Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New START Won’t Stop the Arms Race

Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama signed the new strategic arms reduction treaty, New START, in Prague on April 8, 2010. In the two years since, the sides appear to have exhausted all of its benefits. They have quarreled on a whole series of military issues, and now stand on the brink of a new arms race.

Passing necessity off as virtue

In Prague the sides committed themselves to reducing strategic offensive arms to 800 strategic carriers (including no more than 700 deployed) with 1,500 nuclear warheads.

Russia also managed to end the stifling control of American observers over the Votkins Machine Building Plant, a producer of strategic missiles. The exchange of telemetric information from current launches has also become much more liberal.

However, considering the structure of the missiles that Russia inherited from the Soviet Union (primarily their obsolescence rates), a thousand and a half warheads is not the limit of natural reduction, to put it mildly. Withdrawal of obsolete MIRVed missiles may reduce the overall number of warheads on combat duty.

If Russia does not drastically speed up the commissioning of new MIRVed missile systems, its nuclear potential will drop below the Prague level. Read More