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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

New START Treaty Fact Sheet: Unilateral Statements

Fact Sheet
Bureau of Verification, Compliance, and Implementation
May 13, 2010


Key Point: There are three unilateral statements associated with the Treaty. These statements are not integral parts of the Treaty, and they are not legally binding.

Russian Unilateral Statement on Missile Defense: On April 7, 2010, the Russian Federation made a unilateral statement on missile defense, in which it recorded its view that the Treaty may be effective and viable only in conditions where there is no qualitative and quantitative build-up in the missile defense system capabilities of the United States. The Russian Federation further noted its position that the “extraordinary events” that could justify withdrawal from the Treaty, pursuant to Article XIV, include a build-up in the missile defense system capabilities of the United States that would threaten the strategic nuclear forces potential of the Russian Federation.

The withdrawal clause in Article XIV contains language identical to the withdrawal provisions in many arms control agreements, including the START Treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The withdrawal provision is self-judging in that each Party may decide when extraordinary events related to the subject matter of the Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests. Accordingly the Russian statement merely records that the circumstances described in its statement could, in its view, justify such a decision on its part. It does not express a legal right or obligation, nor does it change any of the legal rights or obligations of the Parties under the Treaty.

As a historical matter, the Soviet Union made a similar unilateral statement regarding its possible withdrawal from the START Treaty. In that statement, the Soviet Union noted its position that the “extraordinary events” in the withdrawal provision included U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. When the United States withdrew from the ABM Treaty in 2002, however, the Russian Federation (as a successor state to the Soviet Union) did not withdraw from the START Treaty.

U.S. Unilateral Statement on Missile Defense: On April 7, 2010, the United States made a unilateral statement in response to the unilateral “Statement of the Russian Federation Concerning Missile Defense.” In its statement, the United States took note of the Russian statement, and recorded the U.S. position that U.S. missile defense systems are not intended to affect the strategic balance with Russia. U.S. missile defense systems would be employed to defend the United States against limited missile launches, and to defend its deployed forces, allies and partners against regional threats. The United States further noted its intent to continue improving and deploying its missile defense systems in order to defend itself against limited attack and as part of our collaborative approach to strengthening stability in key regions.

U.S. Unilateral Statement on the Trident I SLBM: On April 7, 2010, the United States made a unilateral statement that Trident I SLBMs are not SLBMs of an existing type for purposes of the Treaty. Trident I SLBMs were previously contained in Ohio-class SSBNs. In this statement, the United States declared that the launchers that were at one time capable of launching Trident I SLBMs have all been converted and are now incapable of launching Trident I ballistic missiles. The United States further declared that the remaining Trident I SLBMs will not be used for purposes inconsistent with the Treaty.

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