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Bush & Gorbachev Signed START to Reduce Nuclear Arms On This Date

by Countable | Updated on 7.31.18

On July 31, 1991, President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (aka START), the largest nuclear arms control treaty in history.

Why did it come up?

Once the Cold War began in the aftermath of World War II, the U.S. and Soviet Union began a nuclear arms race which nearly put the strategy of “mutually assured destruction” to the test during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

In 1969, the U.S. and Soviet Union embarked on the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (aka SALT) in Helsinki, Finland. Those talks led to the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which placed a freeze on defensive nuclear ballistic missile launchers and only allowed new sub-based missiles (SLBMs) with a corresponding reduction in the number of inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

A second round of negotiations led to the SALT II agreement in 1979, which would’ve banned new nuclear missile programs. However, six months after President Jimmy Carter signed the treaty, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and the U.S. discovered a Soviet combat brigade had been stationed in Cuba since 1962 ― events which deterred the Senate from ratifying the treaty. That distrust led in part to a renewed nuclear arms buildup by both sides of the Cold War divide in the 1980s.

START was initially proposed by President Ronald Reagan in May 1982 in a commencement address at his alma mater, and consisted of two phases: the overall reduction of nuclear warheads with additional limits on ICBMs and their “throw weight” (ie the warhead’s power); followed by similar limitations on warheads carried by heavy bombers. The proposal gave the U.S. a temporary strategic advantage, given that the Soviet Union had more powerful ICBMs while the U.S. had more bombers.

Negotiations between the U.S. and Soviet Union hit delays several times in the years that followed. Talks broke down in 1983 following Reagan’s introduction of the proposed Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) ― the missile defense system referred to as “Star Wars” ― and a deployment of nuclear weapons to Europe.

In 1985, Secretary of State George Shultz and his Soviet counterpart discussed a three phase strategy involving intermediate-range missiles, strategic defense, and missile defense. At the 1986 Reykjavik Summit, Reagan and Gorbachev nearly reached an unexpected breakthrough agreement to eliminate all nuclear weapons, but Reagan refused to confine SDI to laboratory research and the deal went by the wayside.

However, the progress made at Reykjavik led to the elimination of all nuclear weapons with ranges less than 3,420 miles with signing of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 1987. At that point, the focus switched back to negotiating the START Treaty, which wouldn’t be completed before the conclusion of the Reagan administration.

On July 31, 1991 President George H.W. Bush offered the following statement to his counterpart when he and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signed START:

“Mr. [Gorbachev], by reducing arms, we reverse a half-century of steadily growing strategic arsenals. But more than that, we take a significant step forward in dispelling a half-century of mistrust. By building trust, we pave a path to peace.”

The signing ceremony wasn’t the end of the process for START, ratification by the Senate came with a 93-6 vote in 1992 before START formally took effect in December 1994.

What did it do?

START imposed restrictions on the number of ICBMs, SLBMs, heavy bombers, and the “throw weight” of deployed nuclear warheads and created a verification regime to ensure both parties abided by it over its 15 year lifespan.

The U.S. and Soviet Union (USSR) undertook the following reductions in their nuclear arsenals:

Deployed Warheads:

  • 1990: U.S. - 10,563 warheads; USSR - 10,271 warheads.
  • 2009: U.S. - 5,916 warheads; USSR - 3,897 warheads.

Deployed Launchers, Subs, and Bombers:

  • 1990: U.S. - 2,246; USSR - 2,500.
  • 2009: U.S. - 1,188; USSR - 809.

Throw weight of Deployed ICBMs & SLBMs:

  • 1990: U.S. - 2,361 megatons; USSR - 6,626 megatons.
  • 2009: U.S. - 1,857 megatons; USSR - 2,297 megatons.

START’s verification regime was incredibly complex, and included 12 different types of inspections. Those ranged from data exchanges and declarations about the location, movement, and status of offensive nuclear weapons to protected satellites. The regulatory system was constantly manned by a representative of each side through START’s on-site inspections and the Perimeter and Portal Continuous Monitoring provisions.

What has its impact been?

Compliance with START ran into an early challenge, as the Soviet Union’s collapse left three newly independent nations in possession of large stockpiles of nuclear weapons ― Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan ― all of which disposed of the weapons or transferred them to Russia.

START led to several attempts at further nuclear arms reduction agreements, some successful and others less so, including:

  • President George H.W. Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin reached a successor treaty known as START II in 1993, which would’ve banned nuclear missiles with multiple warheads had Russia not withdrawn in 2002 in response to the U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty.
  • President Bill Clinton and Yeltsin started negotiations on START III, which would’ve further reduced nuclear weapons stockpiles but talks eventually broke down.
  • The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), was agreed to by President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2003 and required the U.S. and Russia to reduce their arsenals to between 1,700 and 2,200 operational warheads through the end of 2012.
  • The New START, agreed to by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Prague in April 2010 further reduced stockpiles to less than 1,550 operational warheads and less than 700 deployed launchers.

New START will be in effect until February 5, 2021 when it will expire, unless both the U.S. and Russia agree to extend it for another five years or reach another nuclear arms reduction agreement.

— Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: George Bush Presidential Library / Public Domain)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(22)
  • Jane
    08/01/2018
    ···

    So this was put out as nothing more than a historical fact. Literally nothing to do with today’s President and it has turned in to a Trump bashing? LOL. please note the title which is BUSH....not Trump. These comments show how the left is trained to just immediately start a Trump bashing party. What has happened to the Democrats?

