero yield"
standard for banning nuclear test explosions. The verification
mechanism, although extensive, was not sufficient to instill
confidence that violations of its central restriction could and
would be detected. This was a major contributing factor in the
Senate's decision on October 13, 1999, to reject the treaty.
The Obama Administration would do well to recognize the CTBT's
central flaw and to avoid repeating it in negotiations with Russia
on limitations on strategic nuclear arms. If the
Administration pursues an overly ambitious limitation standard, it
will be likely to find that the required verification standards
cannot be met.
Rule #7: The U.S. should seek treaties
that are enforceable.
Effective arms control treaties must be accompanied by
policies that will ensure that they are fully enforced. Otherwise,
the U.S. will find itself effectively pursuing unilateral
For example, the 1922 Five-Power Naval Limitation Treaty
(Washington Naval Treaty) capped the number of and established a
specific ratio for ships (primarily battleships) that the major
naval powers of the day could possess. This treaty failed because
its terms were not honored and could not be enforced.
In 1921, U.S. Secretary of State Charles E. Hughes invited eight
select naval powers (Belgium, China, France, Great Britain, Italy,
Japan, the Netherlands, and Portugal) to discuss security matters
at a conference in Washington, D.C. In his opening remarks,
Secretary Hughes outlined a proposed 10-year moratorium on the
construction of capital ships and a ratio of 5-5-3 for ships
already in the possession of the United States, Great Britain,
and Japan, respectively.
His proposal was popular in the United States. In negotiating
the agreement, the United States made a concession to Japan that it
would not fortify certain island possessions in the Pacific,
including the Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, and the
Aleutians. After France and Italy joined the agreement, the final
ratio of ships was 5 for the United States, 5 for Great Britain, 3
for Japan, 1.7 for France, and 1.7 for Italy. The treaty was signed
on February 22, 1922.
However, the relative naval strengths established in the treaty
were never enforced. The other naval powers continued building
ships not expressly limited by the treaty, such as cruisers,
destroyers, and submarines. The U.S. government had naïvely
assumed that the ratio governing capital ships would be applied to
these other ships as well. By 1930, in terms of overall naval
power, the United States lost parity with Great Britain and its
naval superiority over Japan, shattering the relationship that was
designed to maintain a balance of naval power and peace,
particularly in the Pacific. Yet few Americans seemed concerned
during the complacent period following the adoption of the
Kellogg- Briand Pact.
By 1934, the increasingly aggressive Japanese formally renounced
the Washington Naval Treaty. The renunciation became effective in
1936. The cycle of rearmament and suspicion intensified. The United
States continued to lag behind in this new naval arms race. Not
until 1938, when President Franklin Roosevelt requested a $1
billion appropriation for the U.S. Navy, did the United States
begin a serious naval rearmament effort. However, this was late in
the game. Japanese naval forces attacked Pearl Harbor three years
If the Obama Administration negotiates a new strategic arms
limitation treaty with Russia and just assumes that Russia will
abide by the treaty, it will expose the U.S. to significant new
vulnerabilities. The Administration needs to be prepared to ask
Congress to fund corresponding defense programs that will ensure
that the U.S. has viable options for addressing potential Russian
noncompliance. These would include robust strategic defense
measures and select nuclear weapons readiness and
modernization programs that would remain outside the specific
limitations of any such treaty.
Rule #8: The U.S. should not negotiate
a treaty that is in any way inconsistent with U.S. alliance
U.S. security commitments to its allies around the world are the
bedrock of the U.S. global security posture. As such, any arms
control treaty that includes provisions at odds with those
commitments would undermine U.S. national security.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, the Soviet Union used its
deployment of INF forces to drive a wedge between the U.S. and its
allies in Europe. Because the U.S. and its allies had no effective
corresponding forces, the Soviets thought that they could
shake the European allies' confidence in the U.S. commitment to
their security and intimidate them into moving away from their
alliance relationship with the United States. In the arms
control arena, the Soviets sought to preserve their effort to
intimidate the Europeans by arguing in favor of a "nuclear freeze"
that would leave their INF forces in place and preclude any
corresponding U.S. deployment. The Soviets wanted to conclude
this agreement with the U.S. over the heads of the allies.
