As far as I can tell from the joint statements, the arms control side of the summit went more or less smoothly. In fact, it almost exceeded my expectations. Presidents Obama and Medvedev agreed to get the numbers down to 1500-1675 warheads and 500-1100 launchers (I thought it would be good if they agree on 1500 and 1100 respectively). The statement on missile defense, which I expected might be a thorny issue, got the tone exactly right - the emphasis is on cooperation in "monitoring the development of missile programs around the world" and not on whether missile defense upsets the "strategic balance".

There were other statements as well - on nuclear cooperation, Afghanistan, and bilateral presidential commission. The commission, if they make it work, could actually be a very important development, for it provides all kind of agencies with a more or less direct channel to their counterparts (I wish I could be in a room when Michael McFaul and Vladislav Surkov discuss issues of civil society). The military cooperation would be very significant as well.

Now back to the arms control business. For some reason, the White House did not put the text of "The Joint Understanding for the START Follow-on Treaty" on its web site (although the fast sheet is there). The Kremlin has the Russian text of the statement on its web site.

Here is the Google-translated Russian text with my comments:


July 6, 2009,

The Kremlin, Moscow

The Joint Understanding on the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms

The President of the Russian Federation and President of the United States decided on Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, their countries and the conclusion in the near future a new legally binding agreement for the replacement of the existing Treaty on START, and instructed that the new agreement, among other things, contained the following elements.

1. The provision that each party will reduce and limit its strategic offensive arms in such a way that seven years after the treaty enters into force and further limits on strategic delivery systems to be lying in the 500-1100 units and their associated warheads -- in the 1500-1675 units.

Specific figures are to be recorded on these limits in the contract will be negotiated in future talks.

[The upper limit for the number of warheads - 1675 - is a surprise. I thought that the sides settled on 1500 warheads fairly early on. This won't quite look like a dramatic reduction if you compare it to the lower limit in the Moscow treaty (in fact, 1500 was pretty weak in that regard). But what's 175 warheads between friends? What's more important, there is apparently quite a bit of disagreement on the number of launchers - the current range is 500-1100. As I described it a few days ago, I'm not sure there is a lot of room for a compromise here. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with the higher number as long as all launchers are properly accounted for.]

2. The provisions regarding the calculation of these limits.

[These are counting rules - to get to 1500-1675 they would have to agree to count only operationally deployed warheads, as the United States has done in the Moscow treaty. Russia, however, so far has not accepted the U.S. counting rules.]

3. The provisions relating to definitions, data sharing, notifications, elimination inspections, and verification procedures, as well as confidence-building measures and transparency, where appropriate, adapted, simplified and made less costly in comparison with the START Treaty.

[It is very good that the data exchanges and everything else will stay. Although, there is a danger that they will "simplify" the START procedures beyond recognition. Or, worse still, would make the data exchanges secret.]

4. The provision that each Party will independently determine the composition and structure of its strategic offensive arms.

[No separate limits on ICBMs, SLBMs, or bombers. Most certainly there will be no limit on MIRVing of Topol-M either.]

5. The situation on the relationship of strategic offensive and defensive strategic weapons.

[I hope this will not become controversial and will end up as a line in the treaty that would admit the link between the offense and defense. If I remember correctly, this has been done in the past.]

6. The situation on the impact of intercontinental ballistic missiles and ballistic missile submarines to conventional equipment for strategic stability.

[As I understand, there is an agreement on how to deal with this issue at this stage - conventional warheads will be counted against the nuclear ceiling.]

7. The situation on the basing of strategic offensive arms solely in the national territory of each Party.

[The key word here is "offensive". Russia was trying to use this provision to to limit deployment of missile defenses outside national territory. That was a bad strategy and no wonder that it didn't work.]

8. The establishment of the executive body to address issues relating to the agreement.

[This is good. We need more arms control bureaucracy, not less. Besides, this body would be the only one to take over the ballistic missile notification mission that will become orphan when the START treaty ends.]

9. The provision that the treaty would not apply to the existing practice of cooperation in the field of strategic offensive arms between one Party and a third State.

[The British could keep they Tridents if they want to.]

10. The validity of the treaty - ten years if, prior to this deadline, it will not be replaced by the subsequent treaty on reducing strategic offensive arms.

[The rate of reductions is leisurely, to put it mildly - from 2200 warheads to 1500 (or 1675) by 2016 and no pressure to sign a new agreement until 2019. On the other hand, if this treaty works well, we may not need another one - there are other ways to get the numbers down.]

Presidents instruct negotiators will soon finalize a contract, so that they can sign it and submit for ratification in their respective countries.

Signed at Moscow, July 6, 2009, in two copies in Russian and English.


My sense before the summit was that getting some numbers on paper at the Moscow summit would be a necessary condition for the new treaty to come into force by December 2009. Necessary, but not sufficient, of course. Still, I think we are in a much better position now and there is a good chance that the treaty will be done. Many people would say that the numbers are not quite inspiring, but at this point getting the treaty done is much more important - once the treaty is there, there will be a way to get the numbers right.


UPDATE 07/08/09: has the original English document (also on the White House web site):



The President of the United States of America and the President of the Russian Federation have decided on further reductions and limitations of their nations’ strategic offensive arms and on concluding at an early date a new legally binding agreement to replace the current START Treaty, and directed that the new treaty contain, inter alia, the following elements:

1. A provision to the effect that each Party will reduce and limit its strategic offensive arms so that seven years after entry into force of the treaty and thereafter, the limits will be in the range of 500-1100 for strategic delivery vehicles, and in the range of 1500-1675 for their associated warheads.

The specific numbers to be recorded in the treaty for these limits will be agreed through further negotiations.

2. Provisions for calculating these limits.

3. Provisions on definitions, data exchanges, notifications, eliminations, inspections and verification procedures, as well as confidence building and transparency measures, as adapted, simplified, and made less costly, as appropriate, in comparison to the START Treaty.

4. A provision to the effect that each Party will determine for itself the composition and structure of its strategic offensive arms.

5. A provision on the interrelationship of strategic offensive and strategic defensive arms.

6. A provision on the impact of intercontinental ballistic missiles and
submarine-launched ballistic missiles in a non-nuclear configuration on strategic stability.

7. A provision on basing strategic offensive arms exclusively on the national territory of each Party.

8. Establishment of an implementation body to resolve questions related to treaty implementation.

9. A provision to the effect that the treaty will not apply to existing patterns of cooperation in the area of strategic offensive arms between a Party and a third state.

10. A duration of the treaty of ten years, unless it is superseded before that time by a subsequent treaty on the reduction of strategic offensive arms.

The Presidents direct their negotiators to finish their work on the treaty at an early date so that they may sign and submit it for ratification in their respective countries.

Signed at Moscow, this sixth day of July, 2009, in duplicate, in the English and Russian languages.