Campaign Promises

Cabinet/Departments -> Defense -> Russia

The Promise: "As a first step, I will seek Russia's agreement to extend essential monitoring and verification provisions of the {Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty} START I before it expires in December 2009."
When/Where: Candidate Obama response to "Arms Control Today" questionnaire dated 09/10/08.
Status:On 04/01/09, Obama met with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, in Europe where the two established the groundwork for this promise to be kept by the deadline of 12/05/09. They met again at a summit in Moscow in 07/09 where they issued a "Joint Understanding" proposing a legally binding agreement to replace the START Treaty.

The expiration date of 12/05/09 passed without an agreement. On 03/26/10, Presidents Obama and Medvedev agreed on a new treaty that called for both sides to reduce their nuclear weapons stockpiles by 30%, allowing each to retain 1,550 warheads, down from the ceiling at that time of 2,200, as well as limiting deployed and non-deployed missile launchers to 800 (half of the authorized amount under the previous treaty). The agreement would also re-establish a weak system for monitoring and verification that had ended in 12/09.

The new treaty was signed on 04/08/10 in Prague. It was ratified by the U.S. Senate in a 71-26 vote on 12/22/10, was ratified by the Russian Government and was signed into law by President Medvedev on 01/28/11, signed into law by President Obama on 02/02/11, and implemented with an exchange of ratification documents by Secretary of State Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov in Munich on 02/05/11. Shortly thereafter on 02/07/11, both Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov and Deputy Defense Minister Antonov acknowledged that Russia reserved the right to withdraw from the "New START" treaty if the U.S. significantly boosted its missile shield in Europe to the detriment of Russia's missiles and nuclear deterrent forces.

While ratification of "New START" was a significant political and foreign policy victory (despite its apparent weaknesses), President Obama was specific about fulfilling this promise "before it expires in December 2009." This did not happen.

This promise was not fulfilled.
The Promise: "....will also immediately stand down all nuclear forces to be reduced under the Moscow Treaty and urge Russia to do the same."
When/Where: Candidate Obama response to "Arms Control Today" questionnaire dated 09/10/08.
Status:When this promise was made in CY2008, the USA was very close to reaching the upper limit of 1,700-2,200 warheads set by the Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty (SORT), also known as the Moscow Treaty. The target of 2,200 was reached shortly after President Obama was sworn in for his first term in office.

Soon after President Obama's inauguration, his Administration entered into new rounds of negotiations with Russian counterparts, to include Obama-Medvedev talks, with the objective of signing a new treaty to replace the "START-1" Treaty signed in 07/91 and set to expire in 12/09. The "New START" Treaty was signed on 04/08/10 in Prague. It was ratified by the U.S. Senate on 12/22/10 and by the Russian Duma on 01/28/11 with an effective date of 02/05/11, marking the end of the Moscow Treaty.

The "New START" Treaty further reduced the deployed warhead limit by both countries to 1,550 and the deployed delivery vehicle limit to 700 by 02/05/18.

This promise was fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will work with Russia to find common ground and bring significantly more weapons off hair-trigger alert."
When/Where: Obama Campaign Document "A 21st Century Military for America" dated 11/26/07.
Status:"Hair-trigger" status is also referred to as "high alert," "ready alert," "day-to-day alert," "launch-on-warning status," or "prompt-launch status."

Approximately 3,000 nuclear warheads maintained by Russia and the USA in silos, in submarines and elsewhere, remained on hair-trigger alert status through end-CY2016.

Activities such as President Obama's Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) of 04/06/10, the various non-proliferation meetings, and signature of the "New START" treaty on 04/08/10 in Prague (ratified by the U.S. Senate on 12/22/10 and by the Russian Government on 01/28/11) did nothing to eliminate the "hair-trigger alert" status adopted by both sides.

This determination was validated by the statement in the CY2010 NPR that "the current alert posture of U.S. strategic forces - with heavy bombers on full-time alert, nearly all ICBMs on alert, and a significant number of SSBNs at sea at any given time - should be maintained..."

The above is contradicted by Department of State briefing slides (2015 U.S. National Report to the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference) which state in part that "...U.S. nuclear forces are not on hair-trigger alert..."

Given the strained relations that prevailed with Russia since President Vladimir Putin was re-elected on 05/07/12, and given the provisions of the CY2010 NPR cited above, it was inconceivable that the USA was not in a position to react immediately if subjected to a nuclear threat by Russia.

