Dr. Rodney W. Jones, now president of Policy Architects International,
served on the U.S. START delegation and as senior specialist in START affairs
in the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency through 1994.
In the U.S. Senate, where START II currently faces no vocal or organized opposition, politics and competing legislative items have kept the treaty's ratification on the back burner. The continuing confrontation between the new Republican leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Democratic administration could easily produce a legislative logjam on several foreign relations issues by late September. With budget legislation moving to center stage for most of the rest of this session, and next year's presidential election a prime focus after that, START II ratification could become the victim of bad timing in the United States.
In Moscow, while not as widely publicized, there is serious debate on the pros and cons of START II ratification, which is not likely to be easy and which could be further delayed by a number of potential obstacles. Among these is the real danger that Russia's Parliament will attach binding conditions to treaty ratification despite the extremely important symbolic international status it confers on Russia.1 It is therefore increasingly important to understand the central issues in the debate in Moscow and to look at steps that might help to improve ratification prospects in Russia in 1995.
Signed by Presidents George Bush and Boris Yeltsin in January 3, 1993, START II represents an extraordinary milestone in post-Cold War U.S.-Russian relations. Together with START I, it reverses the strategic arms race and reduces the risk of nuclear war, providing new elements of strategic security and stability that buffer the relationship against nuclear crises and potential miscalculation while promoting normalcy and threat reduction. START II thus encourages strategic partnership and security cooperation between Russia and the United States, which in turn strengthens Russia's incentives for political and economic reform, including transition from a military-dominated to a civilian, market economy.
Building on START I, the START II agreement bans multiple, independently-targetable reentry vehicle (MIRVed) ICBMs, thus reducing incentives for a first strike. It reduces strategic warheads on both sides to a ceiling of 3,500, roughly half of START I's nominal ceilings and approximately two-thirds below the actual levels of the START I strategic arsenals. (See Appendix for key START II provisions.)
To accommodate Russia's concerns about strategic equality and implementation costs, the United States agreed to several modifications to the framework agreement: Russia could keep in place up to 105 of its 170 SS-19 ICBMs by downloading five of the six warheads from each missile; Russia could retain up to 90 SS-18 (heavy ICBM) silos (of the 154 remaining after START I reductions), provided the silos were physically converted for use only by single-warhead ICBMs of the SS-25 type, and provided all the SS-18 heavy missiles were physically eliminated; the United States would accept a restriction that, once designated as conventional bombers, strategic aircraft could be reoriented again to nuclear roles only once; and, the U.S. B-2 bomber, exempt from inspection under START I, would be subject to inspection under START II.
But action ground to a halt in Washington and Moscow for nearly 18 months when it became clear that Ukraine's vacillation would postpone START I's entry into force. There were formal grounds not to resume the ratification process: START II could not enter into force until START I was in force, and START I was stalled due to Ukraine's reluctance to accede to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear-weapon state in accordance with its commitments under the May 1992 Lisbon Protocol to START I. Once Kiev finally joined the NPT in December 1994, it allowed START I to enter into force and rekindled START II ratification efforts.
In the interim, the United States and Russia adopted a number of nuclear confidence-building measures to signify the reduction of the strategic threat and to encourage legislative and public receptivity to START II. At their September 1994 summit in Washington, Yeltsin and Clinton agreed that once START II is in force, the sides would accelerate deactivation of the strategic systems slated for elimination. The two leaders also committed themselves to have experts begin examining further strategic arms reductions--a prospective START III.
In January, U.S. Senate committee hearings on START II resumed and were essentially completed in May. Although Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have drafted a resolution of advice and consent to ratification, the document had not been subject to a final markup by the full committee before the summer recess began August 11.
