Friday, 24 December 2010

New START Ratification Resolution Establishes US Policy on Tactical Nuclear Disarmament Talks in Europe

The US Senate ratified the new START strategic arms treaty on December 22nd, despite intense partisan opposition from those determined to inflict a defeat on President Obama. Secretary General Rasmussen welcomed the ratification on behalf of NATO allies who endorsed the treaty strongly in the Lisbon Summit declaration. While the treaty is modest in its aims, failure to ratify would have been a tremendous blow for the US and NATO in relations with Russia.

Interestingly, the ratification resolution makes it US policy to open talks with Russia on tactical nuclear weapons within a year of entry-into-force of the Treaty, and in the meantime to work on increasing transparency between the US and Russia on tactical nuclear weapons, and to extend cooperative threat reduction to assuring the safety and security of Russian weapons. NATO allies are to be consulted.

While the ratification debate has been marked by a generally negative tone and anti-Russian sentiment, this provision is to be welcomed. having refused to discuss these issues for years, Republicans in the Senate sought to criticise new START for not dealing with tacnukes. As a result, this clause was added to the ratification resolution. NATO has already allowed for this in the outcome of the Lisbon Summit and it is to be hoped that ratification by the Duma will allow these talks to go forward.

The resolution can be found here and on tacnukes reads:
(12) Tactical nuclear weapons .-(A) Prior to the entry into force of the New START Treaty, the President shall certify to the Senate that- 
i) the United States will seek to initiate, following consultation with NATO allies but not later than one year after the entry into force of the New START Treaty, negotiations with the Russian Federation on an agreement to address the disparity between the non-strategic (tactical) nuclear weapons stockpiles of the Russian Federation and of the United States and to secure and reduce tactical nuclear weapons in a verifiable manner; and

(ii) it is the policy of the United States that such negotiations shall not include defensive missile systems.
(B) Not later than one year after the entry into force of the New START Treaty, and annually thereafter for the duration of the New START Treaty or until the conclusion of an agreement pursuant to subparagraph (A), the President shall submit to the Committees on Foreign Relations and Armed Services of the Senate a report-
(i) detailing the steps taken to conclude the agreement cited in subparagraph (A); and
(ii) analyzing the reasons why such an agreement has not yet been concluded.
(C) Recognizing the difficulty the United States has faced in ascertaining with confidence the number of tactical nuclear weapons maintained by the Russian Federation and the security of those weapons, the Senate urges the President to engage the Russian Federation with the objectives of-
(i) establishing cooperative measures to give each Party to the New START Treaty improved confidence regarding the accurate accounting and security of tactical nuclear weapons maintained by the other Party; and
(ii) providing United States or other international assistance to help the Russian Federation ensure the accurate accounting and security of its tactical nuclear weapons.

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