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NTI Releases Assessment of New Russian Nuclear Weapon Delivery Systems

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Washington, DC – The first detailed, exclusively open-source
assessment of the five new nuclear weapon systems announced by Russian
President Vladimir Putin was released today by the Nuclear Threat Initiative
(NTI), alongside a new analysis underscoring the need to extend the New START
Treaty based on the report’s findings.

Authored
by Jill Hruby, NTI’s inaugural Sam Nunn Distinguished Fellow and a former
director of Sandia National Laboratories, the report, Russia’s New Nuclear Weapon Delivery Systems: An Open-Source Technical Review, provides insight into the technical characteristics, deployment
schedule, and military objectives for each of the five systems, plus one additional
system that may be nuclear capable in the future.

As
the strategic relationship between the United States and Russia continues to deteriorate,
“understanding and following the development of the new Russian nuclear- weapon
delivery systems is important for future arms control agreements and strategic
stability policy decisions,” writes Hruby.

“The
development of these weapons systems at this particular time, as well as some
of the nuclear policies the United States is pursuing, should be a wake-up call
for action on renewing dialogue and cooperation with Russia to prevent nuclear
catastrophe,” NTI co-chairs Ernest J. Moniz and Sam Nunn write in the foreword
to Hruby’s report.

Through
extensive research, Hruby concludes that technical and safety issues associated
with some of Russia’s new weapon delivery systems may delay their development
and deployment beyond what has been reported to date in other open sources. The
delays “may offer some additional time for U.S. and Russian leaders to
re-engage and renew crucial dialogue and cooperation,” Moniz and Nunn wrote. “They
should do so now. Before it’s too late.”

An
accompanying analysis, Russia’s New Nuclear Weapon Delivery Systems: Implications for New START, Future Arms Control, and Strategic Stability
, by NTI experts Mark Melamed and Lynn
Rusten,
draws on Hruby’s technical
assessment. The paper concludes
that “extending New START would ensure that significant new Russian systems
would be subject to limits and verification and would provide a forum for
discussing the other strategic systems that are further away in time from
deployment.” 

New
START is set to expire in 2021 but could be extended to 2026, under the terms
of the agreement. “Extending New START until February 2026 would preserve
numerical limits on and verification of Russian strategic systems, including
the two new ones expected to be deployed before 2026,” write Melamed and Rusten,
and would “buy time for negotiations on other ‘new kinds’ of strategic systems,
which Hruby’s report assesses, are not likely to be deployed before 2026.” 

The
authors also note that as the United States, Russia, China, and others continue
to develop new technologies and capabilities, understanding and reducing nuclear
risks is ever more critical, especially as political tensions remain high.

The
report and paper are designed to serve as a starting point for further analysis
of how strategic stability is affected by the development, deployment, and
interaction of new types of weapon systems and technologies, including nuclear
and conventional prompt-strike and hypersonic delivery vehicles, and other
capabilities such as missile defense, cyber, and artificial intelligence.

“It
is critical to examine how the risks of technological advances can be mitigated
and their benefits realized,” Melamed and Rusten conclude, “particularly when
it comes to avoiding the existential threat of nuclear war.”

###

About
the Nuclear Threat Initiative

The Nuclear Threat Initiative works to
protect our lives, environment, and quality of life now and for future
generations. We work to prevent catastrophic attacks with weapons of mass
destruction and disruption (WMDD)—nuclear, biological, radiological, chemical,
and cyber. 

01/9

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