Russia also was wrestling with formidable political and economic problems. On security and nuclear arms control issues, it therefore placed first priority on working out agreements for dismantlement assistance with the United States, the compensation and terms for U.S. purchase of highly enriched uranium (HEU) extracted from nuclear weapons and the conditions required for the exchange of START I instruments of ratification with the other parties. The internal crisis over Chechnya also intervened. As a result, it was not until June 20 that Yeltsin signed the letter of transmittal to the Duma for START II ratification and also designated Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev and Defense Minister Pavel Grachev as his START II representatives before Parliament.
On July 11, leaders of the two principal Duma committees held a closed, joint hearing with members of the Federation Council's Foreign Affairs Committee, listening to testimony from representatives of the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense, the military services (Strategic Rocket Forces, navy and air force, including long-range aviation) and Goskomoboronprom (state committee for defense industry). Those who testified--including the military commanders--uniformly supported START II ratification.2 But conditions that might be introduced into the ratification legislation were also discussed in the hearings. Afterwards, Defense Committee Chairman Sergei N. Yushenkov was quoted by Segodnya as saying ratification would depend on three conditions: "unconditional implementation of the 1972 ABM Treaty, a time table for the implementation of START II which corresponds to Russia's economic possibilities, and the provision of adequate funds for the maintenance of Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal." 3
On July 18, just before summer recess, the two principal Duma committees held open hearings designed to help them prepare a draft law, and also scheduled hearings beginning October 18 that will concentrate on START II's financial and economic implications. The open hearings were more critical in tone than the closed session, due to the participation of many experts from non-governmental bodies.
It is unclear at this stage when the lead committees will be prepared to make formal recommendations on START II to the Duma, and whether they will include mandatory conditions. It also remains to be seen whether the essentially positive judgment about START II reflected in the July hearings will be subscribed to by a clear majority in the Duma and the Federation Council. Because the next parliamentary elections are scheduled for December 17, if this Duma is to vote on the treaty, it must do so soon after its summer recess, in October or November.
Members of Parliament and Russian defense experts have clearly linked the outcome of START II ratification to their concerns over the ABM Treaty. Failure by the U.S. and Russian governments to devise a satisfactory TMD demarcation agreement that ensures ABM Treaty-compliant parameters for TMDs has fueled this anxiety. During the Duma hearings on START II, there were those who said the TMD demarcation agreement, when concluded, should be submitted to legislative review and ratification. The view was that unless the Duma keeps a close eye on the demarcation agreement, the outcome will significantly undermine the ABM Treaty. Such an agreement does not appear to be in the cards, at least during 1995, and Russian concerns now go much deeper. In his transmittal letter to the Duma, Yeltsin emphasized the problem in a way that highlights Russian concerns: "It goes without saying that the START II Treaty can be fulfilled only providing the United States preserves and strictly complies with the bilateral ABM Treaty of 1972." And at the July 18 Duma committee hearings, the chair took note of a suggestion that the committees consider formulating a possible unilateral statement on ABM Treaty compliance as a prerequisite for the implementation of START II.
Russian officials and security experts are well aware that in mid-June the House of Representatives passed a defense authorization bill (Ballistic Missile Defense Act of 1995) that appears to instruct the Clinton administration to "discontinue" TMD demarcation negotiations as "no longer necessary." Russians read language in the same bill that mandates a commitment to take major steps away from the ABM Treaty's basic purpose of barring deployment of nationwide ABM defenses against strategic missiles. The bill "urges the President to pursue high-level discussions with Russia to amend the ABM Treaty to permit deployment of the number of ground-based ABM sites necessary to provide effective defense of the entire territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack; and the unrestricted exploitation of sensors based within the atmosphere and in space."
