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Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty (SORT or Moscow Treaty)

Moscow Treaty: Executive Summary

Treaty Name: Treaty Between the United States of America and the Russian Federation On Strategic Offensive Reductions

Signed by the United States: May 24, 2002
Ratified by the Senate: March 6, 2003
Entry Into Force: June 1, 2003

Background:  The Moscow Treaty codifies previous announced reductions in the number of operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads of the United States and Russia.  The Treaty was signed in Moscow on May 24, 2002 by U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin.  It represents the first treaty between the two countries on the reduction of strategic offensive arms since the START Treaty was signed in 1991.

Treaty Structure:  The Moscow Treaty consists of five paragraphs.  The first preambular paragraph designates the United States and Russia as "the Parties" to obviate the use of their full names throughout the Treaty.  The second, third and fourth preambular paragraphs set forth the Parties’ shared commitment to conducting their relations in the new century on a fundamentally different and more cooperative basis than had characterized their relations in the past.  The fifth paragraph reaffirms the Parties' general, longstanding commitment to implementing significant reductions in strategic offensive arms. 

Treaty Objectives:  The Treaty requires the United States and Russia to reduce and limit their strategic nuclear warheads to 1700–2200 each by December 31, 2012, a reduction of nearly two-thirds below current levels.  The United States intends to implement the Treaty by reducing its operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1700–2200 through removal of warheads from missiles in their launchers and from heavy bomber bases, and by removing some missiles, launchers, and bombers from operational service.

Treaty Provisions:  No obligations are imposed by the Treaty on either Party prior to December 31, 2012, except that the Parties shall hold meetings at least twice a year of the Bilateral Implementation Commission (BIC).  Accordingly, no interim reduction levels are specified, and either Party may increase its numbers of strategic nuclear warheads prior to December 31, 2012, so long as they each manifest a force level of deployed strategic nuclear warheads that does not exceed 2,200 on that date.

The United States shall consider the unit of account, for the purposes of its implementation of this Treaty, to be ‘‘operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads,’’ which it defines as ‘‘reentry vehicles on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in their launchers, reentry vehicles on submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) in their launchers onboard submarines, and nuclear armaments loaded on heavy bombers or stored in weapons storage areas of heavy bomber bases.’’  According to the Administration, the Russian Federation will establish its own definition of ‘‘strategic nuclear warhead’’ as it carries out its reductions under the Treaty.

Information Exchange: There are no provisions regarding information exchange for the Moscow Treaty.  The Treaty allows each Party to determine the composition of its own strategic forces, provided that the warhead ceiling is reached by 2012.

Verification: The Moscow Treaty does not contain the traditional transparency or verification provisions associated with past arms control agreements.  The Administration plans to rely upon existing verification provisions under the START Treaty, in addition to national technical means, to monitor Russian compliance with the Moscow Treaty, even though the two treaties use different counting rules in measuring strategic force reductions.  Administration officials have stated that because the United States will carry out the reductions required under the Moscow Treaty without regard to Russian actions, additional transparency provisions are not required.