New START and Next Steps: U.S. Efforts to Move Nuclear Disarmament Forward

Rose Gottemoeller
Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security 
Institute for Defense Studies
Oslo, Norway
August 30, 2012

As Delivered

Thank you so much for having me here today at the Institute for Defense Studies (IFS) and thanks to Rolf Tamnes for organizing this event.

It was almost three years ago that President Barack Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize here in Oslo. In selecting the President, the Norwegian Nobel Committee stated that “[his] vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations.” That was in reference, no doubt, to his now-famous 2009 Prague Speech in which he stated that the United States would seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons, as well as to the efforts that followed.


As the President directed, the United States has been working hard on the nuclear reductions agenda, and responsible nuclear weapons reductions are a central priority. One of the first steps – and the one that I was charged with – was the negotiation and ratification of a new arms treaty with Russia – the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START. With my excellent U.S. team, I spent most of 2009 and the first part of 2010 with my Russian counterpart negotiating the Treaty in Geneva, Switzerland. On April 8, 2010, President Obama and President Medvedev signed the New START Treaty. Then, following rigorous debates in the U.S. and Russia legislatures, the Treaty entered into force on February 5, 2011.

Norwegian Minister Counselor, Mr. Knut Langeland, underscored the international significance of New START when he stated to the UN Disarmament Commission in April 2011 that, “…the entry into force of the new START is an important step in building down existing nuclear arsenals with the objective to achieve their full elimination.”

The Treaty has been in force for over 18 months now and the outstanding working relationship that developed during negotiations has carried over into its implementation. Both sides have worked cooperatively to resolve issues and questions as they have arisen.

For this Treaty year, which began in February, the United States has completed ten inspections and the Russian Federation has completed nine inspections.

Both sides have conducted delivery vehicle exhibitions. Shortly after the Treaty’s entry into force in 2011, the United States conducted exhibitions of its B-1B and B-2A heavy bombers and the Russian Federation conducted an exhibition of its RS-24 ICBM and associated mobile launcher. That was the first time we had a chance to see the RS-24, the new Russian mobile missile with multiple warheads. We recently conducted an exhibition of a U.S. submarine that converted from a ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) and is now equipped with cruise missiles launchers (SSGN). The exhibition was conducted in order to provide assurances to the Russian Federation that the SSGN is incapable of launching SLBMs. This was the second of four SSGN exhibitions required by the Treaty.

The United States and the Russian Federation have also been sharing a veritable mountain of data with each other through our Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers (NRRC). Over the life of the Treaty so far, we have exchanged over 2,700 notifications. These notifications help to track movement and changes in the status of systems. For example, a notification is sent every time a heavy bomber is moved out of its home country for more than 24 hours.

In addition to the individual notifications, we exchange an aggregated database every six months. This living database of each side’s strategic forces covered by the Treaty combines with the notifications to create a living, growing document that continuously tracks each side’s strategic nuclear forces.

These data exchanges are providing us with a very detailed picture of Russian strategic forces and the inspections allow us to confirm the validity of that data. Of course, the verification regime is backed up by our own National Technical Means of verification, our satellites and other monitoring platforms.

Our experience so far is demonstrating that the New START Treaty’s verification regime works, and it will help to pave the way for new verification measures for future treaties. Innovative and more intrusive verification measures will be needed for future nuclear arms reduction agreements. The United States has made it clear that we are committed to continuing a step-by-step process of nuclear arms reductions.

New Thinking

When President Obama laid out his vision for the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons in Prague in 2009, he made it clear that we will need to maintain our deterrence commitments, while also taking into account the threats of the 21st century. Success will only be reached through a careful process in which we maintain and support a safe, secure and effective stockpile - sufficient to deter any adversary and guarantee the defense of our allies- at the same time that we pursue responsible reductions through arms control.

Reductions in all categories of nuclear weapons- deployed, non-deployed and non-strategic- is more ambitious than anything we have attempted thus far. We are now spending a lot of time thinking about next steps in deterrence, stability and verification in arms control. I sometimes refer to it as a homework period, which is not a bad term for what we are doing. We are looking at fundamentals and lessons learned, as we work to develop new policies to advance our security.

