Sunday, December 21st, 2014

The Obameter

Seek verifiable reductions in nuclear stockpiles


"Barack Obama and Joe Biden will seek deep, verifiable reductions in all U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons — whether deployed or non-deployed, whether strategic or non-strategic — and work with other nuclear powers to reduce global stockpiles dramatically by the end of an Obama presidency."

Updates

New START ratified by the Senate

On Dec. 22, 2010, Obama scored a major lame-duck session victory when the U.S. Senate voted 71-26 to ratify the New START arms control treaty with Russia. Although the treaty teetered in the balance for several weeks, 13 Republicans ultimately joined a unanimous Democratic caucus in the Senate, giving the treaty the two-thirds majority it required for final approval.

In a press conference after the vote, Obama called ratification of the new START treaty his "top national security priority for this session of Congress."

"This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades, and it will make us safer and reduce our nuclear arsenals along with Russia," Obama said. "With this treaty, our inspectors will also be back on the ground at Russian nuclear bases. So we will be able to trust but verify."

The new START pact commits the U.S. and Russia to reduce the number of strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 -- down from the current limit of 2,200.That's 74 percent lower than the limit of the 1991 START Treaty and 30 percent lower than the deployed strategic warhead limit of the 2002 Moscow Treaty, according to a fact sheet on the treaty provided by the White House.  It also will enable on-site inspections to resume after being temporarily halted when the treaty was allowed to expire last year.

In addition, the countries agreed to cut to 800 the combined limit of deployed and nondeployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments. It also includes a separate combined limit of 700 for deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.

In other words, it addresses Obama's goal of reducing nuclear weapons -- whether deployed or nondeployed, whether strategic or nonstrategic.

The Russian Parliament still needs to sign off on the treaty to make things official, but the State Duma already voted 350 to 58 to approve the pact in the first of three readings.

According to a Dec. 23, 2010 story by Peter Baker of the New York Times, "Given the authoritarian nature of Moscow's political system, that approval is seen as certain."

Obama laid the groundwork for the treaty when he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed off on a treaty in April 2010 after more than a year of intense negotiations. The final major hurdle was getting a two-thirds majority in the Senate to approve it -- no small feat in a highly partisan political year.

According to the New York Times, the new START is the first arms treaty with Russia in eight years, and the first that a Democratic president has both signed and pushed through the Senate.

We rate this promise Kept.

Sources:

New York Times, "Senate Passes Arms Control Treaty With Russia, 71-26," by Peter Baker, Dec. 22, 2010

AP, "Russian parliament tentatively approves arms pact," by Vladimir Isachenkov, Dec. 24, 2010

White House website, News Confeerence by President Obama, Dec. 22, 2010

White House Web site, Remarks by the President on the Announcement of New START Treaty, March 26, 2010

White House Web site, President Obama Announces the New START Treaty, March 26, 2010

White House Web site, Key Facts about the New START Treaty, March 26, 2010

Terms of treaty announced

After more than a year of intense negotiations, President Barck Obama announced on March 26, 2010, that an agreement had finally been reached on a new START arms reduction treaty with Russia.

Obama said he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev would meet in Prague, the Czech Republic, on April 8, to sign it.

"Broadly speaking, the new START treaty makes progress in several areas," Obama said. "It cuts -- by about a third -- the nuclear weapons that the United States and Russia will deploy. It significantly reduces missiles and launchers. It puts in place a strong and effective verification regime. And it maintains the flexibility that we need to protect and advance our national security, and to guarantee our unwavering commitment to the security of our allies."

Here are the particulars, according to a fact sheet provided by the White House: over the next 10 years, the United States and Russia would reduce their number of deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550 warheads. That's 74 percent lower than the limit of the 1991 START Treaty and 30 percent lower than the deployed strategic warhead limit of the 2002 Moscow Treaty, the release notes.

In addition, the countries agreed to cut to 800 the combined limit of deployed and nondeployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments. It also includes a separate limit of 700 deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.

In other words, it addresses Obama's goal of reducing nuclear weapons — whether deployed or nondeployed, whether strategic or nonstrategic.

On the specific issue of verification and openness, the fact sheet states, "Measures under the Treaty include on-site inspections and exhibitions, data exchanges and notifications related to strategic offensive arms and facilities covered by the Treaty, and provisions to facilitate the use of national technical means for treaty monitoring." According to the New York Times, the agreement calls for 18 inspections a year, up from 10 originally proposed by the Russians. In addition, the White House stated, "To increase confidence and transparency, the Treaty also provides for the exchange of telemetry."

Some critics, however, believe the issue of verification is still unclear.

"In addition, the White House clearly lost ground on the issue of verification," Ariel Cohen of the conservative Heritage Foundation wrote on the organization's Web site. "When the START treaty expired in December, the U.S. had to abandon a monitoring station for Russian weapons at the entry and exit portals in Votkinsk, Russia.


