For decades, the United States has led the world in efforts to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, the deputy undersecretary of defense for policy said at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on the current state of arms control efforts.
Successive treaties enabled reductions in strategic U.S. nuclear warheads, first to 6,000, and ultimately to 1,550, David J. Trachtenberg said.
Unfortunately, Trachtenberg said, Russia and China have chosen a different path and have increased the role of nuclear weapons in their strategies and actively increased the size and sophistication of their nuclear forces.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, was once a cornerstone of security in Europe, he told the committee. By removing an entire class of weapons from the arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union — and subsequently Russia and other Soviet successor states — Europe and much of the world enjoyed increased security, Trachtenberg said.
The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty was signed by Russia and the U.S. on April 8, 2010. This treaty involves a reduction in the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers and a more robust inspection and verification process.
While the U.S. assesses Russia to be in compliance with the central limits of New START, Trachtenberg said "the outlook of Russia's arms control behavior is sobering." Besides violating the INF Treaty, it has violated:
In addition, he said, Russia is selectively implementing the Vienna Document and has acted inconsistently with the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives.
Moreover, Russia is modernizing its growing and increasingly capable arsenal of shorter-range, nonstrategic nuclear weapons, which Trachtenberg noted are not covered by New START.
That said, DOD supports pursuing a prudent arms control agenda, he said, which could include extending New START — provided the outcomes improve the security of the U.S., allies and partners.