Russia and the United States in recent days started swapping data on their strategic nuclear arsenal assets in compliance with a bilateral arms control treaty that took effect last month, RIA Novosti reported (see GSN, March 17).
"With entry into force of [New START], we have begun implementing an extensive regime of mutual monitoring and information exchange," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller said.
"Our Nuclear Risk Reduction Center transmitted the U.S. database to Russia over this past weekend. Such information includes data on the parties' missiles, launchers, heavy bombers, and warheads subject to the treaty," Gottemoeller said.
New START entered into force last month. The treaty obligates Washington and Moscow to each limit their deployed strategic nuclear weapons at 1,550, down from the 2,200 maximum required by 2012 under an earlier treaty. It also sets a ceiling of 700 deployed warhead delivery systems, with another 100 allowed in reserve. The treaty calls for the governments to complete within 45 days of entry into force an initial exchange of of strategic arsenal data. Information swaps would occur twice per year.
The pact also allows both sides to conduct a number of audits of the other nation's nuclear weapons facilities each year. Such visits could begin as soon as April 6, 60 days after the pact took effect on February 5, Gottemoeller said. Separately, the United States recently placed on display B-1B strategic bomber aircraft at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, and Russia was carrying out a similar display of its RS-24 Yars ICBM, she said.
"On-site inspections are a vital complement to the data exchanged. They provide the 'boots on the ground' presence to confirm the validity of data declarations, thus helping to verify compliance with treaty obligations, as well as adding to our confidence and knowledge regarding Russian strategic forces located at those facilities," the U.S. official said. "The same is true for Russia, since all treaty measures are reciprocal" (RIA Novosti I, March 22).
U.S. Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher said obstacles lay ahead in a drive for Washington and Moscow to negotiate curbs to their nonstrategic nuclear arsenals, RIA Novosti reported (see GSN, Feb. 8).
"Moving missile defense from a negative to a positive factor in our relationship could facilitate cooperation in other areas as well, including talks on further reductions in strategic, nonstrategic and nondeployed nuclear weapons (see related GSN story, today). But reaching any agreement will not be easy and it will take time," Tauscher said (RIA Novosti II, March 22).
Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday said his country in 2013 would increase by twofold its manufacturing of new ballistic missiles (see GSN, March 21).
"The armed forces will receive new strategic and tactical missile systems, such as RS-24 Yars, Bulava and Iskander M," Putin said. "Starting from 2013, the production of (ballistic) missile systems must be doubled."
Moscow would allocate $2.6 billion for ballistic missile manufacturing as part of a decade-long military modernization plan, he said. Russia would provide $500 million in missile production funds over the three coming years to an assembly site at Votkinsk and other entities, and "the financing will gradually increase in the future," according to Putin (RIA Novosti III, March 21).
The nation's navy plans to place the Yuri Dolgoruky ballistic-missile submarine on active duty this fall, Interfax reported. The vessel would be armed with the new Bulava ballistic missile, which is slated to be entered into service around the same time.
"We are preparing for [Bulava trial] launches from the [Borei-class submarine] in the summer. We plan to put the Bulava and Borei into service at the beginning of the fall," First Deputy of the Naval General Staff Vice Adm. Oleg Burtsev told Ekho Moskvy radio on Saturday.
Russia would not necessarily remove Bulava missiles from the Dmitry Donskoy submarine if the test launches from the Yuri Dolgoruky proceed as expected, Burtsev said (Interfax, March 21).
A Siberia facility has manufactured a quantity of Bulava missiles sufficient to wrap up trials and deploy on one Borei-class submarine, RIA Novosti quoted Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov as saying on Monday.
"A batch of missiles sufficient to finish the tests and equip one submarine has been produced already. Larger production would cause the missiles to stock up," Ivanov said (RIA Novosti IV, March 21).