New START Verification: Less is More

July 14, 2010
Mark Donaldson
Former contributor

One of the most important legacies of 1991’s START treaty was its verification regime, which allowed U.S. inspectors close access to previously secret Russian nuclear systems and facilities. The inspection regime increased our knowledge of Russian forces, built trust and cooperation between the two parties, and provided confidence that neither side was cheating.

The START treaty’s verification measures ended in December of 2009 when that treaty expired. Since that time, the United States has lost the ability to inspect Russian facilities, view newly developed systems, and receive notification of weapon production and movements. The New START treaty, which is awaiting the advice and consent of the Senate, would reestablish this important relationship with a verification regime based on that of the original START treaty.

However, some of the treaty’s critics have questioned whether New START’s verification regime is effective, since New START allows fewer inspections than START I. However, because there are fewer Russian facilities now than during the Cold War, and because some new inspections accomplish more tasks than the old ones, the inspections are equally effective—in this case, less is more.

To explain these complex issues in an understandable way, UCS has released a short fact sheet summarizing the important points about New START verification. It shows how the new, streamlined verification regime gathers all of the information necessary to verify Russian compliance with the treaty.