Despite enormous Soviet pressure, the Reagan Administration
resisted this gambit. In consultation with its allies, it proposed
a "zero option" for INF forces that would eliminate INF forces on
both sides while moving to field U.S. ground-launched cruise
missiles and Pershing II ballistic missiles in Europe. In the face
of U.S. and allied solidarity, the Soviets yielded, and the
zero-option INF Treaty was signed in 1987. The U.S. and NATO
emerged stronger as result of their steadfast position.
If the Obama Administration enters into strategic nuclear arms
negotiation with Russia intending to negotiate a treaty over the
heads of its European allies, such a treaty would seriously damage
U.S. interests and leave the European allies vulnerable to both
Russian military threats and Russian claims that portions of Europe
should be within the Russian sphere of influence. This would
be particularly true if the negotiations are broadened to cover
U.S. missile defense programs and the resulting treaty requires the
U.S. to renounce its agreements with the Czech Republic and Poland
to field missile defense facilities on their territories.
Recommended Steps for Arms Talks with
Pursuant to the general rules of arms control outlined above,
the Obama Administration can improve U.S. security in arms
negotiations with Russia by following five steps:
Step #1: The Administration should not
be afraid to let START expire.
START will expire in December unless both sides agree to extend
it for five more years, pursuant to the terms of the treaty. This
circumstance presents three practical options for the Obama
Administration and Russia: allowing the treaty to expire, extending
the treaty for five years, or negotiating a new comprehensive
treaty to replace both START and the Moscow Treaty. While the April
1 joint statement on arms control implies that the U.S. and Russia
have decided to negotiate a new comprehensive treaty, allowing
START to expire is the best option.
Letting START expire would remove an unrealistic deadline
for negotiations with Russia on strategic nuclear arms limitations.
Negotiating a new treaty under such a deadline would prohibit a
careful review of the U.S. strategic force posture, which
cannot be concluded until the Nuclear Posture Review is
completed at the end of this year or early next year. Furthermore,
hasty negotiations are much more likely to produce a deeply flawed
treaty that is inconsistent with U.S. security requirements.
The Senate would be wise to reject such a treaty. Finally, there is
no compelling reason to keep START in place. Its expiration will
not end numerical limitations on U.S. and Russian operationally
deployed strategic nuclear warheads because the Moscow Treaty will
remain in force through the end of 2012.
However, it should be noted that one school of thought in the
Russian policymaking elite argues that SORT may simply cease to
exist on its own terms if START expires:
If negotiations [on the follow up to START] do not continue,
what will happen with the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty
(SORT)? Up to now, the U.S. has refused to talk about new
international commitments on verification, for one. How can we
discuss ceilings on deployed warheads if we don't know what these
are? How can we check their presence? If SORT does not enter into
force, the Intermediary-Range Nuclear Forces (INF ) Treaty will
become pointless because there will be no limits on strategic
offensive and defensive weapons. What will happen with tactical
nuclear weapons? Agreements that prohibit one class of nuclear
weapons and allow all others are devoid of any sense.
Simply extending START would perpetuate the mismatch between
START's verification and transparency provisions and the
different definition of the arms limited under the Moscow Treaty.
The Moscow Treaty directly limits operationally deployed warheads.
START verification and transparency measures apply to accountable
deployed warheads, among other categorical limitations, and are ill
suited to providing adequate verification under the Moscow
Negotiating a new comprehensive treaty to replace both START and
the Moscow Treaty-the implied goal of the new negotiations-is much
too ambitious. First, the unrealistic December deadline would
remain in place. Second, the comprehensive approach increases the
likelihood that the resulting treaty will be poorly adapted to the
requirements of the post-Cold War world and actually increase
instability. Third, it is more likely to produce a treaty that is
inadequately verifiable and unenforceable. Fourth, it would likely
undermine U.S. commitments to its allies, particularly if the
new treaty limits defensive systems. Ultimately, the attempt
to negotiate a new comprehensive agreement will likely become a
process-dominated enterprise and make arms control an end in
itself, as opposed to a means for achieving national security.
