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U.S.-Russia nuclear reductions--.

After the attacks of September 11 and the post-attack rash of anthrax mailings, renewed attention is being paid to the risks posed by weapons of mass destruction (WMD) falling into the hands of additional states and nonstate actors. The vast majority of scenarios involving WMD proliferation invariably stems from the current insecurity characterizing the state of the Russian WMD complex, particularly its nuclear complex.

The U.S. and Russia continue to field massive offensive nuclear arsenals that the leaders of both countries acknowledge do not reflect the changed nature of their strategic relationship. The risks of accidental nuclear exchange and the possible proliferation of Russian nuclear materials, technology, and know-how pose serious threats to global security. The negotiated arms reduction process that showed such promise in the early 1990s failed to fully materialize and make continued strides in reducing the nuclear arsenals of both countries, due in part to the deteriorating U.S.-Russian relationship. Key to this blocked progress were internal disputes between the executive and legislative branches in both Washington and Moscow, which seemed to thwart repeated attempts to break the arms reduction logjam. This stagnation has left both countries with more deployed nuclear weapons than either side needs or wants. The announcements by presidents Bush and Putin that both countries will unilaterally reduce their deployed arsenals, while welcome, leave major security risks unaddressed, including the ability to rearm to cold war levels and the ultimate fate of thousands of weapons and tons of nuclear materials. Furthermore, it will be years before these deep reductions are fully implemented.

Even with their oversized stockpiles, however, the two countries have made substantial progress in redudng deployed arsenals from their cold war peaks. The reduction process in Russia has been greatly aided by the innovative U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, designed to help Moscow implement its arms control obligations. Not nearly enough has been done, however, to complete this process or to implement steps that would guard against the reconstruction of these arsenals, should the global security picture radically deteriorate.

In 1990, the Soviet Union had 7,652 accountable nuclear weapons on 2,083 launchers. (The term accountable refers to attribution rules established in the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty--START I--signed by the U.S. and Russia on July 31, 1991.) As of January 2001, Russia had 6,094 accountable weapons on 1,266 launchers. (Ukraine--the only other former Soviet state to possess START-accountable launchers-had 56 launchers attributed with 208 warheads as of January, 2001. There are no nuclear warheads, however, in Ukraine.) These numbers do not reflect the full extent of Russian nuclear reductions, however, since Russia possessed other nondeployed missile systems and thousands of other nuclear warheads that were not reflected under the counting rules contained in the START Treaties. Reliable estimates from nongovernmental organizations (no official numbers have ever been provided) suggest that the Soviet Union had just under 12,000 strategic nuclear warheads deployed (that is, mounted on launchers) in 1990. This number has dropped, thanks in part to U.S. assistance, to just over 5,600 actual deployed weapons by 2001.

Numbers are only part of the overall picture on reductions, however. When the Soviet Union collapsed, nearly half of its strategic nuclear arsenal was spread across the territory of three non-Russian republics. Of the 7,600 accountable weapons, some 3,400 were deployed within the borders of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. This reality presented a serious challenge to the global security and international nonproliferation regimes. An intensive legal, financial, and technical effort by the U.S., assisted by its European allies, however, succeeded in convincing these states to abandon their nuclear weapons. Over the course of the 1990s, the nuclear weapons deployed in the non-Russian republics were returned to Russia, and their associated delivery vehicles were either returned or dismantled (an ongoing process).

Progress in Russia itself has also been remarkable, given the historic legacy of mistrust between Moscow and Washington. With U.S. assistance, Russia has successfully deactivated and/or dismantled 330 land- and sea-based missiles and bombers and 17 strategic submarines as well as 306 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) silos and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) launchers. These missiles were previously loaded with over 1,600 nuclear weapons capable of hitting targets in the United States. The reductions include the elimination of 116 SS: 18 missiles, which formed the backbone of the Soviet nuclear force that threatened the U.S. during the cold war, along with 119 older SS-11, 10 SS-17, and 12 SS-19 missiles and 42 heavy bombers. All of these reductions, along with the destruction or planned destruction of missile silos, missile fuel, and associated weapons infrastructure, were implemented with financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Key Points

* The U.S. and Russia possess more nuclear weapons than they want or need.

* Deep weapons reductions from cold war peaks have been made, but even more remains to be done.

* Successful reductions require close cooperation, assistance, and transparency between the two countries.
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Article Details
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Author:Wolfsthal, Jon Brook
Publication:Foreign Policy in Focus
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 10, 2001
Previous Article:Toward a new foreign policy.
Next Article:Problems with current U.S. policy.

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