U.S. Moves to Discuss Nonstrategic Nuke Cuts With Russia: Official

The United States is moving toward discussions with Russia that could pave the way for each country to slash their stocks of nonstrategic nuclear warheads and weapons now held in reserve, RIA Novosti last week quoted a senior Obama administration official as saying (see GSN, Dec. 23, 2011).

“At the moment we are engaged in what I would say is a ‘homework period,’” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller said. “We are preparing a way for new negotiations but we are not yet ready to embark on new negotiations.”

President Obama vowed upon inking the New START treaty in 2010 to pursue further nuclear weapons discussions with Moscow, and he has eyed a possible agreement over additional weapons types, Gottemoeller said (see GSN, April 8, 2010). New START requires each government to reduce deployment of strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550, down from a cap of 2,200 mandated by next year under an older treaty. It also limits the number of fielded strategic warhead delivery platforms to 700, with an additional 100 systems permitted in reserve.

“The first category would be further reductions in deployed nuclear warheads. These warheads are the easiest ones to see from outer space, from either Russian satellites or U.S. satellites. Up to this point in the history of arms control efforts we've always focused on deployed weapons,” the official said.

The Obama administration would hope to extend the range of potential reductions.

“One -- nondeployed nuclear weapons, weapons that are in storage facilities or reserve, and the third category is nonstrategic weapons or tactical nuclear weapons. Those last two categories are brand new and for that reason we have been very interested in working with the Russian Federation on some new approaches that will be necessary for verifying such agreements,” Gottemoeller said.

Washington could seek to address related ambiguities, as “what we consider a tactical nuclear weapon may be different from what the Russian Federation considers to be a tactical nuclear weapon or nonstrategic nuclear weapon,”  she added (RIA Novosti, Dec. 27, 2011).

January 3, 2012
About

The United States is moving toward discussions with Russia that could pave the way for each country to slash their stocks of nonstrategic nuclear warheads and weapons now held in reserve, RIA Novosti last week quoted a senior Obama administration official as saying.