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Myth:  The New START Treaty is a Cold War relic that does not address today’s nuclear threats

  • Ensuring the two countries with the largest nuclear arsenals maintain constraints on their nuclear weapons is not outdated, Cold War thinking.  It is prudent and responsible behavior.
  • New START limits all Russian deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons, including every Russian nuclear warhead that is loaded onto an intercontinental-range ballistic missile that can reach the United States in approximately 30 minutes.  It also limits the deployed Avangard and the under development Sarmat, the two most operationally available of Russia’s new long-range nuclear weapons that can reach the United States.  Extending New START ensures we will have verifiable limits on the mainstay of Russian nuclear weapons that can reach the U.S. homeland for the next five years.
  • New START prevents the Russian Federation from uploading more warheads onto its modernized ballistic missile force than the maximum permitted by the treaty.  New START’s verification regime enables us to monitor Russian compliance with the treaty, giving us confidence that Russian forces remain within the treaty limits.  It also provides us with insight into Russian intercontinental-range nuclear forces and operations that would be lost without extension of the treaty.
  • Taken together, the numerical limits and verification regime ultimately allow us to make better informed decisions about the sufficiency of U.S. nuclear forces.  Maintaining verifiable limits on the mainstay of Russian nuclear weapons that can reach the U.S. homeland is an essential part of our strategy to prevent a costly, dangerous, and global arms race.

Myth:  Allowing the New START Treaty to expire does not harm U.S. security

  • Without New START, the Russian Federation could significantly increase the number of warheads deployed on its ballistic missiles and our window of transparency into Russian intercontinental-range nuclear forces would shrink.  Over time we would have less confidence in our assessments of Russian intercontinental-range nuclear forces and would have less information upon which to base decisions about U.S. nuclear forces.
  • Since New START entered into force in 2011, the United States has annually determined across multiple administrations that New START continues to contribute to the national security interests of the United States.  

Myth:  New START should not be extended because it does not address Russian non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNW) 

  • The New START Treaty is not designed to limit Russian or U.S. NSNW, but including these types of weapons in future nuclear arms control with the Russian Federation is a longstanding and bipartisan U.S. objective.  Allowing New START to lapse would not limit Russian NSNW, but it would allow the Russian Federation to deploy more warheads on the ballistic missiles that can reach the United States in 30 minutes.
  • Extending New START does not preclude a future agreement that limits all Russian nuclear weapons, including NSNW and all novel nuclear systems.  There was insufficient time to negotiate a new arms control agreement before New START was scheduled to expire on February 5, 2021.  Extension buys time for the United States to pursue a new and broader arms control framework with the Russian Federation while maintaining limits on and insight into Russian intercontinental-range nuclear weapons.  It offers the most stable path to an additional agreement or agreements addressing the threats we face from all Russian nuclear weapons.

Myth:  New START was a good treaty when the United States was trying to reset relations with the Russian Federation, but it does not have a place in today’s more adversarial relationship

  • Because of the downturn in relations with the Russian Federation, effective arms control is more valuable now than it was in 2010.  It is important to maintain boundaries on nuclear competition even as we hold the Russian Federation to account for its reckless and aggressive actions.  Verifiable limits on Russian intercontinental-range nuclear forces allow us to make better informed judgements about the sufficiency of U.S. nuclear forces and help diminish the possibility of a costly and dangerous nuclear arms race.
  • New START also provides a forum for ongoing dialogue on strategic stability and nuclear weapons at a time of when tensions between our countries are elevated and bilateral relations are increasingly challenged. 

Myth:  The United States has fewer NSNW than the Russian Federation because of the New STARTTreaty

  • At the end of the Cold War, the United States chose to retire the bulk of its NSNW because President George H.W. Bush concluded that the country could field a sufficient nuclear deterrent without them.  No U.S. administration since the end of the Cold War has concluded there is a need to match the Russian Federation in such weaponry.  In contrast, the Russian Federation has retained and is modernizing its large arsenal of NSNW, and these differing U.S. and Russian strategic choices account for the disparity in NSNW.  We are concerned as to why the Russian Federation sees the need to maintain such a large NSNW stockpile.  For the United States, any use of a nuclear weapon would change the nature of a conflict, and we have expressed this concern to the Russian Federation.

