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What is behind the «new» US proposals of control over the strategic offensive arms?

photo: cnn.com
10 May 2024

The US President Joseph Bidens Administration had already made attempts repeatedly to bring the Russian Federation (RF) and the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) into discussing the problem of control over nuclear armaments making special emphasis on recording missile and nuclear problems in a broader format than before in the agenda of the negotiations proposed.

Thus, on August 1, 2022 in his statement addressed to the participants of the Tenth Review Conference on the implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty President Biden said that Washington is prepared to promptly hold talks on a new system of control over armaments in order to replace the bilateral treaty on reduction of strategic offensive arms (START III) which expires in February 2026.

Earlier the USA had also made such statements either inviting China to join the US-Russian dialogue on the reduction of strategic offensive arms or wishing to discuss this topic with the Chinese delegation separately. In the first case the intent was to conduct trilateral negotiations and Washington asked Moscow to influence Beijing to a maximum in order to engage them in the nuclear arms control negotiations stressing that only Russia can positively influence China because of strategic partnership relations with the latter. However, neither the trilateral nor bilateral negotiations on the above agenda were ever held so far.

Situation around the START-III Treaty

The Treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on measures for the further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms was signed on April 8, 2010.

During the ratification the parties made a number of provisos. The US Congress noted that the «the new Treaty shall not impose restrictions on the deployment of ABM systems, including in Europe». Russia reserved the right to withdraw from the Treaty, if the US ABM defense achieves such a stage of development that it will pose a threat to the Russian Federation. It was indicated separately that provisions of the preamble where the interconnection between the SOA and ABM is set forth shall have a legal force and shall be taken into account by the parties in full.

 In accordance with the START III, each of the parties shall reduce and limit its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and ICBM launchers, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and SLBM launchers, heavy bombers (HB), ICBM warheads, SLBM warheads and heavy bomber nuclear armaments, so that seven years after entry into force of this Treaty and thereafter the aggregate numbers do not exceed:

  • 700, for deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and deployed heavy bombers;
  • 1550, for warheads on deployed ICBMs, warheads on deployed SLBMs, and nuclear warheads counted for deployed heavy bombers;
  • 800, for deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, for deployed and non-deployed SLBM launchers, and deployed and non-deployed heavy bombers.

 Each party shall have the right to determine for itself the composition and structure of its strategic offensive arms. Strategic offensive arms (SOA) shall not be based outside the national territory.

The START III gives the right to both parties to carry out agreed verifications of the strategic arms of the other party «on site»: at the ICBM bases, at submarine bases and at air bases. 18 annual inspections of the two types are provided for. Inspections of «Type One» are conducted at the facilities with deployed strategic offensive arms: land-based ICBM bases, SSBN deployment bases (nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines) and at the strategic aviation air bases. Inspections of «Type Two» are conducted at missile loading, repair, storage facilities. Each party shall have the right to conduct up to 10 inspections of Type One and eight inspections of Type Two.

In January 2021 Russia and the USA extended the START III Treaty for five years without preliminary conditions and it now expires in February 5, 2026.

 In full compliance with the START terms, the Russian Federation had completely discharged its obligations related to the reduction of SOA by February 5, 2018 (test date as per the Treaty).

 As of this date, the aggregate potential of the Russian SOA was as follows:

  • 527, deployed ICBM, SLBM and HB;
  • 1444, warheads for deployed ICBM and SLBM, as well as nuclear warheads counted for deployed HB;
  • 779, deployed and non-deployed ICBM and SLBM launchers, deployed and non-deployed HBs.

 As of September 1, 2022 the Russian Federation had 540 deployed SOA carriers (ICBMs, SLBMs, HBs) and 1,549 warheads counted as Russian under the Treaty. The aggregate number of deployed and non-deployed ICBM and SLBM launchers, as well as deployed and non-deployed HBs as of this date was 759.

 When the test date set in, the USA also declared achievement of the agreed aggregate numbers of the SOA. However, reaching the indicators set forth by the Treaty was provided by the US party through unfair manipulations, in particular, by excluding from the count unilaterally and illegitimately a part of American SOA declared as «converted». What is meant here are the 56 launchers of the SLBM Trident-2 and 41 launchers of the B-52H heavy bomber «converted» in such a manner that the Russian side is unable to confirm bringing these SOA into a condition unfit for the employment of SLBMs and HB nuclear weapons as required by the terms of the Treaty.

 The Russian side also does not recognize the USAs refusal to count under the START four silo launchers of the ICBMs intended for training purposes, which the Americans renamed into the category of «training silos» not specified by the Treaty. Taking these assets into account, the US side would exceed the aggregate number for deployed and non-deployed HB, ICBM and SLBM launchers permitted by the Treaty by 101 pieces.

 Despite Russias efforts throughout many years, it was only possible to achieve a certain progress in searching for a solution of a problem related to the confirmation of the status of the SLBM launchers converted by the Americans. However, under the conditions of an explosive growth of tension that followed, collapse of the Russian-American relations and deep degradation of the general situation around the START, it proved impossible to adjust the corresponding algorithm.

 At the same time, Washington never responded constructively to equally serious Russian claims (above all, with relation to the US heavy bombers). Several Russian realistic proposals to settle this issue were rejected.

 As a result, from February 2018 and up till now the US side has remained in excess of the limit levels of strategic offensive arms set forth by the Treaty, which is a direct violation of the major provisions of the START III Treaty. In this connection, the Russian side has consistently refused to recognize quantity numbers of available SOA assets provided by the USA as true.

 The data that the US side had provided as of September 1, 2022 (659 deployed carriers, 1,420 warheads counted as theirs as per the START and 800 of deployed and non-deployed ICBM and SLBM launchers and HBs) were also appraised as a failure to reflect the real situation.

 The situation around the START Treaty and its direct implementation were most negatively affected by a sharp aggravation of the Russian-American relations provoked by the USA.

 An extreme degree of US hostility, a course towards an ill-intentioned escalation of the conflict in Ukraine and inflicting a «strategic defeat» on Russia in the total hybrid war unleashed against Russia has radically changed the security environment. Russia faced a massive purposeful campaign of undermining her military security, of political and economic «strangulation».

 Serious changes in the security environment are also related to the fact that consolidation of western countries on an aggressive anti-Russian basis takes on a more distinct nuclear dimension. NATO countries that for decades had been practicing the so called «joint nuclear missions» and directly declared the North Atlantic Treaty Organization a «nuclear alliance», put more emphasis on the nuclear weapons in their strategic guidelines, voice determination to further strengthen and enhance combat readiness of the nuclear potentials «assigned» to NATO.

 One can hear appeals to expand NATO nuclear infrastructure and to move it towards the East. These efforts are not only overtly aimed against Russia but are also openly promulgated. Under the conditions of the West-declared readiness for the further escalation of the conflict with Russia of special significance is the factor of the aggregate nuclear potential of the three NATO member states the USA, the U.K. and France, which are capable of using it against Russia.

 Taking into account the above-mentioned considerations, there are all grounds to state that a radical change of circumstances has taken place as compared to those in which the START III Treaty had been worked out and signed.

 As for the technical aspect of the START implementation, in 2022 additional obstacles appeared through the fault of the USA on the way to resume inspection activities under the Treaty suspended with mutual consent of the parties in 2020 in view of the complicated epidemiological situation related to COVID-19.

 Objective and still pending difficulties related to the organization of inspections under the conditions of a pandemic were exacerbated by the artificially created problems that resulted from restrictions imposed by the US-led western countries as measures to put pressure on Russia in connection with the conflict in Ukraine and about it.

 These are the following problems, among other things:

  • Cessation at the initiative of the West of normal passenger air traffic limited the possibilities of Russian inspectors to use commercial flights to arrive on the territory of the USA, in the first place, because of drastic complication and extension of the routes, which created additional difficulties against the background of increased requirements to ensuring safety of Russian military personnel and led to unjustified risks of early information leaks about the intention of the Russian party to conduct inspection activities;
  • Lack of clear-cut guarantees to provide overflight by the aircraft of the Russian Ministry of Defence with inspectors on board through the airspace of western countries closed to Russia. Some of these countries even failed to respond to the requests of the Russian side at all;
  • Probable visa problems during the transit of inspectors via the western countries in the event of a need to make a technical stopover enroute to the USA;
  • Difficulties to make payments for the services required during the inspections on the US territory, where transactions with the use of payment instruments issued by Russian banks were blocked as part of western sanctions and where other bans were enforced that made financial payments impossible.

