The Military Case for Extending the New START Agreement
RAND PROJECT AIR FORCE SANTA MONICA CA SANTA MONICA
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Since the 1960s, U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control agreements have helped enhance strategic stability, bolster mutual deterrence, and avoid an arms race. With the U.S. decision in 2019 to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty, only one bilateral nuclear arms control treaty remains in force the 2010 Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, commonly referred to as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START. However, New START is set to expire in February 2021.The U.S. government is reportedly still considering whether to exercise the option to extend New START by up to five years. In the meantime, members of Congress have introduced proposals intended either to persuade or to discourage U.S. President Donald Trump from doing so. The U.S. military has important equities in the outcome of this debate. New START caps the number of Russian long-range ballistic missiles and nuclear-equipped heavy bombers at known and predictable levels. Additionally, through its verification provisions, New START allows the United States to gain important insights into the size, capabilities, and disposition of Russias nuclear forces beyond the information provided by more-traditional intelligence methods. Taken together, these two features of the treaty help reduce uncertainty about the future direction of Russian nuclear forces and thereby provide the U.S. military with greater confidence in its own plans and capabilities. Therefore, U.S. national security officials at all levels need to be conversant on the key provisions of New START, the ways in which the treaty supports U.S. military objectives, and the broader political context in which the current debate over its extension is taking place. This Perspective addresses each of these topics in turn.
- Government and Political Science
- Nuclear Warfare