For release on May 21, 2002
Press Release

Treaty a Step Forward But Nuclear Dangers Remain:

“Reductions” in Nuclear Warheads are Reversible US/Russian Weapons Still on High-alert Status

Moscow: Russian experts from Institute for World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) of the Russian Academy of Science and the Ecological Center and Back From the Brink, a coalition of U.S. arms control groups, today urged Presidents Putin and Bush to go further to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation and nuclear war.

Vladimir Belous, retired Major-General, senior scientist at the Institute for World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) of the Russian Academy of Science

Alla Yaroshinskaya, president of the Ecological Center

Michele Boyd, scientist at the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Board member of Back From the Brink coalition

Presidents Putin and Bush will meet this week in Russia to sign an arms reduction treaty. President Bush has said “The treaty will liquidate the legacy of the Cold War,” but the agreement falls short of this claim.

The treaty calls for both nations to reduce their nuclear forces from 6,000 warheads to between 1,700 and 2,200 each, over the next ten years.

In addition, instead of dismantling the warheads under the arms reduction agreement, the US wants to keep many in storage where they can be redeployed in the future. This kind of agreement would, of course, allow Russia to do the same with its weapons.

“The U.S. and Russia should move to reduce the alert status of all warheads as soon as technically possible and move progressively to complete de-alerted status by verified removal of all nuclear warheads from their delivery system,” said Michele Boyd, of the Back From the Brink campaign. “This would help set a Global Zero Alert standard: No nuclear weapons poised for quick launch.”

“The probability of an accidental nuclear war can be reduced if nuclear weapons are taken off high alert,” said Major-General Vladimir Belous (ret).

“Moreover, proliferation dangers can be reduced if warheads removed from launchers are placed in secure storage, gradually dismantled, and the nuclear materials rendered unusable,” said Alla Yaroshinskaya.

In addition, the treaty does nothing to change the Cold War policy that has both sides continuing to threaten each other with thousands of nuclear weapons on high-alert status – ready for immediate launch. This continues the danger that nuclear war could start by mistake or miscalculation.

The Russian and US experts support the following goals:

  • U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons slated for elimination should be taken off line, warheads should be removed from missiles and stored, secured and verified.
  • Nuclear weapons slated for reduction should be dismantled as part of a legally binding treaty, so that reductions in nuclear arsenals are irreversible.
  • The U.S. and Russia should commit to removing their nuclear weapons from high-alert status and to ending the policy of Launch-on Warning. This would lead to the elimination of the threat of a catastrophic launch of nuclear weapons due to a breakdown in early warning systems, and also reduce the threat of accidental or illegal activities.


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