All this caused the Russian party to forfeit the possibility of unhindered and equal conduct of inspections on the US territory. Such arrangement created unilateral advantages for the American side, which runs counter to the principles of parity and equality of the parties set forth in the START when exercising rights and obligations thereunder.

 By demanding that Washington correct this misbalance the Russian party commenced constructively to discuss ways to overcome the above issues. In some areas the parties managed to make some progress, on others the problems remained. In this situation the USA alleged that there are no more significant obstacles for resuming inspection activities under the START and began to press Russia persistently for the resumption of verification activities.

 Without waiting for mutually acceptable settlement of the remaining issues in August 2022 the USA ventured to aggravate the situation and tried to resume inspections under the START without prior permission thus making Russia face the fact that an American inspection group was sent to Russia.

 Under these circumstances the Russian side took a decision to temporarily exempt Russian facilities subject to inspections from verification activities from August 8, 2022 and until all the existing problems have been resolved in a satisfactory manner. Possibility of such exemption is permitted by paragraph 5 of section 1 of part 5 of the Protocol to the Treaty.

 A most serious factor within the context of the START implementation was a series of strikes by Ukraines armed forces against Russian strategic facilities on which the START validity applies. A blatant provocation of this action, given imperative demands of the USA to give them access to the Russian SOA facilities, is exacerbated by the fact that the said attacks were undertaken with obvious military-technical and reconnaissance-information assistance of Washington.

 In this situation the Russian side had to state that dealing with the USA in the «business as usual» format is no longer possible both in principle, and as applied to the arms control activities which are inseparable from geopolitical and military-strategic realities.

 These assessments were consistently conveyed to the American side and were always accompanied with an appeal to Washingtons taking immediate measures for general de-escalation and remedy of the START situation with regard to the concerns voiced by Russia. However, instead Washington continued taking malicious steps to undermine the security of Russia raising stakes in this confrontation incrementally.

 In view of the total outlined circumstances the Russian side came to the conclusion about a material breach of the START Treaty by the USA, i.e. such a violation that has crucial significance for the implementation of the Treaty objective and goals.

 On February 21, 2023 President Vladimir Putin declared a freeze on Russian participation in the START III. Before getting back to discussions, he said, it is necessary to understand the aspirations of France and Great Britain having their own strategic offensive arms. Putin called upon to determine how their respective arsenals should be counted. i.e. the aggregate nuclear strike potential of NATO.

 The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia noted in the respective statement that for the purposes of maintaining predictability and stability in the nuclear missile field Russia will continue to comply with the main quantitative limitations for the SOA set forth in the Treaty within its validity period. Besides, it was stated that the Russian side will continue to exchange notifications about the ICBM and SLBM launches based on a bilateral agreement dated 1988.

 The USA was also informed through the diplomatic channels that Russia deems valid the Agreement of 1989 pertaining to mutual early notifications about large-scale strategic exercises.

List of the US SOA main modernization programs

Joseph Bidens Administration plans that in the nearest twenty years 2 trillion dollars will be allocated for the modernization of the US strategic triad.

Land-based strategic missile forces:

  • Will complete the development of the advanced ICBM Sentinel in 2023-2027;
  • Will replace the Minuteman-3 ICBMs now stationed on combat alert with the ICBMs Sentinel (all in all, 400 missiles are planned for deployment);
  • ICBMs Sentinel will be fitted with warheads Mk21 (W87-0) and Mk21A (W87-1).

Sea-based strategic missile forces:

  • Will complete the construction of 12 SSBNs of the Columbia type, which from 2030 will replace the Ohio type SSBN;
  • Will modernize SSBN bases with a view to fully replace in perspective the Ohio SSBNs with the submarines of the Columbia type;
  • Will extend the service life of the Trident-2 SLBMs and will modernize warheads Mk5 (W88) without enhancing their combat capabilities;
  • Will develop a new warhead Mk7 (W93).

Strategic bomber aviation:

  • Will modernize strategic bombers B-52H and will extend their service life until 2050 as a nuclear weapons delivery means of a global range;
  • Will develop an advanced strategic bomber B-21 Raider to replace the B-2A aircraft. All in all, the US Air Force plans to purchase not less than 100 aircraft
    B-21;
  • Will develop an air-launched cruise missile LRSO with a new warhead
    W80-4 to replace the AGM-86 ALCM.

On the whole, plans of J.Bidens Administration are an attempt to respond to a dramatic change of the geostrategic situation by way of  «fine tuning» of the existing structure, composition and quantitative characteristics of the US nuclear forces, as well as by enhancing the integration of their nuclear inventory and general purpose forces, through the optimization of planning, preparation and joint combat employment.

Peculiar features of debate on START IV

In February 2023 the American Arms Control Association (ACA) held a briefing on the subject of «Challenges and prospects for further US-Russian nuclear arms control». This event became one of the first broad debate focused on the said subject after President J. Biden had approved the updated US nuclear strategy (Nuclear Posture Review) on October 27, 2022.

In the course of the discussion speeches were delivered by the representatives of the US State Department, ACA personnel, the Brookings Institution, Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP), as well as the Federation of American Scientists. Judging by the five supplementary reports presented, the organizers set two major tasks.

First, to formulate additional arguments in favor of US-Russian negotiations on the fundamental principles of the new START IV Treaty which could substitute for the existing START III.

Second, to push through the implementation of US demands on resumption of American inspections at the Russian nuclear missile facilities provided for in the START III.

Deputy assistant to the president and coordinator for defense policy and arms control at the National Security Council Cara Abercrombie mentioned readiness of the current American administration to continue the implementation of the START III provisions and its desire to reduce the risk of unleashing a nuclear war. She stated that the Russian «aggression» against Ukraine interfered with the implementation of such intentions and charged the Russian side with violating the treaty provisions by blocking the opportunity to send American inspectors to Russia in order to inspect nuclear facilities in accordance with the START III, though such «inspection blockade» had been initiated by the Americans themselves.

Cara Abercrombie criticized Moscows decision to postpone in November 2022 the session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC) established as per the START III terms for an uncertain period of time. She stated that Washington does not prevent Russian inspectors from visiting the American territory, but was unable to give a specific answer to the question: what was really done for the RF representatives to visit the respective facilities in the USA without hindrance.

At the same time Cara Abercrombie admitted that the process of nuclear arms control is in a blind alley and accused Russia namely of disrupting the adoption of the final outcome document of the review conference on nuclear arms control and did not hide that the USA intends to deter the development of Russian nuclear missile armaments.

She also criticized Beijing for «obstructionism» in the nuclear arms control process and reported that by 2030 China will have up to one thousand nuclear warheads, however, up till now fails to show readiness to apply the principle of openness with respect to its nuclear missile arsenal.

Cara Abercrombie stated that Washington will continue to insist on further US inspection activities on the territory of Russia and on resumption of the BCC work, as well as will «interact with the world community» in order to make Russia get back to the full implementation of the START III Treaty.

Other speakers alleged that the USA does not follow the strategy of a first nuclear strike, which is not true; the evidence is the nuclear strategy of President Donald Trump of 2018, the same was confirmed by the Joseph Biden Administration in 2022.

Representatives of the US expert community explained the active interest of the American side to the resumption of inspections on the territory of Russia by the fact that the Russian Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) allegedly increased the number of nuclear warheads on their carriers above the limits set forth by the START III Treaty and it is necessary to conduct an urgent «spot-check». They asserted that the lack of inspection control by the parties over the START may lead to increased expenditure for reconnaissance activities.

Americans ram though their position at the negotiations

Dwelling on the possible development of the nuclear arms control upon termination of the START III validity period the American participants of the event expressed the desire that in the new START IV Treaty the USA and Russia would apply the formula of SOA reduction simultaneously on operationally deployed and operationally non-deployed nuclear warheads, i.e. would go beyond the fundamental principle of the current reductions, which provide for the reduction of only operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads. What is behind this initiative? Obviously, it shows the desire to destroy the Russian nuclear reserve under the conditions of continued active implementation by the USA of the Prompt Global Strike concept and development of the respective forces and assets.

