Time to Jump-Start the START Process?

Kalpana Chittaranjan, Researcher, IDSA


On February 15, 1999 the Committee on Nuclear Policy (CNP), a collaborative group of project directors of several independent non-governmental organisations who research nuclear weapon policy issues, released a report entitled "Jump-START: Retaking the Initiative to Reduce Post-Cold War Nuclear Dangers." In the Report, the CNP, which is coordinated by, and located at, the Henry L. Stimson Centre Washington, DC, was of the view that the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) process should be supplemented with new initiatives to directly address the new nuclear realities and risks of the post-Cold War period. Arms control in strategic nuclear weapons between the USA and Russia is currently still stuck on the limitations and ceilings imposed by START I since the Duma is yet to ratify START II. As a result, negotiations for a START III Treaty are also held up, as this cannot take place before START II comes into effect. Before a discussion is made on the initiatives suggested by the CNP, it is pertinent to recall the START process.

The START Process


During the runup to the presidential elections in 1980, Republican candidate Ronald Reagan, had called the unratified SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) II Treaty "fatally flawed" and had promised that, if elected, he would withdraw the treaty1 from the Senate. It was only after a period of time, after assumption of office, that Reagan's Administration announced while reviewing arms control policy, the USA would not undercut the provisions of the SALT II Treaty, as long as the Soviet Union did likewise.2 In November 1981, Reagan announced that strategic arms talks, renamed START in place of SALT, could possibly begin the following year and that the goal for negotiators would be to substantially reduce strategic nuclear arms.

The elements of the first START proposal were first outlined by Reagan on May 9, 1982, in an address at Eureka College where he proposed that in the first phase, the USA and Soviet Union would reduce their arsenals of nuclear warheads on land and sea-based ballistic missiles from the then-current levels of 8,000 to 5,000. The proposal went on to state that no more than half or 2,500 of those warheads would be on land-based missiles. The second phase of the proposal stated that both the countries should accept an equal ceiling on the throwweight of all nuclear missiles. Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev responded with a counter-proposal on May 18, 1982, which declared a willingness to negotiate an accord with the USA. He was of the view that the US approach required a unilateral reduction in the Soviet arsenal and proposed instead that the accord should ban or restrict the production of all new types of strategic armaments. He also called for a nuclear freeze "as soon as the talks began."3

The negotiations on START began in Geneva on June 29, 1982. By the end of 1989, many of the treaty's basic provisions were already agreed upon. The Reykjavik Summit meeting of October 11-12, 1986, the Foreign Ministers meeting of September 15-17, 1987, the Washington Summit meeting of December 7-10, 1987,4 and the Wyoming Foreign Ministers meeting of September 22-23, 1989, had important agreements on the treaty's provisions being arrived at, after hard negotiations.5 Important progress was made at the Wyoming Foreign Ministers meeting of September 22-23, 1989.

START I, which had taken nine years to negotiate, saw a frenetic pace of activity in the six weeks before it was signed. On July 17, 1991, at the Group of Seven summit meeting in London, Presidents George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev announced at their final meeting there, that START I was ready and that it would be signed at a US-Soviet Summit meeting in Moscow by the end of that month.6

By the terms of START I, the two countries undertook to reduce their strategic offensive arms to equal levels, in three phases over a seven-year period.7 The treaty has a duration of 15 years, unless superseded by another agreement. The parties can agree to extend the treaty for successive five-year periods but each party has the right to withdraw from it at any time if it decides that extraordinary events have jeopardised its suprement interests. The Soviets stated that START I would be effective and viable only as long as there was compliance with the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile(ABM) Treaty.


The end of the Soviet era in December 1991 left nuclear arms deployed in some ex-Soviet republics. There were now four states with nuclear weapons based on their territories--Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The three republics and the Russian Federation undertook to make arrangement among themselves for the implementation of the treaty's provisions, at a May 23, 1992 ministerial meeting at Lisbon, Portugal. The USA, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine signed a protocol (known as the Lisbon Protocol), making all five countries (including the USA) signatories to the treaty and committing Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as non-nuclear weapon states.

