Global Insights: Have U.S., Russia Given Up on Non-Strategic Nuclear Arms Control?

Global Insights: Have U.S., Russia Given Up on Non-Strategic Nuclear Arms Control?

Much remains uncertain regarding the nuclear arms control treaty currently being negotiated by the Russian and American governments. But the parties have evidently decided not to try to address "non-strategic" nuclear weapons in the agreement. When asked about the issue at an April 6 conference on nonproliferation, two U.S. and Russian officials intimately involved in the negotiations said they favored excluding the issue from the immediate START follow-on talks. The latest Russian-American negotiating session that occurred last week in Geneva appears to confirm this decision.

Rose Gottemoeller, the new assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance and the chief U.S. negotiator for strategic nuclear arms control issues, said that President Barack Obama was concerned about the issue, and acknowledged that non-strategic nuclear weapons needed to be addressed at some point. But she added that, "My own view is that the immediate START follow-on negotiations will not be the area where that issue is immediately pursued."

Sergey I. Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the United States and an influential player in Russian arms control policies, endorsed Gottemoeller's position. He observed that non-strategic nuclear weapons would need to be eliminated "if you decide to move to the world free of nuclear weapons." But he argued that, for the moment, Russia and the U.S. should "focus on things that are doable, because when you go to substrategic, there will be a lot of other things that need to be entered into play." Among the potential complications, Kislyak included "the imbalances in conventional weapons [and the] appearance of new systems that maybe are non-nuclear, but designed to do the same job."

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