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The New START Treaty

Central Limits and Key Provisions

Amy F. Woolf


Congressional Research Service Report R41219


The United States and Russia signed the New START Treaty on April 8, 2010. The nuclear arms control agreement entered force in February 2011. New START provides the parties with 7 years to reduce their forces, and will remain in force for a total of 10 years. It limits each side to no more than 800 deployed and nondeployed land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers and deployed and nondeployed heavy bombers equipped to carry nuclear armaments. Within that total, each side can retain no more than 700 deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers equipped to carry nuclear armaments. The treaty also limits each side to no more than 1,550 deployed warheads; those are the actual number of warheads on deployed ICBMs and SLBMs, and one warhead for each deployed heavy bomber.
New START  provisions are far less demanding than those in the original START Treaty and will provide the United States and Russia with far more flexibility in determining how to reduce their forces to meet the treaty limits. The monitoring and verification regime is also less costly and complex. Like START, though, it contains detailed definitions of items limited by the treaty; provisions governing the use of national technical means (NTM) to gather data on each side’s forces and activities; an extensive database that identifies the numbers, types, and locations of items limited by the treaty; provisions requiring notifications about items limited by the treaty; and inspections allowing the parties to confirm information shared during data exchanges.
New START does not limit current or planned U.S. missile defense programs. Under New START, the United States can deploy conventional warheads on its ballistic missiles, but these will count under the treaty limit on nuclear warheads. The United States may deploy a small number of these systems during the time that New START is in force. The Obama Administration and outside analysts argue that New START strengthens strategic stability and enhances U.S. national security. Critics, however, question whether the treaty serves U.S. national security interests, as Russia was likely to reduce its forces with or without an arms control agreement.