Interview
Rose Gottemoeller
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
PIR Center's "Security Index"
Moscow, Russia
May 26, 2011


The New START treaty undoubtedly opens a new page in the relations between the United States and Russia. Its significance for strengthening the arms limitation regime is hard to overestimate. How did the ratification of the new treaty go? What are the New START's main differences from its predecessors? And what will be the real consequences of its entry into force?

The editors of the Security Index journal have put these questions to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller.

Q: The entry into force of the New START Treaty is an undoubted achievement for both sides – but the ratification process was slow and contentious. What were the main difficulties?

A: The signing of the new treaty did not just signal the end of the negotiating process between the two delegations, which took a little less than a year. It also enabled us to enter the crucial stage, the stage of ratification.

The package of documents for ratification was prepared very expeditiously, and the White House submitted it to the U.S. Senate by mid-May 2010.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee chaired by Senator John Kerry, with Senator Richard Lugar as its ranking member, drew up an intensive schedule of hearings to make sure the treaty was reviewed promptly and thoroughly. The Armed Services and Intelligence Committees held additional hearings. Numerous administration officials, former government and military leaders, and representatives of non-governmental organizations testified about the Treaty.

Debates at the hearings were very intense right from the start. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mullen, and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu presented the Committees with compelling arguments in favor of the New START Treaty, emphasizing its significance for U.S. national security. I myself, along with Dr. Ted Warner from the Department of Defense, who was one of two deputy heads of the U.S. delegation, appeared four times before Senate Committees.

The committee also heard from Dr. Jim Miller, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, Director of the Missile Defense Agency; and Gen. Kevin Chilton, Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command.

Apart from members of the current Administration, the Committees also heard from former government officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations and representatives of military commands who endorsed the Treaty, including former Defense Secretaries Bill Perry and Jim Schlesinger, former Secretaries of State James Baker and Henry Kissinger, and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft.

The hearings and debate on the Senate floor over the Treaty were intense because Senators were interested in the issue and the outcome of the ratification effort. Once the President submitted the Treaty to the Senate, Senators gave careful consideration to the Treaty, through 18 hearings, scores of briefings, and over 1,000 questions that the Administration answered for the official record of the Treaty debate. This level of interest was not unexpected. The issue of nuclear disarmament is critical to the national security of the United States and a major nuclear arms reduction treaty had not been considered by the U.S. Senate in many years.

The President appreciated the show of bipartisan support for the New START Treaty. This demonstration of bipartisanship underscored that Democrats and Republicans can work together on national security issues.

New START is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades. The Treaty will ensure predictability and mutual confidence between the countries with the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. It is an important element of U.S. national security, as it is an important element in the security of the Russian Federation.

Q: How was the previous experience of joint work by the U.S. and Russian delegations used during the work on the treaty?

A: The negotiations began in 2009; their aim was to replace the expiring START Treaty with a new agreement mandating further strategic offensive arms reductions. In addition, we were determined to overcome Cold War thinking and work toward resetting our relations with Russia.

During the actual talks we managed to make good use of our years of experience in implementing the INF, START, and Moscow treaties. There were many talented experts on both sides of the table, including inspectors who had worked on implementation of the previous treaties. We made full use of their expertise during the negotiations.

The New START Treaty is a hybrid of the old START and the Moscow Treaty – its conceptual roots go back to those two agreements. Similar to the old START Treaty, New START stipulates a comprehensive verification regime to ensure predictability. It also was recognized that we are no longer in a Cold War relationship. The Treaty thus allows each Party to have the flexibility to determine the composition and structure of its strategic offensive arms and how reductions will be made.

Q: What are the specifics of the new ceilings and counting rules for nuclear armaments in New START?

A: The new treaty stipulates a substantial lowering of the nuclear armament ceilings for the United States and Russia compared to the previous START Treaty and the Moscow Treaty.

It should be noted that the counting rules under each of those treaties are different.

In the previous START Treaty the counting rules for warheads on delivery vehicles were mainly based on attribution. Under the New START Treaty, we count the actual numbers of reentry vehicles emplaced on each deployed ICBM and SLBM.

For nuclear-capable heavy bombers, the two sides have agreed to apply a "one bomber - one warhead" attribution rule. Let me remind you that otherwise the number of warheads carried by such bombers would have been counted as zero, because these bombers are not routinely loaded with nuclear weapons nowadays.

The new Treaty limits the aggregate number of deployed strategic warheads to 1,550 for each side - that is a reduction of almost 30 percent compared to the 2,200 warhead ceiling of the Moscow Treaty.

