The biggest debate during the START Treaty ratification process was about tactical nuclear weapons. The START Treaty focused primarily on strategic nuclear weapons. The GOP was against the the treaty because it did not address these weapons, but since that was such a small part of the debate amending the treaty and sending it back to the negotiating table was not worth it. Micah Zenko writes in Foreign Policy that the exact number of tactical nuclear weapons is vague:
Although exact numbers are murky, the disparity between the U.S. and Russian arsenals is arresting. The United States reportedly has 400 operationally deployed tactical nuclear weapons and an equal number in inactive reserve. Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal, on the other hand, is estimatedat a whopping 2,000 operationally deployed weapons, with another 3,400 in inactive reserve. They are maintained either in operationally deployed status at nuclear-certified military bases, or in inactive reserve status at permanent storage sites.
He provides some solutions:
Washington and Moscow must then turn to the hard work of forging a bilateral agreement that establishes a verifiable regime combining cuts to each countries’ tactical nuclear weapon arsenal and confidence-building measures between the parties. Specifically, a treaty must include three components.
First, each country should reveal its tactical nuclear weapons inventory, location, and operational status, publicly or through a private data-exchange mechanism. Cryptographic technologies exist that permit Washington and Moscow to securely exchange detailed stockpile data between each other while denying access to countries not party to the treaty.
Second, both sides would need to establish methods to verify implementation of the treaty. Verifying limits on Russia’s operational tactical nuclear arsenal would be challenging because of the inherent secrecy of the Ministry of Defense and armed services. However, U.S. officials closely involved in the negotiation and verification of previous nuclear-weapons treaties with Russia think that there are sufficient verification procedures — including radiation detection, remote measurement, and tamper-indicating tags — to ensure Russian compliance with treaty provisions.
Finally, Washington and Moscow must clearly differentiate between tactical nuclear weapons that are can be used in the near-term and those in storage. The two sides should draw up a list of bases housing only “operationally deployed” weapons, and another list for permanent storage. The United States and Russia each have a clear understanding of the differences between these sites. Ultimately, to make tactical nuclear weapons limitations permanent, both sides could verifiably dismantle non operational warheads at disassembly facilities.
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