Early this week the United States and Russia released the July 2009 START Memorandums of Understanding, which may well be the last START data exchange - the treaty will expire in December 2009. The data show that while Russia continued elimination of old strategic systems and deployment of some new ones, there were no dramatic changes in the Russian strategic forces in the first half of 2009.

As of July 1, 2009, Russia had 608 delivery vehicles that were capable of carrying 2683 nuclear warheads (26 launchers and 142 warheads fewer than in January). These numbers, of course, include launchers and warheads that are not, strictly speaking, "operationally deployed". For example, at least two submarines are in overhaul and some are being dismantled. Coming up with a number of "operationally deployed" warheads that would correspond to the number that the United States has been reporting in the Moscow treaty is not easy - operational status of some Russian delivery systems or the number of warheads they carry is not known. A simple estimate would give 2528 warheads, but this is most likely an overestimate, since it assumes for example that all Tu-95MS16 bombers have 16 ALCMs associated with them, which is unlikely.

Overall, the changes relative to January 2009 are not very significant. Russia continued to withdraw old R-36MUTTH/SS-18 and UR-100NUTTH/SS-19 missiles from service (nine and two respectively). These missiles account for most of the reduction in the number of warheads (102 our of 142).

Two data points in the MOU are worth mentioning. First, Russia reported 49 deployed silo-based Topol-M missiles - in January 2009 the number was 50. I consider it a quirk of the reporting requirement - it is likely that particular date the missile was not in its silo. I expect this number to return to 50 by the end of the year. Second, another Tu-160 bomber has been moved to the test bombers column, reducing the number of bombers that are listed as operationally deployed to 13.