For decades, even during the Cold War, U.S. and Soviet/Russian leaders understood the importance of cooperation on nuclear arms control. From the Limited Test Ban Treaty (1963) to the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (1987) to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (1991), negotiated agreements limited U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals and helped prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. That cooperation, which reduced the number of nuclear weapons in the world by 85 percent, has fallen apart as both the U.S. and Russia undergo expensive overhauls of their nuclear arsenals — ushering in a new nuclear arms race.
In 2010, building on previous agreements, Presidents Obama and Medvedev signed New START, limiting both parties to 1,550 strategically deployed nuclear weapons and 700 deployed launchers. The treaty also established verification mechanisms to ensure both parties are adhering to their commitments under the agreement.
Since then, progress has stalled. Offers from the Obama administration to start negotiations for another round of nuclear reductions were rejected by Moscow. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and an increasing frequency and aggressive nature of military incidents between the US/NATO and Russia has heightened tensions between the two largest nuclear-armed powers.
Now, under the influence of National Security Advisor John Bolton, the Trump administration is targeting international arms control agreements, pulling out of the INF Treaty and stalling on extending New START past its February 5, 2021 expiration. Russia has said it is ready to discuss extension, warning serious dialogue is needed first and time is running out, but the US administration seems to be stuck in a review process. Trump has ordered his team to focus instead on negotiating a broader deal to include all Russian nuclear weapons and bring China into the fold.
Restarting and expanding talks with Russia and engaging China are admirable goals. These conversations are needed to further nuclear reductions and address relevant national security concerns such as missile defense and cyberwarfare. But it is highly questionable whether negotiation of a new trilateral, or even bilateral, arms reduction treaty is possible before New START expires on February 5, 2021. The US lacks concrete plans and, for its part, China has already said they will not join nuclear reduction negotiations at this stage.
The best way forward on arms control is for the U.S. and Russia to first extend New START. It will keep US and Russian strategically deployed nuclear arsenals capped at 1,550 while the U.S. and Russia, and possibly even China, work on a follow-on agreement. Without New START both the U.S. and Russia will lose important insight into the other’s nuclear arsenal provided by the agreement’s verification measures.
The clock is running. As Global Zero works with our network of former senior-level military and government officials and national security experts to save the agreement, we’ll also be keeping track of U.S. and Russian arms control efforts, updating this tracker as developments unfold.
Days Until New START Expires: 108
Last updated October 20, 2020
January 28: U.S. President Donald Trump calls New START a bad deal for the United States in his first phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
March 29-April 11: U.S. and Russian delegations meet for the 13th session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC), which was established under the New START agreement as a venue to discuss issues related to implementation of the treaty. The BCC meets twice per year.
July 17: U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon Jr. meets with Russian counterpart Sergei Rybakov. The two emphasize the need to create a long-term agreement on arms control.
October 11-24: U.S. and Russian delegations meet for the 14th session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission.
April 10-20: U.S. and Russian delegations meet for the 15th session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission.
July 16: Trump and Putin meet in Helsinki and agree to hold talks on extending New START.
October 11-18: U.S. and Russian delegations meet for the 16th session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission.
December 4: The Trump administration announces it will give Russia 60 days to return to compliance under the INF Treaty or the US will suspend obligations.
January 15: Russian and U.S. delegations meet to discuss the INF Treaty.
January 31: Russian and U.S. delegations fail to breakthrough the INF Treaty impasse during the meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to discuss nuclear nonproliferation in Beijing.
February 1: The Trump administration announces U.S. will suspend its obligations under the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty — a long-standing agreement that eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons — and begin the formal six-month process of withdrawal.
March 4: Putin signs an executive order suspending Russian compliance with the INF Treaty.
April 3-12: U.S. and Russian delegations meet for the 17th session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission.
April 25: Trump directs staff to prepare options for a new nuclear arms control initiative with Russia and China.
May 6: A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman states China “will not take part in any trilateral negotiations on a nuclear disarmament agreement.”
May 14: Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Sochi and agree to gather teams to work on New START and broader arms control.
June 12: U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Andrea Thompson meets with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov in Prague. No schedule for sustained talks is set, but both note the two countries will continue to engage on arms control issues.
June 18: National Security Advisor John Bolton refers to extension of the New START treaty by five years as “unlikely” in an interview.
June 28: Trump and Putin agree to continue talks “on a 21st century model of arms control” on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan.
July 2-3: The United States hosts the kick-off plenary meeting of the Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament Working Group.
July 3: Vladimir Putin signs legislation suspending Russia’s participation in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
July 5: After a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tells reporters that there’s no sign Russia wants to return to the INF treaty.
July 11: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov states in an address to the Duma that Russia “is interested in extending New START as much as the United States is interested in it.”
July 17: A U.S. delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan meets with a Russian delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in Geneva to discuss the prospect of a trilateral nuclear arms-control agreement with China.
August 2: The U.S. formally withdraws from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
August 7: U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Huntsman resigns, effective October 3.
August 19: The U.S. conducts a successful test of a conventionally-configured ground-launched cruise missile with a range of more than 500 km just weeks after officially leaving the INF Treaty which had banned such missiles.
September 5: Vladimir Putin announces in Vladivostok that Russia will produce INF-range missiles, but will only deploy them in response to similar deployments by the United States.
