New Deep Cuts Commission Issue Brief: The Uncertain Future of the New START Treaty

| new Publication

This brief is about the background and implementation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the impact of Russia’s suspension of the treaty and the treaty’s uncertain future. In February 2023, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would “suspend” its participation in New START, citing U.S. support for Ukraine in its war with Russia. Washington responded with countermeasures. Ideally, the sides would return to full implementation of New START. Having the treaty in full force would provide a more solid foundation for discussions on what might follow New START, when it expires by its terms in February 2026. Absent the treaty’s monitoring and verification measures, concern could arise that one side or the other is exceeding the numerical limit on deployed strategic warheads. That could prompt a side to exercise its right to withdraw from the treaty. However, the most likely scenario appears to be continued Russian suspension until the treaty’s expiration in February 2026 and, during that period, no serious arms control dialogue between Washington and Moscow. That would occur against the backdrop of growing U.S. concern about the ongoing expansion of Chinese nuclear forces. The United States, Russia, and China face the prospect of a three-way nuclear arms race. Avoiding that will require creative diplomacy and recalling, or relearning, the lessons of the 1960s.