On the campaign trail in 2008, Barack Obama promised to work towards ‘the goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons’. While New START did not achieve this goal, it did at least continue the trend started by its predecessors of reducing nuclear weapons from excessively high Cold War levels. The objectives of the treaty were announced by Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, in April 2009, leading to its signing one year later and entry into force in February 2011. The treaty’s main provisions are as follows:
Warheads: each side can have up to 1 550 deployed strategic warheads. Warheads count as deployed if loaded onto a missile that is itself deployed. In addition, one deployed warhead is counted for each deployed strategic bomber, regardless of the actual number it carries.
Delivery vehicles: up to a total 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles/submarine-launched ballistic missiles/strategic bombers. Missiles count as deployed if installed in a launcher that is itself deployed. The number of deployed delivery vehicles is much less than the number of deployed warheads, as some missiles carry multiple warheads. Again, each strategic bomber is counted as one. There are no limits on missiles that are not deployed in launchers; however, they may only be stored in restricted locations.
Launchers: up to 800 deployed and non-deployed launchers plus deployed and non-deployed strategic bombers. A deployed launcher is a launcher containing a missile; a non-deployed launcher contains no missile. Missile silos, mobile missile launchers, and submarine launch tubes each count as one launcher. A single submarine can have multiple launch tubes. Once again, each strategic bomber counts as one launcher.
A limited number of launchers used for testing or training purposes, those undergoing maintenance, as well as formerly operational launchers without missiles count as non-deployed. In that case, they still count towards the total of 800 deployed and non-deployed launchers.