The prospect of a U.S. breach of the ABM Treaty could easily reopen the (thus far muted) thesis in Russia that stopping with START I--which would permit Russia to retain MIRVed ICBMs, defer missile replacement costs to the end of normal missile life cycles and entirely remove the financial burden of START II implementation costs--could be an attractive current option for Russia. The appeal of this option is mitigated somewhat by the fact that Russian experts realize this option could require additional defense industry investments to cope with the maintenance problems of aging Russian missile systems and would mean living with a substantial de facto U.S. numerical warhead superiority. On the other hand, Russian strategists would view the idea of retaining MIRVed ICBMs as an antidote to U.S. deployment of nationwide U.S. missile defenses.4
On the question of military inequity or asymmetry, some Russian analysts argue that START II gives the United States a major "rearmament" (breakout) advantage if the treaty fails because it would have more scope to reinstall downloaded warheads and to return reoriented conventional heavy bombers to nuclear roles. The analysts point out that the START II ban on MIRVed ICBMs, and particularly heavy (SS-18) missiles, would eliminate Russia's land-based 10-warhead ICBMs, with only marginal benefit from ICBM warhead downloading allowed for 105 aging SS-19 silo missiles. The United States, by contrast, not only can download and retain 500 MIRVed Minuteman III ICBMs as single-warhead missiles (as granted under START I), keep all 336 planned Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) by downloading each from eight to five warheads, and exempt up to 100 heavy bombers by reorienting them to conventional missions, but could easily and quickly reverse these constraints if it chose to breach the treaty.
These Russian analysts do acknowledge that eliminating silo launchers for U.S. 10-warhead MX ICBMs would be irreversible, removing the most modern and potent U.S. land-based system, albeit only a 500-warhead, 50-silo force. They would also be willing to acknowledge that if the United States replaces the original three-warhead "reentry vehicle platforms" on its Minuteman III ICBMs with single-warhead versions and then destroys the original platforms (assuming resources are authorized) even though this step is not required by the treaty, it would constrain the post-START II "upload potential" of the U.S. ICBM force.
Some Russian defense analysts claim the treaty improves strategic stability largely by eliminating land-based, MIRVed ICBMs, but does not resolve Russia's strategic concerns about MIRVed SLBMs in the formidable U.S. Trident submarine force. Some of these analysts argue that a strategic submarine containing up to 200 warheads would be a more attractive target for a first strike than a silo with 10 warheads. They agree that when strategic submarines are deep in the ocean they are well concealed, not susceptible to pinpoint targeting, are considered highly survivable and that SLBMs are therefore not subject to immediate "use them or lose them" pressure. But, they argue, it does not make them less attractive targets. Nor does it deny their potential capability for use in a first strike. These Russian concerns about the strategic might of the U.S. Navy probably reflect reported current operational problems with Russian submarines that may inhibit Moscow's ability to keep a suitable proportion of the fleet hidden in deep ocean deployment areas.
Furthermore, there are Russian critics who claim START II asymmetry is compounded by failure to recognize the parallel between "mobile" sea-based missiles and "mobile" land-based ICBMs. If MIRVed sea-based missiles are allowed by START II because they are mobile, more easily concealed, more survivable and hence unlikely to be used for a first strike, their argument goes, the same logic can be applied to mobile, MIRVed ICBMs. In short, they contend that if START II does not ban MIRVed "mobile" missiles on submarines, there is no sound reason to ban Russia's rail-mobile, MIRVed SS-24 missiles. However, it is doubtful this argument, which would reopen the fundamental START II ban on MIRVed ICBMs, would attract wide parliamentary support. Retaining SS-24s, which were manufactured at the Pavlograd plant in Ukraine, would tend to perpetuate Russian dependence on Ukraine for SS-24 missile production and maintenance.
Finally, some Russian naval analysts deem it a flaw that START II does not limit long-range nuclear sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs), which both sides have withdrawn from service in subsequent unilateral initiatives, but in which the United States would have a definite advantage if SLCMs were redeployed.
The United States can achieve START II reductions with relatively small implementation costs by retaining existing systems, except the MX. It has no need and no plans to replace existing ICBMs, SLBMs or heavy bombers, and thus has no corresponding procurement costs. Ongoing U.S. submarine and SLBM modernization can proceed according to plans that, with Trident II warhead downloading, will accommodate START II limits.5
Russia, on the other hand, must bear a sizable expense to implement START II. First are the dismantlement costs, including physically destroying the silo and rail-mobile launchers for nearly 200 MIRVed ICBMs and converting up to 90 SS-18 silos so they can only house smaller, single-warhead missiles. Physically eliminating all 300-plus SS-18 missile airframes and launch canisters and disposing of noxious fuel, while complying with far more stringent current environmental laws, will also involve significant costs.
