Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties
The first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) was proposed by United States President Ronald Reagan and was signed on July 31, 1991. The first treaty was followed by an unsuccessful START II treaty.
This treaty was signed on July 31, 1991, five months prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The treaty instituted limits on the quantity of various types of vehicles and warheads that could be deployed by either side. It remains in effect today between the USA, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. The last three of these nations have since totally eliminated their nuclear arsenals.
START I entered into force on December 5, 1994 after 10 years of negotiations. Within seven years, the Societ Union was required to destroy 30-40% of its strategic nuclear force. Similarly, the US was required to destroy approximately one third of its strategic nuclear arsenal.
The treaty is 900 pages long and is the most complex arms control treaty to enter into force. It allows for each nation to verify that the other nation is complying with the treaty provisions. It provides for 12 types of inspections and exhibitions to collect compliance information.
In the picture to the left, inspectors observe the curtting up of a B-52 bomber aircraft during an elimination inspection.
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) is the American agency responsible for conducting US inspections and monitoring facilities in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. Teams from those nations are accompanied by DTRA escort teams while conducting inspections in American facilities. To learn more about the DTRA, click here.
Under START, the United States and the states of the former Soviet Union, the two largest nuclear holders in the world, would destroy approximately 30-40% of their strategic nuclear forces by 2001. Both countries fulfilled their obligations, each reduced to less than 1600 deployed ballistic missiles and 6000 warheads. Belarus and Kazakhstan now have no strategic nuclear weapons.
The second round of START was signed by American President H.W. Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin in January 1993. The treaty banned the use of Multiple Independently Targetable Re-Entry Vehicles (MIRVs), which are collections of nuclear missiles all carried on the same intercontinental ballistic missile.
To learn more about MIRVs, click here.
On June 17, 1992, the Presidents of Russia and the US signed a "Joint Understanding." It was ratified by the US Senate on January 26, 1996 by a vote of 87-4. In the Russian Duma, however, ratification stalled for many years. It was postponed in protest of American military actions in Iraq and Kosovo, in addition to protest the expansion of NATO.
Both sides started to lose interest in the treaty as years passed. The Americans wanted to modify the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty to allow for the creation of their own ballistic missile defense system, which the Russian vehemently opposed. On April 14, 2000 the Russian Duma symbolically ratified the treaty contingent on the US preservation of the ABM treaty.
On June 13, 2002, the US withdrew from the ABM treaty. A day later, the Russian Federation announced it would no longer be bound by START II.
An Expert's Opinion
"START I and START II were both real reductions treaties with timelines, with inspections, verifications, and so on." - listen
Reverend Robert Moore, Executive Director, Coalition for Peace Action
- Moore, Robert. Coalition for Peace Action. Personal Interview. 11 Apr. 2006. To view our notes of the interview, click here.
- “START I.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 2 Mar. 2006 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/START_I>.
- "START II.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 2 Mar. 2006 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/START_II>.
- "Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).” DTRAlink. 2 Mar. 2006 <http://www.dtra.mil/Toolbox/Directorates/OSI/Programs/ops/start/index.cfm>.