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  • Mark
    Voted Happy
    08/01/2018
    ···

    Less nukes would be good for everyone

    Like (3)
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  • Alice
    Voted Sad
    12/07/2018
    ···

    To be honest, I think that now is not the time. We currently have three bullies, North Korea, Russia and Trump that literally scare me to death. I think we'd better defend ourselves until such time we have an adult in the white house.

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  • Mark
    Voted Excited
    12/05/2018
    ···

    Controlling nuclear weapons is a moral responsibility!!!

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  • bart
    08/01/2018
    ···

    Incredible moment in history. Two statesmen, a historic achievement, unprecedented.

    Like (13)
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  • Kat
    Voted Excited
    12/05/2018
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    I don't trust Putin one bit. We need to keep this in place for everyone's best interests

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  • Frank
    08/01/2018
    ···

    When is America going to elect a president? We don’t have one since Obama went on vacation

    Like (10)
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  • burrkitty
    08/01/2018
    ···

    Ah the good old days. Never thought I’d feel that way about either of the the Bush presidents, but here we are. The warm nostalgia just wells up.

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  • Dicr
    08/01/2018
    ···

    And our president today is compromised by Russia and meets alone with Putin. While his followers are influenced by fake Russian accounts on FB and falling for the interference in our elections and even defending the interference. What happened to the Republican Party?

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  • David
    08/01/2018
    ···

    It’s a START

    Like (6)
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  • SneakyPete
    08/01/2018
    ···

    Are Democrats finally getting their wish - OBAMA? Sadly 😔 for the Democrats, Former President Obama is having to be stepping out of the shadows, in-time for the midterm election campaigns, to replace Democratic spokespersons the likes of Chuck Schumer, Speaker Pelosi and Maxine Waters. WHY... It is because we are seeing that Democratic Party is in the process of slowing shifting more from the Progressive to the Socialist leaning far left, and away from the Obama, Liberal Progressive mindset. Former President Obama is addressed big money ELITISTS, Hollywood and BIG 💰💰donors, to raise money for the Democrat National Committee. Former President Obama is warning ⚠️ the Democratic supporters that Democrats can’t get complacent waiting around for a candidate as great as he was, to appear on the scene: “Do not wait for the perfect message, don’t wait to feel a tingle in your spine because you’re expecting politicians to be so inspiring and poetic and moving that somehow, ‘OK, I’ll get off my couch after all and go spend the 15-20 minutes it takes for me to vote.’” Because that’s what happened to Democratic voters in the 2016 Presidential Election. It was seen in the 2016 elections that the Democratic voters were so focused on President Obama and the battles the Democrats were having, particularly after they lost the House, that their folks stopped paying attention up and down the ballot.” Obama has pivoted, to the standard Trump bashing fare, that Democrats have come to love. It was comical that former President Obama was ripping President Trump for supposedly promoting and using the often used Democratic “FEAR” tactic. “ Using the the time tested method of telling people that somebody’s out to get you, or that somebody’s taking your job, or that somebody has it out for you, or is going to change you, or your community, or your way of life — that’s an old story used by the Democratic and has shown itself to be powerful in societies all around the world. It is a deliberate, systematic effort to tap into that part of our brain that carries fear in it.” 7*31*18 ......SneakyPete

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  • Gopin2018
    08/01/2018
    ···

    I want our ICBM’S modernized, our missile defenses improved, better training for those missile teams to include our submarine forces, the money spent for these defenses is money well spent. The fact we’ve not had to use them since August 1945 is a testament to their effectiveness and the bravery of those crews manning them and protecting us all.

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  • Dave
    08/01/2018
    ···

    There is a big difference between President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to Trump and Putin. Bush and Gorbachev were for democracy, freedom and human rights, where Trump and Putin want to rule, control and suppress freedoms and human rights (dictatorship). Some republicans feel, it is OK for Russia to medal in your election, they need to go live in Russia, where there is only one press, the government. You could be assassinated, assaulted or locked up for having an opinion! There is no free press or speech in Russia. The people in America that attack and berate the press, attack the first amendment and if the first goes, the second amendment will follow!

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  • David
    08/01/2018
    ···

    This actually works: if you find a leftist in a deep sleep, gently (without waking him) put his hand in a MAGA hat. They will immediately start spewing out the words racist, nazi, homophobe, collusion, Russians, elections, and sanctuary. It turns out that this is a reflexive response resulting from continuous exposure to propaganda. The only cure is turning off the TV and take that time to reflect on the fact that you live in the greatest nation at the best time in history with a robust economy and more opportunity to thrive than has ever existed anywhere in earth.

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  • Mindful
    08/01/2018
    ···

    What a difference in Competency versus Incompetence. And we(some of us), 2016, voted this choice fully aware of the dire consequences to follow. That is.....’deplorable’. Agreed?

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  • Richard
    08/01/2018
    ···

    Frightening to think that HW Bush looks so presidential these days.

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  • denali
    08/01/2018
    ···

    The USA needs a real President. We can’t go on like we are. Trump needs to be removed NOW.

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  • John
    12/06/2018
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    Time to NUKE the snowflakes and the Trump bashers.

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  • Tom
    08/06/2018
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    EVIL BUSH colluded with the Russians to reduce Nukes Shame

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  • Nancy
    Voted Excited
    12/05/2018
    ···

    Peace and arms reductions should always be the priority.

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  • Sean
    08/04/2018
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    Trump failed to renew this treaty too

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