In addition, eliminating missile submarines and their nuclear power plants and spent nuclear fuel is a formidable, interlocking military, industrial and environmental task that may prove the most costly and burdensome of all treaty compliance tasks. Launch tubes are considered SLBMs with countable warheads under START I until the submarines have been dismantled, but the means do not exist in Russia today to safely dispose of nuclear power plants and nuclear fuel for the large number of submarines decommissioned recently and those to be removed from service over the next few years.
More significantly, Russia would have to expend considerable resources to produce and deploy several hundred single-warhead, replacement ICBMs if it decides it wants to maintain rough numerical parity with the United States in START II warhead limits. Keeping a sizable, part-mobile, part-silo-based ICBM force would be consistent with Russian operational preferences and probably more economical than other alternatives to produce and maintain in the long run. After eliminating MIRVed ICBMs, this may be the only practical way Russia can expect to keep rough parity. Unlike the MIRVed SS-24, the single-warhead SS-25 ICBM is manufactured at Votkinsk in Russia. Having stopped strategic missile submarine and heavy bomber production for several years, and faced with radical defense budget cutbacks from former Soviet levels, Russia probably does not have affordable options for staying at START II ceilings by maximizing SLBM and air-delivered weapons on the submarine and bomber platforms that remain serviceable.
In addition, many non-governmental Russian experts doubt that it will be feasible, given present economic realities, to implement the START II reductions by January 1, 2003, as specified in treaty Arti- cle II, due to the unforeseen delay in treaty ratification. Some also say there is a discrepancy between the Article II deadline for new warhead ceilings and Article I, which establishes intermediate ceilings (4,250 warheads on all deployed strategic offensive arms, 2,160 warheads attributed to SLBMs, 1,200 warheads to MIRVed ICBMs and 650 warheads to heavy ICBMs) to be reached within seven years after START I's entry into force--that is, by 2002. They doubt the remaining reductions could be carried out in just one year.
These analysts have some notions as to how START II might be modified to help alleviate Russia's implementation costs and other problems. One would be to relax the START II limit of 90 on the number of SS-18 silos that may be converted, to allow all 154 silos left under START I to be salvaged for single-warhead ICBMs. They would also propose satisfying verification objectives by less costly methods than filling the silos with five meters of cement and installing restrictive rings that cannot easily be removed. A second idea would be to permit all 170 deployed SS-19s (instead of only 105) to be downloaded to a single-warhead configuration and retained. Finally, they would stretch out past 2003, if necessary, Russia's deadline for implementing reductions.6
START II proponents in Moscow reflect, above all, awareness that the treaty provides Russia legal and symbolic parity with the United States at lower force levels than those of START I, conferring the substantial political advantages of equal status under strategic arms arrangements formerly conferred on the Soviet Union, even though Russia's territory, population and resources are substantially smaller.
Russian proponents also point out that START II reductions will also be stabilizing, because elimination of multiple-warhead ICBMs reduces the incentives of either side to launch a first strike. The unfavorable exchange ratio of MIRVed ICBMs is highly destabilizing in a crisis; it presents decision makers with a "use them or lose them" dilemma, creating a strong incentive to strike first. In contrast, the first strike incentive with single-warhead ICBMs would be almost nil, since the exchange ratio is disadvantageous for the attacker.
Informed Russians also admit that START II has a number of telling advantages over START I for their country. First, the START II limit of 1,750 SLBM warheads directly constrains U.S. Trident II SLBMs, the centerpiece of U.S. deterrent forces that is presumed capable of threatening Russian silo-based ICBMs, a stricture which thus improves Russian perceptions of strategic stability. Second, START II's stricter one-for-one counting rule for air-delivered weapons restricts the size of the U.S. air- delivered strategic weapons force. (START I discounted bomber weapons, which favored the larger U.S. bomber force by permitting the United States to deploy about 2,500 warheads in excess of that treaty's nominal ceiling of 6,000 warheads. START II removes this advantage by counting bomber weapons on a one-for-one basis.)
