START II and III, TMD Demarcation, and Next Steps with Russia

Summary of Proceedings of a Seminar sponsored by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Project
September 8, 1997

Presentations by:

Robert Bell, Special Assistant to the President, Defense Policy and Arms Control, National Security Council -- View from the White Houvse;

Stanley Riveles, U.S. Commissioner to the Standing Consultative Commission -- Report from Geneva: Demarcation and the ABM Treaty; and

Michael Nacht, University of Maryland -- Strategic Arms Agreements: The Executive-Legislative Sequence.

Seminar chair:

Rodney Jones, Senior Advisor to the Carnegie Endowment’s START II Project.


This seminar was convened following the conclusion of the ABM Treaty-related succession and theater missile defense (TMD) demarcation agreements in the Standing Consultative Commission (SCC) on August 21, to update the Washington community’s understanding of the status of the START and TMD agreements, and of the next steps on START II and III. The speakers geared their presentations to such questions as:

What do the ABM Treaty-related agreements accomplish? Have the Helsinki summit accords coupled with SCC codification of TMD demarcation cleared the way for START II in Russia? Will the Russian parliament now approve START II, or add conditions? Will the U.S. Senate support amending the START II timeline? When can START III negotiations begin? What is the likely sequence for executive and legislative action on these agreements?

Of special importance among the seminar’s findings were:

  • Robert Bell’s outline of Clinton administration plans to submit a package of START and ABM treaty-related agreements to the Senate.
  • This package will include an amendment to the timeline of START II; low-velocity and high-velocity TMD demarcation agreements; the SCC’s agreement on Soviet successor states as parties to the ABM Treaty (multilateralization); and possibly an amendment to START I’s duration.
  • This package would be submitted to the Senate after the Russian parliament has acted on START II (as amended by the extension protocol called for at Helsinki). Meanwhile, the administration intends to submit the CTBT for Senate approval this fall, urging final action in early 1998.
  • Michael Nacht spelled out his view that Yeltsin, given his commitments at Helsinki, should now be positioned to win Duma approval of START II, although he may need to put his shoulder to the wheel with a special campaign.

In addition, debate ensued on whether Yeltsin can accomplish this, with several participants expecting that START II will fail and urging new thought be applied to what U.S. interests and actions should be if it becomes clear that START II will not enter into force.

  • Robert Bell Looking Back

    Looking back to then-Defense Secretary William Perry’s visit to the Russian State Duma (the lower house of parliament) in October 1996, Bell recalled how the Perry delegation was "sobered" by the depth of opposition to START II expressed by Duma members.* Perry’s meeting with the Duma was "a negative session indeed."

    In the aftermath of Perry’s visit, the Clinton Administration established a policy blueprint to help address the Duma’s concerns over ratifying the treaty. The blueprint addressed four major Russian concerns, including: NATO enlargement and European security, the cost and difficulty of implementing START II reductions, the cost of deploying single-warhead ICBMs to achieve START II ceilings, and ABM demarcation. In the following 11 months, the United States successfully addressed each of these four areas.

    European security. The United States never believed that NATO enlargement would threaten Russian security, but the Administration had to acknowledge that opposition to NATO expansion was a major element of the Duma’s reluctance to approve START II. Bell said that the March 1997 Helsinki summit’s Joint Statement on European Security and the subsequent NATO-Russia Founding Act should alleviate Russian concerns over the nature of NATO enlargement and the role Russia will play in European security affairs. In addition to working to resolve the NATO issue, the U.S. and Russia, in conjunction with other European nations, have made good progress on developing the basic elements for a follow-on, adapted CFE II Treaty that will reflect post-Soviet political and military realities in Europe. The U.S. Senate also approved the CFE Flank agreement, allowing Russia some relief from the original CFE provisions. The U.S. has done all it pragmatically can in this area, Bell said, and these steps should remove European security issues as a cause for delaying START II.

    START II implementation costs. Bell noted that Russia and the United States agreed in principle in Helsinki to extend START II’s final implementation deadline by five years, allowing Russia to spread the cost of implementation over a longer period (while requiring deactivation of START II systems by 2003, on roughly the original timeline). U.S. and Russian negotiators were moving forward with the protocol codifying this agreement and Bell hoped that it would be ready for signature at the same time as the ABM demarcation agreements, hopefully later this month in New York on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly session.

    START III. Bell noted that Helsinki laid the groundwork for START III with agreement in principle to reduce strategic warheads to levels that would not require a Russian buildup of new ICBMs. The United States looks forward to the START III negotiations, but Bell made clear that they could not begin until the Russian parliament has approved START II and the treaty has entered into force.

