Preparing for Deep Cuts

| First Report of the Deep Cuts Commission

Nuclear disarmament is at a critical juncture. New START has bound the United States and Russia to lower their levels of nuclear arms while remaining committed to further nuclear reductions. New START implementation is on track, but the next round of U.S.-Russian reductions is not yet on the horizon. Serious political and military obstacles impede progress. President Obama has off ered to mutually reduce deployed strategic warheads by one-third below New START levels, but significant skepticism resides in the U.S. Congress. Moreover, Moscow has shown little enthusiasm for further reductions. The current political impasse threatens future progress toward realizing the vision of a world free from nuclear weapons. In 2015, NPT non-nuclear-weapon states will most likely cite with increased urgency the disarmament obligations of the nuclear-weapon states.


The U.S. and Russia signed the New START Treaty four years ago, limiting deployed strategic warheads and means of delivery. Both aim to comply by 2018. However, they still possess excessive nuclear arsenals, accounting for over 90% of global nuclear weapons. While both pledged further reductions under the NPT, negotiations haven't started. The German-Russian-U.S. Deep Cuts Commission report explores obstacles and options for these reductions. It highlights the need for dialogue to prevent tensions and encourages transforming nuclear doctrines. Further reductions could save resources and reinforce global non-proliferation efforts.

Policy recommendations

Policy Recommendations

  • Further U.S and Russian nuclear reductions, below the agreed limits of New START, are possible without jeopardizing either country’s security. Both Washington and Moscow could consider further independent, reciprocal strategic force reductions below New START ceilings before the Treaty expires. Ideally, the United States and Russia would initiate talks on a New START follow-on agreement mandating additional significant and stabilizing cuts — for example, to 500 deployed strategic delivery vehicles and 1,000 deployed strategic warheads for each side. With or without formal negotiations, both countries should reinvigorate bilateral strategic stability talks with the goal of pursuing confidence-building initiatives that help to address concerns relating to missile defense, tactical nuclear weapons, conventional high-precision weapons, and outer space weapons.

  • Addressing tactical nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia should pursue transparency and confidence-building measures such as data exchanges on the total number of TNW warheads destroyed over the past twenty years. They should also resume the bilateral dialogue of nuclear experts in order to develop non-intrusive verification measures to provide for verifiable and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons.

  • In order to transform their nuclear doctrines, the United States and Russia should enter into a jointly defined and regular dialogue. The agenda should include exchanging declarations of intent regarding nuclear use and the adoption of measures to increase the decision time for political leaders in a crisis by reducing or removing requirements for continuous high alert postures.

  • Regarding missile defense, Russia and the United States should intensify efforts to achieve verifiable measures to make missile defense capabilities more transparent, considering exchanges of data on technical parameters and conducting regular joint exercises. Together with NATO, they should explore options for a joint NATO-Russian center for the surveillance and monitoring of missile threats and space objects.

  • On conventional high-precision weapons, the United States and Russia should open up a dialogue on threat perceptions, definitions, and possible transparency measures as well as consider additional confidence-building measures (such as launch notification and exchange of data) for existing strategic conventional arms, not currently accountable under New START.

  • Modernizing the conventional arms control (CAC) regime in Europe, NATO should arrive at an early proposal for CAC that opens the way for consultations with Russia, concentrating on substantially lower ceilings for already limited conventional equipment, limits for new categories of conventional weaponry, limitations of complex military capabilities, verifiable transparency measures, and specific sub-regional arrangements in regions of heightened threat perceptions.