Step #2: Negotiate a verification and
transparency protocol to the Moscow Treaty.
The expiration of START will require the U.S. and Russia to
address the question of providing adequate verification and
transparency measures to the Moscow Treaty. While START
verification and transparency have been tentatively applied to
the Moscow Treaty reductions, they are not a good match to the
The general rules of arms control make it necessary to
provide adequate verification for the Moscow Treaty,
specifically a system that is well suited to monitoring reductions
in the numbers of operationally deployed strategic nuclear
warheads. This near-term negotiating subject is an appropriately
narrow one. It would be conducted under the aegis of an existing
treaty and would not require the completion of a policy review
by the Obama Administration. This negotiating goal is clear,
not overly ambitious, and achievable in the near term. Unless the
Obama Administration and Russia badly mishandle the negotiations,
this Moscow Treaty protocol would likely enjoy the necessary
support in the Senate.
Step #3: Seek to limit formal linkages
to the negotiations on a new protocol to the Moscow Treaty.
Linkages to arms control negotiations, at least to some degree,
are unavoidable. Aggressive Soviet behavior outside of arms control
rightly ended the SALT process in the late 1970s. Today, Russia
needs to understand that, among other things, threats to use force
to intimidate or subjugate U.S. friends and allies in Europe will
interrupt the arms control process. Recent Russian actions against
the Czech Republic, Georgia, Poland, and Ukraine point to the
dangers that are already present.
Nevertheless, the U.S. and Russia should seek to keep linkages
for less contentious issues at the informal level. For example,
both sides may see these negotiations as relevant to other issues,
such as missile defense cooperation or the multilateralization
of the INF Treaty. Such linkages should take the form of unilateral
or joint statements that are separate from the negotiations over
the protocol. If these tangential issues are permitted to become
part of the negotiations, they will only delay progress.
Step #4: Defer negotiations on
reducing strategic nuclear weapons below Moscow Treaty levels.
The Obama Administration, despite the goal implied in the joint
statement on arms control, is not in a position to negotiate a new
treaty with Russia that would effectively replace the Moscow
Treaty. It has yet to see the final report from the
congressionally appointed Strategic Posture Commission, which
could include consensus-based recommendations on these
matters. Further, it has yet to produce its own National
Security Strategy and Nuclear Posture Review. All of these reviews
are necessary parts of establishing a broader policy governing the
U.S. strategic posture and defining the proper role for arms
control in that context.
Further, there is no need to rush this broader strategic arms
control process. By allowing START to expire and concluding a
narrow treaty on verification and transparency measures under
the Moscow Treaty, no immediate deadline looms. The Obama
Administration could use this breathing space to establish a new
and carefully prepared policy for arms control with Russia and
beyond. It could also use the opportunity to fashion an arms
control policy that is based on the Constitution's requirement that
the federal government provide for the common defense. Such an arms
control policy would serve as an arm of a broader national
security policy and strategic posture that is designed to protect
and defend the people, territory, institutions, and
infrastructure of the U.S. and its allies against strategic attack.
The arms control element of such a policy could also encourage all
other nuclear-armed states, beginning with Russia, to assume more
defensive strategic postures.
Step #5: Propose a joint declaration
with Russia to establish a set of arms control negotiations in
accordance with the protect and defend strategy.
After START expires, negotiations on a verification and
transparency protocol to START are concluded, and the
necessary reviews are completed to establish the protect and defend
strategy and begin constructing the associated strategic force
posture, the Obama Administration should propose a draft text of a
U.S.-Russian joint declaration to establish several sets of
negotiations on arms control and cooperative treaties.