    The ABM Treaty. Bell expected that the recent agreement in the Standing Consultative Commission on three treaty-related accords would help to reduce Duma concerns about U.S. missile defense intentions. One accord deals with the Soviet successor state issue, and clarifies that Belarus, Kazakstan, and Ukraine will join Russia in becoming full treaty parties. The other two accords address theater missile defense (TMD) demarcation, establishing criteria for low-velocity and high-velocity TMD interceptors, in order to distinguish them from ABM (strategic) interceptors, which the treaty limits.

    Looking Ahead

    START I extension

    Because START II was based on START I’s structure (as START III would be as well), Bell noted that the two follow-on agreements will depend on the permanence of START I. Therefore, the United States and Russia had reached agreement in principle on amending START I to make its duration indefinite. The treaty now has a 15-year lifespan. This START I amendment is simple but will require the ratification of all five START parties.

    Addressing the Senate

    Bell noted that it is important for the START and ABM Treaty-related agreements, which affect the offense-defense relationship in arms control, to be considered in their inter-relationship. Therefore, the Clinton Administration intends to package five agreements (START I extension, START II extension, ABM Treaty multilateralization, ABM Treaty demarcation of low-velocity systems, and ABM Treaty demarcation of high-velocity systems) for the Senate to consider at one time, after Russia’s parliament has approved START II. Bell pointed out that the successor states also see these accords on offensive and defensive elements as a package, though the START I indefinite extension accord is not as essential to the package as the START II extension protocol. Thus, Bell hoped for the following sequence of events:

    • The United States, Russia, Belarus, Kazakstan, and Ukraine would formally sign the relevant agreements in September 1997 in New York;
    • The Duma and Federation Council would approve START II (as amended) this autumn or winter 1997/98; and
    • The U.S. Senate would consider the package of four or five agreements in the spring or summer of 1998.

    Bell noted that the administration hopes to submit the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the U.S. Senate within the next few weeks.

    Stanley Riveles

    What was agreed to in the Standing Consultative Commission (SCC)

    On August 21, the SCC reached five agreements, three of which the Clinton administration will submit to the U.S. Senate for approval:

    1) A memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the multilateralization of the ABM Treaty which stipulates that Belarus, Kazakstan, and Ukraine, as well as Russia, are the Soviet successor states party to the treaty. No other Soviet successor states will be asked to join. The MOU establishes that all treaty provisions will remain intact for the new parties and that existing (former Soviet) ABM facilities outside of national territories of the four will be considered legal facilities.

    Riveles refuted criticism that multilateralization would make future ABM Treaty modification more difficult. The new ABM parties, he said, understood that U.S. and Russian strategic interests naturally would be paramount under the treaty. The other three parties would be reluctant to risk jeopardizing their relations with the U.S. and Russia by opposing agreements reached between Russia and the United States. Russia needed the multilateralization agreement, Riveles noted, to clarify the legal status and provide a framework for ABM facilities outside Russian territory. This statement will be submitted to the Senate.

    2) A document laying out internal procedures and regulations for operating the five-party SCC. This will not require legislative approval.

    3) An agreed statement on low-velocity TMD missile interceptors, and testing criteria, adherence to which ensures that those TMD systems will not be considered strategic. This statement will be submitted to the Senate.

    4) An agreed statement on high-velocity TMD missile interceptors that precludes space-based TMD interceptors and specifies testing criteria. This statement will be submitted to the Senate.

    5) An agreement on confidence-building measures to assist the treaty parties to understand the performance capabilities of their theater missile defense systems. It also provides for test notifications. This annex will not require separate Senate approval since it is linked to the demarcation statements.

    Why did these agreements take so long?

    Riveles described how the negotiating process in the SCC has not changed much since the end of the Soviet era and how the process is reminiscent of the START and INF negotiations. The external environment has changed, however. The threat of missile proliferation, for example, has grown and must be addressed. The United States wishes to exploit new technologies and counter-measures, and this leads to different views of the ABM Treaty. Russia has found it difficult, however, to consider major innovations or treaty adjustments. In addition, the U.S. congressional climate has changed dramatically, making previous U.S. positions more difficult to sustain.

    Michael Nacht

    Nacht was cautiously optimistic about the prospects of Russia ratifying START II and moving forward to START III. If there were stock in START II’s entry into force, "I’d buy some of it and I think it will pay dividends." His prognosis put much weight on "what the boss wants."

    Shared U.S. and Russian presidential vision.

    Clinton has a vision with respect to Eastern Europe and Russia, Nacht said. Clinton wants "a democratized and market-economized system of new states that is a hallmark for the post-Cold War world." Yeltsin, Nacht said, wants essentially the same thing. Included in the Helsinki summit agreements was a lesser-noticed economic cooperation package that was important to the vision of both presidents and that will give Yeltsin a better chance of realizing his goals for Russia.

