Nuclear Weapons

State Department report: Russia did not cheat on START I

In the New START debate, the right continues to play fast and loose with the facts after a recently released report showed that Russia kept its side of the bargain in the original START arms reduction treaty.

Last Wednesday, the Start Department released the unclassified version of the compliance report for the expired START I treaty. The report clearly states that Russia kept up its end of the treaty:

Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine were in compliance with the START strategic offensive arms (SOA) central limits for the 15-year term of the Treaty.

The report notes that a few minor questions linger. But after interviewing Rose Gottemoeller, chief US negotiator of the New START treaty, The Cable reports that Russia is certainly not guilty of “cheating” on START I:

The State Department does not believe that Russia has been cheating on its obligations under START I…and is confident that Russia will abide by the new treaty when it is ratified, according to the treaty’s top negotiator.

“Cheating implies intent to undermine a treaty. There’s no history of cheating on the central obligations of START; there’s a history of abiding by the treaty” Gottemoeller said.

With regard to START I, Gottemoeller said that there were several disputes over compliance issues on both sides, many of which had been resolved over the last two years due to intensive work between the Obama administration and the Russians. Yes, there are some compliance issues that were not resolved, but those covered minor technical issues, she argued, not a deliberate attempt by Russia to circumvent the treaty.

“We think [the compliance report] actually tells a good story about Russia and its willingness to resolve compliance and verification issues and should help ratification,” said Gottemoeller.

The Cable also details the far-right’s media frenzy following the release of the report:

The Washington Post’s version of the story was originally entitled, “Report finds Russians may not be in compliance, could sink new START treaty,” a headline that shocked State Department employees. The headline was later changed to “Report findings about Russia could complicate debate on new START pact.” The Washington Times’ version was entitled, “Russia violated ’91 START till end, U.S. report finds,” another headline multiple State Department officials said was misleading.

Arms Control Wonk and Democracy Arsenal have cleverly summed-up the fact that the far-right has “left out quite a few items – namely, facts.

Jeffrey Lewis from Arms Control Wonk writes:

Some [New START] opponents are trying to argue that Russia has been cheating on old START, so damn New START… Only one problem: The Compliance Report doesn’t say anything remotely like that.

When any normal person (ie, not a Heritage Foundation employee or a Moonie) imagines “cheating” they are thinking about the central limits — do the Russians have more bombers, missiles, or nuclear warheads than they are permitted?  The answer is no, Russia is in compliance.

Senate Republicans are already bickering about the compliance report. Don’t let it serve as yet another excuse for the far-right to crush New START ratification. They’re already delayed the vote to later this fall.