Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton are expected to exchange the formal “instruments of ratification” of the New START agreement, the final step required for the nuclear arms reduction treaty to enter into force, during the Munich Security Conference on February 5th (“New START treaty to enter into force Feb 5,” Agence France-Presse, 28 January 2011).
As we reported last spring, the treaty is a modest, but still important, step forward for nuclear arms control:
Although on paper the new treaty will reduce the number of deployed U.S. and Russian strategic (i.e., intercontinental range) nuclear weapons by about 30%, in practice the actual reductions will be considerably more modest, as changes in the way bomber-carried weapons are counted will account for much of the reductions. In addition, the treaty will not address tactical nuclear weapons or nuclear warheads that are in storage or awaiting dismantlement. And it will not resolve the U.S.-Russian dispute on the future of missile defence systems.
Nonetheless, the treaty can be considered a positive step forward in that it will–if ratified in both the U.S. and Russia–institutionalize further nuclear reductions and create momentum for even deeper cuts, which the Obama administration has said it seeks. It will also revive verification provisions that lapsed with the expiration of the START Treaty and were absent entirely from the Bush administration’s Moscow Treaty.
U.S. State Department photo