Negotiators worked hard to find innovative new mechanisms to aid in the verification of the Treaty and the results of that work are now evident. For the first time, we are receiving data about re-entry vehicle (warhead) loadings on Russia’s missiles—and Russia, of course, receives the same data from us. The on-site inspection procedures under New START allow the United States to confirm the actual number of warheads on randomly selected Russian missiles. These verification tasks and inspection rights did not exist under the previous START Treaty.
Last March, the United States conducted exhibitions of its B-1B and B-2A heavy bombers and the Russian Federation conducted an exhibition of its RS-24 ICBM and associated mobile launcher. That was the first time we had a chance to see at first hand the RS-24, the new Russian mobile missile with multiple warheads.
We are constantly in communication with the Russians, exchanging over 1,700 notifications under the New START Treaty so far. These notifications help to track movement and changes in the status of weapon systems. For example, a notification is sent every time a heavy bomber is moved out of its home country for more than 24 hours.
In addition, every six months we exchange a comprehensive database. This gives us a full accounting of exactly where weapons systems are located, whether they are out of their deployment or operational bases and gone to maintenance, or have been retired. This semi-annual exchange, along with the mandatory treaty notifications that continuously update the information that each side receives, create a “living document” that provides a comprehensive look into each other’s strategic nuclear forces.
The New START Treaty data exchanges are providing us with a more detailed picture of Russian strategic forces than we were able to obtain from earlier exchanges, and the inspections give us crucial opportunities to confirm the validity of that data. Of course, the verification regime is backed up by our own National Technical Means—satellites and other monitoring capabilities that we alone control.
Our experience so far demonstrates that the New START Treaty is enhancing our national security by building predictability and stability between the United States and Russia, still the world’s two largest nuclear powers. We are also setting the stage for the future, since new nuclear reductions will build on the success of New START and the innovations we are putting in place as we implement it.
The author is the Assistant Secretary for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance at the Department of State and the chief negotiator of the New START Treaty.