The New START Treaty

Madeline Bradshaw
February 18, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2017


Fig. 1: Obama and Medvedev Showing US-Russia Relations. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Throughout World War II, the development of nuclear weapons instilled anxiety among the general public. These nuclear technologies created during the war in many ways largely influenced the military landscape of the world. By the Cold War, the existence of nuclear bombs perpetuated fear of potential nuclear attack in the United States and the Soviet Union. The history of US-Russia relations has been complicated and tense, and for this reason, the United States and Russian Federation signed a nuclear reduction treaty in April 2010, the New START Treaty, with the intention of stabilizing and improving relations.

What is the New START Treaty?

The New START Treaty, implemented during President Barack Obama's first term, was created with the intention of reducing the number of nuclear arms, particularly strategic nuclear missile launchers, inter-continental ballistic missile launchers, nuclear warheads, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. [1] Despite historically tense relations between the two countries, the implementation of the New START Treaty promised to alleviate the previously blistering nuclear narrative of the Cold War. With this treaty, however, there is concern that Russia will not choose to comply with the rules presented, particularly given the erratic nature of Russia's response to past treaties. [2] For example, Russia has failed to withhold rules of previous treaties, including SALT I and II and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, with the United States. [1] Russia's lack of compliance likely stems from their disagreement with the ideological and political motives of the United States. In order to meet the terms listed, both Russia and the United States agreed to reduce the amount of nuclear arms present within seven years of the enactment of the treaty.

Future of US-Russia Relations

Prior to the New START, nuclear treaties and arms control negotiations tended to focus on protocols for reducing warheads with the intention of addressing the imbalances and insufficiencies in the strategic posture of nations. [3] But due to the strengths, weaknesses, and functionality of the New START Treaty, future arms control agreements should focus on other nuclear weapons states. [3] Ultimately, future relations of the United States and Russia will likely change under the Trump administration, and it will be interesting to see how the terms of the treaty unfold and shift over the next few years. Russia and the United States may continue to develop nuclear arms, despite the agreement. Perhaps the Trump administration will assist Russia in fulfilling their goals of becoming a superpower with a large nuclear presence. Or, because Trump views Russia as an ally, he could view disarmament as an unnecessary act.

© Madeline Bradshaw. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] C. R. Wuest, "The Challenge for Arms Control Verification in the Post-New START World," Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, LLNL-TR-564612, July 2012.

[2] B. Chaffin, "New Start Treaty," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2016.

[3] K. B. Payne and M. B. Schneider, "The Nuclear Treaty Russia Won't Stop Violating," Wall Street Journal, 11 Feb 14.