Since the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) began on Feb. 5, 2011, “we have exchanged over 2,500 [such] notifications,” Rose Gottemoeller, acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday.
Databases exchanged every six months detailing where each strategic nuclear weapon system is located, whether deployed, undergoing maintenance or being retired, provides “a truly real-time look at what is going on inside the Russian strategic forces,” Gottemoeller reported as part of an update on the treaty’s implementation.
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, one of 13 Republicans who in December 2010 voted to ratify the treaty, requested the session. At the time of the vote, Mitt Romney, now the Republican presidential challenger, opposed the treaty.
Corker is up for reelection, and Tennessee’s Republican primary is Aug. 2. His main opponent is a tea party member. More about that later.
One critical part of the new treaty is its inspections, which take place when there are fewer sites to see and inspectors have a wider area of viewing.
Gottemoeller said there have been “up to 25 short-notice inspections since the treaty entered into force.” They included, she said, “inspections that are designed to confirm the exact number of reentry vehicles, or warheads, on individual missiles selected for inspection.”
As a result, Gottemoeller said, “We are now able to confirm the exact number of warheads on any randomly selected Russian ICBM and SLBM [sub-launched ballistic missile], something that we were not able to do under the 1991 START treaty.”
Inspectors also got their first good look at the new Russian RS-24 mobile ICBM and its launch vehicle, something not possible under the old treaty.
Madelyn Creedon, assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, explained how the United States planned to get down to the new START limits of 1,550 deployed warheads on 700 delivery systems, as well as another 100 delivery platforms not deployed.
She also described plans to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to modernize the nation’s triad of delivery systems, a critical part of the debate over the treaty.
Thomas D’Agostino, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, which runs the nation’s nuclear weapons building complex, had the toughest time with the panel. The administration had fallen behind in getting Congress to approve increases in funding to rebuild the aging nuclear weapons complex — one basis for Corker and other Republicans supporting the treaty.