New START Arms Deal: The Basics

BY Larisa Epatko  December 21, 2010 at 1:13 PM EDT


President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Prague in April (Photo by AFP/Getty Images)

The Senate appears to be moving toward ratifying the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia. Here’s a fresh look at the basics of the pact.

What would it do? The “New START” agreement, as it has been dubbed, would reduce the maximum size of deployed nuclear arsenals in the United States and Russia by roughly a third. (Read the full treaty from the State Department)

According to State, it would also would specify limits of:

– 1,550 deployed warheads, about 74 percent lower than the first START treaty of 1991 and 30 percent lower than the upper warhead limit of the 2002 Moscow Treaty.

  • A combined limit of 800 deployed and non-deployed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launchers, submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear weapons.
  • A separate limit of 700 deployed ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear weapons
  • It also contains a verification process including on-site inspections, data exchanges and use of national technology to monitor the treaty.
  • The treaty does not constrain testing, developing or deploying current or planned U.S. missile defense programs or U.S. long-range conventional strike capabilities. According to preamble language: “Recognizing the existence of the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms, that this interrelationship will become more important as strategic nuclear arms are reduced, and that current strategic defensive arms do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the Parties…” In other words, it recognizes that the balance between offensive and defensive arms will “become more important” as the number of strategic weapons are reduced.

What’s its duration? The treaty will be in force for 10 years unless another agreement replaces it.

When was it signed? President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the New START deal on April 8 in Prague.

What does it need for final implementation? Two-thirds of the U.S. Senate must ratify the agreement, and the Russian Duma must approve it.

When was START I? The first START bilateral treaty between the U.S. and USSR was signed on July 31, 1991, and entered into force on Dec. 5, 1994. It was implemented in late 2001 (delay was due to the collapse of the Soviet Union) and expired on Dec. 5, 2009. It was the most complex arms control treaty in history.

We’ll have more on the New START treaty on Tuesday’s NewsHour. Stay tuned.

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