Secret Disagreements Have Emerged in the Negotiations between Russia and the United States on Strategic Offensive Weapons
by Vladimir Solovyev Kommersant 12 Nov 09 U.S. Under Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher has announced that Washington "is very disappointed" with Moscow's reaction to its proposals for the new strategic offensive arms reduction treaty (START). She refused to reveal the essence of the disagreements - the sides have agreed to classify the work on the document. Nevertheless, this statement has become the first official acknowledgement of the presence of problems at the negotiations, which should be completed by December 5. Kommersant has ascertained that one of the contradictions consists of Washington's desire to maintain strict monitoring over Russian "Topol" mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles at all costs, with which Moscow does not concur. ITAR-TASS Russian Information Agency cited Mrs. Tauscher's statement yesterday. "We are very disappointed with the response, which we received to our package of proposals (on strategic offensive weapons - Kommersant), which James Jones, the National Security Advisor to the U.S. President, delivered 10 days ago", the U.S. under secretary of state for arms control and international security said, while commenting on the progress of the negotiations on strategic offensive weapons, the next round of which began in Geneva on Monday. And although the diplomat stipulated that the United States "wants to move forward" and "is very interested in hearing the position of our Russian colleagues", her words became the first official acknowledgement in recent weeks of the presence of serious problems in the preparation of the new START treaty, which both Moscow and Washington consider to be the year's key document. And really just last month the sides were radiating optimism: Barack Obama's National Security Advisor James Jones visited Russia on October 29, having transferred to the Russian negotiators package proposals on strategic offensive weapons. After that, the RF Ministry of Foreign Affairs made an entire series of statements, the essence of which was reduced to the fact that the new treaty will be signed on December 5 of this year, as the leaders of Russia and the United States had conceived. Ellen Tauscher preferred not to clarify precisely what had not proceeded as planned after that. The fact is that Moscow and Washington have agreed not to disclose the details of the work on the new strategic offensive arms agreement until it will be ready in its final version. And while the sides have been steadfastly observing that understanding - Kommersant sources at the RF Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the Russian President's Administration, who are familiar with the progress of the strategic offensive weapons negotiations, refuse to reveal any of their details even under the conditions of anonymity. "A strict embargo has been imposed on the negotiators' association with the press. This is a sensitive topic and any leak could, if not disrupt the signing of the document, then do serious damage," a Kremlin source told Kommersant. The experts, who have been enlisted in the treaty preparation process, have turned out to be more open. Kommersant's interlocutor, who is familiar with the content of the American proposals that were transferred to Moscow, reported some contradictions that have not yet been resolved by the sides. In his words, as before the divergences concern the minimum level of nuclear warhead delivery vehicles, which must be consolidated in the future strategic offensive weapons treaty, and also the mechanism for monitoring mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). "In their package, the Americans designated a new ceiling for warhead delivery vehicles, with which we do not entirely agree", Kommersant's interlocutor said, having refused to reveal the number of delivery vehicles that have been announced by the United States. The sides had already set forth polar positions with regard to delivery vehicles in July, when Russian and American Presidents Dmitriy Medvedev and Barack Obama signed the "Joint Understanding on the Issue of Further Strategic Offensive Weapon Reductions and Restrictions" in Moscow. In it, the United States designated the figure of 1,100 delivery vehicles when the RF proposed a more radical approach and advocated their reduction to 500. And, judging by the words of Kommersant's interlocutor and Ellen Tauscher's statement, right now the sides are far from a compromise variant on that score.
Kommersant's source explains the discrepancies surrounding ICBM monitoring by the fact that Washington has proposed to retain in the new START treaty the monitoring mechanism, which was stipulated in the expiring START I Treaty. "They propose to preserve and even strengthen the monitoring of the 'Topol' mobile ICBMs", the expert explained. "We oppose assigning the 'Topol' missiles to a class of their own". Kommersant's interlocutor pointed out that Moscow's position is associated with the fact that right now the United States doesn't have mobile, ground-based ICBMs in its inventory and therefore the American proposal "is unilateral in nature". Judging by everything, while proposing to establish monitoring over Russian mobile ICBMs, the American Side is attempting in part to restore the balance, which was disrupted after the United States terminated the program for the development of its own mobile complexes in 1991. In July 1991, Moscow and Washington signed the START I Treaty. And already in September, then American President George Bush, Sr., ordered a freeze of the expensive nuclear weapons improvement programs and initiated the terminator of the financing of the mobile variant of the ICBM, which was known as Midgetman, and a number of other developments. In the words of Kommersant' source, the Russian Side is insisting that there is no need for stricter limitations on mobile ICBMs as compared with other mobile systems, "such as submarine-launched ballistic missiles". But then again, the expert is not inclined to dramatize the discrepancies that have emerged, just like he is not inclined to dramatize Ellen Tauscher's statement. "Progress is being made and all of the divergences are ultimately resolvable", he summarized. "I would take Tauscher's words with a grain of salt. Her statement could very well be explained by a desire to slightly pressure us". Judging by everything, RF Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials adhere to a similar point of view. In any case, the department's Official Spokesman Andrey Nesterenko