Policy Memos

Russian Nuclear Forces in Ten Years with and without START II

Policy Memo:


Publication Date:




In recent months the United States and Russia have made an attempt to revive the arms control dialogue. But instead of bringing a solution to the problems that hold up nuclear disarmament, this attempt has done nothing but expose the huge gap between the positions of the two countries on the most contentious issues, missile defense and START II ratification.


The United States began the recent round of consultations with the firm intention of seeking an agreement on changing the ABM Treaty. Russia responded with strong opposition to the idea of treaty modification. That was a retreat from the position expressed in the June 21, 1999, Cologne presidential statement, which stated that Russia and the United States would consider "possible proposals for further increasing the viability of this treaty." In fact, after the Cologne statement the Russian military, faced with the possibility of Yeltsin's signing a treaty-modifying agreement without their consent, stepped up their rhetoric against ABM-Treaty modification. It is no longer limited to "adequate measures" that Russia would have to take in response to the US abrogating the ABM treaty, but also includes the possibility of Russia declaring itself free of START I obligations. The START II ratification process was all but brought to a halt. It is quite likely that the United States will eventually make a decision to deploy a National Missile Defense. Russia seems resolved to counter such a decision with some "adequate measures," principally suspending strategic arms reductions at the START I level. This possibility has been considered during the START II debate, but was usually discounted as unrealistic since the Russian strategic forces will decline to levels much lower than those of START I (or START II), regardless. Russia, however, seems to be willing to take the risks associated with such a decision. This paper is an attempt to analyze the capabilities that Russia would have should it decide to stay at the START I level. [...]


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About the author

Director, Russian Nuclear Forces Project
Russian Nuclear Forces Project, Geneva; UN Institute for Disarmament Research; Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University