Earlier this week, Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces carried out a test-fire of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). However, U.S. officials have made remarks that the launch was pre-planned, viewed as “non-threatening”, and was not connected with what is going on in Crimea, Ukraine.
According to National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden, notification was provided under New START Protocol, specifically part four; section IV, which states that notification is to be provided at least 24 hours in advance of any ICBM or SLBM test-launch. It is not clear, however, when the U.S. received the notification, but a U.S. official said that it initially pre-dated the crisis in Crimea.
“As required under the New START Treaty, Russia provided advance notification of this launch to the United States,” she said. “Such advance notifications are intended to provide transparency, confidence, and predictability and to help both sides avoid misunderstandings. Russia and the United States routinely flight test their ICBMs and SLBMs.” – Hayden
The New Start Treaty requires the United States and Russia to limit the number of strategic arms within seven years from the date the Treaty entered into force, which was February 5th, 2010. The Treaty does not, however, contain any constraints on the testing, development, or deployment of current or planned missile defense programs.
However, keeping in mind the geopolitical circumstances surrounding the situation in Ukraine, imagine if this had occurred without New START and the notification requirements of the Treaty.
It is evident that the signing of New START has not only been a milestone event towards the bilateral reduction of nuclear weapons, but it also helps ensure security and clarity in these types of situations; for example, a surprise launch that could initially have mixed, uneasy interpretations.
We at the American Security Project believe that New START has strengthened strategic stability between the United States and Russia by allowing each country to maintain a predictable nuclear arsenal. This enhances U.S. insight into Russia’s strategic forces and increases the amount of information accessible to the United States.
Rose Gottemoeller, who was confirmed today as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, previously spoke at an ASP event regarding New START and how it strengthens our national security and stability. Because of the unprecedented compliance and verification measures pertaining to weapons dispositions, deployments, and repairs since the implementation of the Treaty, Ms. Gottemoeller felt that, “we are essentially monitoring a living document providing a look into each others’ nuclear forces.”
Without New START, we would not have already known about Russia’s plans to test-fire two more ICBMs later on this month, nor would we have been aware prior to other test launches back in October or December of last year. New START will not only continue to provide nuclear transparency between the two countries that collectively hold 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons, but help create a collaborative approach to ensure misinterpretations are not made, regardless of what kind geopolitical tensions may exist at any given time.
Check out ASP’s Nuclear Security Section on New START for more information : New START and Working with Russia
Nathan Daniels is a Nuclear Security Research Assistant & Intern at the American Security Project