START I was ratified by the US Senate on October 1, 1992, while the Russian Parliament ratified it on November 4, 1992. Kazakhstan ratified the treaty on July 2, 19928 and deposited the instruments of accession to the 1968 NPT with the USA on February 14, 1994.9 Ukraine became the last former Soviet republic to ratify the treaty, which it did on November 18, 1993.10 The Rada of Ukraine approved of a resolution to accede to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state on November 16, 1994. President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine deposited the NPT instruments of ratification at a ceremony on December 5, 1994, held at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) summit meeting in Budapest, Hungary, thus, paving the way for a second ceremony on the same day. Here, leaders of the five Lisbon Protocol signatory countries signed a protocol exchanging the START I Treaty instruments of ratification.11


The end of 1996 marked the second year after entry into force of START I. The year saw 60 inspections in the field and conclusion of agreements and joint statements at the Joint Compliance and Implementation Council (JCIC).12 Journalists were told on June 17, 1997, at Geneva, by a US official, that both Russia and the USA were "ahead of schedule" in implementing the treaty.13


Signing and Provisions

The main shortcoming of START I had been insufficient arms reductions. Therefore, efforts were made for a more comprehensive strategic nuclear arms control between the USA and Russia and the signing of START II in January 1993 was the result.

Presidents Bush and Yeltsin signed the START II Treaty in Moscow on January 3, 1993, thus concluding the most sweeping nuclear arms reduction treaty in history. The treaty requires the USA and Russia to eliminate their MIRVed ICBMs and reduce the number of their deployed strategic nuclear weapons to 3,000-3,500 each. These reductions were to be carried out by January 1, 2003 or even earlier, i.e., by 2000 AD, if the USA could help finance the elimination of strategic offensive arms in Russia.14

The treaty consists of eight Articles and includes two Protocols and a Memorandum of Understanding. START II has set equal numerical ceilings for strategic nuclear weapons that may be deployed by either side. The agreed ceilings are to be reached in two stages. The first stage has to be completed seven years after entry into force of START I and by the end of it, each side should have reduced the total number of its deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 3,800-4,250. Of these warheads, no more than 1,200 can be deployed on MIRVed ICBMs, no more than 2, 160 on deployed SLBMs and no more than 650 on deployed heavy ICBMs. The second stage has to be completed by 2003 and even earlier, i.e., by the end of 2000 AD, if the USA helps finance the elimination of strategic arms in Russia.15 By the end of this stage, each side should have reduced the total number of its destroyed strategic nuclear to 3,000-3,500. Of the retained warheads, none can be on MIRVed ICBMs, including heavy ICBMs. Only ICBMs carrying a single warhead will be allowed.

Entry into Force and Duration

START II enters into force on the date of the exchange of instruments of ratification but not before the entry into force of START I. Since START II builds upon START I, it must remain in force throughout the duration of the latter. As in START I, each side has the right to withdraw from the treaty if it decides that extraordinary developments have jeopardised its supreme interests.

Ratification and Implementation

Before START II can enter into force, three steps have to be taken: (a) START I must enter into force; (b) the US Senate has to ratify the treaty; (c) the Russian Parliament has to ratify the treaty. Of these steps, the first two have been met.16 As for the third step, the Russian Parliament, which consists of the Council of Federation (the Upper House) and the Duma (the Lower House) must approve the treaty by simple majority votes. Yeltsin had submitted START II to the Duma for ratification as early as June 22, 1995. However, due to Russian misgivings about START II, the Duma has yet to ratify the Treaty.17

The Helsinki Summit: A Framework for START III

In order to address Russian concerns about START II, President Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin met at Helsinki, Finland, on March 20-21, 1997, and in a joint statement,18 they reached an agreement on a number of arms control issues. Regarding START II, the Presidents agreed to extend by five years the deadline for the elimination of strategic nuclear delivery vehicles.

As far as START III is concerned, the two presidents agreed to immediately start negotiations for an agreement once START II entered into force. It was also agreed that START III negotiations would include four basic components: a limit of 2,000-2,500 deployed strategic nuclear warheads for each side by the end of the year 2007; measures relating to the transparency of strategic nuclear warheads inventories as well as to the destruction of strategic warheads; conversion of the current START agreements to unlimited duration; and the "deactivation" by the end of 2003 of all strategic nuclear delivery vehicles to be eliminated under START II.

