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New Start to Global Nuclear Arms Reduction

A.Arms Control Regimes:

  • The arms control regimes which assured strategic stability during the Cold War started with the SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) and ended with the START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty).
  • During the Cold War there were numerous Summits between the US and the former Soviet Union wherein arms experts came up with a large number of agreements and verification protocols.
  • The US Senate rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
  • The US has withdrawn from the ABM.
  • The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has been a failure as it has failed to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons as well move towards the ultimate goal of elimination of nuclear weapons.

    B.2002 - US Withdrawal from the ABM Treaty:
  • On June 13, 2002, the US formally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.
  • The ABM Treaty, signed by the US and Russia in 1972, forbade the two sides from acquiring the capability to defend against incoming nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. This led to the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) which assured strategic stability during the Cold War.
  • The ABM was seen as the key to global strategic stability before the US declared in mid 1990s to acquire the National Missile Defence (NMD) capability that could violate the ABM treaty.

    C.Russia’s Reaction - No Longer Bound by the Strictures of START-II:
  • On June 14, 2002, Russia announced that it was no longer bound by the strictures of START-II nuclear arms reduction treaty signed in 1993.
  • This implies that if the US is determined to acquire credible NMD, then Russia is free from a START-II ban on having landbased strategic missiles with multiple warheads.

    1.Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START):

    Nuclear Accords Between Russia and the US:
    The nuclear accords signed between Russia and the US since the early 1970s meticulously outlined the make up of each country’s nuclear forces as negotiators on each side fought to reduce the threat posed by the adversary.

    1991 - START-I:
    The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-I) was signed by the former US President, Mr. George Bush and the then Soviet President, Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev, in July 1991. The START-I envisaged the reduction of their nuclear warheads to 14,719 (8,556 with US and 6,613 with the former Soviet Union). Before the arms reduction started, the US and the former Soviet Union together had an all time high nuclear arsenal of 23, 658 warheads in 1990. The START-I expires in December 2009.

    1993 - START-II:
    The START-II was signed in Moscow, on January 3, 1993 by the former US President, Mr. George Bush and the former President of Russia, Mr. Boris Yeltsin. START-II banned Russia from deploying land-based missiles with multiple warheads which formed the core of its nuclear forces. When Russia ratified START-II in 2000, it linked its implementation on the preservation of the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) which banned a national missile defence of the kind the US has decided to deploy. START-II was not implemented.

    2002 - Strategic Offensive Reductions (SORT):
    The US and Russia agreed to limit nuclear arsenal to 1,700-2,200 operationally deployed warheads. This treaty expires in 2012.

    2.The US and Russia Agree to Re-Open Talks to Reduce their Nuclear Arsenal:

    US and Russian Presidents Agree to Re-Open Talks on Reducing their Nuclear Warheads:
  • On April 1, 2009 the US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev agreed in London to reopen talks on reducing their nuclear warheads. The meeting between the two Presidents was held on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit.
  • This would be the first major arms control negotiations in more than a decade which could lead to the replacement of the 1991 START-I which expires in December 2009.
  • The two Presidents said that they would be in a much stronger position to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime if they led the world be example by reducing their own nuclear arsenal.
  • The Negotiators were directed to report first results in July 2009 when the two leaders would meet for a Summit in Russia.
  • The talks could lead to each country reducing its nuclear stockpile by 80 per cent, according to US officials.
  • On May 18, 2009 the US and Russia started the first round of talks aimed at replacing the START-I that expires in December 2009.
  • The Arms Reduction talks are central to US President Barack Obama’s desire to “reset” strained relations with Russia and their results would have far-reaching implications for global security.
  • For Russia the talks are also seen as a matter of prestige as they imply strategic parity with the US, which is significant to Russia as it seeks to play a larger role on the global stage.
  • The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the new momentum for disarmament and offered his best wishes for the talks.

    3.US President Obama’s Goal of a World Without Nuclear Weapons:
  • US President Barack Obama said that he wanted to rid the world of nuclear weapons. He was addressing French and German students in France (Strasbourg) on April 3, 2009. • The world’s estimated arsenal of 24,000 nuclear warheads - all but 1,000 in the US and Russian armouries - was the worst legacy of the Cold War, according to the US President. If the risk of all-out nuclear war had faded, the danger of nuclear attack had increased.
  • Mr. Obama pledged a drive on nuclear disarmament, possibly bigger than any ever attempted.
  • The US would accelerate Arms Control Agreements with Russia. The current talks with Russia resulting in reduction of nuclear stockpiles by about a third was a beginning, setting the stage for further cuts.
  • Building on the momentum of a new agreement on Arms Reduction with Russia, Mr. Obama pointed out that he wanted to cajole other nuclear powers into agreeing international arms cuts.
  • Mr. Obama said that he would reduce the role of nuclear weapons in US national security strategy.
  • Mr. Obama would pursue immediately and aggressively the Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as the first step towards pushing the CTBT’s entry into force.
  • A verifiable ban on the dedicated production of fissile material for the manufacture of nuclear weapons would be a top priority of the Obama Administration.
  • The US President also pledged to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
  • He specified two ways of reinforcing the NPT regime - banning the production of fissile material used for nuclear warheads and establishing an international fuel bank which would supply and keep tabs on low-enriched uranium for peaceful nuclear purposes in electricity generations for countries that need it.
  • Mr. Obama stressed on greater resources and authority for international inspections - and real and immediate consequences for countries that violate the treaty.
  • The US President wanted to re-energise the campaign to get all vulnerable nuclear materials in secure storage within four years. He would also convene a world summit on nuclear security in the US within a year.
  • The risk of terrorists being able to obtain a nuclear device was the most immediate and extreme threat to global security, according to Mr. Obama.

    4.Significance of the US President’s Initiatives on Nuclear Disarmament:
  • President Obama’s initiatives on nuclear disarmament represent a move forward from the unilateral approach of the previous administration, according to analysts.
  • Reaching out to a resurgent Russia to re-open talks on nuclear arms reduction was very significant as it has positive implications for global security. The START-I provided the legal and technical framework for large-scale verifiable disarmament. It helped in the reduction of the nuclear warheads in the world from a total of 60,000 during the Cold War to less than 20,000.
  • The ratification of the CTBT by the US would be a step forward, according to analysts. However, this step would be meaningful if the US were to end all work on design and refinement of new nuclear weapons.
  • Mr. Obama has reversed the previous administration’s policy on the Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) and declared that the US would seek a treaty that verifiably ends the production of fissile materials. This would help in the forward movement of the FMCT negotiations in Geneva.
  • The Obama-Medvedev proposal of ridding the world of nuclear weapons altogether is very significant. For the first time both the countries have jointly declared the goal of total disarmament. However, achieving this goal requires the US-Russian nuclear arsenal to be cut below 1,000 each and the establishment of the CTBT, FMCT and other disarmament treaties.

    5.Implications for India:
  • If the US ratifies the CTBT, India would be under pressure to follow suit. Analysts suggest that India needs to be proactive in emphasising the crucial importance of nuclear disarmament. India has not signed the CTBT, but it has been observing a moratorium on nuclear tests since 1998.
  • The reversal of the US policy on FMCT under the Obama Administration has serious implications for India, according to analysts.

    India's Stand on FMCT:
  • India wants a universal, non-discriminatory and internationally and effectively verifiable FMCT.
  • India would not block the compromise that would allow the CD to draft the FMCT.
  • Actively working with the US on the FMCT is one of the conditions of the July 2005 Indo-US civil nuclear agreement.









Published date : 06 Sep 2009 03:32PM

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