Also, a desire was voiced that reductions under the future START IV Treaty would apply to both the strategic and non-strategic nuclear arms of the USA and Russia. It is worth noting that the wording «non-strategic nuclear arms» has long been introduced by Washington into the nuclear arms control process. Its potential danger for the Russian side consists in the fact that the US tactical nuclear aviation bombs that will be mounted on strategic bombers may be excluded from the future equation on nuclear arms reductions.

A trick with the term «non-strategic nuclear arms» was invented to exclude tactical nuclear aviation assets from the SOA counting list if loaded on the strategic bombers of the US Air Force.

In February 2023 Matt Korda of the Federation of American Scientists manipulated data known to himself only and made a number of expert assessments forecasting the development of the American and Russian strategic nuclear arms potentials if the parties fail to conclude a new START IV Treaty.

In his opinion, by 2026 (if it is impossible to conclude START IV) the US party may exceed the aggregate limits of the START Treaty: on carriers by 50 (hereinafter a forecast of the Federation of American Scientists is given: i.e. the USA will have a total of 715 based on the fact that in 2023 they had 665 SOA carriers) and on warheads by 1,900 (forecast: the USA will have a total of 3,570 nuclear warheads based on the fact that in 2023 they had 1,670 nuclear warheads). As for the Russian party, it will increase nothing on SOA carriers (forecast: the RF will keep 539 as before), but on nuclear warheads Moscow will reach the level by 985 more (forecast: the RF will have a total of 2,689 nuclear warheads based on the fact that in 2023 it had 1,704 nuclear warheads).

That is to say that in 2026 the USA will exceed the levels of Russia in SOA warheads and SOA launchers by a factor of 1.3. With this, Matt Korda noted that the calculations quoted by him do not take into account modernization of the strategic offensive arms by both the parties and are approximate.

Of course, the forecast by the Federation of American Scientists calls for a subject analysis since in the way it was presented this forecast is obviously intended to prod Russia to the need to conclude START IV as soon as possible.

An assumption was voiced that at the future negotiations the issue of introducing limitations on the US ABM system may again become an unresolved problem. After the USA had withdrawn from the ABM Treaty in 2002 American presidents stated repeatedly that the ABM system is not subject to any discussion during the negotiations with Moscow.

It is crucially important that during the discussion held Washingtons point of view at tying together limitations on future SOA reductions and US space-strike weapons and assertive US military space policy in general was not clarified.

It is also essential to bear in mind that earlier the ACA had already tried to propose possible limitations and reductions of such advanced types of Russian weaponry as the Sarmat ICBM, hypersonic glide vehicle Avangard, underwater autonomous vehicle Poseidon, nuclear-powered global range cruise missile Burevestnik, air-launched missile system Kinzhal, hypersonic missile Zircon.

Jake Sullivans proposals

The position of J. Bidens Administration on nuclear arms control problems was outlined in great detail in June 2023 by the US Presidents National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan at the international conference in Washington held by the Arms Control Association where a number of new proposals were put forward.

Jake Sullivan presented the main tenets of the US nuclear strategy, which had been approved in October 2022, as well as dwelled on peculiar features of the SOA control process evolution from Washingtons point of view. The novelty of his speech consisted in the fact that Sullivan formulated nine various proposals pertaining to nuclear arms control.

While so doing, he sharply criticized Russian nuclear policy making groundless allegations and ignoring key facts and essential circumstances.

Thus, Jake Sullivan stated that the Russian side suspended participation in the START III Treaty, but forgot to mention the reasons for such a decision, though the RF had made them known to Washington in good time. He also charged Moscow with deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, though similar American tactical nuclear weapons had long been deployed in a number of European countries.

Sullivans criticism was also levelled against China, it concerned two major segments:

Beijing was accused of avoiding nuclear arms control negotiations, failure to submit data on the number and deployment areas of its strategic offensive arms and failure to notify about the ICBM and SLBM launches. However, the Chinese side is not obliged to do that because it is not a party to the agreements reached.

Jake Sullivan also expressed concern over the build-up of Chinese nuclear missile armaments, which, according to Washingtons forecast, by 2035 will have reached the level of 1,500 warheads, i.e. will come close to the ceiling set forth in the Russian-American START III Treaty for each participating country - 1550 warheads.

Sullivan noted that for the first time in history the United States has to stand against two major nuclear powers Russia and China. He also mentioned «growing nuclear threats» on the part of North Korea and Iran. Pyongyang was accused of readiness to employ nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, while Teheran of withdrawal from the «nuclear deal», though the USA is known to have done so first during Donald Trumps tenure in office.

Speaking about the START III Treaty, Jake Sullivan confirmed that up to February 2026, i.e. until its expiration, the American side plans to comply with the limitations on the nuclear warheads and their carriers, but with a meaningful reservation: if China does not build up its nuclear forces. He promised that the Pentagon will not deploy «the most dangerous types» of nuclear weapons without saying exactly what he meant specifically.

Are these really constructive ideas?

New ideas concerning control over nuclear arms were presented by Jake Sullivan in two aspects: via the prism of Washingtons domestic and foreign policy.

At first the US Presidents National Security Advisor spoke for updating the national policy of nuclear deterrence and plans on modernizing the strategic nuclear triad, for enhancing the command and control structure and the nuclear forces communication system. He proposed placing emphasis on non-nuclear assets: hypersonic and strike space systems, as well as on the use of cyberspace for military purposes. But simultaneously he spoke for conducting negotiations on nuclear problems with the leading nuclear powers «from the position of strength and trust», i.e., actually, on the basis of mutually exclusive principles.

On the other hand, demonstrating in word readiness of the US military and political leadership to prevent the unleashing of a nuclear war, Sullivan voiced some new, but very limited in format, approaches to random resolution of a number of issues on strategic offensive arms control.

He indicated Washingtons willingness to begin movement in nine directions:

1. Enter into a dialogue on SOA control with Russia and PRC «without preconditions», but stipulated that this does mean «without accountability».

2. Notify Russia in advance about launches of ballistic missiles and major exercises of the USA.

3. Enter into a «discussion» on elimination of nuclear risks and determination of a framework in order to exercise control over nuclear armaments after 2026.

4. Apply new efforts for multilateral control over nuclear weapons with participation of five nuclear powers-permanent members of the UN Security Council.

5. Introduce the practice of sending notifications about launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles between the said nuclear powers.

6. Establish hotline communication channels between the capitals of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

7. Assume commitments on openness in nuclear policy, nuclear strategies and in funding nuclear programs.

8. Set limitations to control interoperability between non-nuclear strategic potentials and nuclear deterrence.

9. Continue modernization of the North Atlantic alliance nuclear potential together with NATO allies of the USA ranging from providing wide participation of the member states in nuclear deterrence missions to certification of the US fifth generation nuclear-capable fighter F-35.

Shortcomings of the proposals made

These boil down to the following.

There is no clarity in item 1: what «accountability» and what will it include if no «preconditions» were mentioned in conducting a dialogue on arms control with the RF and PRC?

Item 2 on notifications about launches of ballistic missiles and major exercises of the USA does not contain clarifications on the level and zones of such exercises.

Item 3 proposes entering into «discussions» on elimination of nuclear risks and determination of a framework in order to exercise control over nuclear armaments after 2026; discussions are known to differ from the negotiations and no practical solutions are worked out during them.

Item 4 proposes applying «new efforts» for multilateral control over nuclear weapons with participation of five nuclear powers. What do such efforts boil down to?

Item 5 proposes initiation of notifications about launches of ballistic missiles between five nuclear powers. Is this proposal agreed upon with the U.K. and France? Nothing was said about this.

It is unclear: between what state structures of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council are the hotline communication channels supposed to be established (Item 6)?

What should be the commitments of openness in nuclear policy, nuclear strategies and funding of nuclear programs publicly open or closed and in what scope (Item 7)?

What are these «limitations» (or limits) to control interoperability between non-nuclear strategic potentials and nuclear deterrence mentioned in item 8?