The ceiling for deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and deployed heavy bombers has been set at 700.

That is a more than 50 percent reduction compared to the 1,600 deployed strategic delivery vehicle ceiling under the previous START Treaty.

A separate ceiling of 800 has been set for the total number of deployed and non-deployed ICBM and SLBM launchers and deployed and non-deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.

Q: In what ways does the verification regime of the New START Treaty differ from the previous treaty?

A: The verification regime contains numerous provisions that ensure effective verification of treaty compliance, including notifications, data exchanges, agreed procedures for conversion and elimination, inspections, demonstrations and exhibitions. Compared to the previous START Treaty, New START contains some important new mechanisms such as unique identifiers for every ICBM, SLBM and heavy bomber.

The verification regime provides each of the Parties confidence that the other Party is complying with its obligations. New START, along with its protocol and annexes, contains a detailed set of rules and procedures for verification, many of them drawn from START. We looked for ways, informed by earlier experiences, to make the verification regime simpler and safer to implement and, at the same time, minimize disruptions to the day-to-day operations of both sides’ strategic forces.

Experienced inspectors and weapons system operators served on the U.S. and Russian negotiating delegations for New START. These experts made important contributions that helped us develop a simple, safe, and cost-effective inspection regime for the new Treaty. We also worked to develop measures unique to the requirements of this Treaty, in particular on-site inspection procedures that will allow the United States to confirm the actual number of warheads on each designated Russian ICBM and SLBM. This verification task and inspection right did not exist under START.

Q: What are the main challenges to successful implementation of the New START Treaty?

A: On February 5, I had the honor of attending the ceremony in Munich where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov exchanged the instruments of ratification, which brought New START into force. Implementation of the Treaty is well underway. Notifications are being provided as required; the United States and Russia have exchanged specific information on the number and locations of their strategic offensive arms; and exhibitions required by the Treaty thus far have been completed. The Treaty’s Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC) convened in Geneva, Switzerland, from March 28 to April 8. In the course of this inaugural session the Parties discussed technical issues related to the implementation of the Treaty. Both sides agreed to hold a second session of the BCC later this year in Geneva. On April 13, a team of U.S. inspectors arrived in Moscow for the first on-site inspection in the Russian Federation under the terms of the New START Treaty. The inspection regime contained in New START is designed to provide the United States and Russia confidence that the other is upholding its obligations. These inspections greatly reduce uncertainty, and help build mutual trust and confidence.

Q: How would you describe the atmosphere during the talks on New START?

A: The best words to describe the spirit of the talks would be "mutual respect." It is thanks to that mutual respect that our meetings were always businesslike and very productive. As Ambassador A.I. Antonov would frequently say, "business is business."

Each member of both delegations demonstrated a sense of purpose and readiness for cooperation, which enabled us to complete the Treaty in a year. That contrasts sharply with the more than nine years we had spent negotiating the original START Treaty and the six years spent on concluding the INF Treaty.

Q: How much do you think the nature of interaction between the Russian and U.S. delegations has changed compared to the 1990s, when the START-1 Treaty was signed?

A: Much has changed since the START Treaty was signed by Presidents George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. These changes were reflected in the day-to-day work of our two delegations. When discussing various provisions of the treaty, we understood each other's strategic forces better than before. The experience of implementing the INF and START treaties had helped to develop this mutual understanding. Many experts on both sides had served as inspectors during the implementation of the previous START Treaty. They had visited on multiple occasions the operating bases for ICBMs, ballistic missile submarines and heavy bombers, as well as storage facilities.

In addition, communication channels had already been well-established by the time we began the discussion. For more than 23 years the United States and Russia have communicated on START and INF through our respective Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers.

We really do understand each other, in the literal sense. There were probably as many Russian speakers in the U.S. delegation as there were English speakers in the Russian delegation. As I have already mentioned, many of those people had previously served as inspectors. During the previous arms control negotiations we did not have years of experience in implementing our agreements. Now that experience has served us well, significantly expediting the talks. Both sides demonstrated a high degree of professionalism and expertise; both teams worked energetically and productively.

In my opinion, it is no coincidence that we managed to bring the talks to a successful conclusion so quickly. The New START Treaty reflects the determination of our countries to begin a new era in our security relations based on the principles of greater openness and closer cooperation.

Q: How would you describe the role the New START Treaty can play in strengthening international security?

