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Nuclear Arms Control: The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty

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Congressional rept.

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On May 24, 2002, President Bush and Russias President Putin signed a new Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty known as the Treaty of Moscow that will reduce strategic nuclear weapons to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads by December 31, 2012. Russia entered the negotiations seeking a legally binding document that would contain limits, definitions, counting rules and elimination rules that resembled those in the START Treaties. Russia also wanted the new Treaty to contain a statement noting U.S. missile defenses would not undermine the effectiveness of Russias offensive forces. The United States preferred a less formal process in which the two nations would state their intentions to reduce their nuclear forces, possibly accompanied by a document outlining added monitoring and transparency measures. Furthermore, the United States had no intention of including restrictions on missile defenses in an agreement outlining reductions in strategic offensive nuclear weapons. Russia convinced the United States to sign a legally binding treaty, but the United States rejected any limits and counting rules that would require the elimination of delivery vehicles and warheads removed from service. It wanted the flexibility to reduce its forces at its own pace, and to restore warheads to deployed forces if conditions warranted. Russian officials have hailed the success of Russias diplomacy in convincing the United States to sign a legally binding Treaty that casts Russia as an equal partner in the arms control process. The United States, however, maintained its ability to set its force structure according to its own needs, and avoided any limits on stored warheads or missile defenses. Most observers in the United States and Russia have praised the Treaty as a useful step in the arms control process. Some, however, have argued that the Treaty could raise new risks if the warheads placed in storage become targets for terrorists or others who would seek to steal or sell them.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Nuclear Warfare
  • Nuclear Weapons

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