Practical implementation of item 9 means an increased nuclear potential of the USA and NATO generally in forward-basing areas with relation to Russia and Belarus, as well as continuation by NATO and its allies of joint nuclear missions of two types.

Jake Sullivan also failed to clarify the following: what most destabilizing types of nuclear weapons the Pentagon will refuse to deploy.

The above-mentioned proposals do not contain any American position on the possibility or impossibility of changing the strategy of delivering the first nuclear strike against Russia and PRC based on the «launch on warning» concept, on continued patrols of Europes and Asias airspace by the American strategic bombers, on deployed American tactical weapons in Europe and Asia, on resumption of production of nuclear-tipped intermediate-range missiles, on continued operations of the Allied Air Force Baltic Air Policing and Southern Air Policing with the use of dual use aircraft, on combined global ABM system, on prevention of arms race in space, as well as on continued large-scale hybrid aggression of Ukraine and NATO against the Russian Federation.

All proposals put forward by the US Presidents National Security Advisor are just preliminary and staged, i.e. highlighted without elaborate explanations. Naturally, these will require an additional degree of detail and practical specification on the part of the American side, in particular, an indication of concrete ways on how to implement them.

Hidden dangers

Jake Sullivans ideas trigger more additional questions rather than offer any answers essentially. One can also see through three main carefully camouflaged goals of the US military and political leadership with relation to Russia and China.

First, the ideas voiced are intended to drag Beijing by any means into a dialogue on nuclear missiles and de-facto put Chinese nuclear arms under the control of three NATO nuclear powers (the USA, the U.K. and France).

Second, the ideas presented provide for Washingtons traditional selective approach to solving the problem of nuclear arms control: one type of nuclear arms is to be reduced, for instance, SOA, while the other is to be left alone, for instance, tactical nuclear weapons.

Third, the purpose of the given proposals is to weaken the national security of the Russian Federation and China not only through the limitation of their nuclear potential, but also through the limitation of advanced non-nuclear strategic weapons.

Proposals put forward by Sullivan are selective, i.e. random, since these do not outline US approaches to other areas of control over the nuclear and non-nuclear arms.

In view of the above-mentioned circumstances it would be worthwhile to caution relevant Russian ministries and agencies against positive official response to Jake Sullivans nine proposals.

Evidently, accepting the factors described the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated readiness to study American approaches carefully, but at the same time gave a generally negative assessment of the proposals put forward by the US Presidents National Security Advisor.

In particular, it was stated that the Russian side noted some of the points Jake Sullivan had made at the annual conference of the Arms Control Association in Washington. «It was an obvious attempt to present the US position to the world community in a more attractive form than it is formulated as of today. Besides all these slogans, it contains an undisputed destructive charge and an attitude to keep and bolster American supremacy in some spheres with a claim to full domination, to further destruction of the balance of interests», - Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Ryabkov said.

Regrettably, the Russian expert community voiced some positive judgments about Jake Sullivans ideas. But those who hastily gave positive assessments to the American proposals either failed to study their military and political content in full or tried to engage Moscow in an extremely dangerous dialogue with Washington pursuing the main objective to reduce or eliminate Russian advanced nuclear missiles and other types of critical armaments in the period of tough and powerful NATO military pressure on Russia and her allies.

Ideas in general

On March 13, 2024 Frank A. Rose, Principal Deputy Administrator of the  National Nuclear Security Administration, made a report «Delivering on nuclear deterrence» at the Brookings institution.

In his report he placed emphasis not on the particular features of the new treaty between Russia and the USA on the reduction of SOA, but on the need to organize a qualitatively new preparation of participants of nuclear arms control reduction negotiations with other states. Frank A. Rose openly admitted that in the nearest prospect any new US-Russian negotiations on the reduction of strategic offensive arms are hardly likely.

Meanwhile, American representatives lately made repeated attempts in order to conduct the said trilateral or bilateral negotiations on the nuclear arms control.

On March, 2024 US Permanent Representative to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said at the session of the UN Security Council that Washington is ready to promptly begin negotiations without any preconditions in a broader format «on arms control». «All you have to do is say yes and come to the negotiating table in good faith», she added.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield rationalized her statement by an allegation that after the start of the special military operation Russia invoked «dangerous nuclear rhetoric, and walked away from several of its arms control obligations».

At the same, in her words, «China has rapidly and opaquely built up and diversified its nuclear weapons stores»; Moscow and Beijing are still refusing to engage in «substantive discussions around arms control or risk reduction».

The speech of the said American representative did not contain any detailed considerations or proposals in order to step up the nuclear arms control negotiation process. No parameters were given of possible future reductions of the nuclear triad by the parties, either. In other words, this statement by Linda Thomas-Greenfield was exclusively a sort of «adjustment fire».

It is not incidental that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs referred to the said US proposal as «hypocrisy and demagogy offering a dialogue with Russia on arms control on their own terms». Moscow is ready to discuss this issue in a single package only «Our position remains unchanged: we are ready to discuss security and stability issues in a single package only and with emphasis on those aspects that directly involve the security interests of our country. For the time being, it is proposed that we conduct a dialogue only on those issues that are of interest to Washington», the Russian Foreign Ministry added.

Conclusions

Analysis of various proposals made by the representatives of the Joseph Biden Administration and the US expert community indicates that it is now inexpedient to discuss SOA-related issues with Washington.

It is possible to draw a conclusion that in the event of resumption of arms control negotiations with the American side Washington will pursue a course towards selective resolution of this problem of great magnitude.

In the future negotiation process the USA intends to ignore the count of US forward-based assets of various purposes, including nuclear missiles and ABM systems, built up in close proximity to the Russian borders, which pose a serious threat to Russias security.

There are grounds to believe that at the future negotiations the USA will seek to «strike out» the most advanced types of Russian strategic armaments, both nuclear and non-nuclear, from the RF nuclear inventory. It is possible to assume that to resolve this task US negotiators intend to apply additionally a new approach: to try to have Russian advanced weapon types reduced by imposing a ban on the new breakthrough defense technologies that are used to develop them.

The current tense military and political situation in Europe and worldwide in general, practically full suspension by Washington and NATO of arms control/nuclear arms control process, as well as the situation around Ukraine requires that all factors of growing military threats from the USA and NATO be taken into account.

In this connection, it seems appropriate to formulate the negotiation position of the Russian Federation based on the following practical proposals:

  • Reject a selective, i.e.random, approach of the USA to the development of new treaties on arms control/nuclear arms control;
  • Refuse to extend START III after February 5, 2026 if Washington insists that new types of Russian weapons unrelated to SOA be included into this or future treaty, and in case of continued US/NATO hybrid aggression against Russia;
  • Decline any US attempts to drag Russia into consultations on the limitation of high precision hypersonic weapon systems, including on the limitation of the state-of-the-art technologies used to develop them;
  • Pass over to the real counting of SOA warheads installed by the USA on their delivery aircraft;
  • Keep unchanged the demands on closing US land-based ABM facilities and on withdrawal of American tactical nuclear weapons from Europe and Asia, as well as on non-deployment of medium-range and shorter-range missiles outside the national territory of the United States;
  • Insist on complete termination of the US and NATO missions Baltic Air Policing and Southern Air Policing;

Propose the term «deliberate uncertainty» for use with relation to Russias advanced strategic weapons, i.e. not to transfer to the USA tactical and technical characteristics of such Russian arms and not to demonstrate them to the American side.

* * *

As Vladimir Putin noted in his speech on the 7th of May at the Russian President inauguration ceremony: «We do not refuse to conduct a dialogue with western states, The choice is theirs: whether they intend to further try to restrain the development of Russia, to continue the policy of aggression, unrelenting pressure on our country for years or to look for a way to cooperation and peace. I say again: the conversation, including on security issues, strategic stability, is possible. But not from the position of strength, without any arrogance, conceit and ones own exclusiveness, but on an equal basis, respecting the interests of each other».

Speaking at the military parade on the Red Square on May 9, 2024 Vladimir Putin warned: «We reject claims by any state or an alliance to exclusiveness, we know what such unbounded ambitions lead to. Russia will do her utmost to prevent a global collision, but at the same we shall not allow anyone to threaten us. Our strategic forces will always be on combat alert».