Nor do leaders in the Russian defense establishment leaders dispute that START I and II contribute to the classical strategic arms control objectives. These include budget and defense planning predictability (the product of agreed maximum force limits), increased transparency and added constraints on capabilities that might be conducive to military and technical surprise. START II also encourages major reductions in defense expenses, particularly over the long term, as evidenced by U.S. budget savings of about $10 billion per year based on START I and II force reduction assumptions.
For Russia, where budget pressures are even greater than in the United States, defense savings also will dominate eventually, although Moscow is painfully aware that initial implementation costs will be burdensome. Some Russian analysts are beginning to point out that the way to measure START II savings is by comparing the far higher costs Moscow would face if it not only tried to replace its aging systems but attempted to maintain parity with the United States at START I levels, which, in the absence of START II, Washington has made clear it intends to maintain.
Duma members and some Russian experts naturally question (but do not wholly reject) U.S. claims that START II also helps to reinforce the partnership aspect of bilateral relations by encouraging Russia's ongoing political and economic reforms, providing another channel of assistance for accelerated dismantlement and encouraging reallocation from military to civilian sectors. Those wedded to reform agree that U.S.-Russian cooperation provides a more basic assurance of improving, stable relations and long-term Russian prosperity, as well as cumulatively great defense savings for both parties.
Such benefits explain the unwavering executive branch and military support for START II in both countries. The fact that critics have been more vocal and forceful in Russia than the United States reflects genuine democratic processes taking hold in new Russian parliamentary institutions and the insistence of new legislators not only on voicing their views but on having adequate information available to make informed judgments about national security.
The great diversity of new Russian political parties and factions, some of them sharply antagonistic to the Yeltsin government, also adds to the apparent hostility toward the treaty heard in some parliamentary circles. Such antagonists may be tempted to withhold START II approval, regardless of its merits, simply because the treaty is associated with Yeltsin. Finally, national pride, economic distress and perhaps even a measure of self-doubt attendant on Russia's emergence from the dissolution of the Soviet Union as the sole nuclear successor power also contribute to the concerns of those opposing the agreement.
In this context, it is worth noting that both sides will benefit from an effort to distinguish those problems with the treaty that can be remedied after entry into force through adjustments in implementation or by means of U.S. assistance, and those problems of force structure and defense resource constraints that are the product of changed circumstances, not the fault of START II, and that must be dealt with in other ways. Leaders on both sides must bear in mind that reopening START II provisions substantively as conditions for ratification would jeopardize the treaty.
As for the implementation cost, the chances are the Duma will assert conditions in some form, perhaps even conditions intended to be binding. But such conditions could be crafted without mandating renegotiation of basic treaty provisions before entry into force. The Duma could, for example, enjoin Russia's executive authority to seek a revision that would stretch the reduction schedule if it decides technical or financial resources are insufficient to comply, or if U.S. assistance for dismantlement is not forthcoming.
The fact that the treaty provides for accelerating reductions based on U.S. implementing assistance is also a possible focus of Duma thinking about conditions that alleviate costs. For example, one could be formulated to reflect a Russian view that implementation of the Yeltsin-Clinton September 1994 summit commitment to deactivate systems immediately after entry into force would qualify as accelerated dismantlement and justify rapid U.S. dismantlement assistance under the treaty. Similarly, Duma conditions could take the form of appeals to the United States for early assurances on cost relief, accommodation of an extension on implementation time, or specified START III commitments.
Perhaps the time has come to discuss, at least informally, how U.S. - assistance for accelerated dismantlement under START II, if agreed, would be committed and administered. To focus such discussions, it would be incumbent on Moscow to specify the systems, reduction schedules and dismantlement requirements that would be promoted by U.S. technical and financial assistance.