"By agreeing to leave this station, the U.S. will be unable to monitor the production of Russia"s highly destabilizing RS-24 mobile multi-warhead intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)," Cohen wrote. "Open sources indicate that this missile will be the mainstay of Russian strategic forces by 2016."



And the agreement, while a significant milestone, is not a done deal. Even after it is signed by Obama and Medvedev on April 8, 2010, it would still need to be approved by the U.S. Senate and the Russian legislature before it can enter into force. In the Senate, it would need to be ratified by two-thirds of the members, 67 votes, not an easy task these days.

Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations called the announced agreement is a "modest, necessary step." But future arms reduction treaties will only get tougher as the number of weapons dips into the hundreds rather than thousands, and the two countries get closer to parity with the nuclear arsenal of other countries like China, France and the United Kingdom. At that point, he said, it will require the United States and Russia to engage those countries in future arms reduction treaties.

So the jury is still out on Obama's promise to work not only with Russia but also with other nuclear powers to reduce global stockpiles dramatically. As Zenko said, that hard work is yet to come.

Still, the agreement is progress. But for now, we'll keep this promise at In the Works.

Sources:

White House Web site, Remarks by the President on the Announcement of New START Treaty, March 26, 2010

White House Web site, President Obama Announces the New START Treaty, March 26, 2010

White House Web site, Key Facts about the New START Treaty, March 26, 2010

White House Web site, Readout of the President's call with Russian President Medvedev, March 26, 2010


White House Web site, Remarks by President Obama in Prague, Czech Republic, April 5, 2009

Council on Foreign Relations, "OpenDemocracy: The Nuclear-Weapons Moment," by Paul Rogers, March 5, 2010

New York Times, "Twists and Turns on Way to Arms Pact With Russia," by Peter Baker, March 26, 2010

New York Times, "Russia and U.S. Report Breakthrough on Arms," by Peter Baker and Ellen Barry, March 24, 2010

New York Times, "Treaty Advances Obama"s Nuclear Vision," by Peter Baker, March 25, 2010

Heritage Foundation, "START Follow on Treaty: In Pursuit of a Pipe Dream," by Ariel Cohen, March 26th, 2010

Inrterview with Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations, March 30, 2010

Obama moving toward reducing nuclear arsenal

With START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) scheduled to expire in December 2009, the United States and Russia have begun to lay the groundwork for a follow-up treaty to further reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles. On April 1, President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met in London and agreed to pursue a new agreement before the end of the year to reduce strategic offensive arms.

After several months of meetings between Russian and American negotiators, Obama and Medvedev signed a Joint Understanding that commits the United States and Russia to reduce the number of strategic warheads from the current 2,200 to somewwere between 1,500 and 1,675, and the number of strategic delivery vehicles from the current 1,600 to somewhere between 500 and 1,100. 
 
In his defining speech on nuclear weapons as president, Obama in April spoke to an audience in Prague about his long-term vision for a world free of nuclear weapons.

"So today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," Obama said. "I'm not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly — perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, 'Yes, we can.'

According to a July news release from the White House, the new START "will enhance the security of both the U.S. and Russia, as well as provide predictability and stability in strategic offensive forces. A follow-on agreement to START directly supports the goals outlined by the president during his speech in Prague and will demonstrate Russian and American leadership in strengthening the Non-Proliferation Treaty."

On Sept., 24, 2009, the U.N. Security Council unanimously co-sponsored and adopted a resolution committing to work toward verifiable nuclear arms reduction and disarmament.

According to a White House fact sheet, the resolution supports "a revitalized commitment to work toward a world without nuclear weapons, and calls for further progress on nuclear arms reductions, urging all states to work towards the establishment of effective measures of nuclear arms reduction and disarmament. " It also supports a strengthened Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a Review Conference in 2010 to reach "realistic and achievable goals."

While the START follow-on has yet to be finalized, there has been plenty of progress on this promise. More than enough to move it to In the Works.

Sources:

White House Web site, press release: "Addressing the Nuclear Threat: Fulfilling the Promise of Prague at the L"Aquila Summit," July 8, 2009

Time, "Signs At Obama's Speech in Prague," by Michael Scherer, April 5, 2009

U.N. Security Council, "Historic Summit of Security Council Pledges Support for Progress on Stalled Efforts to End Nuclear Weapons Proliferation:  Resolution 1887 (2009) Adopted with 14 Heads of State, Government Present," Sept. 24, 2009

White House Web site,  Fact Sheet: The Joint Understanding for the START Follow-on Treaty , July 6, 2009

White House Web site,  Fact Sheet on the United Nations Security Council Summit on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Nuclear Disarmament  UNSC Resolution 1887 , Sept. 24, 2009