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What is behind the «new» US proposals of control over the strategic offensive arms?

photo: cnn.com
10 2024

The US President Joseph Bidens Administration had already made attempts repeatedly to bring the Russian Federation (RF) and the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) into discussing the problem of control over nuclear armaments making special emphasis on recording missile and nuclear problems in a broader format than before in the agenda of the negotiations proposed.

Thus, on August 1, 2022 in his statement addressed to the participants of the Tenth Review Conference on the implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty President Biden said that Washington is prepared to promptly hold talks on a new system of control over armaments in order to replace the bilateral treaty on reduction of strategic offensive arms (START III) which expires in February 2026.

Earlier the USA had also made such statements either inviting China to join the US-Russian dialogue on the reduction of strategic offensive arms or wishing to discuss this topic with the Chinese delegation separately. In the first case the intent was to conduct trilateral negotiations and Washington asked Moscow to influence Beijing to a maximum in order to engage them in the nuclear arms control negotiations stressing that only Russia can positively influence China because of strategic partnership relations with the latter. However, neither the trilateral nor bilateral negotiations on the above agenda were ever held so far.

Situation around the START-III Treaty

The Treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on measures for the further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms was signed on April 8, 2010.

During the ratification the parties made a number of provisos. The US Congress noted that the «the new Treaty shall not impose restrictions on the deployment of ABM systems, including in Europe». Russia reserved the right to withdraw from the Treaty, if the US ABM defense achieves such a stage of development that it will pose a threat to the Russian Federation. It was indicated separately that provisions of the preamble where the interconnection between the SOA and ABM is set forth shall have a legal force and shall be taken into account by the parties in full.

 In accordance with the START III, each of the parties shall reduce and limit its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and ICBM launchers, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and SLBM launchers, heavy bombers (HB), ICBM warheads, SLBM warheads and heavy bomber nuclear armaments, so that seven years after entry into force of this Treaty and thereafter the aggregate numbers do not exceed:

  • 700, for deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and deployed heavy bombers;
  • 1550, for warheads on deployed ICBMs, warheads on deployed SLBMs, and nuclear warheads counted for deployed heavy bombers;
  • 800, for deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, for deployed and non-deployed SLBM launchers, and deployed and non-deployed heavy bombers.

 Each party shall have the right to determine for itself the composition and structure of its strategic offensive arms. Strategic offensive arms (SOA) shall not be based outside the national territory.

The START III gives the right to both parties to carry out agreed verifications of the strategic arms of the other party «on site»: at the ICBM bases, at submarine bases and at air bases. 18 annual inspections of the two types are provided for. Inspections of «Type One» are conducted at the facilities with deployed strategic offensive arms: land-based ICBM bases, SSBN deployment bases (nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines) and at the strategic aviation air bases. Inspections of «Type Two» are conducted at missile loading, repair, storage facilities. Each party shall have the right to conduct up to 10 inspections of Type One and eight inspections of Type Two.

In January 2021 Russia and the USA extended the START III Treaty for five years without preliminary conditions and it now expires in February 5, 2026.

 In full compliance with the START terms, the Russian Federation had completely discharged its obligations related to the reduction of SOA by February 5, 2018 (test date as per the Treaty).

 As of this date, the aggregate potential of the Russian SOA was as follows:

  • 527, deployed ICBM, SLBM and HB;
  • 1444, warheads for deployed ICBM and SLBM, as well as nuclear warheads counted for deployed HB;
  • 779, deployed and non-deployed ICBM and SLBM launchers, deployed and non-deployed HBs.

 As of September 1, 2022 the Russian Federation had 540 deployed SOA carriers (ICBMs, SLBMs, HBs) and 1,549 warheads counted as Russian under the Treaty. The aggregate number of deployed and non-deployed ICBM and SLBM launchers, as well as deployed and non-deployed HBs as of this date was 759.

 When the test date set in, the USA also declared achievement of the agreed aggregate numbers of the SOA. However, reaching the indicators set forth by the Treaty was provided by the US party through unfair manipulations, in particular, by excluding from the count unilaterally and illegitimately a part of American SOA declared as «converted». What is meant here are the 56 launchers of the SLBM Trident-2 and 41 launchers of the B-52H heavy bomber «converted» in such a manner that the Russian side is unable to confirm bringing these SOA into a condition unfit for the employment of SLBMs and HB nuclear weapons as required by the terms of the Treaty.

 The Russian side also does not recognize the USAs refusal to count under the START four silo launchers of the ICBMs intended for training purposes, which the Americans renamed into the category of «training silos» not specified by the Treaty. Taking these assets into account, the US side would exceed the aggregate number for deployed and non-deployed HB, ICBM and SLBM launchers permitted by the Treaty by 101 pieces.

 Despite Russias efforts throughout many years, it was only possible to achieve a certain progress in searching for a solution of a problem related to the confirmation of the status of the SLBM launchers converted by the Americans. However, under the conditions of an explosive growth of tension that followed, collapse of the Russian-American relations and deep degradation of the general situation around the START, it proved impossible to adjust the corresponding algorithm.

 At the same time, Washington never responded constructively to equally serious Russian claims (above all, with relation to the US heavy bombers). Several Russian realistic proposals to settle this issue were rejected.

 As a result, from February 2018 and up till now the US side has remained in excess of the limit levels of strategic offensive arms set forth by the Treaty, which is a direct violation of the major provisions of the START III Treaty. In this connection, the Russian side has consistently refused to recognize quantity numbers of available SOA assets provided by the USA as true.

 The data that the US side had provided as of September 1, 2022 (659 deployed carriers, 1,420 warheads counted as theirs as per the START and 800 of deployed and non-deployed ICBM and SLBM launchers and HBs) were also appraised as a failure to reflect the real situation.

 The situation around the START Treaty and its direct implementation were most negatively affected by a sharp aggravation of the Russian-American relations provoked by the USA.

 An extreme degree of US hostility, a course towards an ill-intentioned escalation of the conflict in Ukraine and inflicting a «strategic defeat» on Russia in the total hybrid war unleashed against Russia has radically changed the security environment. Russia faced a massive purposeful campaign of undermining her military security, of political and economic «strangulation».

 Serious changes in the security environment are also related to the fact that consolidation of western countries on an aggressive anti-Russian basis takes on a more distinct nuclear dimension. NATO countries that for decades had been practicing the so called «joint nuclear missions» and directly declared the North Atlantic Treaty Organization a «nuclear alliance», put more emphasis on the nuclear weapons in their strategic guidelines, voice determination to further strengthen and enhance combat readiness of the nuclear potentials «assigned» to NATO.

 One can hear appeals to expand NATO nuclear infrastructure and to move it towards the East. These efforts are not only overtly aimed against Russia but are also openly promulgated. Under the conditions of the West-declared readiness for the further escalation of the conflict with Russia of special significance is the factor of the aggregate nuclear potential of the three NATO member states the USA, the U.K. and France, which are capable of using it against Russia.

 Taking into account the above-mentioned considerations, there are all grounds to state that a radical change of circumstances has taken place as compared to those in which the START III Treaty had been worked out and signed.

 As for the technical aspect of the START implementation, in 2022 additional obstacles appeared through the fault of the USA on the way to resume inspection activities under the Treaty suspended with mutual consent of the parties in 2020 in view of the complicated epidemiological situation related to COVID-19.

 Objective and still pending difficulties related to the organization of inspections under the conditions of a pandemic were exacerbated by the artificially created problems that resulted from restrictions imposed by the US-led western countries as measures to put pressure on Russia in connection with the conflict in Ukraine and about it.

 These are the following problems, among other things:

  • Cessation at the initiative of the West of normal passenger air traffic limited the possibilities of Russian inspectors to use commercial flights to arrive on the territory of the USA, in the first place, because of drastic complication and extension of the routes, which created additional difficulties against the background of increased requirements to ensuring safety of Russian military personnel and led to unjustified risks of early information leaks about the intention of the Russian party to conduct inspection activities;
  • Lack of clear-cut guarantees to provide overflight by the aircraft of the Russian Ministry of Defence with inspectors on board through the airspace of western countries closed to Russia. Some of these countries even failed to respond to the requests of the Russian side at all;
  • Probable visa problems during the transit of inspectors via the western countries in the event of a need to make a technical stopover enroute to the USA;
  • Difficulties to make payments for the services required during the inspections on the US territory, where transactions with the use of payment instruments issued by Russian banks were blocked as part of western sanctions and where other bans were enforced that made financial payments impossible.

