December 11, 2013 | Issue Brief on Arms Control and Nonproliferation
This past June, President Obama called for another round of nuclear weapons reductions by stating that he intends to “seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures.” The United States has already moved beyond its Cold War nuclear posture. Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has cut the number of its deployed strategic nuclear weapons by over 80 percent.
But just as during the Cold War, Moscow is not complying with its arms control obligations and is in fact in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The U.S. should take steps to protect its interests in light of Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons buildup and treaty compliance issues.
Twenty-two years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia is once again rising in regional influence and is rebuilding its strength. In the military, economic, and political spheres, it prepares to project power across Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the North Pacific. Its leaders want to boost strategic rocket forces and bring back intermediate nuclear missiles.
In future decades, U.S. national and military leadership should take into account this return of Russia as an important actor in international relations. Russia will increasingly affect its neighbors in Eastern and Central Europe, the South Caucasus, and Central Asia and will do its best to project power into the Mediterranean and the Middle East. This policy is backed by a massive nuclear arsenal that Moscow is modernizing at a great cost.
Nuclear weapons remain a mainstay of Russia’s military power. The total Russian nuclear stockpile is at least 6,500 nuclear weapons. Russia sees its nuclear arsenal as one of the principal guarantors of its security and global power.
Moscow has a poor track record when it comes to upholding its arms control obligations. With the exception of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which is still in its implementation phase, Russia has violated every arms control agreement the United States has ever concluded with it. Violations include the INF, the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, and the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention.
The Presidential Nuclear Initiatives, a set of political declarations in the early 1990s, committed the U.S. and Russia to dismantle parts of their tactical nuclear weapons. The U.S. fulfilled its commitments, while Russia’s unwillingness to fulfill its part of the bargain resulted in a 10-to-1 disadvantage in this class of weapons for the U.S., which has significant negative implications for U.S. and NATO forces in Europe.
Today, Russia is reportedly violating the 1987 INF treaty, which acting Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs Madelyn Creedon confirmed last year. However, the State Department’s own compliance report fails to address any issues related to Russia’s violation of this treaty. House Armed Services Committee chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R–CA) has pointed out that the Obama Administration has failed to address Russia’s arms control violations.
The U.S. has several options to address Russia’s arms control violations, including advancing missile defense systems to protect the U.S. and its allies from Russian ballistic missiles, compelling Moscow to follow through on its political and legal arms control obligations, and strengthening U.S. overall capability to detect and address arms control cheating.
More specifically, the U.S. should:
Leaving Moscow’s arms control violations unaddressed damages U.S. credibility and its national security interests. However, the U.S. has ample tools to address Russia’s noncompliance. These tools should be employed until Moscow complies with its arms control commitments.
—Michaela Dodge is Policy Analyst for Defense and Strategic Policy and Ariel Cohen, PhD, is Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy 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.
The White House, remarks by President Obama at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany, June 19, 2013, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/19/remarks-president-obama-brandenburg-gate-berlin-germany (accessed December 2, 2013).
Mikhail Barabanov, Konstantin Makienko, and Ruslan Pukhov, Military Reform: Toward the New Look of the Russian Army, Valdai Discussion Club, July 2012, p. 14, http://vid1.rian.ru/ig/valdai/Military_reform_eng.pdf (accessed July 6, 2013).
Ibid., p. 36.
Center for Strategic Budgetary Analysis, Nuclear Conventional Firebreaks and the Nuclear Taboo, 2013, p. 42.
Mark Schneider, “Additional Information on Reports of Russian Violations of the INF Treaty,” National Institute for Public Policy, 2012, http://www.nipp.org/Publication/Downloads/Downloads%202012/Info%20Series%20350.pdf (accessed December 2, 2013).
Josh Rogin, “U.S. Knew Russia Violated Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty,” The Daily Beast, November 26, 2013, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/11/26/u-s-knew-russia-violated-intermediate-range-nuclear-forces-treaty.html (accessed December 2, 2013).
Press release, “Chairman McKeon on the President’s Berlin Remarks,” House Armed Services Committee, June 19, 2013, http://armedservices.house.gov/index.cfm/press-releases?ContentRecord_id=36e9b3e7-b881-4d9e-af00-7f515cc5dba0 (accessed July 2, 2013).