Specialist says disarmament efforts have been successful

By John Minnis

Legal News

Disarmament and containment of nuclear materials between the United States and the former Soviet Union countries are a ''great success story,'' according to Jeffrey Pryce, an arms control expert who recently addressed Wayne State University Law School students and faculty.

The recent lunchtime lecture, ''The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia,'' was hosted by the Wayne State University Law School Program for International Legal Studies and the International Law Students Association in the law school's Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium.

''These are the great untold stories we have to talk about,'' Pryce said. ''If you think about the dissolution of the Soviet Union, you have all these thousands of nuclear weapons lying around. That, I think, is a great success story.''

President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) on April 8. The treaty, if passed by the U.S. Senate, would substantially reduce each side's nuclear arsenals.The Senate is expected to vote on the START treaty in November.

''The New START treaty would create the lowest levels in history,'' Pryce said.

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) was signed 1991 and ratified in 1994. START I limited long-range nuclear forces in the United States and the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union to 6,000 warheads on 1,600 ballistic missiles and bombers.

''On July 31, 1991, START I was signed,'' Pryce said. ''In August there was a coup, and in December you had the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Consequently, you had the nuclear arsenal of the former Soviet Union under the control of four separate countries, the Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.''

To gain control of the loose nukes, Sens. Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar sponsored legislation that created the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program ''to secure and dismantle weapons of mass destruction and their associated infrastructure in former Soviet Union states.'' In effect, former Soviet nuclear scientists and engineers were hired to dismantle weapons and ship the material back to Russia to be secured.

START II, which limited the United States and Russia to no more than 3,500 warheads by December 2007 and prohibited multiple warheads on ICBMs, was signed 1993 but never put into force.

A Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty with 181 state signatures and 148 state ratifications was signed in 1996 but is not yet in force. The CTBT bans all nuclear explosions in all environments. Even without the treaty being in force, Russia has not tested a nuclear weapon since 1990 and the United States has not since 1992.

The SORT (Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty), or Moscow Treaty, was signed in 2002 and is among the shortest treaties ever recorded. ''It is very brief,'' Pryce said. ''It is literally a 1-page treaty.''

The brief amendment to START II called on Russia and the United States to reduce their ''strategic nuclear warheads'' to between 1,700 and 2,200 by 2012.

When Russian President Medvedev and Obama signed the New START Treaty in April in Prague, it was the largest gathering of international leaders since the formation of the United Nations.

Obama's goal, Pryce said, is to have a world free of nuclear weapons, even though the U.S. president acknowledged it would not happen within his lifetime.

At the signing of the New START agreement, Russia's strategic nuclear forces comprised 620 delivery vehicles (missiles, bombers and submarines) and 2,787 warheads. In contrast, the U.S. had 851 delivery vehicles and 2,200 warheads. Under the New START pact, if ratified, those numbers would be reduced to 700 delivery vehicles and 1,550 warheads.

One of the criticisms of the New START reductions is that they may be too drastic. In fact, Pryce said, the smaller U.S. nuclear arsenal would be on par with France and China.

Jeffrey Price's current law practice focuses on international litigation and arbitration. He also teaches international investment law at Georgetown University Law Center. He is a graduate of Yale Law School and clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Byron White. He served during the Clinton administration as a senior official in the office of the Secretary of Defense, where he was the lead negotiator or member of the negotiating team for the successful conclusion of nuclear disarmament agreements with Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Published: Mon, Nov 29, 2010

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