All this caused the Russian party to forfeit the possibility of unhindered and equal conduct of inspections on the US territory. Such arrangement created unilateral advantages for the American side, which runs counter to the principles of parity and equality of the parties set forth in the START when exercising rights and obligations thereunder.

 By demanding that Washington correct this misbalance the Russian party commenced constructively to discuss ways to overcome the above issues. In some areas the parties managed to make some progress, on others the problems remained. In this situation the USA alleged that there are no more significant obstacles for resuming inspection activities under the START and began to press Russia persistently for the resumption of verification activities.

 Without waiting for mutually acceptable settlement of the remaining issues in August 2022 the USA ventured to aggravate the situation and tried to resume inspections under the START without prior permission thus making Russia face the fact that an American inspection group was sent to Russia.

 Under these circumstances the Russian side took a decision to temporarily exempt Russian facilities subject to inspections from verification activities from August 8, 2022 and until all the existing problems have been resolved in a satisfactory manner. Possibility of such exemption is permitted by paragraph 5 of section 1 of part 5 of the Protocol to the Treaty.

 A most serious factor within the context of the START implementation was a series of strikes by Ukraines armed forces against Russian strategic facilities on which the START validity applies. A blatant provocation of this action, given imperative demands of the USA to give them access to the Russian SOA facilities, is exacerbated by the fact that the said attacks were undertaken with obvious military-technical and reconnaissance-information assistance of Washington.

 In this situation the Russian side had to state that dealing with the USA in the «business as usual» format is no longer possible both in principle, and as applied to the arms control activities which are inseparable from geopolitical and military-strategic realities.

 These assessments were consistently conveyed to the American side and were always accompanied with an appeal to Washingtons taking immediate measures for general de-escalation and remedy of the START situation with regard to the concerns voiced by Russia. However, instead Washington continued taking malicious steps to undermine the security of Russia raising stakes in this confrontation incrementally.

 In view of the total outlined circumstances the Russian side came to the conclusion about a material breach of the START Treaty by the USA, i.e. such a violation that has crucial significance for the implementation of the Treaty objective and goals.

 On February 21, 2023 President Vladimir Putin declared a freeze on Russian participation in the START III. Before getting back to discussions, he said, it is necessary to understand the aspirations of France and Great Britain having their own strategic offensive arms. Putin called upon to determine how their respective arsenals should be counted. i.e. the aggregate nuclear strike potential of NATO.

 The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia noted in the respective statement that for the purposes of maintaining predictability and stability in the nuclear missile field Russia will continue to comply with the main quantitative limitations for the SOA set forth in the Treaty within its validity period. Besides, it was stated that the Russian side will continue to exchange notifications about the ICBM and SLBM launches based on a bilateral agreement dated 1988.

 The USA was also informed through the diplomatic channels that Russia deems valid the Agreement of 1989 pertaining to mutual early notifications about large-scale strategic exercises.

List of the US SOA main modernization programs

Joseph Bidens Administration plans that in the nearest twenty years 2 trillion dollars will be allocated for the modernization of the US strategic triad.

Land-based strategic missile forces:

  • Will complete the development of the advanced ICBM Sentinel in 2023-2027;
  • Will replace the Minuteman-3 ICBMs now stationed on combat alert with the ICBMs Sentinel (all in all, 400 missiles are planned for deployment);
  • ICBMs Sentinel will be fitted with warheads Mk21 (W87-0) and Mk21A (W87-1).

Sea-based strategic missile forces:

  • Will complete the construction of 12 SSBNs of the Columbia type, which from 2030 will replace the Ohio type SSBN;
  • Will modernize SSBN bases with a view to fully replace in perspective the Ohio SSBNs with the submarines of the Columbia type;
  • Will extend the service life of the Trident-2 SLBMs and will modernize warheads Mk5 (W88) without enhancing their combat capabilities;
  • Will develop a new warhead Mk7 (W93).

Strategic bomber aviation:

  • Will modernize strategic bombers B-52H and will extend their service life until 2050 as a nuclear weapons delivery means of a global range;
  • Will develop an advanced strategic bomber B-21 Raider to replace the B-2A aircraft. All in all, the US Air Force plans to purchase not less than 100 aircraft
    B-21;
  • Will develop an air-launched cruise missile LRSO with a new warhead
    W80-4 to replace the AGM-86 ALCM.

On the whole, plans of J.Bidens Administration are an attempt to respond to a dramatic change of the geostrategic situation by way of  «fine tuning» of the existing structure, composition and quantitative characteristics of the US nuclear forces, as well as by enhancing the integration of their nuclear inventory and general purpose forces, through the optimization of planning, preparation and joint combat employment.

Peculiar features of debate on START IV

In February 2023 the American Arms Control Association (ACA) held a briefing on the subject of «Challenges and prospects for further US-Russian nuclear arms control». This event became one of the first broad debate focused on the said subject after President J. Biden had approved the updated US nuclear strategy (Nuclear Posture Review) on October 27, 2022.

In the course of the discussion speeches were delivered by the representatives of the US State Department, ACA personnel, the Brookings Institution, Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP), as well as the Federation of American Scientists. Judging by the five supplementary reports presented, the organizers set two major tasks.

First, to formulate additional arguments in favor of US-Russian negotiations on the fundamental principles of the new START IV Treaty which could substitute for the existing START III.

Second, to push through the implementation of US demands on resumption of American inspections at the Russian nuclear missile facilities provided for in the START III.

Deputy assistant to the president and coordinator for defense policy and arms control at the National Security Council Cara Abercrombie mentioned readiness of the current American administration to continue the implementation of the START III provisions and its desire to reduce the risk of unleashing a nuclear war. She stated that the Russian «aggression» against Ukraine interfered with the implementation of such intentions and charged the Russian side with violating the treaty provisions by blocking the opportunity to send American inspectors to Russia in order to inspect nuclear facilities in accordance with the START III, though such «inspection blockade» had been initiated by the Americans themselves.

Cara Abercrombie criticized Moscows decision to postpone in November 2022 the session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC) established as per the START III terms for an uncertain period of time. She stated that Washington does not prevent Russian inspectors from visiting the American territory, but was unable to give a specific answer to the question: what was really done for the RF representatives to visit the respective facilities in the USA without hindrance.

At the same time Cara Abercrombie admitted that the process of nuclear arms control is in a blind alley and accused Russia namely of disrupting the adoption of the final outcome document of the review conference on nuclear arms control and did not hide that the USA intends to deter the development of Russian nuclear missile armaments.

She also criticized Beijing for «obstructionism» in the nuclear arms control process and reported that by 2030 China will have up to one thousand nuclear warheads, however, up till now fails to show readiness to apply the principle of openness with respect to its nuclear missile arsenal.

Cara Abercrombie stated that Washington will continue to insist on further US inspection activities on the territory of Russia and on resumption of the BCC work, as well as will «interact with the world community» in order to make Russia get back to the full implementation of the START III Treaty.

Other speakers alleged that the USA does not follow the strategy of a first nuclear strike, which is not true; the evidence is the nuclear strategy of President Donald Trump of 2018, the same was confirmed by the Joseph Biden Administration in 2022.

Representatives of the US expert community explained the active interest of the American side to the resumption of inspections on the territory of Russia by the fact that the Russian Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) allegedly increased the number of nuclear warheads on their carriers above the limits set forth by the START III Treaty and it is necessary to conduct an urgent «spot-check». They asserted that the lack of inspection control by the parties over the START may lead to increased expenditure for reconnaissance activities.

Americans ram though their position at the negotiations

Dwelling on the possible development of the nuclear arms control upon termination of the START III validity period the American participants of the event expressed the desire that in the new START IV Treaty the USA and Russia would apply the formula of SOA reduction simultaneously on operationally deployed and operationally non-deployed nuclear warheads, i.e. would go beyond the fundamental principle of the current reductions, which provide for the reduction of only operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads. What is behind this initiative? Obviously, it shows the desire to destroy the Russian nuclear reserve under the conditions of continued active implementation by the USA of the Prompt Global Strike concept and development of the respective forces and assets.