September 20: The U.S. State Department announces the departure of Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson. No replacement is named.
October 8: Senior Congressional Democrats send letters to the Secretaries of Defense and State expressing concern at reports that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty.
November 1: Russian Foreign Ministry official Vladimir Leontyev says the new Sarmat and Avangard systems, which the Trump administration has raised concerns over, would be covered by New START.
November 6: U.S. and Russian delegations meet for the 18th session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission.
December 3: Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Ford tells the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Russia remains in compliance with New START.
December 5: President Putin announces that Russia is ready to extend New START without preconditions as soon as possible.
December 10: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visits U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo and President Trump in Washington where they discussed nuclear arms control, including Russia’s interest in extending New START.
December 27: Russia deploys its first Avangard hypersonic intercontinental ballistic missile.
December 30: White House spokesman Hogan Gidley says President Trump and President Putin discussed “the state of relations between the United States and Russia and future efforts to support effective arms control,” among other topics, during a call instigated by Russia.
January 16: U.S. Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation Dr. Christopher A. Ford leads a U.S. interagency delegation to Vienna, Austria, to participate in a U.S.-Russia Strategic Security Dialogue, with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov leading the Russian delegation.
February 4: The U.S. announces that it has deployed new low-yield nuclear weapons on submarines.
February 5: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov says that the U.S. deploying a new “low-yield” submarine-launch missile is “very alarming” and an indication the U.S. views a low-intensity nuclear conflict as a feasible option.
February 11: U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien says that the United States and Russia are nearing the start of new arms control talks.
February 13: A senior Trump administration official says during a briefing that the U.S. has not yet decided whether to extend New START and is instead hoping to begin negotiating a trilateral arms control treaty with China.
February 20: The U.S. Navy and Army announce that they jointly conducted the launch of “a common hypersonic glide body, which flew at hypersonic speed to a designated impact point” the day before at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.
February 26: Russia announces the first ship-launched firing of its new hypersonic missile.
February 28: President Trump announces he is willing to hold a summit of the leaders of the P5 — China, France, Russia, the UK and the US — to discuss arms control.
April 14: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announces that Russia is ready to discuss hypersonic weapons and other arms-control issues as part of broader strategic stability talks.
April 15: Russia tests a Nudol anti-satellite system from its launch facility in Plesetsk.
April 17: During talks with U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says that Russia is willing to include its newly developed weapons into future arms-control agreements.
April 29: Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova says at a briefing that U.S. use of “low-yield” nuclear weapons would be “seen as warranting retaliatory use of nuclear weapons by Russia.”
May 14: Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov says at a roundtable meeting hosted by the Valdai Club that Russia has received no indication that the U.S. wants to extend New START.
May 15: Georgette Mosbacher, U.S. ambassador to Poland, suggests in a tweet that U.S. nuclear weapons could be moved from Germany to Poland.
During the unveiling of the U.S. Space Force flag, President Donald Trump announces that the U.S. is developing a “super duper missile.”
May 21: The Trump administration announces its intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Open Skies Treaty.
May 22: The Washington Post reports that the Trump administration has discussed conducting a test of a nuclear weapon, saying that proving the U.S. ability to conduct a rapid test could be useful in negotiating a trilateral treaty to replace New START.
June 2: Russia releases an official document detailing its nuclear weapons policy.
June 5: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft says that she shared a draft U.N. Security Council resolution with Russia that would extend the arms embargo against Iran indefinitely. Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said last month that Moscow opposes U.S. attempts to extend the\ embargo, which expires on Oct. 18, and reimpose U.N. sanctions on Iran.
June 17: NATO adopts new measures to strengthen air and missile defense and adapt its intelligence and military exercise practices. The measures are described as a way to counter Russia’s “extensive and growing arsenal of nuclear-capable missiles.”
June 22: Talks between the U.S. and Russia on extending New START begin in Vienna. The U.S. hopes to replace the agreement with a trilateral agreement with China.
July 6: The village of Nenoksa, on the White Sea, is evacuated ahead of a July 8 missile test.
July 10: During an online conference, Russian Prime Minister Sergei Lavrov says he is “not very optimistic” about the prospects of renewing New START.
July 21: U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall S. Billingslea tells U.S. Senators during his nomination hearing that Russia should not be developing its Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile.
July 23: U.S. President Trump tells Russian President Vladimir Putin during a call that he hopes to avoid an arms race.
July 31: U.S. President Trump announces that the U.S. and Russia are working on a new nonproliferation agreement.
August 7: Senior officers of the Russian military’s General Staff, Maj.-Gen. Andrei Sterlin and Col. Alexander Khryapin, publish an article in a Russian military newspaper saying that any incoming missile will be viewed as nuclear.
August 16: A new round of U.S.-Russia arms-control talks take place in Vienna.
August 18: U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea says that New START is a deeply flawed deal negotiated under the Obama-Biden administration, and it has significant verification deficiencies.” He says that the U.S. will consider extending the treaty only if its “flaws” can be fixed and it can be made to include China.
September 2: U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy for Nuclear and Missile Defense Robert Soofer says that the ball is in Russia’s court to accept U.S. proposals for New START extension, which include bringing China into the treaty.
October 20: The U.S. and Russia announce that they are near a deal to extend New START for one year and freeze the number of warheads in both countries’ arsenals.