President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are set to sign a landmark nuclear arms reduction treaty Thursday, April 8, in Prague.
The treaty formalizes the agreement between Obama and Medvedev, made in Moscow in July, to cut the number of warheads each country possesses by about 30 percent, from 2,200 to between 1,500 and 1,675, within seven years.
The treaty, referred to as New START, will replace the recently expired Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which was signed by President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991 and required the two countries to cut their arsenals by 25 percent to about 6,000.
In addition to reducing each country's nuclear arsenal, New START makes substantial cuts in missiles and other long-range delivery systems. It establishes a combined limit of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments, and a separate limit of 700 deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers.
Moving forward, the question remains: As the United States reduces the size and alters the makeup of its nuclear forces, how can U.S. planners ensure that our country remains safe from outside threats and effective in enforcing stability?
President Obama's solution is partially laid out in the Nuclear Posture Review, released April 6. NPR calls for a reduction of the nuclear weapons maintained in all three Triad legs: ICBMs (land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles), SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles), and strategic bombers. But NPR does not set any specific target numbers for each leg. Whatever the final determination, the effects will be far-reaching.