Also, a desire was voiced that reductions under the future START IV Treaty would apply to both the strategic and non-strategic nuclear arms of the USA and Russia. It is worth noting that the wording «non-strategic nuclear arms» has long been introduced by Washington into the nuclear arms control process. Its potential danger for the Russian side consists in the fact that the US tactical nuclear aviation bombs that will be mounted on strategic bombers may be excluded from the future equation on nuclear arms reductions.

A trick with the term «non-strategic nuclear arms» was invented to exclude tactical nuclear aviation assets from the SOA counting list if loaded on the strategic bombers of the US Air Force.

In February 2023 Matt Korda of the Federation of American Scientists manipulated data known to himself only and made a number of expert assessments forecasting the development of the American and Russian strategic nuclear arms potentials if the parties fail to conclude a new START IV Treaty.

In his opinion, by 2026 (if it is impossible to conclude START IV) the US party may exceed the aggregate limits of the START Treaty: on carriers by 50 (hereinafter a forecast of the Federation of American Scientists is given: i.e. the USA will have a total of 715 based on the fact that in 2023 they had 665 SOA carriers) and on warheads by 1,900 (forecast: the USA will have a total of 3,570 nuclear warheads based on the fact that in 2023 they had 1,670 nuclear warheads). As for the Russian party, it will increase nothing on SOA carriers (forecast: the RF will keep 539 as before), but on nuclear warheads Moscow will reach the level by 985 more (forecast: the RF will have a total of 2,689 nuclear warheads based on the fact that in 2023 it had 1,704 nuclear warheads).

That is to say that in 2026 the USA will exceed the levels of Russia in SOA warheads and SOA launchers by a factor of 1.3. With this, Matt Korda noted that the calculations quoted by him do not take into account modernization of the strategic offensive arms by both the parties and are approximate.

Of course, the forecast by the Federation of American Scientists calls for a subject analysis since in the way it was presented this forecast is obviously intended to prod Russia to the need to conclude START IV as soon as possible.

An assumption was voiced that at the future negotiations the issue of introducing limitations on the US ABM system may again become an unresolved problem. After the USA had withdrawn from the ABM Treaty in 2002 American presidents stated repeatedly that the ABM system is not subject to any discussion during the negotiations with Moscow.

It is crucially important that during the discussion held Washingtons point of view at tying together limitations on future SOA reductions and US space-strike weapons and assertive US military space policy in general was not clarified.

It is also essential to bear in mind that earlier the ACA had already tried to propose possible limitations and reductions of such advanced types of Russian weaponry as the Sarmat ICBM, hypersonic glide vehicle Avangard, underwater autonomous vehicle Poseidon, nuclear-powered global range cruise missile Burevestnik, air-launched missile system Kinzhal, hypersonic missile Zircon.

Jake Sullivans proposals

The position of J. Bidens Administration on nuclear arms control problems was outlined in great detail in June 2023 by the US Presidents National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan at the international conference in Washington held by the Arms Control Association where a number of new proposals were put forward.

Jake Sullivan presented the main tenets of the US nuclear strategy, which had been approved in October 2022, as well as dwelled on peculiar features of the SOA control process evolution from Washingtons point of view. The novelty of his speech consisted in the fact that Sullivan formulated nine various proposals pertaining to nuclear arms control.

While so doing, he sharply criticized Russian nuclear policy making groundless allegations and ignoring key facts and essential circumstances.

Thus, Jake Sullivan stated that the Russian side suspended participation in the START III Treaty, but forgot to mention the reasons for such a decision, though the RF had made them known to Washington in good time. He also charged Moscow with deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, though similar American tactical nuclear weapons had long been deployed in a number of European countries.

Sullivans criticism was also levelled against China, it concerned two major segments:

Beijing was accused of avoiding nuclear arms control negotiations, failure to submit data on the number and deployment areas of its strategic offensive arms and failure to notify about the ICBM and SLBM launches. However, the Chinese side is not obliged to do that because it is not a party to the agreements reached.

Jake Sullivan also expressed concern over the build-up of Chinese nuclear missile armaments, which, according to Washingtons forecast, by 2035 will have reached the level of 1,500 warheads, i.e. will come close to the ceiling set forth in the Russian-American START III Treaty for each participating country - 1550 warheads.

Sullivan noted that for the first time in history the United States has to stand against two major nuclear powers Russia and China. He also mentioned «growing nuclear threats» on the part of North Korea and Iran. Pyongyang was accused of readiness to employ nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, while Teheran of withdrawal from the «nuclear deal», though the USA is known to have done so first during Donald Trumps tenure in office.

Speaking about the START III Treaty, Jake Sullivan confirmed that up to February 2026, i.e. until its expiration, the American side plans to comply with the limitations on the nuclear warheads and their carriers, but with a meaningful reservation: if China does not build up its nuclear forces. He promised that the Pentagon will not deploy «the most dangerous types» of nuclear weapons without saying exactly what he meant specifically.

Are these really constructive ideas?

New ideas concerning control over nuclear arms were presented by Jake Sullivan in two aspects: via the prism of Washingtons domestic and foreign policy.

At first the US Presidents National Security Advisor spoke for updating the national policy of nuclear deterrence and plans on modernizing the strategic nuclear triad, for enhancing the command and control structure and the nuclear forces communication system. He proposed placing emphasis on non-nuclear assets: hypersonic and strike space systems, as well as on the use of cyberspace for military purposes. But simultaneously he spoke for conducting negotiations on nuclear problems with the leading nuclear powers «from the position of strength and trust», i.e., actually, on the basis of mutually exclusive principles.

On the other hand, demonstrating in word readiness of the US military and political leadership to prevent the unleashing of a nuclear war, Sullivan voiced some new, but very limited in format, approaches to random resolution of a number of issues on strategic offensive arms control.

He indicated Washingtons willingness to begin movement in nine directions:

1. Enter into a dialogue on SOA control with Russia and PRC «without preconditions», but stipulated that this does mean «without accountability».

2. Notify Russia in advance about launches of ballistic missiles and major exercises of the USA.

3. Enter into a «discussion» on elimination of nuclear risks and determination of a framework in order to exercise control over nuclear armaments after 2026.

4. Apply new efforts for multilateral control over nuclear weapons with participation of five nuclear powers-permanent members of the UN Security Council.

5. Introduce the practice of sending notifications about launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles between the said nuclear powers.

6. Establish hotline communication channels between the capitals of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

7. Assume commitments on openness in nuclear policy, nuclear strategies and in funding nuclear programs.

8. Set limitations to control interoperability between non-nuclear strategic potentials and nuclear deterrence.

9. Continue modernization of the North Atlantic alliance nuclear potential together with NATO allies of the USA ranging from providing wide participation of the member states in nuclear deterrence missions to certification of the US fifth generation nuclear-capable fighter F-35.

Shortcomings of the proposals made

These boil down to the following.

There is no clarity in item 1: what «accountability» and what will it include if no «preconditions» were mentioned in conducting a dialogue on arms control with the RF and PRC?

Item 2 on notifications about launches of ballistic missiles and major exercises of the USA does not contain clarifications on the level and zones of such exercises.

Item 3 proposes entering into «discussions» on elimination of nuclear risks and determination of a framework in order to exercise control over nuclear armaments after 2026; discussions are known to differ from the negotiations and no practical solutions are worked out during them.

Item 4 proposes applying «new efforts» for multilateral control over nuclear weapons with participation of five nuclear powers. What do such efforts boil down to?

Item 5 proposes initiation of notifications about launches of ballistic missiles between five nuclear powers. Is this proposal agreed upon with the U.K. and France? Nothing was said about this.

It is unclear: between what state structures of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council are the hotline communication channels supposed to be established (Item 6)?

What should be the commitments of openness in nuclear policy, nuclear strategies and funding of nuclear programs publicly open or closed and in what scope (Item 7)?

What are these «limitations» (or limits) to control interoperability between non-nuclear strategic potentials and nuclear deterrence mentioned in item 8?

