Nicholas Kralev has an interesting story on the impending closure of the Votkinsk Portal Monitoring Facility.

The key grafs confirm that rumor that the Bush Administration made the concession to Russian on ending monitoring at Votkinsk in November 2008:

Congressional officials said they were told by the Obama administration that it “got stuck” with a deal made by the Bush administration to close the monitoring facility at Votkinsk. They also said the Bush administration did not want to extend START at all.

Paula A. DeSutter, assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance and implementation in the Bush administration, said she sent the Russians a post-START proposal in November 2008, but it was not a negotiated agreement.

She confirmed that it did not include continuing the Votkinsk mission, but attributed that to the Bush team’s decision “not to limit delivery vehicles,” so it did not need to count every missile Russia produced. “We didn’t need the entire verification regime from START,” she said.

DeSutter suggests the Administration could have just “added” monitoring back in if it wanted, which just floors me.

I had somehow missed that the Bush Administration tabled a proposal to the Russians in November 2008. They had to know, as everyone else did, that Obama was going to win. But they went ahead anyway. David Gollust from VOA reported it on November 6, 2008;

The two powers have been holding general discussions for some time on how to replace their 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, which expires at the end of 2009.

Rood said the previously-undisclosed U.S. proposal, conveyed to Moscow late last month, represents a shift in U.S. thinking by focusing on limiting nuclear warheads, rather than missile launchers, as in the START treaty.

“We now have put forward a legally-binding treaty. We think that the focus on nuclear warheads is appropriate in this treaty and that is what is reflected,” Rood said. “The START treaty itself did not set limits on nuclear warheads, it set limits on delivery systems, and then a formula was used to attribute a certain number of nuclear warheads to delivery systems. But the treaty we have put forward has, at the center of its focus, limitation on strategic nuclear warheads.”

Some of the verification hypocrites (ie we only need verification for treaties signed by Democratic Presidents) have been arguing that verification is only necessary now that the Obama Administration is considering significant reductions in the number of nuclear warheads. It would be nice to know the Rood warhead levels just to see how low DeSutter et al were prepared to go on trust alone.

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On a related note, a Japanese reporter with a Japanese television station is trying to write a story on Votkinsk. If you are interested in being interviewed, please drop me at line at:

armscontrolwonk [at] gmail.com