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Beyond START

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THE Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) is an important step forward for arms control. It will produce: 10 percent to 30 percent reductions in long-range nuclear arms and deeper cuts in some of the most threatening systems.

Exchange of substantial information on each side's nuclear forces.

Procedures to ensure verification of its provisions, including on-site inspections.

An impetus to end the superpower arms race.

Despite these achievements, START I will leave both sides with more weapons than they had in 1982 when the START negotiations began. Moreover, some key issues have been left unresolved, including the fate of sea-launched cruise missiles and mobile land-based missiles with multiple warheads.

Once ratification of START is completed - probably not before mid-1991 - the United States and the Soviet Union will face a choice among three fundamentally different options:

1. Use the START I framework to produce additional reductions in START II.

2. Move on to other kinds of arms-control treaties, dealing with specific weapons systems or issue areas.

3. Seek much deeper, unilateral reductions.

Under Option 1, the START II negotiations would begin where START I left off. For example, the overall limit of some 6,000 strategic nuclear warheads could be lowered by mutual consent to 3,000 for each side. The new negotiations could eliminate the many exceptions and bizarre counting rules in START I that enable each side to deploy thousands more than the advertised 6,000 nuclear weapons.

In addition, the two countries could conclude agreements on difficult issues skirted in START I. For example, a START II agreement could place firmer limits - or preferably an outright ban - on nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missiles. This second round could also eliminate mobile land missiles with multiple warheads. The agreement could deal with qualitative limits avoided in START I, including prohibiting maneuverable reentry vehicles and missiles with a ``depressed'' or low flight trajectory that reduces flight time to targets. Such steps would greatly enhance nuclear stability by slowing the march of technology.

However, rather than work toward a comprehensive START II agreement, which is likely to take many years, the US and Soviets could negotiate series of separate, more limited agreements. Some of the elements discussed in Option 1 could be dealt with in separate agreements. Other potential treaties include:

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