    Above all, Yeltsin "sees the larger picture," wishes to bring Russia into the international economic community, and is willing to muscle his agencies into line to support START II ratification even though some of them have specific reservations, such as: giving up MIRVed ICBMs, a political symbol of Russia’s great-power status; the prospect of U.S. TMD systems closer to Russia in regions such as Northeast Asia; and NATO enlargement.

    The Legislatures

    The presidents need to persuade their legislatures, however, and both the Duma and the Senate are unpredictable.

    Duma members fall into five groups, Nacht said. The largest is uninterested and will follow strong leadership. Another, smaller group expresses deep substantive concerns about the treaty. A third group is simply anti-Yeltsin and would oppose the treaty. A fourth group could be persuaded to support the treaty through pork-barrel projects or simple bribery. The fifth group opposes NATO enlargement.

    Above all, the Duma lacks a national leader. To get Duma approval of START II, therefore, Yeltsin will need to take the lead and wage a Clinton-like, CWC-type campaign with "a war room-like climate." Yeltsin was committed to the effort at Helsinki, but Nacht acknowledged that Yeltsin might be unable to succeed unless he learns on the job, since this would be an entirely new leadership style for a Russian head of state.

    Nacht stressed that START II needs to be ratified before the START/ABM package goes to the Senate. The Senate is also highly-differentiated, including near-religious views at the extremes on the missile defense issue. Even so, there has been broad bipartisan support for deploying some theater missile defenses. Nacht expects Clinton will appeal to this centrist group while noting that the Administration has so far won all the critical arms control battles in the Senate.

    The costs of failure

    Should the Duma fail to approve START II, the costs could be very high. Arms control is no longer the dominant issue, Nacht said, but it is still critical for the U.S.-Russian relationship to move ahead. Aside from the financial burden of maintaining higher levels of strategic nuclear forces, START II’s failure would harm the larger political relationship between the two nations. There would be a greater push in the United States to deploy a national missile defense and the United States could expect problems in cooperating with Russia on regional security issues, including the Middle East peace process. A shift to a much rockier U.S.-Russian relationship is possible.

    Nacht stressed that START II’s entry into force could lock in an important element of the bilateral relationship for Yeltsin’s successor, but a failure of START II with a Yeltsin successor could turn the relationship in a different direction.

    What if START II succeeds?

    If START II is approved, work on a challenging START III agreement would begin and could include measures on verified warhead dismantlement, restrictions on special nuclear materials, a 2010 implementation deadline, and possibly even a mid-course correction agreeing on warhead levels of about 1,500.

    If completed, START III would likely be the end of the START-style of bilateral nuclear arms control. The next steps would need to involve the participation of the other nuclear-weapon states and would require entirely new concepts--work for another generation.

    Questions, Answers, and Discussion

    Senator Bingaman (D-NM) said he believes the Duma is unlikely to ratify START II in the near future and Yeltsin’s ability to mount a "war room" effort is similarly unlikely. What progress can be made if the Duma doesn’t ratify?

    Bell said "the United States puts great stock in Yeltsin’s commitment to act." But should the Duma prove recalcitrant, it would be a mistake to think there would be an easy or quick START III negotiation. It would be "an illusion" to think that if START II could only be by-passed, then the way ahead would be clear.

    If START II fails, the other option would be to consider whether we might enter an era of informal arms control, as once suggested by Ken Adelman, in which we drift down to lower levels through coordinated unilateral reductions, but with the burden of greater uncertainty.

    Amb. Steven Steiner (U.S. representative to the JCIC) echoed Nacht’s cautious optimism, noting that Igor Sergeyev, former head of the Strategic Rocket Forces, was recently named Defense Minister. Sergeyev was a big improvement over his predecessor Igor Rodionov, who felt that START II was a betrayal of national interests. In addition, the Yeltsin government had recently assembled an inter-agency committee to promote START II before the Duma.

    Spurgeon Keeny (Arms Control Association) questioned whether START III should incorporate the new areas of verified warhead dismantlement or tactical nuclear weapon reductions, recognizing that these areas probably will require lengthy, difficult negotiations. Might it not make more sense simply to achieve further reductions in strategic warhead deployments by changing only the aggregate ceilings in START?

    Bell said that Russia wanted START III to be a broader agreement so that Russia could address perceived problems with START II, such as the lack of limits on sea-launched cruise missiles. The United States also wanted to include tactical nukes because the disparity in the holdings of the two nations would become more important as their strategic holdings declined. In addition, the United States believed that the START II levels were as low as it could go without addressing the warhead dismantlement issue.

    Nacht said that the two nations were more interested in beginning the next phases of arms control than in simply achieving a further numerical reduction.