Practical implementation of item 9 means an increased nuclear potential of the USA and NATO generally in forward-basing areas with relation to Russia and Belarus, as well as continuation by NATO and its allies of joint nuclear missions of two types.

Jake Sullivan also failed to clarify the following: what most destabilizing types of nuclear weapons the Pentagon will refuse to deploy.

The above-mentioned proposals do not contain any American position on the possibility or impossibility of changing the strategy of delivering the first nuclear strike against Russia and PRC based on the «launch on warning» concept, on continued patrols of Europes and Asias airspace by the American strategic bombers, on deployed American tactical weapons in Europe and Asia, on resumption of production of nuclear-tipped intermediate-range missiles, on continued operations of the Allied Air Force Baltic Air Policing and Southern Air Policing with the use of dual use aircraft, on combined global ABM system, on prevention of arms race in space, as well as on continued large-scale hybrid aggression of Ukraine and NATO against the Russian Federation.

All proposals put forward by the US Presidents National Security Advisor are just preliminary and staged, i.e. highlighted without elaborate explanations. Naturally, these will require an additional degree of detail and practical specification on the part of the American side, in particular, an indication of concrete ways on how to implement them.

Hidden dangers

Jake Sullivans ideas trigger more additional questions rather than offer any answers essentially. One can also see through three main carefully camouflaged goals of the US military and political leadership with relation to Russia and China.

First, the ideas voiced are intended to drag Beijing by any means into a dialogue on nuclear missiles and de-facto put Chinese nuclear arms under the control of three NATO nuclear powers (the USA, the U.K. and France).

Second, the ideas presented provide for Washingtons traditional selective approach to solving the problem of nuclear arms control: one type of nuclear arms is to be reduced, for instance, SOA, while the other is to be left alone, for instance, tactical nuclear weapons.

Third, the purpose of the given proposals is to weaken the national security of the Russian Federation and China not only through the limitation of their nuclear potential, but also through the limitation of advanced non-nuclear strategic weapons.

Proposals put forward by Sullivan are selective, i.e. random, since these do not outline US approaches to other areas of control over the nuclear and non-nuclear arms.

In view of the above-mentioned circumstances it would be worthwhile to caution relevant Russian ministries and agencies against positive official response to Jake Sullivans nine proposals.

Evidently, accepting the factors described the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated readiness to study American approaches carefully, but at the same time gave a generally negative assessment of the proposals put forward by the US Presidents National Security Advisor.

In particular, it was stated that the Russian side noted some of the points Jake Sullivan had made at the annual conference of the Arms Control Association in Washington. «It was an obvious attempt to present the US position to the world community in a more attractive form than it is formulated as of today. Besides all these slogans, it contains an undisputed destructive charge and an attitude to keep and bolster American supremacy in some spheres with a claim to full domination, to further destruction of the balance of interests», - Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Ryabkov said.

Regrettably, the Russian expert community voiced some positive judgments about Jake Sullivans ideas. But those who hastily gave positive assessments to the American proposals either failed to study their military and political content in full or tried to engage Moscow in an extremely dangerous dialogue with Washington pursuing the main objective to reduce or eliminate Russian advanced nuclear missiles and other types of critical armaments in the period of tough and powerful NATO military pressure on Russia and her allies.

Ideas in general

On March 13, 2024 Frank A. Rose, Principal Deputy Administrator of the  National Nuclear Security Administration, made a report «Delivering on nuclear deterrence» at the Brookings institution.

In his report he placed emphasis not on the particular features of the new treaty between Russia and the USA on the reduction of SOA, but on the need to organize a qualitatively new preparation of participants of nuclear arms control reduction negotiations with other states. Frank A. Rose openly admitted that in the nearest prospect any new US-Russian negotiations on the reduction of strategic offensive arms are hardly likely.

Meanwhile, American representatives lately made repeated attempts in order to conduct the said trilateral or bilateral negotiations on the nuclear arms control.

On March, 2024 US Permanent Representative to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said at the session of the UN Security Council that Washington is ready to promptly begin negotiations without any preconditions in a broader format «on arms control». «All you have to do is say yes and come to the negotiating table in good faith», she added.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield rationalized her statement by an allegation that after the start of the special military operation Russia invoked «dangerous nuclear rhetoric, and walked away from several of its arms control obligations».

At the same, in her words, «China has rapidly and opaquely built up and diversified its nuclear weapons stores»; Moscow and Beijing are still refusing to engage in «substantive discussions around arms control or risk reduction».

The speech of the said American representative did not contain any detailed considerations or proposals in order to step up the nuclear arms control negotiation process. No parameters were given of possible future reductions of the nuclear triad by the parties, either. In other words, this statement by Linda Thomas-Greenfield was exclusively a sort of «adjustment fire».

It is not incidental that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs referred to the said US proposal as «hypocrisy and demagogy offering a dialogue with Russia on arms control on their own terms». Moscow is ready to discuss this issue in a single package only «Our position remains unchanged: we are ready to discuss security and stability issues in a single package only and with emphasis on those aspects that directly involve the security interests of our country. For the time being, it is proposed that we conduct a dialogue only on those issues that are of interest to Washington», the Russian Foreign Ministry added.

Conclusions

Analysis of various proposals made by the representatives of the Joseph Biden Administration and the US expert community indicates that it is now inexpedient to discuss SOA-related issues with Washington.

It is possible to draw a conclusion that in the event of resumption of arms control negotiations with the American side Washington will pursue a course towards selective resolution of this problem of great magnitude.

In the future negotiation process the USA intends to ignore the count of US forward-based assets of various purposes, including nuclear missiles and ABM systems, built up in close proximity to the Russian borders, which pose a serious threat to Russias security.

There are grounds to believe that at the future negotiations the USA will seek to «strike out» the most advanced types of Russian strategic armaments, both nuclear and non-nuclear, from the RF nuclear inventory. It is possible to assume that to resolve this task US negotiators intend to apply additionally a new approach: to try to have Russian advanced weapon types reduced by imposing a ban on the new breakthrough defense technologies that are used to develop them.

The current tense military and political situation in Europe and worldwide in general, practically full suspension by Washington and NATO of arms control/nuclear arms control process, as well as the situation around Ukraine requires that all factors of growing military threats from the USA and NATO be taken into account.

In this connection, it seems appropriate to formulate the negotiation position of the Russian Federation based on the following practical proposals:

  • Reject a selective, i.e.random, approach of the USA to the development of new treaties on arms control/nuclear arms control;
  • Refuse to extend START III after February 5, 2026 if Washington insists that new types of Russian weapons unrelated to SOA be included into this or future treaty, and in case of continued US/NATO hybrid aggression against Russia;
  • Decline any US attempts to drag Russia into consultations on the limitation of high precision hypersonic weapon systems, including on the limitation of the state-of-the-art technologies used to develop them;
  • Pass over to the real counting of SOA warheads installed by the USA on their delivery aircraft;
  • Keep unchanged the demands on closing US land-based ABM facilities and on withdrawal of American tactical nuclear weapons from Europe and Asia, as well as on non-deployment of medium-range and shorter-range missiles outside the national territory of the United States;
  • Insist on complete termination of the US and NATO missions Baltic Air Policing and Southern Air Policing;

Propose the term «deliberate uncertainty» for use with relation to Russias advanced strategic weapons, i.e. not to transfer to the USA tactical and technical characteristics of such Russian arms and not to demonstrate them to the American side.

* * *

As Vladimir Putin noted in his speech on the 7th of May at the Russian President inauguration ceremony: «We do not refuse to conduct a dialogue with western states, The choice is theirs: whether they intend to further try to restrain the development of Russia, to continue the policy of aggression, unrelenting pressure on our country for years or to look for a way to cooperation and peace. I say again: the conversation, including on security issues, strategic stability, is possible. But not from the position of strength, without any arrogance, conceit and ones own exclusiveness, but on an equal basis, respecting the interests of each other».

Speaking at the military parade on the Red Square on May 9, 2024 Vladimir Putin warned: «We reject claims by any state or an alliance to exclusiveness, we know what such unbounded ambitions lead to. Russia will do her utmost to prevent a global collision, but at the same we shall not allow anyone to threaten us. Our strategic forces will always be on combat alert».