This promise was not fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will seek deep, verifiable reductions in all U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons - whether deployed or non-deployed, whether strategic or non-strategic..."
When/Where: Obama Campaign Document "A 21st Century Military for America" dated 11/26/07.
Status:When the original START I Treaty expired on 12/05/09 under President Obama's watch, the U.S. lost its ability to "boots on the ground" verify Russia's nuclear capabilities of approximately 2,500 nuclear missiles. Also on 12/05/09 and as a further detriment to U.S. national security, Russia stopped its notifications to the State Department Nuclear Risk Reduction Center on inspections, movement ground-based and airborne nuclear capabilities, and destruction of launchers.

The "New START" Treaty was concluded between the USA and Russia on 04/08/10 in Prague. It was ratified by the U.S. Senate on 12/22/10 and the Russian Government on 01/28/11. It provides for extensive exchanges of data on the numbers, locations and technical features of nuclear weapon systems and facilities -- including the telemetry on up to 5 ICBM and SLBM launches per year. Under the Treaty, both parties have to share information on treaty-limited items and Russia will have to provide the USA with notifications on the movements and production of their long-range missiles and launchers.

New in this treaty was that for the first time, both parties would record and share unique identifiers on all Inter-Continental Balistic Missiles (ICBMs), Submarine-Launched Balistic Missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers covered under the treaty - not just mobile missiles as in the previous treaty. These unique identifiers (serial numbers) would enable both sides to track both deployed and non-deployed missiles, minimizing the potential for violating the provisions of the "New START" treaty, which called for a bilateral reduction of nuclear warheads to 1,550.

Further verifications would be assured through 18 annual on-site, short-notice inspection of Russian operating bases, storage facilities, test ranges, and conversion and elimination facilities.

However, Russia announced on 06/16/15 that it was adding 40 new ICBMs to its arsenal, missiles that it reported would be able to overcome "the most technically sophisticated missile defense systems." In the aftermath of Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 03/14, this was tangible evidence that Russia would not sit back as NATO shored up its defenses.

Nonetheless, President Obama's promise to "seek deep, verifiable reductions in all U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons" was fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will set a goal to expand the U.S.-Russian ban on intermediate-range missiles so that the agreement is global."
When/Where: Obama and Biden's Plan for America: "Blueprint for Change," dated 10/09/08.
Status:Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM) are those that can travel 1,865 to 3,420 miles (3,000 to 5,500 kilometers). In CY1987, the USA and Russia signed an Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that called for the elimination of all nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles held by both countries that have a range of 500 to 5,500 km. IRBMs fall within these ranges.

Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic destroyed their IRBMs in the 1990's, followed by Bulgaria in CY2002. By end-CY2016, Russia and the USA had been joined in the INF Treaty by Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.

On 07/28/14, President Obama informed Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia had violated the INF Treaty. The US said Russia tested a new ground-launched cruise missile, possibly the Novator 9M729 (NATO nomenclature SSC-8). The first launch of this missile occurred on 09/02/15.

In 05/16, the USA started Aegis launch operations at Deveselu, Romania, while building another land-based Aegis launch facility near Redzikowo, Poland for CY2018 activation. Russia objected to this development, stating that the activation of such European missile defense shields violated the INF Treaty, despite U.S. assurances that the shields in Romania and Poland were to defend Europe from an unpredictable foe such as Iran. Russia countered by legitimately arguing that the MK-41 Vertical Launch System utilized by the Aegis missile system could easily be retrofitted to fire cruise missiles against Russia.

On the other hand, Russia was also suspected of having developed and flight-tested the R-500 (aka Iskander-K), a Ground-Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) with a range estimated at between 500-3,000 km. That range was well within the Prohibited Range prescribed by the INF and the R-500 was therefore in violation of the INF. In its "2016 Report on Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments" dated 04/11/16, the Department of State acknowledged that "Russia was in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles."

A global ban on INF missiles would have potentially removed missiles held by countries unfriendly to the USA such as Iran and North Korea. At the same time, however, it would have eliminated IRBMs from allies that need them for self-preservation such as Israel.

China (DF-4/CSS-3), India (Agni-III and K-4), Iran (BM-25/Musudan), Pakistan (Ghauri-3), Israel, and North Korea (Taepo Dong-2) still possessed IRBMs as of end-CY2016.

There was no expansion of the INF Treaty during President Obama's two terms in office. Rather, starting during the Bush Administration and lasting throughout the 8-year Obama Administration, Russia resumed production, testing and launching of intermediate-range conventional and nuclear missiles in contravention of the CY1987 INF Treaty.

This promise was not fulfilled.