Russia has long recognized that it faces formidable cost dilemmas if it accepts START II MIRVed ICBM elimination requirements and attempts to preserve rough strategic parity with the United States at levels close to START II ceilings. This helps to account for Russian proposals as early as 1992 to set START II ceilings at 2,500 warheads, a level that would be easier for Russia to achieve because it could then forego some of its single-warhead ICBM procurement expenditures.
In sum, there is strong reason to believe that if both governments were more specific about the principles and objectives that will be pursued in START III (for instance, at a summit, no later than October), it would strengthen the hand of Russia's START II proponents in Parliament. It would also improve the prospects of a solidly positive Duma vote and concurrent Federation Council approval of START II by relieving some of the long-standing tension in Russia over the adequacy of its treaty implementation resources.
Failure to relieve their anxiety could cause them to join with Duma factions that are unenthusiastic about START II or hostile to it. Parliament has the option to register its sentiment on this matter through a unilateral statement of intent without holding hostage START II's entry into force, and was so advised by moderates in the July 18 open hearings.
The moderates reasoned that the Du-ma could resort to the START I formula, namely a unilateral statement such as that made by the Soviet Union on June 13, 1991, shortly before the signing of START I, asserting Moscow's view that START I would remain effective and viable only under conditions of U.S. compliance with the ABM Treaty. Since START II relies on START I, arguably this statement will be in effect for both treaties; if the Duma makes such a statement particularly on START II, it might satisfy those who insist on the linkage between the two treaties and make the position of Russia yet clearer. At this writing, it was not yet known whether Russia's legislators will adopt this approach.
The possibility of Russia's Parliament imposing mandatory conditions that would hold up or complicate START II entry into force is real, as is the danger that such conditions might generate a political response in Congress, jeopardizing the treaty. The dangers probably can be averted by cool heads and common sense on both sides, but the surer way to move the treaty forward would be for U.S. and Russian leaders in the executive and legislative branches to consult their opposite numbers quietly and soon--in a spirit of partnership and mutual respect for the others' legislative process--on what steps are needed to produce a clean ratification result and entry into force in 1995. Most likely, such consultation would identify ingredients and areas of dialogue for an autumn summit that could help ensure START II ratification in Moscow. The consultation could stimulate potential U.S. actions that provide practical responses to the most pressing Russian national concerns about START II. Based on what we know of those concerns which could turn into roadblocks against Russian START II ratification, these actions are, first (and in order of importance), U.S. reaffirmation of the ABM Treaty and of the principle that any changes to that treaty must be negotiated; second, a joint statement or declaration on START III reductions that reduces Russia's concern about possible START II force replacement costs; third, U.S. assurances of continued economic assistance to implement START II; and finally, once the treaty is in force, U.S. willingness to consider cost-relieving adjustments that are treaty compliant and verifiable.
2. "Duma Surprised by Military Support for START II," Post-Soviet Monitor, July 17, 1995.
3. "Duma Sets Conditions of START II Ratification," Post-Soviet Monitor, July 14, 1995; Scott Parrish, "Duma Begins Hearings on START II treaty," OMRI Daily Digest, July 14, 1995.
4. Anton Surikov and Igor Sutyagin, "Breakthrough Upon Breakthrough in Foreign Policy, Hole Upon Hole in Russia's Interests," FBIS, JPRS-TAC-95-002, June 14, 1995, pp. 79-84.
5. The Clinton administration does not support the recent push in Congress for 20 additional B-2 heavy bombers, so this may not occur. If it does, it would require START II force level adjustments in other U.S. forces such as further SLBM downloading.
6. One also hears mention, less plausibly, of exempting from elimination and downloading Russia's MIRVed "mobile" ICBMs, that is, its 46 deployed SS-24 ICBMs, 10 in silos. Among other things, this could justify a compensatory U.S. claim to retain its 50 MX ICBMs.