Disarmament DiplomacyIssue No. 25, April 1998
Clinton Report on US-Russia Helsinki Joint Statement'Text of a letter from the President to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Committee on Armed Services and the House Committee on National Security, 23 April 1998' White House Office of the Press Secretary, 23 April 1998
Editor's note: for details of the 20-21 March 1997 Helsinki Summit and 21 March Joint Statement, see Disarmament Diplomacy No. 14 (April 1997) pp. 30-36 & pp. 51-52.
"This report responds to Section 1229 of the FY 98 DoD Authorization Act Conference Report, which requests information regarding 'the United States approach (including verification implications) to implementing the Helsinki Joint Statement, in particular, as that Statement relates to the following:
To encourage ratification of START II and demonstrate our commitment to that Treaty, the United States has adopted a policy that we will not begin START III negotiations until Russia ratifies START II. As Congress is aware, the Russian parliament has not yet approved START II. However, to be ready to begin START III negotiations soon after the parliament ratifies START II, the Administration is undertaking various preparations. For example, the United States has an extensive internal work program under way to identify critical issues and options related to the various elements of the Helsinki Joint Statement and to develop the US approach for implementing these elements. No decisions have yet been made, however. Furthermore, since most of the elements listed above will either be components of the START III Treaty or discussed in the context of the treaty negotiations, we will not begin to address them in any detail with Russia until after START II is ratified. As it has done with previous treaties, the Administration will keep Congress informed of US START III positions and the status of negotiations.
1. Lower aggregate levels of strategic nuclear warheads. In the Helsinki Joint Statement, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin committed to establish a 2,000-2,500 limit on deployed strategic nuclear warheads as part of a START III treaty and to achieve this limit by 31 December, 2007. The President agreed to this limit only after detailed analysis and careful deliberations indicated that the United States would be able to retain survivable, effective nuclear deterrent forces at a 2,000-2,500 deployed strategic warhead level. This Helsinki commitment will be the basis for START III negotiations, which will begin after Russia ratifies START II. The executive branch is currently developing objectives and options for US proposals in START III, but decisions have not yet been made regarding which proposals to adopt.
2. Measures relating to the transparency of strategic nuclear warhead inventories and the destruction of strategic nuclear warheads. At Helsinki, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin also committed to include in START III measures relating to the transparency of strategic nuclear warhead inventories and the destruction of strategic nuclear warheads. In part, this commitment addresses Administration and Congressional concern regarding our limited information about Russia's nuclear weapon stockpile; it is also intended to promote irreversible deep reductions in an equitable manner for both sides. Once again, the executive branch is developing objectives and options for US proposals, but no decisions have yet been made. Because this Helsinki commitment will be part of START III, its negotiation also awaits Russia's ratification of START II.
3. Deactivation of strategic nuclear delivery vehicles. The Helsinki Joint Statement contains a commitment that the United States and Russia will deactivate, by 31 December, 2003, all strategic nuclear delivery vehicles to be eliminated under START II by removing nuclear warheads or taking other jointly agreed steps. This commitment is codified in legally binding letters which were signed and exchanged by Secretary of State Albright and Foreign Minister Primakov on September 26, 1997, in New York. These letters also stipulate that after START II enters into force, both sides will begin working to develop understandings on methods of deactivation and on the parameters of an appropriate program of US assistance to help Russia implement deactivation. With the extension of the deadline for completing START II reductions from January 2003 to December 2007 (codified in the START II Protocol), the deactivation commitment ensures that the United States and Russia will realize START II's security benefits in roughly the same time frame as originally intended. After Russia ratifies START II, the Administration will submit the Albright-Primakov letters, along with the START II Protocol and Joint Agreed Statement, to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification. (The Joint Agreed Statement ensures that de-MIRVing of ICBMs under START II will occur in a stable and equivalent manner for both parties.)
The US preferred method of deactivation is warhead removal because it effectively removes a missile's combat capability in a manner equivalent for both sides, would take more time and be more observable to reverse than most other methods, and could be monitored through use of national technical means and START Treaty re-entry vehicle on-site inspections. While both the United States and Russia explicitly recognized this particular approach in the Helsinki Joint Statement and the New York letters, Russia has indicated that it will propose alternative deactivation methods. The letters formally commit the United States to discuss such Russian proposals, but alternatives to warhead removal will have to be evaluated based on their effectiveness and verifiability. The Administration will keep Congress informed of the progress of deactivation discussions with Russia.
4. Measures relating to nuclear long-range sea-launched cruise missiles and tactical nuclear systems. The Helsinki Joint Statement contains a commitment that the United States and Russia will explore possible measures relating to nuclear long-range sea-launched cruise missiles and tactical nuclear systems in the context of START III. US concerns include the large asymmetry between US and Russian tactical nuclear weapon stockpiles and protecting our conventional SLCM capability. The executive branch is developing objectives and options for US proposals in this regard, but no decisions have yet been made.
5. Issues related to transparency in nuclear materials. The Helsinki Joint Statement contains a commitment that the United States and Russia will consider issues related to transparency in nuclear materials. The sides already have initiatives under way in this area, particularly through the DoD Cooperative Threat Reduction program and the DOE Material Protection, Control, and Accounting program. This Helsinki commitment is intended to complement these initiatives and promote US efforts aimed at reducing proliferation risk and enhancing the security of nuclear materials. The Executive Branch is developing objectives and options for US proposals on transparency measures, but no decisions have yet been made."
© 1998 The Acronym Institute.