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U.S. Department of State

July 12, 1995


The Purpose of START I

The principal U.S. objective in strategic arms control is to increase stability at significantly lower levels of nuclear weapons. START I is an equitable and effectively verifiable agreement that reduces the number of strategic nuclear delivery vehicles and the warheads on them. Overall strategic nuclear forces will be reduced by 30-40 percent, with a reduction of as much as 50 percent in the most threatening systems, a total of over 9,000 warheads.

The START Parties: The Lisbon Protocol

The START I Treaty was negotiated by the United States and the Soviet Union over a nine-year period and was signed in Moscow on July 31, 1991. Five months later, the Soviet Union dissolved and four independent states with strategic nuclear weapons on their territory came into existence -- Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine. Through the Lisbon Protocol to the START I Treaty signed on May 23, 1992, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine became Parties to the START I Treaty as legal successors to the Soviet Union.

Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine also committed in the Lisbon Protocol and its associated documents to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as non-nuclear weapon states in the shortest possible time, and to eliminate all nuclear weapons and all strategic offensive arms from their territories within the process of achieving their START reductions.

START I's Central Features

START I requires reductions in strategic offensive arms to equal aggregate levels, from a high of some 10,500 in each arsenal. The central limits include:

  • 1,600 strategic nuclear delivery vehicles
  • 6,000 accountable warheads
  • 4,900 ballistic missile warheads
  • 1,540 warheads on 154 heavy ICBMs
  • 1,100 warheads on mobile ICBMs

While the Treaty calls for these reductions to be carried out over seven years, in practice all the Lisbon Protocol signatories have already been deactivating and eliminating systems covered by the agreement.

START I will have a 15-year duration and can be extended for successive five-year periods by agreement among the Parties. It includes a basic treaty text and a number of supporting documents and protocols that provide procedures for implementing the obligations of the Treaty.

START I Verification

START I was negotiated with effective verification in mind. The basic structure of the Treaty is designed to facilitate verification by national technical means (NTM). The Treaty contains detailed, mutually-reinforcing verification provisions to supplement NTM. This verification regime provides for:

  • Data exchanges and notifications on strategic systems and facilities covered by the Treaty;
  • Exchanges of telemetry data from missile flight tests;
  • A ban on the encryption of telemetry data;
  • Twelve types of on-site inspections and exhibitions; and
  • Continuous monitoring at mobile ICBM final assembly plants.

START I Implementation

The Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission (JCIC) was established by START I to oversee START implementation. The JCIC has held ten sessions since START I's signature in preparation for entry into force and has completed numerous agreements and joint statements, focusing on three major areas:

  • Adapting START I to a multilateral context;
  • Developing detailed procedures for specific implementation activities; and
  • Resolving questions arising from the initial data exchanges and exhibitions of strategic offensive arms.

Next Steps

The entry into force of the START I Treaty clears the way for additional steps to be taken in reducing and limiting strategic nuclear weapons.

In their September 1994 Summit statement, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin reiterated their intention to seek early ratification of the START II Treaty, once the START I Treaty enters into force, and expressed their wish to exchange START II instruments of ratification at the next U.S.-Russia Summit meeting. START II would reduce strategic forces on both sides to no more than 3,500 warheads (a two-thirds reduction in strategic forces from pre-START I levels) and would ban all MIRVed ICBMs.

In their September 1994 Summit statement, the two Presidents also agreed that once START II is ratified, the United States and Russia would begin immediately to deactivate all strategic delivery systems to be eliminated under START II by removing their nuclear warheads or taking other steps to remove them from alert status. In addition, the Presidents directed their experts to intensify their discussion of concrete steps to adapt further the nuclear forces, doctrines and operational practices on both sides to the post-Cold War world and the current spirit of partnership between the United States and Russia. This could include the possibility, after ratification of START II, of further reductions of and limitations on remaining nuclear forces.