Panel Advocates Deeper U.S.-Russian Nuclear Cuts, Despite Tensions

A Ukrainian soldier stands guard on Sunday at a checkpoint near the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk. Arms-control advocates on Monday said Russia and the United States should continue discussing new nuclear-weapon curbs, despite significant tensions.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
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Diane Barnes
April 29, 2014, 6:28 a.m.

Arms-con­trol pro­ponents are ur­ging Wash­ing­ton and Mo­scow not to stop dis­cuss­ing new nuc­le­ar-weapon curbs, as ten­sions soar between the cap­it­als.

A so-called “Deep Cuts Com­mis­sion” ad­voc­ated steps such as curb­ing the read­i­ness of the former Cold War rivals’ nuc­le­ar weapons to fire on a mo­ment’s no­tice, as well as re­du­cing long-range war­head de­ploy­ments bey­ond levels man­dated by the 2011 New START agree­ment.

In an in­aug­ur­al re­port is­sued on Monday, the group of in­de­pend­ent ana­lysts and former of­fi­cials as­ser­ted that mis­trust between Rus­sia and the United States over mil­it­ary man­euvers in Ukraine un­der­scores a need for the two gov­ern­ments to jointly con­sider how they can re­duce the risk of a nuc­le­ar ex­change.

“The cur­rent polit­ic­al en­vir­on­ment is any­thing but con­du­cive” to achiev­ing sig­ni­fic­ant nuc­le­ar-arms curbs, ac­cord­ing to the pan­el com­posed of 21 ex­perts from Rus­sia, the United States and Ger­many.

Its mem­bers in­clude former Rus­si­an stra­tegic mis­sile forces chief of staff Vic­tor Yes­in, one-time White House Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Coun­cil of­fi­cial Cath­er­ine Kelle­her, and Oliv­er Mei­er, who worked for former Ger­man law­maker Uta Za­pf when she chaired the par­lia­ment’s For­eign Af­fairs Dis­arm­a­ment, Arms Con­trol and Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Sub­com­mit­tee.

Pulling back from dia­logue could lead to a “harden­ing of each side’s ex­ist­ing po­s­i­tions” that would com­plic­ate any fu­ture nuc­le­ar-re­duc­tion talks and in­crease the po­ten­tial for “mis­un­der­stand­ings,” the group stated in its find­ings.

The au­thors sug­ges­ted that in the ab­sence of new arms-con­trol talks, Rus­sia may in­creas­ingly rely on nuc­le­ar weapons to coun­ter­bal­ance Wash­ing­ton’s “grow­ing tech­no­lo­gic­al edge” in the de­vel­op­ment of mis­sile de­fense sys­tems, con­ven­tion­al long-range strike cap­ab­il­it­ies and po­ten­tial space-based weapons.

The pan­el re­af­firmed in its re­port all of the re­com­mend­a­tions it de­vised in in­tern­al de­lib­er­a­tions in the months be­fore Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of Ukraine’s Crimea re­gion. The group’s ad­vice calls in part for ac­tions to meet New START re­duc­tion tar­gets well ahead of a 2018 dead­line, and for re­newed ef­forts to de­vel­op trust on en­trenched dis­putes over mis­sile de­fense, non­stra­tegic nuc­le­ar arms and long-range con­ven­tion­al cap­ab­il­it­ies.

“The value of such meas­ures in put­ting tight­er con­straints on nuc­le­ar arms be­comes all the more ap­par­ent in times of ten­sion,” Steven Pifer, a com­mis­sion mem­ber and a Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion seni­or fel­low, said in re­leased com­ments.

Cor­rec­tion: This art­icle in­cludes cor­rec­ted text de­scrib­ing a po­s­i­tion earli­er held by Oliv­er Mei­er.

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