    Joseph Cirincione (Henry L. Stimson Center) noted that is unlikely that the Duma will reject START II outright; instead it is more likely to fail to act on the treaty and allow it to suffer by attrition. But when will we know that we’ve waited too long for them to act?

    Bell said the window for the Duma to act would not close this year, but he reaffirmed that the Clinton Administration wished to submit the START/ABM package to the Senate by spring or summer of 1998 and that the Duma’s approval of START II was required before then.

    Daryl Kimball (Coalition for Reducing Nuclear Dangers) asked Bell to clarify the Administration’s goals for Senate approval of the CTBT.

    Bell said the CTBT was the Administration’s first arms control priority this autumn, but more preparatory work (particularly defining DOE’s funding requirements for stockpile stewardship) was needed before the treaty could be submitted to the Senate. Bell hoped to launch the ratification debate and to have the Senate hold a few hearings before the end-of-year recess. That would provide a baseline measure for the Administration to identify the Senate’s concerns, formulate its strategies, meet with senators individually during the adjournment months, and be ready for a final push in early 1998.

    Arnold Kanter (The Scowcroft Group) expressed skepticism of Yeltsin’s ability to win START II approval in the Duma. It would be wise to avoid painting "too apocalyptic" a picture of life without START II because it’s a real possibility and rhetorical threats could result in self-fulfilling prophecies. It may be prudent instead to begin thinking about what it will mean to live in "START II limbo." We should look at the choices carefully, as should Russia, but we need not declare failure in the absence of success. In this uncertain state, reciprocal unilateral measures would still be possible and would be preferable to no actions at all. The Bush-Gorbachev reciprocal unilateral reductions of tactical nuclear weapons were positive measures, and were better than nothing, but were less satisfactory than a treaty. Kanter added that if START III is considered to be a tool to get START II ratified, then making START III simply an agreement on further reductions would be an excellent strategy. Whether START III has to be ambitious or modest in scope depends in part on what Russia wants to do.

    Bingaman responded to a query as to whether the Senate could step back from the part of its START I resolution of ratification that forbids U.S. unilateral reductions below START I levels before START II enters into force. He said that would depend on how the matter was presented. If the Pentagon and the services recommended that the U.S. could safely go to lower levels of nuclear weapon deployments, the Senate would most likely agree.

    Peter Zimmerman (Institute for Defense Analysis) asked how the ABM demarcation agreements would restrict the future technological capabilities of high-velocity missile defense systems.

    Bell said this was a gray area and that the high-velocity agreement only makes clear that if a nation tests a system under certain conditions (against a strategic missile) that system will be considered an ABM system. But if a nation doesn’t test the system against a strategic missile the compliance of the system with the ABM Treaty is not necessarily jointly agreed. The compliance determination remains a national responsibility, as it has throughout the treaty’s life so far, and the parties remain obligated to adhere to the basic elements of the treaty.

    Riveles recalled that the demarcation negotiation was drawn out by just this issue and went through three phases. Initially, the two sides attempted a comprehensive approach that included all theater missile defense systems, but that was not successful. Next they tried to focus solely on the "slow flyers," but that was not enough, so the third phase achieved a complete solution on the "slow flyers" and partial solution on "fast flyers."

    Bell added that there was agreement on prohibiting space-based theater missile interceptors since a space-based, kinetic kill interceptor or laser capable of destroying a theater ballistic missile could also destroy a strategic missile.

    Sherman Garnett (Carnegie Endowment) expressed pessimism over Yeltsin’s ability to rally his forces and efforts since there is simply no infrastructure for this type activity in Russia as there is in Washington.

    In addition, Yeltsin and Sergeyev have other, perhaps bigger, problems to solve, including reforming the military. And there is a good chance that military reform will fail, a development that would have uncertain implications. On one hand, a lack of reform could lead Russia to rely even more on its nuclear weapons. On the other hand, the military might recognize the great difficulty of maintaining large nuclear stockpiles, which could lead to efforts to limit U.S. nuclear forces.

    Jonathan Dean (Union of Concerned Scientists) asked whether there is a role for "de-alerting" as an advance step.

    Bell replied that the work of Bruce Blair at the Brookings Institution and Senator Sam Nunn could be a useful contribution and deserves thought.

    Tom Collina (Union of Concerned Scientists) asked why there was not more evidence of activity on de-alerting warheads and urged the Clinton Administration to begin preparing for START III negotiations today, and not to wait for Russian START II approval.

    Nacht reported that internal work is actively proceeding.

    This summary is available in hard copy (contact Gregory Webb at number below) or electronically at the Carnegie Endowment’s web site (http://www.ceip. org/nuclear.htm). For additional information on this seminar or the START II Project, please contact Rodney Jones (202-939-2297) or Gregory Webb (202-939-2298).

    Top of the page

    Return to:
    START II Resources
    Russia Non-Proliferation Resources