The Uncertain Future of the New START Treaty

| Issue Brief

With the New START Treaty supended by the Russian Federation the future of legal nuclear arms control looks even bleaker than before. This brief lays out the foundations of the treaty and the main obstacles that it faces even before it expires in 2026.


The New START Treaty is the last remaining treaty limiting nuclear weapons between the United States and the Russian Federation. This issue brief lays out the developments that led to the suspension of the treaty by Vladimir Putin in February 2023 and explores consequences of a future without a successor treaty in 2026. One key issue is the ability of the two sides, absent the treaty’s verification measures, to monitor with confidence the number of the other side’s deployed strategic warheads. Without those measures, if one side or the other loses confidence that the other is observing the New START limit on deployed strategic warheads, there could be growing pressure to formally withdraw from the treaty and increase the number of strategic nuclear warheads. Moving above New START's limits on deployed strategic warheads and strategic delivery systems could fuel a three-party strategic arms race among the United States, Russia and China that would be difficult to arrest. All parties (including European states) have an interest to avoid this scenario.

DOI 10.5281/zenodo.10490276


  • Steven Pifer

    Steven Pifer is a non-resident senior fellow with the Brookings Institution and an affiliate with the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. Pifer is a retired foreign service officer with over 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. He served as deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs with responsibilities for Russia and Ukraine (2001-2004), U.S. ambassador to Ukraine (1998-2000), and special assistant to the President and senior director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia on the National Security Council (1996-1997).

  • Victor Mizin

    Victor Mizin is the Leading Researcher with the Center for International Security at the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) of the Russian Academy of Sciences. From 1978 to 2001, he was on diplomatic service at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR and the Russian Federation. He headed the related desks at the Russian Foreign Ministry, was the member of the Russian Mission to the UN in New York and an UNSCOM/UNMOVIC inspector. As a member of official delegations, he took part in bilateral and multilateral negotiations, in particular, on strategic offensive arms limitation and reduction, intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles (INF) and the Conference on Disarmament.

  • Patricia Jaworek

    Patricia Jaworek is a Program Officer in the Global Nuclear Policy Program at the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) in Washington, DC. She supports NTI’s efforts to reduce global nuclear risks, focusing on disarmament, arms control, and Euro-Atlantic security. She holds a joint master’s degree in Transatlantic Affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and the College of Europe and a law degree from the University of Hamburg with a focus on European and public international law. Jaworek is a member of the Younger Generation Leaders Network on Euro-
    Atlantic Security (YGLN).