said yesterday that the Geneva strategic offensive arms negotiations "are practically occurring in an uninterrupted mode". The atmosphere at the negotiations is businesslike and constructive. The sides are actively working on the convergence of their positions and are conducting the coordination of the specific wording. We hope that this round will become the concluding round and that the treaty will be approved by December 5, as that is stipulated by the instructions of the presidents of Russia and the United States", Mr. Nesterenko reassured us. Kremlin officials are also inclined to search for compromises. In the words of Kommersant's interlocutor in the RF President's Administration, Moscow has the desire to complete the signing on schedule. "The current situation is distinguished from the times of the preparation of START I by the fact that at that time the work was occurring in an atmosphere of hostility. Probable enemies were sitting at the negotiating table. Right now, that is not so - we are working in confidence", a high-ranking Kremlin official pointed out. In his words, certain difficulties are still emerging during the coordination of a series of parameters of the future agreement at the defense ministers' level: "Both our and the American diplomats have to work a bit in order to convince their military personnel of the need for compromises". The two countries' leaders will have to find the final resolutions on the START treaty. Dmitriy Medvedev and Barack Obama will see each other on November 14-15 at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Organization Summit in Singapore, and the topic of strategic offensive weapons will be the primary topic at that meeting. According to Kommersant's information, the presidents will be briefed both about the work that has been completed and also about the remaining problems, on which they will personally have to make a fundamental decision. Judging by everything, there is the hope that Misters Obama and Medvedev will reach an agreement since in any case Russian and American diplomats have been involved with the selection of a treaty signing location. They explained to Kommersant that the ceremony will most likely take place on the territory of a third country and Geneva is being cited as one of the variants. How They Monitor the "Topols" Right Now The Strategic Offensive Arms Reduction and Limitation Treaty (START I), dated July 31, 1991, that is in force has a number of fundamental restrictions, which affect mobile intercontinental ballistic missile launchers. First of all, more than 1,100 warheads cannot be installed on these launchers. Second, the deployed ground mobile launchers can be based only in limited areas of no more than five square kilometers - and no more than 10 launchers in each area. Third, the mobile launchers' deployment area must not exceed 125,000 square kilometers, and no more than one mobile missile base can be located in that area. The
launchers can leave the deployment area "only during redeployments or operational dispersals" and, in the process, all of the launchers and missiles cannot participate in the redeployment at the same time. Finally, each of the sides is obliged, based upon a request from the other side, to transfer to it information about the movements and dispersals of the mobile launchers. The sides use their national technical means to support monitoring. To "assist monitoring", each missile for the mobile launchers gets its own unique identifier. Such a measure has also been stipulated as the "display of the mobile launchers under the open sky" - indeed, each side can request that action no more than seven times per year. Russia's Mobile Monopoly The USSR was already seeking to obtain mobile ballistic missiles in the 1960s. American intercontinental missiles had high accuracy and were able to destroy with a very high probability Soviet launch silos, the coordinates of which became known sooner or later. Mobile missiles, the patrol areas of which were able to constitute thousands of square kilometers, are extremely difficult to locate (based upon the available information, even right now American satellite track their basing areas in Russia no more than one hour per day). That dramatically increased the strategic nuclear weapons' survivability. However, Soviet high technology did not permit them to do that in the 1960s. The "Temp-2S", which was developed at NII-1 [Scientific Research Institute-1] (subsequently, Moscow Thermotechnical Institute), became the first mobile intercontinental missile complex in the USSR and in the world. In the 1970s, Moscow Thermotechnical Institute developed the RSD-10 "Pioner" medium range complex, which became known throughout the world as the SS-20, based upon the "Temp" missile's two upper stages. It could be fired to a range of 5,000 kilometers. By 1987, the USSR had manufactured 650 "Pioner" missiles, of them 2/3 were designated to destroy targets in Europe and in the Middle East - and 1/3 to destroy targets in Asia and the United States. They destroyed the "Pioner" missiles in accordance with the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles that was signed by the USSR and the United States in December 1987. By that time, the production of the RT-2PM "Topol" mobile intercontinental complexes had been launched in the USSR. Its missile with a launch weight of 45 tonnes was able to deliver a one-tonne reentry vehicle [to a range of] 10,000 kilometers. In the 1990s, Moscow Thermotechnical Institute developed a modernization of the "Topol" - the "Topol-M" missile, which already exists in both the mobile and also the silo variants. It also carries one warhead. At the present time, Russia's RVSN [Strategic Missile Troops] has 174 mobile "Topol" and 15 "Topol-M" missiles. The United States was also concerned about the mobility of its missiles in the 1960s. In the 1970s, the LGM-118A Peacekeeper (MX) mobile missile was developed in America. They were supposed to deploy in a random manner 200 of these missiles between 4,600 possible launch points so that the enemy would not know where the missiles were located at each specific moment. They abandoned this scheme due to its high cost, having decided to deploy the MX in conventional silos. The United States undertook a second attempt to develop a mobile intercontinental missile in the 1980s. The complex received the designation XMGM-134A Midgetman and it was assumed that the small (a launch weight of 16.8 tonnes) missiles, which would be launched from trailer trucks, would have an 11,000-kilometer range. They also terminated the project soon after the signing of the START I Treaty in 1991.