In a separate "Joint Statement Concerning the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty,"19 Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin reaffirmed the May 1995 principles for agreement on demarcation between ABM and Theatre Missile Defence (TMD) systems. They also reached an agreement in principle governing the status of higher-velocity TMD systems under the ABM Treaty. The USA and Russia are permitted, under this "Phase Two" Agreement to deploy high velocity TMD systems provided they are not tested against ballistic missile targets with velocities above 5 km per second or ranges that exceed 3,500 km. The agreement does not allow either side to develop, test or deploy space-based TMD interceptors or components based on other physical principles that can substitute for such interceptors.20

START II Implementation Delayed

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov signed a protocol on September 26, 1997, which delayed START II implementation from January 1, 2003, until December 31, 2007, when all treaty-mandated limitations and reductions were to be completed. The Protocol, which implemented understandings reached by Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin at the March Helsinki Summit, stipulated that limitations and reductions must be completed halfway by the end of December 2004, instead of the previous date of December 2001. The date by which interim treaty limitations and reductions had to be carried out from seven years after entry into force of the treaty was also extended from December 5, 2001 to December 31, 2004. The Protocol also provided for a new provision which stated that the parties to the treaty could conclude an agreement on a programme of assistance for the purpose of facilitating and accelerating the implementation of START II reductions and limitations. This provision replaced the earlier one that required early implementation of START II reductions if the parties concluded an agreement on a programme of assistance within one year of START II's entry into force.21 Letters were also exchanged and signed by Albright and Primakov on September 26, 1997, which codified the Helsinki Summit's commitment to deactivate by December 31, 2003, the US and Russian Strategic Nuclear Delivery Vehicles (SNDVs) that would be eliminated under START II. When START II enters into force, US and Russian experts will begin work on understandings on deactivation methods and on the scope of US programmes to help Russia implement SNDV deactivation.22

Duma's Role in START II/III

START II, which had originally been submitted to the Duma on June 21, 1995, was resubmitted by Yeltsin, alongwith additions (i.e., the Protocols signed in September 1997), on April 13, 1998.23 On May 14, 1998, the Duma voted against a proposal by its Foreign Relations Committee to form a 20-person commission to conclude the Duma's review of the treaty.24 The Duma voted to postpone formal hearings on START II until the autumn on June 10, 1998.25

The situation seemed bright, finally, for a Duma ratification of START II on December 25, 1998, after long years of delay, when the US launched intensive strikes on Iraq as an answer to Saddam Hussein's denial of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) inspections. As a result, the Duma postponed its vote on START II which is a reflection of the strong disapproval across the spectrum of Russian political opinion of the US actions. There was a widespread Russian perception that the US actions were in disregard to strong Russian objections. However, the Duma again announced that START II ratification would be taken up for consideration in March 1999. US Secretary of Defence William Cohen's announcement on January 20, 1999, that the Clinton Administration was pledging $6.6 billion over five years to support a national missile defence (NMD) deployment should such a decision be made in June 2000 and that the ABM Treaty of 1972, which imposes strict limitations on NMD, would be amended if necessary or the US would withdraw from it if it considered this action to be in its supreme national interest, had the effect of all Duma factions seeing this as a blatant attempt to repudiate the fundamental bargain on which strategic nuclear reductions are based, i.e., the ABM Treaty would prevent either side from deploying defences to challenge the deterrence provided by the other side's offensive forces. Earlier, the Duma had made clear that Russia would withdraw from START II if the USA violated or withdrew from the ABM Treaty.

Duma members, suspicious of US motives argue that considering these developments, alongwith the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) expansion, Russia would be better off with START I which would enable the country to retain its SS-18 missiles (each of which have 10 high-yield warheads) and place 10 warheads on each new TOPOL-M missile.26

Why Jump-START? CNP Recommendations

It is clear that the Duma is unlikely to consider ratification of START II in the immediate future. Meanwhile, as pointed out in the report27 issued by the CNP, though the Cold War fell a decade ago and the old nuclear standoff between the United States and the former Soviet Union has been transformed, the nuclear arsenals and attitudes of the USA and Russia still reflect Cold War postures. Strategic nuclear arms control treaties have not dealt effectively with new post-Cold War realities. It has been publicly acknowledged that 70 per cent of Russia's early warning satellites are either past their designed operational life or in serious disrepair and that 58 per cent of the country's ballistic missiles are well past their operational life span. A large quantity of bomb-making material, i.e., plutonium and highly-enriched uranium, are poorly protected, given Russia's current economic condition, which could invite catastrophic accidents or proliferation. The report cites examples of nuclear dangers in Russia, three of which are mentioned here:

l January 1995, a scientific rocket launched by Norway was mistaken for a missile attack on Russia by the West due to a malfunction of Russia's ageing early warning system. The Russian president's nuclear briefcase containing Russian forces launch codes was activated for the first time before the Norwegian launch was deemed peaceful.

l September 1998, a team of US experts visiting Moscow was shown a building containing 100 kg of highly enriched uranium--enough for several nuclear bombs--that was completely unguarded because the facility where the fissile material was stored could not afford the $200 per month salary for a security guard.

l Today, at some nuclear facilities, entire security systems--alarms, surveillance cameras, portal monitors, etc.--have been shut down because electricity was cut off to the facilities for non-payment of bills.

