Suspending New START a Miscalculation, Says Union of Concerned Scientists

Statement by Dr. Tara Drozdenko, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Feb 21, 2023

Media Contact

Today, President Vladimir Putin suspended Russia’s participation in the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which limits the number of strategic nuclear weapons deployed by the United States and Russia. It is the only remaining nuclear arms control treaty between the two nations.

New START is an important element of U.S. and global security. It provides an opportunity to closely observe Russia’s nuclear weapons activities and gives the U.S. insight into what Russia is deploying or might be planning for the future. Without it, the United States and Russia are free to drastically increase the number of deployed nuclear weapons – something both countries have the capacity to do, and quickly – increasing the likelihood that a nuclear exchange could occur due to an accident, miscalculation or miscommunication.

Below is a statement by Dr. Tara Drozdenko, director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Putin’s decision to suspend participation in New START is yet another miscalculation. It’s important to understand that suspension is not the same as withdrawing from the treaty. New START is not dead, but it is on life support. The most important thing we can do now is not panic but build pressure on Russia to return to compliance with New START, an agreement that is in the interest of both countries.

“Arms control and dialogue are made for moments like these: when tensions are running high and we run the risk of escalation due to miscalculation or miscommunication. Our two countries negotiated arms control agreements at the height of the Cold War. We can continue to negotiate with one another even in the midst of tension. Negotiation does take two willing parties. Russia is unwilling at the moment, but the U.S. needs to continue to press for resumption of talks and activities under New START.

“Even in the midst of an uncertain environment, there are steps the U.S. can take right now, unilaterally, to reduce the risk of nuclear war: declaring the U.S. will never be the first to use a nuclear weapon, ending the president’s sole authority to launch a nuclear weapon, and canceling plans for new and unnecessary nuclear weapons."