A: The Treaty is a continuation of the international system of arms control and nonproliferation that the United States has worked hard to foster and strengthen over the past 50 years. The Treaty will ensure ongoing transparency and predictability regarding the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals, while enabling us to maintain effective nuclear deterrence, which remains an important element of U.S. national security and the security of our friends and allies.

This treaty relates not only to Washington and Moscow. It will benefit the entire international community. The United States and Russia control more than 90 percent of nuclear weapons on the planet. The world expects us to play the leading role in ensuring global security and safety of nuclear materials and preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The recently published data on the stocks of nuclear weapons in the United States, (although this is not directly related to the new treaty) demonstrate how much progress we have made in reducing our nuclear arsenals. In 1967 we had 31,255 nuclear warheads. At the last NPT Review Conference, Secretary Clinton revealed the actual size of the U.S. stockpile and our annual warhead dismantlement figures to show how far we have come since the end of the Cold War. As of September 2009, we had 5,113.

We welcome that both France and the United Kingdom have revealed their stockpile numbers and encourage all nuclear weapons states, including Russia, to declassify the total size of their nuclear weapons stockpiles and the number of weapons dismantled as we look to pursue further reductions of nuclear weapons.

Increasing the transparency of global nuclear stockpiles has great significance for effective work on nonproliferation and for further arms reductions now that the New START Treaty has entered into force. The new Treaty lays the ground for involving other nuclear powers in fulfilling the goals of the NPT and gives us new opportunities for strengthening strategic stability.

As indicated in the preamble of the Treaty, we view New START as a new impetus to the process of step-by-step reduction and limitation of nuclear arms that will eventually lead to a multilateral approach. In the future we will also seek to achieve reductions of non-strategic and non-deployed nuclear weapons. Such steps will truly usher in a new era in arms control.

The New START treaty is a continuation of the process that began shortly before the end of the Cold War, when the threat of nuclear terrorism led us to recognize the need ultimately to eliminate nuclear weapons. This goal is one that President Obama clearly articulated during his speech in Prague in April 2009.

For as long as nuclear weapons exist, the United States will maintain a reliable, safe, and effective nuclear arsenal to deter any aggression and protect its allies. But this new treaty lays the ground for further arms reductions.

After signing the new treaty in April last year, President Barack Obama described it as “an important milestone in strengthening nuclear security and the nonproliferation regime, and in the history of U.S.-Russian relations as a whole.” President Dmitry Medvedev, meanwhile, called it “a win-win situation.”

Q. What steps are being considered with respect to future arms control?

A. The entry into force of New START has created momentum for taking additional steps in nuclear arms control. As President Obama remarked on the day when he signed the New START Treaty, the United States is pursuing with Russia further reductions in strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons, including non-deployed nuclear weapons. Non-deployed and non-strategic nuclear weapons or “tactical” nuclear weapons have not yet been addressed before, so we are moving deeper into unchartered territory. We still have much homework to do.

With regard to non-strategic nuclear weapons, we believe a good first step would be to establish a bilateral dialogue or consultations regarding the role of these weapons in the national security policies of the United States and Russia, and how we think about them conceptually. This would increase mutual understanding of each side’s posture in this regard and allow the sides to address in a careful and considered way the issue of non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe.

While negotiated nuclear reductions have to date been dominated by U.S.-Russian bilateral negotiations, advancing toward the vision of a safe, secure world without nuclear weapons will increasingly require strengthening cooperation on WMD issues of concern to both nuclear weapons and non-nuclear weapons states. As we look toward the world we would like to see, we must broaden the scope of our vision and involve all states with nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons capabilities irrespective of their NPT status. All states must begin considering how they too can help work toward a world without nuclear weapons, and help create the conditions needed.

For example, the P-5 nuclear weapons states are currently engaged in a dialogue on issues relating to verification, transparency and confidence-building measures, topics on which France will host a conference in June this year.

In addition to further reductions, ballistic missile defense is a subject that must be addressed as part of the “next steps.” The Obama Administration is seeking to cooperate with Russia on missile defense. Across the Administration at multiple levels, we are engaging our Russian counterparts and NATO allies in an effort to develop pragmatic missile defense cooperation that will be in the interest of all.

Beyond the scope of U.S. and Russia negotiations and NATO issues, there is also work to be done on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. The United States remains committed to working with the U.S. Senate on ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty – CTBT and negotiating without further delay a verifiable Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty – FMCT. And finally, we must take steps to strengthen and modernize the conventional arms control regime in Europe.