The New Strategic Offensive Reductions Limits treaty (New Start) was fully implemented on February 5, 2018. The treaty limits the number of nuclear weapons that can be held by the United States and the Russian Federation. The treaty last for 10 years, but it contains a withdrawal clause. The treaty can only be extended for five years at a time. The limitations on nuclear weapons and technology as established by New START are below.
- 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs,) deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments
- 1,550 nuclear warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments
- 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments
In English, New Start means the United States and Russia can each have 1,550 functional nuclear warheads active at all times for the next decade.
The report is full of possible threats (nuclear and non nuclear) posed by China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea. For me, the two biggest issues in the report involve the discussion of when the Trump administration may use nuclear force and how much it wants to spend increasing and modernizing America’s nuclear weapons.
When discussing possible situations when the United States could use nuclear weapons, the report uses the ambiguous term “non-nuclear strategic attacks” on infrastructure. In other words, the Trump administration is considering retaliating for an attack against our power grid or maybe our Internet connection with nuclear weapons.
The Pentagon is proposing spending 1.2 trillion dollars over the next thirty years replacing the aging nuclear arsenal, modernizing equipment, and developing two new nuclear missiles. The 1.2-trillion-dollar price tag doesn’t consider inflation or the reality that these programs almost always cost way more than projections predict.