Meeting Could Resolve New START Inspections

WASHINGTON DC (Arms Control): The commission designed to address implementation concerns of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) plans to meet from late November to early December in Cairo, Egypt.

The United States and Russia paused meetings of the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC) in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The two countries met in Geneva in October 2021 for the first meeting since the pandemic. The Cairo meeting would be the first since Russia began the war in Ukraine.

“We have agreed that the BCC will meet in the near future under the terms of the New START treaty,” confirmed State Department spokesperson Ned Price Nov. 8. “The work of the BCC is confidential, but we do hope for a constructive session.”

The primary topic for the BCC meeting will likely be the resumption of on-site inspections conducted under New START. The inspections had also been paused due to the pandemic, and Russia extended the pause in August 2022. Moscow attributed its decision to difficulties receiving visas and various travel permissions for inspectors.

The Biden administration has conditioned the negotiation of a new nuclear arms control arrangement to follow New START, which expires in 2026, on the resumption of on-site inspections. Negotiations on a follow-on framework would be separate from the BCC meetings.

U.S. President Joe Biden reiterated his support for future U.S.-Russian arms control beyond New START on Sept. 21. “No matter what else is happening in the world, the United States is ready to pursue critical arms control measures,” Biden said.

Russian officials have stated that Moscow stands ready to engage in an arms control dialogue with Washington, but the dialogue must occur “exclusively on the basis of equality and respect for the interests of Russia,” according to Konstantin Vorontsov, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s arms control and nonproliferation department, Oct. 17.

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that Moscow offered to continue the bilateral strategic stability dialogue with Washington in December 2021 but received no response.

“If they want to, we are ready, let’s do it,” said Putin in an Oct. 27 speech. “We are developing our own modern technology, delivery vehicles, including supersonic arms.” But, he continued, “in principle, we do not need anything, [as] we feel self-sufficient.”

U.S. and Russian officials met in January 2022 for a special session of the dialogue regarding Moscow’s proposals on security guarantees. Aside from that meeting, the two countries last met on arms control matters in September 2021.

Meanwhile, Washington and Moscow exchanged data as required under the treaty on Sept. 1, with the public release of the data a month later.

New START imposes limits of 1,550 for deployed strategic warheads and 700 for deployed delivery vehicles. As of the exchange, the United States has 1,420 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 659 delivery vehicles, and Russia has 1,549 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 540 delivery vehicles.

In related news, a senior U.S. official informed CNN Nov. 10 that the United States observed Russia preparing for a potential test of the Poseidon, a new nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered torpedo that Washington aims to limit in a follow-on arrangement to New START. However, the test in the Arctic Sea did not take place, likely due to technical difficulties.