The CNP Report has concluded that both the USA and Russia have been unwilling, in recent years, to complement the slow and cumbersome process of treaty negotiations with actions that could be implemented far more rapidly and that "the time has now come to supplement treaties with parallel, reciprocol, and verifiable steps to reduce these dangers; dangers that directly threaten vital US national interests." The report states that while the committee supports effective nuclear treaties, and the START process, it believes that new impetus is required to reduce nuclear dangers. Towards this end, it calls upon the Clinton Administration to "reduce nuclear forces to levels far lower than currently envisioned under a START III treaty; take the majority of US forces, alongside Russia, off hair-trigger alert; and, secure, monitor and greatly reduce fissile materials and warheads stockpiles." The committee believes that if these steps are taken towards achieving these goals, it could pave the way for formal negotiations at a later date and "lock in these initiatives with treaties."

The CNP has made the following recommendations:28

The United States should:

Deep Reductions

l Supplement formal arms control treaties with parallel, reciprocal, and verifiable reductions.

l Immediately declare US intention to reduce, alongside Russia, to 1,000 deployed strategic nuclear weapons within a decade.

l Offer cradle-to-grave transparency on the status of all US and Russian nuclear weapons as the basis for reciprocal reductions.

l With reciprocal verification, subsequently reduce to 1,000 total nuclear weapons on each side.

l Seek agreement from the other nuclear weapons states on a ceiling on their current deployment levels and begin multilateral talks on reductions once the United States and Russia reach 1,000 total nuclear weapons.

Removing the Hair-Trigger

l Immediately stand down, alongside Russia, nuclear forces slated for destruction under START II.

l Declare its intention, with a parallel, reciprocal commitment from Russia, to eliminate the launch-on-warning option from nuclear war plans.

l Begin discussions among the five nuclear weapon states on verifiably removing all nuclear forces from hair-trigger alert.

l Declare its intention, with a parallel, reciprocal commitment from Russia, to verifiably eliminate massive attack options from nuclear war plans.

Fissile Materials and Warhead Controls

l Help install modern security and accounting systems and provide resources and incentives for sustaining effective security at all Russian nuclear facilities.

l Help consolidate Russia's weapons-usable materials into the smallest possible number of locations.

l Help shrink the Russian nuclear weapons complex.

l Promote alternative employment in Russia's nuclear cities.

l Build a cradle-to-grave transparency and monitoring system for all warheads and fissile materials.

l Negotiate reductions in fissile material stocks in excess of that needed to support a 1,000-warhead stockpile.

l Triple current funding for fissile materials controls.


Since it is clear that START II will not be ratified by the Duma, it cannot come into force and unless START II enters into force, negotiations for a START III agreement (which would have brought the nuclear weapons down to 2,500-2,000 on each side) cannot take place. As the CNP Report points out, it is up to the Clinton Administration to take bold unilateral initiatives that would bring down the nuclear arsenal to a level of 1,000 weapons each. It does not require more than this number of weapons to have a more-than-credible nuclear deterrent. If the USA wants to take the lead in non-proliferation efforts in nuclear weapons before it advocates non-proliferation to countries having genuine security threats, it must take the initiative in reducing its vast nuclear arsenal.



1. SALT II, in its completed version was signed by US President Jimmy Carter and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev in Vienna on June 18, 1979. Its key task was to convert the interim SALT I offensive force agreements into a more permanent restriction on offensive forces. For a brief background on the SALT Treaties, see Kalpana Chittaranjan, "START II/III: Duma Holds the Key," Strategic Analysis, vol. XXII, no. 7, October 1998, pp. 1031-1034.

2. Nuclear Arms Control: Background and Issues (Washington DC: National Academy of Science, 1985), p. 58.

3. Kalpana Chittaranjan, "Prospects for START II Ratification by Russia," Strategic Analysis, vol. XIX, no. 7, October 1996, pp. 1053-1054; and Kalpana Chittaranjan, "The START Process: Status and Challenges," Strategic Analysis, vol. XXI, no. 11, February 1998, pp. 1703-1704.