Myth:  The United States and the Russian Federation agreed to a one-year freeze on all nuclear warheads

  • The Russian Federation agreed in principle to the concept of a political commitment to a one-year freeze on the number of nuclear warheads in exchange for a one-year extension of New START but only if the United States dropped what the Russian Federation deemed additional U.S. conditions, including reaching a common definition of a warhead and a declaration on the number and types of warheads in each side’s stockpile.  The United States insisted there is no meaningful stockpile freeze without these essential elements.  In principle, with the freeze, the Russian Federation stated a willingness to include all its nuclear weapons, at least in a political commitment, for the first time, but ultimately the United States and the Russian Federation did not reach an understanding and make the deal.
  • The choice before the United States was not whether to extend New START or conclude a new arms control agreement.  There was insufficient time to negotiate a new legally-binding and verifiable agreement before New START was scheduled to expire on February 5th.  The choice was whether to extend or allow New START to lapse, which would enable the Russian Federation to increase the number of nuclear weapons threatening the United States.  Maintaining New START while pursuing a new arms control framework that addresses the threat from all Russian nuclear weapons offers a more stable path forward. 

Myth:  The New START Treaty’s verification regime is deeply flawed

  • The New START Treaty’s verification regime builds on lessons learned from 15 years of implementing the previous START I Treaty, and is tailored uniquely to New START’s provisions.
  • New START includes an extensive verification regime that, when combined with U.S. national technical means, enables the United States to assess whether the Russian Federation is adhering to its New START obligations.
  • As examples, twice a year the Russian Federation must exchange data on the total number of deployed warheads on its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the total number of deployed warheads on its submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and the number of deployed warheads at each base where ICBMs and SLBMs are deployed.  On a rolling basis, the Russian Federation must notify us before solid-fueled ICBMs leave a production facility and it must inform us after it transfers a treaty-accountable missile from storage or maintenance into the field for deployment.  New START also allows U.S. inspectors to conduct 18 on-site inspections a year at Russian facilities for treaty-accountable nuclear forces, providing the United States the opportunity to verify Russian compliance with its treaty obligations.
  • New START verification provisions provide visibility into Russia’s nuclear forces and thereby help to mitigate the risks of surprises, misunderstandings, and miscalculations that can result from excessive secrecy or decisions based on worst-case assumptions.  The treaty gives us a vital window into the Russian nuclear arsenal.
  • Every year since the treaty entered into force in 2011, across Administrations, the President – through the Director of National Intelligence – has certified to the Senate that U.S. national technical means (e.g. satellites), in conjunction with the verification measures in New START, are “sufficient to ensure effective monitoring of Russian compliance with the provisions of the New START Treaty and timely warning of any Russian preparation to break out of the limits in Article II of the New START Treaty.”
  • The United States has determined the Russian Federation to be in compliance with its New START obligations annually across multiple administrations since the treaty entered into force in 2011.  

Myth:  Extending the New START Treaty allows the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to continue an unconstrained nuclear build-up

  • The substantial projected growth in the PRC’s nuclear arsenal remains a key concern for the United States and its allies and partners.  The PRC’s continued resistance to engaging in a meaningful dialogue on nuclear weapons and risk reduction is destabilizing and calls into question its intentions.  To prevent an unconstrained nuclear arms competition and enhance stability, the world will need nuclear arms control that includes the PRC.  The United States has not lost sight of this objective.
  • Allowing New START to lapse, however, would not bring the PRC to the negotiating table or limit its nuclear build-up.  The PRC has demanded that the United States and the Russian Federation extend New START as a way to rebuff calls for it to participate in talks on nuclear weapons.  Now that the United States and the Russian Federation have agreed to extend New START, the United States expects the PRC to engage.

Myth:  Nuclear arms control with the Russian Federation only serves U.S. interests if it also includes the PRC

  • Arms control agreements and arrangements must be tailored to the security challenges they are intended to address.  Although there may be opportunities for the United States and the Russian Federation to engage the PRC in a trilateral forum, the United States does not believe that all future arms control endeavors with the Russian Federation must include the PRC.
  • The PRC is the least transparent member of the P5 nuclear-weapon states, appears to be shifting away from its longstanding minimalist nuclear force posture, and its nuclear stockpile looks set to more than double in size over this decade.  We are prepared to engage the PRC on nuclear risk reduction and arms control.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future