The joint declaration should state that both sides recognize
that the Cold War strategy of retaliation-based deterrence is
losing its effectiveness in the increasingly complex global
strategic environment. It should state that the better option for
maintaining stability and reducing the number of nuclear arms is
for all states, particularly nuclear-armed states, to adopt
defensive strategic force postures in keeping with the principle of
nonaggression. These defensive postures would focus on
deterring strategic attacks and be organized to defeat such
attacks. Inherent in this transition from retaliation-based
strategic forces to defensive forces is that neither the U.S. nor
Russia would purposely target their strategic forces at the
population centers or economic infrastructure of other states,
including each other.
The joint declaration should conclude by stating that the U.S.
and Russia are prepared to engage in a series of arms control and
cooperative security negotiations to facilitate the transition to
more defensive strategic postures. These negotiations would seek to
establish the following treaties:
- Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty II (SORT II). This
treaty would seek to reduce the operationally deployed
strategic nuclear warheads on both sides to levels below the Moscow
Treaty, consistent with the requirements of more defensive
strategic postures. In this context, the treaty would explicitly
encourage nuclear forces that demonstrate a defensive purpose by
holding at risk the means of strategic attack and that are
consistent with the principle of nonaggression. Given the need to
transition away from the existing retaliation-based nuclear forces,
this treaty would not foreclose selected steps for nuclear
- A treaty to counter nuclear-armed terrorism. The U.S.
and Russia are already spearheading the Global Initiative to Combat
Nuclear Terrorism, a multilateral initiative to counter
nuclear-armed terrorism. This treaty would serve as a bilateral
offshoot of this multilateral initiative.
- A treaty to bolster global strategic stability. This
treaty would initially be a bilateral treaty. Over time other
qualifying states would be invited to join. Qualifying states would
be required to adopt similarly defensive strategic postures.
The primary purpose of the initiative would be to maintain
strategic stability in the complicated and unpredictable world.
Ultimately, this treaty could serve as the future forum for
bringing other major powers, particularly those with nuclear
arms, into a productive arms control process.
Despite their far-reaching nature, these various negotiations
with Russia would still leave the question of nuclear
disarmament unresolved. In part, this is because it is not clear
that Russia favors nuclear disarmament at this time. However, it
would not ignore President Obama's vision for nuclear disarmament.
As the December 2008 interim report of the Strategic Posture
Commission states: "It is clear that the goal of zero nuclear
weapons is extremely difficult to attain and would require a
fundamental transformation of the world political order." In
essence, this finding means that there is no direct path to nuclear
disarmament at this time.
As a result, the Obama Administration needs to further its
vision for nuclear disarmament by focusing on the steps that
could position the U.S. and the world to consider direct steps
toward nuclear disarmament. Fundamentally, the protect and
defend strategy and its corresponding defensive strategic posture
are the most promising option for arriving at a position that would
permit direct consideration of nuclear disarmament. In the language
of the Strategic Posture Commission, broad acceptance of
defensive strategic postures would represent a necessary step
toward fundamentally transforming the world political order. This
slate of recommended U.S.-Russian negotiations is designed to
start the transition toward the preferred defensive strategic
During the Cold War, the destructive power of nuclear weapons
led the United States to abandon the principled position that the
Founding Fathers wrote into the Preamble of the Constitution.
Military forces are designed, first and foremost, to
provide for the common defense. Diplomacy and arms control are
to prevent aggression.
As the Obama Administration and the Senate consider the arms
control options with Russia, they need to honor these fundamental
principles. They should be determined to use arms control to test
Russia's willingness to commit to the same principles. If
Russia proves unwilling to do so, arms control should and will
A unilateral commitment by the U.S. to posture its military
forces to defend the people, territories, institutions, and
infrastructure of the U.S. and its allies-even in the absence of
Russian cooperation-will prove both just and wise. If Russia
also adopts a more defensive and less threatening strategic
posture, the world will be a better and safer place.
-Andrei Shoumikhin, Ph.D., is Senior
Analyst at the National Institute for Public Policy. Baker Spring
is F. M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy in the
Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a
division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for
International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.