The signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 1987 marked the end of an eight-year stalemate in nuclear arms control due to the tension between leaders in Moscow and the West. This treaty eliminated an entire category of nuclear weapons delivery vehicles in the arsenals of the world’s two largest nuclear weapons states. Nearly 2,700 ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 km and 5500 km were destroyed. The treaty also established various verification and monitoring measures, which provide precedents for provisions in the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) – the first arms control agreement to require reductions in strategic nuclear arms. The INF Treaty reached its 30th anniversary in December 2017 with both Washington and Moscow officially re-affirming their support for abiding by its terms. Yet if the compliance disputes raised in recent years are not soon resolved or at least managed, the INF Treaty is likely to fail, ultimately dragging other arms control regimes down with it.
Victor Mizin is Senior Research Fellow with the Center of International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations.
The central limits of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) took full effect on February 5, and the United States and Russia each reported that it had met those limits. By its terms, New START remains in effect until 2021, though it can be extended by up to five years by agreement by the sides. The Russian military is midway through a modernization of its strategic offensive forces, while the U.S. military is preparing a strategic modernization program that will accelerate in the 2020s. Thus far, the two modernization programs appear configured to fit within New START’s limits. However, the low state of the broader U.S.-Russia relationship, compliance issues regarding the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and uncertainties about the commitment of Washington and Moscow to continued nuclear arms control raise questions about New START’s future. While New START will likely last until 2021, its future thereafter is uncertain. There are three possibilities: the treaty lapses; the sides agree, as a minimum step, to extend New START until 2026; or the sides negotiate a new treaty to supplant New START. At a minimum, the United States and Russia should agree to extend New START.
About the Authors
Anatoli S. Diakov is a Professor of the Moscow University of Physics and Technology, and Senior Fellow at the Centre of International Security, Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Daryl G. Kimball is the Executive Director of the Arms Control Association (ACA) since 2001, which is a private, non-profit membership organization dedicated to public education and support of effective arms control measures pertaining to nuclear, chemical, biological, and conventional weapons based in Washington DC.
Steven Pifer is a nonresidential senior fellow with the Brookings Institution. He is a retired foreign service officer with more than 25 years of experience with the State Department, where he worked on U.S. relations with the former Soviet Union and Europe as well as arms control and security issues.
With relations between Washington, Moscow and Europe at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War, the Deep Cuts Commission together with a number of additional high-level actors is warning that urgent steps need to be taken to contain nuclear risks and tensions and prevent a new nuclear arms race.
In a statement issued today, the group notes that: “Existing nuclear arms control agreements are at risk, and both sides are pursuing costly programs to replace and upgrade their Cold War-era strategic nuclear arsenals, each of which exceed reasonable deterrence requirements. A compliance dispute threatens the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) will expire in 2021 unless extended.”
Among the 41 signatories to the statement are: Des Browne, former Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom; Richard R. Burt, former U.S. negotiator of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty; Tom Countryman, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Arms Control Association; retired Major General Dvorkin, chief researcher at the Center for International Security at the Institute of Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations; Gen. Victor Esin, former Chief of Staff and Vice Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces; Volker Rühe, former Minister of Defense, Germany; Strobe Talbott, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State; and Sen. Richard G. Lugar, former Chairman, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The full statement is available in
The 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is under threat, with the United States and Russia exchanging charges of treaty violations. If the treaty unravels, it will open the door to an arms race in ground-launched intermediate-range missiles, which will diminish security in both Europe and Asia. It could also undermine support for other treaties, such as the New START Treaty, and make it difficult to reach agreement on new treaties. Hans Kristensen, Oliver Meier, Victor Mizin and Steven Pifer call on Washington and Moscow to work to preserve the INF Treaty and recognize its utmost benefits. The Third Report of the Deep Cuts Commission already gave key recommendations on how to address the INF Treaty compliance issues. This Special Briefing Paper now gives concrete courses for action describing ways to resolve compliance concerns.
Some 30 years since the release of the Hollywood blockbuster War Games, the possibility that hackers might break into nuclear command and control facilities, compromise early warning or firing systems, or even cause the launch of nuclear weapons, has become disturbingly real. While this challenge will impact all nuclear-armed states, it appears particularly acute for the United States and Russia given their large, diverse, and highly alerted nuclear forces. The facts that relations between the West and Russia have deteriorated to a nadir, perhaps not seen since the 1980s, strategic instability has increased – particularly in the wake of the Ukraine crisis – and that the arms reduction agenda appears to have reached a standstill, makes this challenge particularly pressing. In this discouraging milieu, new cyber threats are both exacerbating the already strained U.S.-Russia strategic balance – particularly the perceived surety of nuclear forces – and, at the same time, creating new vulnerabilities and problems that might be exploited by a third party. In this Issue Brief, Andrew Futter analyzes these dynamics and their impact on arms control and possible future nuclear reductions and offers a number of concrete suggestions on how to address this complex interplay.
About the Author
Andrew Futter is a Senior Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Leicester (United Kingdom), where his research focuses on nuclear weapons issues. He is a member of the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative (EASI) next generation working group and an Honorary Fellow at the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security at the University of Birmingham.
There is no question that conventional arms control in Europe is in a dry and difficult time. That some progress, or better, some resurrection of conventional arms control, needs to happen is equally obvious. European security and cooperation have long rested on several components, with the military dimension in turn composed of two complimentary elements, strategic nuclear and conventional arms control and confidence-building measures. Today progress towards deep cuts in the strategic arms of Russia and the United States depends in part on resolving perceived conventional threat imbalances. Equally important, while nuclear weapons thankfully are not employed but linger in the “dark corners” of deterrence, conventional weapons have been killing and wounding and directly threatening peace and stability in Europe. This Issue Brief by Greg Govan asks a number of fundamental questions in relation to the core assumption that Europe still needs conventional arms control: What are the goals for European security? How can arms control objectives serve those goals? How can we work towards those goals within a “Helsinki 2” type process that addresses all aspects of security in Europe, not just the military dimension?
