NETWORK has been celebrating the success of the New START treaty since the Senate voted to approve it on December 22. The treaty gained bipartisan support, with 13 Republicans joining all 58 Senate Democrats for a final vote of 71-26. New START represents a critical achievement for nuclear arms control, bringing us one step closer to a world free of nuclear weapons.
Specifically, New START achieves the following:
- Limits each side to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads
- Limits each side to 700 deployed delivery vehicles (land, sea, and air)
- Improves verification methods, including onsite inspections, and regular exchanges of data to ensure compliance with the agreement.
This treaty strengthens the role of the U.S. and Russia in global nonproliferation efforts for other countries possessing or pursuing nuclear weapons, such as North Korea and Iran. However, we can’t stop here. In order to remain a global leader in nonproliferation, the U.S. must work to secure further nuclear arms reduction agreements.
Specifically,, the U.S. and Russia should return to the negotiating table to craft an agreement regarding tactical nuclear weapons. New START addressed only strategic nuclear weapons, which are of high yield and enjoy high-range delivery systems. Tactical weapons are smaller-scale weapons designed to be used in battle or over short distances. (This includes so-called “bunker-busting” nuclear weapons designed to penetrate underground nuclear shelters.) Though thousands of tactical nuclear weapons exist, they have never been subject to any treaty.
Also, the U.S. and Russia should work out an agreement to reduce their stockpiles of non-deployed nuclear weapons. There are thousands of non-deployed nuclear weapons held in reserve, and these have never been subject to a treaty.
Finally, President Obama should press the Senate to approve the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), signed by President Clinton in 1996. The U.S. has had a moratorium on nuclear testing since 1992, but the CTBT was never ratified by Congress, and has therefore never entered into force. There is no need for the U.S. to resume testing, and the CTBT will serve as important tool in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.
These are the directions that President Obama and Congress should be considering now that New START has passed. Once again, the country demonstrated bipartisan support for nuclear arms reduction, and we should take advantage of this momentum to pursue the vision of a world where all are safe from the threat of nuclear weapons.