In addition to exploring new ideas and concepts of deterrence and arms control, the President and his Administration are committed to reducing the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy. We are not developing new nuclear weapons or pursuing new nuclear missions; we have committed not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states that are party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations; and we have clearly stated that it is in everyone’s interest to extend forever the more than 65-year record of non-use of nuclear weapons.

As we continue to reduce global nuclear stockpiles and include additional categories of weapons in that process, the importance of verification and transparency will only grow. Having confidence in what other states are doing is critical for creating conditions for further progress in arms control and disarmament, which is why we made our 2010 Nuclear Posture Review public and revealed the size of our stockpile – 5,113 weapons as of September 2009.

As part of the implementation of the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, the U.S. Government is currently reviewing its nuclear deterrence requirements to ensure that they are aligned to today’s threats. What we already know, as President Obama said in Seoul in March, is we have more nuclear weapons than we need. This study will help shape our future negotiations with the Russian Federation.

ISAB Report

The State Department’s International Security Advisory Board, or ISAB, is helping us with some “big thinking” on some of the national security challenges we face in coming years. This Federal Advisory Committee was established to provide the Department of State with a continuing source of independent insight, advice and innovation on scientific, military, diplomatic, political, and public diplomacy. The focus here is aspects of arms control, disarmament, international security, and nonproliferation. One of the ISAB’s tasks was to undertake a study of how the United States could pursue and manage a transition from a world of mutual assured destruction to a world of mutual assured stability, characterized by increasingly interdependent states having incentives to cooperate on political, military, and economic issues, thereby reducing the need for adversarial approaches to managing security challenges. In examining the concept of mutually assured stability the ISAB was asked to consider possible components necessary for its success including: what would the United States need to see happen to have the confidence to consider very low numbers and, eventually, agree to the elimination of nuclear weapons? Their report titled, “Mutual Assured Stability: Essential Components and Near Term Actions” is posted on our website: It makes for an interesting read. While ISAB reports are not official State documents, their ideas are helpful as we make our own assessments.

Embracing New Technologies for Verification

The United States realizes that it is not just new policies that will help us with the next steps – we will need new tools, as well. We can negotiate the best treaties in the world, but they are only as good as the verification regimes. Today, we verify that countries are fulfilling their arms control treaty obligations, as mentioned earlier, through a combination of information exchange, notifications of weapon status, on-site inspections, and National Means, including so-called National Technical Means (NTM), like observation satellites and phased-array radars. All of the elements I’ve listed work together to make an effective verification regime. The question that I’ve been asking myself is: can we incorporate open source information technologies and social networking into arms control verification and monitoring, as well?

Our new reality is a smaller, increasingly-networked world: any event, anywhere on the planet, could be broadcast globally in seconds. That means it is harder to hide things. When it is harder to hide things, it is easier to be caught. The neighborhood gaze is a powerful tool, and it can help us make sure that countries are following the rules of arms control treaties and agreements.

New concepts, I recognize, are not invented overnight, and we don’t understand the full range of possibilities inherent in the information age, but we would be remiss if we did not start thinking about whether new technologies can augment over half a century of arms control negotiating expertise.

We are just now starting to think about how governments can actively enlist their publics to help prove that they are in compliance with their arms control and nonproliferation obligations. To this end, on Tuesday, August 28, the U.S. Department of State launched the “Innovation in Arms Control Challenge” asking, “How Can the Crowd Support Arms Control Transparency Efforts?” We want to get ideas on if and how the everyday citizen can get involved in these efforts. While the contest can only be won by U.S. citizens or permanent residents, we encourage anyone who is interested in the subject to check it out. You can read more about the challenge on our website:

Looking Ahead

As you have heard, we have been pretty busy, but in order to be truly successful in our disarmament efforts, we will need the help of allies like Norway to move ahead. We especially appreciate Norway’s forward-leaning and creative thinking on projects like the U.K. - Norway Joint Verification Experiment. Negotiating the next reduction treaty will not be easy, but I think that we are ready to meet the challenges ahead. This is due, in no small part, to the success of the New START Treaty. Its contribution to international security grows each and every day.

With that, I am happy to take some questions.