About the Author
Greg Govan is a retired Brigadier General and served in the U.S. Army for 31 years. He led the Department of Defense agency responsible for on-site inspections and served as the senior arms control representative to the governing bodies of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty and Open Skies and was appointed and confirmed with the rank of Ambassador in 2000.
The United States and Russia are the two countries with the vast majority of the world’s nuclear weapons and material. In an age of global terrorism, they share both a special responsibility in ensuring that they each employ effective nuclear security systems and an understanding of the unique challenge of securing hundreds of tons of nuclear material. For two decades, the United States and Russia lived up to this responsibility by working together to strengthen nuclear security in Russia and around the globe. That ended in 2014 when Russia halted the majority of its work on nuclear security with the United States. The negative consequences of that decision could seriously affect international security and cooperation in the nuclear realm. This Issue Brief by Nickolas Roth (Harvard University) describes how the United States and Russia arrived at this point. It highlights differences in how the United States and Russia approach nuclear security. It identifies what limited nuclear security related work will likely continue between the two countries in the future. Finally, Roth identifies potential opportunities for future cooperation related to nuclear security between the United States and Russia.
About the Author
Nickolas Roth is a Research Associate at the Project on Managing the Atom at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. His research focuses on nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear security, and the nuclear policy-making process.
This issue brief by Deep Cuts Commissioners Oliver Meier, Greg Thielmann and Andrei Zagorski turns to the latest crisis surrounding the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). The authors argue that the trail-blazing accord, which resulted in the destruction of 2,700 U.S. and Russian ground-based, nuclear-tipped missiles of 500-5,500 km ranges in less than three years should not be abandoned lightly. Even though some U.S. experts and politicians have started questioning the treaty due to concerns of Russia cheating, the treaty is still in the national interest of Russia, the United States, and its European allies. Rather than allow the compliance dispute to fester, or worse yet, respond with a military build-up, both sides should quickly start addressing compliance concerns in the treaty's Special Verification Commission. Practical steps to build on the treaty’s achievements should include opening discussions on “grey area” weapons of INF-range, such as armed drones; and encouraging third parties to adopt elements of the treaty for limiting their own nuclear delivery systems, thus protecting the security advantages of the INF Treaty for Russia and the United States.
Andrei Zagorski is Head of Department for Arms Control and Conflict Resolution at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
This issue brief by Russian researcher Victor Mizin assesses the state of the West-Russian Security Dialogue and the prospects for further nuclear arms control. In addition, Mizin suggests a number of possible measures to achieve more stability for the strained relationship. According to Mizin, 'the conventional wisdom of the Cold War era was that, even in times of ultimate tensions, arms control served as a kind of bridge over seemingly intractable differences between two rival alliances - ostensibly immune from ideological or geopolitical rows. In the period of the post-Cold War “New World Order” illusions, with their maverick schemes of the “End of History” or the “Clash of Civilizations”, arms control seemed to be eclipsed by wider geopolitical ambitions or hopes that it was just a relic of the Cold War and did not need judicially enforceable mechanisms in the era of collaboration and trust between the West and Russia (predictably, that ended quite soon). The “End of History”, even if it really happened in its initial Hegelian sense, only meant the advent of a new set of crises, competition and conflicts in a new phase of international development.'
About the Author
Victor Mizin is currently a Leading Researcher at the Center for International Security of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) in Moscow.
This issue brief analyzes Russia’s nuclear posture, meaning the composition of the Russian strategic triad, its non-strategic nuclear arms, and Moscow’s current nuclear doctrine. As part of the modernization process of the Russian Army, Moscow has ordered a significant qualitative overhaul of the Russian nuclear forces in all three legs of the Russian triad. While Moscow is modernizing, its overall arsenal of nuclear warhead still exceeds massively any reasonable security needs. Efforts at reducing the Russian arsenal in a mutually agreed manner with the United States beyond New START are experiencing considerable problems. The fallout from the Ukraine conflict has already damaged bilateral relations. There is the danger that the standstill in U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control relations might severely affect the NPT regime. The Ukraine conflict will certainly continue to complicate any cooperative approach in the short to mid-term. However, its incalculable implications might even lead to a certain level of re-engagement in order to achieve a more profound level of stability. With the already existing obstacles (missile defense, conventional precision-guided weapons, outer space) still in place, any re-engagement on the issue will call for creativity, common interest, and enough political will and capital. While the obstacles are well-known, the arguments in favor of achieving lower levels in strategic arms have not changed as well. What was reasonable during the last Cold War has not lost its validity in the current crisis.
About the Authors
Vincent C. Fournier is a Canadian national. His academic background is with the Quebec Institute of High International Studies (Laval University, Canada). He has also studied at the Tampere Peace Research Institute (University of Tampere, Finland). He has been a Visiting Researcher at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH) and an intern with the External Relations and International Cooperation Section of the CTBTO.
Ulrich Kühn is a Researcher at IFSH and coordinator of the Deep Cuts project. He has worked as an external advisor to the Division for Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation at the German Federal Foreign Office. In 2011 he was named a United Nations Fellow on Disarmament. He is also a co-initiator of the Initiative for the Development of a Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian Security Community (IDEAS). Kühn has published on conventional and nuclear arms control and Euro-Atlantic security.