4. The INF Treaty which provided for the elimination of ground-launched missiles of the USA and Soviet Union, which had ranges between 500 to 5,500 km, was signed at this summit on December 8, 1987.

5. For a detailed and insightful account of START I negotiations, see S. Talbot, Deadly Gambits: The Reagan Administration and the Stalemate in Nuclear Arms Control (New York: Knopf, 1984).

6. Times of India, July 18, 1991.

7. See SIPRI Yearbook 1995: World Armaments and Disarmament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995) for excerpts of The Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms and related documents at Appendix 1A, pp. 38-63.

8. "Lisbon Protocol: START I and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Office of Public Information, Fact Sheet, January 11, 1994, p. 1.

9. G. Hill, "US will Triple its Foreign Aid to Kazakhstan," New York Times, February 15, 1994, p.A3.

10. SIPRI Yearbook 1994: World Armaments and Disarmament, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), appendix 16A, pp. 675-677.

11. SIPRI Yearbook 1995: World Armaments and Disarmament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 638.

12. For chronology of JCIC Meetings, see The Arms Control Reporter (ACR): A Chronicle of Treaties, Negotiations, Proposals, Weapons & Policy, 1997, (Massachusetts: IDDS, 1997), pp. 614.A.4-A.5.

13. Ibid., p. 611.B.912. For 1998 chronology of events pertaining to START I upto conclusion of JCIC XVII on July 29, 1998, see, The Arms Control Reporter: A Chronicle of Treaties, Negotiations, Proposals, Weapons & Policy, 1998, (Massachusetts: IDDS, 1998), pp. 611.B.914-918.

14. For text of START II Treaty, see Appendix 11A in D. Lockwood, "Nuclear Arms Control," in SIPRI Yearbook 1993: World Armaments and Disarmament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 574-588.

15. When the De-MIRVing Agreement was signed on June 27, 1992, several US-Russian agreements were also signed to assist the Russian Federation in the safe and secure transportation and storage of nuclear weapons in connection with its planned destruction of nuclear weapons.

16. START I entered into force on December 5, 1994, while the US Senate overwhelmingly approved a resolution of ratification of START II on January 26, 1996, by a vote of 87-4 (see START II Resolution of Ratification, Arms Control Today, vol. 26, no. 1, February 1996, p. 30).

17. For early Russian misgivings about START II, see Chittaranjan, n. 3 (February 1998), pp. 1712-1713. For a concise list of major Russian concerns made by Major-General Dvorkin, chief of the Defence Ministry's Fourth Scientific Research Establishment, see ACR, n. 25, p. 614.A.3. For a sampling of recent Russian perspectives on START II ratification, see Vladimir Maryukha, "Once Enacted, START 2 will make Russia Stronger," Russky Telegraf, June 11, 1998; Alexei Podberezkin, "START II Treaty puts Russia at a Disadvantage," Pravda, June 16, 1998; Viktor Litovkin, "Who Will Stand to Lose if the Duma does not Ratify START 2?," Isvestia, June 17, 1998; Oleg Odnokolenko, "Die-Hard Russian State Duma opposes START II Treaty," Segodnya, June 18, 1998; and Yuri Golotyuk, "Nuclear Disarmament Inevitable: Russia is Already Disarming," Russky Telegraf, July 8, 1998.

18. For test of Joint Statement on Parameters on Future Reductions in Nuclear Forces, see "Joint Statements of the Helsinki Summit," Arms Control Today, vol. 27, no. 1, March 1997, p. 19.

19. For text, see Ibid., p. 20.

20. "Chronology of US-Soviet-CIS Nuclear Relations," Arms Control Today, (ACT) vol. 27, no. 4, June/July 1997, p. 30.

21. ACR, n. 12, p. 614.B.99.

22. Ibid.

23. ACR, n. 13, p. 61.B.107.

24. Ibid., p. 614.B.110.

25. Ibid. For a chronology of 1998 events (upto July 7, 1998), regarding START II/III, see Ibid., pp. 614B.105-112.

26. Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr., "Don't Stop START II," Arms Control Today, vol. 28, no. 8, November/December 1998.

27. For a transcript of the CNP's "Jump-START: Retaking the Initiative to Reduce Post-Cold War Nuclear Dangers," see website-<http://www.stimson.org/policy/jumpstart htm.>

28. See website-<http://www.stimson.org/policy/jmpfaq.htm>