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American Missiles Smash through Treaty with Russia: The U.S. Won't Renew START-1

by kommersant Monday, Aug. 06, 2007 at 7:53 AM

The U.S. military leadership has stated for the first time that it has to decline to renew the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Chief of the U.S. Strategic Command Gen. James Cartwright claimed that the decision makes a possible strike in the war against global terrorism easier. In Russia, they are worried that the United States will have potential to make a disarming nuclear strike and, with the missile defense system in Europe, avoid a counterstrike.

Aug. 02, 2007

Cartwright made his big announcement on Tuesday in a Senate hearing on his candidacy for Vice Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Cartwright told the senators that refusing to extend the treaty will bring the U.S. more good than harm. He said that it would give the U.S. greater flexibility to realize “global strike solutions.”

The U.S. first spoke of global strike solutions in 2001. The concept is marked by the possibility of hitting enemy targets from any point on Earth. Ideally, the interval between identifying the object and destroying it should be only several minutes. In the American military's design, the target of the “global strike” may be a pariah state that is suspected of developing weapons of mass destruction. The Pentagon sees the global strike as an important element in the war against terrorism.

Cartwright said that several proposals for the global strike from different branches of the military are being considered. Thus the Pentagon is developing supersonic cruise missiles and improving its orbital groups of military satellites. A number of American experts are suggesting less costly methods. One of them is to include Trident ballistic missiles equipped with non-nuclear warheads on submarines in the global strike.

This is where the problem arises. Trident missiles are strategic and they fall under the START-1 treaty, which means that there cannot be more than a set number of them. For the nuclear containment of two superpowers, the number of missiles mentioned in the treaty is fully sufficient. But the global strike concept envisages them equipped with non-nuclear warheads. In those conditions, a much larger number of missile will be needed to deliver a strike comparable with a nuclear attack. That logic, it seems, led Cartwright to declare that Washington needs to refuse to renew START-1.

The strategic command chief's approach is at odds with the officially stated policy of the American political leadership. Immediately after the recent talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush in Maine, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed Washington's intention to reduce strategic arms to the minimum possible level and spoke in favor of reaching an agreement after the expiration of START-1. A week ago, members of Congress sent Bush a letter calling on him to extend START-1. They ask that Bush “consider extending START in its current form in order to enable your and President Putin's successors to negotiate a new legally binding agreement that achieves greater, verifiable reductions in each nation's nuclear forces."

The problem is that the agreement reached between the Russian Federation and U.S. in May 2002 on reducing strategic weapons envisages their number being cut to 1700-2000 warheads on each side but it does not specify mechanism for guaranteeing observation of those conditions. In 2002, Moscow and Washington decided that the control measures written into START-1 would work for seven years, then they would return to the subject.

Moscow is insisting on signing a new legally binding agreement to replace START-1. “We are in a dialog to preserve the binding system of control over strategic weapons so that a vacuum does not form in this sphere after the expirations of the START-1 agreement in 2009,” a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman told Kommersant yesterday.

Experts consulted by Kommersant suggest that Cartwright represents the position of the American military, which wants to take advantage of the current war on terrorism to build up individual types of weapons. “Every military leader wants to increase the financing for his branch, for which they frequent exaggerate threats, including that of terrorism,” Vladimir Evseev, senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Science's Institute of World Economics and International Relations, told Kommersant. “But the problem with rejecting START-1 and building up missile power is that those missiles can be used as pinpoint weapons to strike Russian strategic objects – underground launching facilities and underground command points.”

The main danger in the American refusal to renew START-1 is something else in Russia's eyes. “Converting elements of the nuclear strategic forces into non-nuclear antiterrorist forces does not exclude their being converted back,” noted Evseev. “As a result, by creating antiterrorist forces, the U.S. will build up a reverse potential that could be rapidly converted into strategic nuclear forces.” That, in Evseev's opinion, is a serious threat to Russia's security, since the number of warheads in Russia is being reduced. Although the treaty on reducing strategic weapons allows up to 2200 warheads, their real number in the Russian Army remains 1500. That means, according to Evseev, the U.S. will have the potential for a crippling first strike and, with the missile defense system now being developed, it will have the ability to prevent a counterstrike.

What Is START-1

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1) was signed by Soviet and American presidents Mikhail Gorbachev and George Bush in Moscow on July 31, 1991. On May 23, 1992, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus agreed to declare themselves the successor states to the Soviet Union. START-1 came into force on December 5, 1994, and remains in force until December 5, 2009. It is renewable at five-year intervals for an unlimited number of times. Each side has the right to withdraw from the treaty by giving the other side six month's notice.

Under the treaty, the U.S. and USSR are obliged to reduce their strategic nuclear weapons (land- and sea-based missiles and heavy strategic bombers) to 1600 units. In addition, it is specified that the number of intercontinental missiles will be limited to no more than 154, with a total of no more than 1540 warheads. The total number of nuclear weapons on each side was reduced to 6000, of which 4900 could be on land or sea missiles. As a result, the number of carriers was reduce by 1.4-1.6 times, and weapons were reduced by 1.7-1.8 times. (At the moment the treaty was signed, the USSR had 2500 carriers and 10,271 weapons; the U.S. had 2246 carriers and 10,563 weapons.)

The treaty also prohibits creating missiles in land or sea bases with more than ten warheads and cruise missiles with more than two warheads. The development of a number of types of strategic weapon is also banned. Those include heavy missiles, air-to-land ballistic missiles and heavy bombers and means of rapid reloading launch mechanisms. It is not allowed to increase the number of weapons on existing missiles, to adapt “conventional” delivery systems for use with nuclear weapons or to place sea-based strategic missiles anywhere except on submarines.

Observation of the conditions of the treaty and destruction and modernization of strategic weapons is under the control of a joint commission. Inspections are made in groups of up to ten people directly at the nuclear weapons facilities and training grounds. Each side uses the national technical means of control at its disposal and information provided by its partner.

On December 5, 2001, Russia and the U.S. announced complete fulfillment of the conditions of the treaty. At that moment, Russia had 1136 carriers and 5518 weapons, and the U.S. 1237 carriers and 5948 weapons.

Konstantin Lantratov, Alexander Reutov, Gennady Sysoev

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