Your New START Explainer: The Value of Cooperation on Nuclear Arms Control

The bottom line up front: New START maintains important restraints on U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, preserves transparency and verification measures, and provides a solid foundation for follow-on agreements.

Officially known as “The Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms,” New START was signed by Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev on April 8, 2010. The treaty was ratified by the U.S. Senate and Russian parliament and entered into force on February 5, 2011. 

In January 2022, the United States and Russia extended the treaty for five years until February 5, 2026.

New START continues years of bilateral cooperation between the US and Russia/Soviets on nuclear arms reductions. It caps the strategically deployed weapons of the world’s two biggest arsenals. It also provides each country with valuable insight into the other’s nuclear arsenal by restarting the inspections and data sharing that had been lost when the original START Treaty — the first treaty to require deep reductions in the US and Russian/Soviet arsenals — expired in 2009.

Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev sign New START in Prague, April 8, 2010


Equal limits on US and Russian strategic arsenals of:

  • 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads;
  • 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and deployed nuclear-capable bombers; and
  • 800 total (deployed and nondeployed) launchers.

Verification and transparency measures, including:

  • Up to 18 short-notice, on-site inspections per year;
  • The exchange of data on the characteristics and locations of the strategic force;
  • Notification of movement of strategic forces between facilities; and
  • The exchange of data from missile flight-tests up to five times per year.
Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev meet in Reykjavik to discuss nuclear arms reductions, October 1986


  1. The U.S. and Russia would be free to build up their nuclear arsenals and deploy more weapons. There would be nothing left to restrain a new nuclear arms race.
  2. Insight into both sides nuclear arsenals granted under the treaty’s verification and transparency mechanisms would end, increasing uncertainty and nuclear risk. Intelligence agencies and military planners would be left in the dark, leaving ample room for misreading intentions and planning for the worst (read: claims of needing to invest in even more weapons and more capabilities, and keeping even more nuclear weapons ready to launch at a moment’s notice).
  3. Decades of bipartisan work and international cooperation to reduce the nuclear threat would be reversed.
  4. The nuclear nonproliferation regime and U.S. and Russian commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to “pursue negotiations in good faith” on ending the nuclear arms race and eliminating all nuclear weapons would be undermined.
  5. U.S. leadership on nuclear reductions and nonproliferation would evaporate.

Dialogue and continued progress on nuclear weapon reductions must be a priority for all nuclear-armed leaders. Only through dialogue can the world avoid an expensive, dangerous nuclear arms race.