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How to Fix the Moscow Treaty


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February 5, 2003 - In light of the budding U.S.-Russian security partnership, and the lack of other potentially hostile nuclear forces that are remotely commensurate with those of the United States, the Bush administration's projected nuclear stockpile level for the coming decade and beyond -- 10,500 total weapons, of which 4,600 to 3,000 are "operationally deployed"-- is clearly excessive.

A durable, verifiable framework for long-term strategic stability and cooperation among the nuclear powers is needed now -- not 10 or 20 years hence -- to buttress global security against the multiple threats of nuclear proliferation, international terrorism, and resurgent nuclear arms competition.

To ensure that the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty -- the "Moscow Treaty" -- contributes to the early evolution of such a framework, and that the United States and Russia continue to fulfill their obligations under Article VI of the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Senate should attach binding conditions to its resolution of ratification. These conditions should shape U.S. unilateral reductions under the Moscow Treaty, in both deployed and reserve weapons, which are deeper, more timely, more predictable, and more transparent than those currently projected by the Bush administration. The Senate should seek to elicit reciprocal Russian transparency and restraint as the price for making these moves permanent.

The Senate's resolution of ratification should:

  • Establish an interim ceiling of 3,500 weapons for the total U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile in the custody of the Department of Defense -- a two-thirds reduction from the current level that would complement and lend substance to the treaty's advertised two-thirds reduction in "operationally deployed strategic forces."

  • Direct the president to annually submit an updated nuclear weapons retirement plan that achieves this level five years sooner -- by the end of 2007, rather than December 31, 2012.

  • Cap the level of "operationally deployed strategic weapons" at the low end of the range previously announced by Presidents Bush and Putin -- 1,700 rather than 2,200 -- and likewise reach this level five years sooner, by December 30, 2007.

Instead of allowing the president's national security team to merely enumerate the obstacles to achieving these accelerated dismantlement objectives, the Senate should direct the president to budget for the sums required to achieve an accelerated warhead dismantlement rate, and direct the Nevada Test Site's massive, secure and underutilized Device Assembly Facility to meet this objective.

Finally, the Moscow Treaty does not provide for the necessary openness to verify compliance and effectively assist Russia in applying the highest levels of security, accounting and control to storing and dismantling its nuclear warheads, nuclear explosive components, and nuclear weapons-usable fissile materials. The Senate's resolution of ratification should direct the president to rectify all of these deficiencies by negotiating supplemental reciprocal monitoring arrangements in conjunction with an expanded and accelerated U.S.-Russia Cooperative Threat Reduction (Nunn-Lugar) Program.

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Christopher Paine, NRDC senior analyst, 434-244-5013

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