The Next Round: The United States and Nuclear Arms Reductions After New START


Assuming that the New START Treaty is ratified, President Obama has said that he will seek another round of negotiations with Russia to achieve further nuclear arms reductions. Steven Pifer examines the issues that will arise in the “next round” and discusses how the United States and Russia might deal with those questions. The sides undoubtedly will consider whether to reduce their strategic forces below the limits set in New START:  1550 strategic warheads; 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and heavy bomber; and 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM and SLBM launchers and heavy bombers.

The sides will also likely take up questions that they have not addressed before in negotiations, including limits on non-strategic (tactical) and non-deployed strategic weapons. Agreeing on limits on these systems will not be easy, and will require verification provisions considerably more intrusive than those agreed to date. Other issues that could arise include third-country nuclear forces, and Russia may well return to the question of missile defense.

In addition to examining these and other questions, Pifer proposes that the next round aim to produce a single limit that would, for the first time, capture all U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads. He suggests the next START agreement limit each side to no more than 2500 nuclear warheads, with a sublimit of no more than 1000 deployed strategic warheads.