Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States and Russian Federation have been working quietly to ensure that implementation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) remains on track. The verification regime of the treaty has worked remarkably well, with the parties exchanging data twice a year on their weapon holdings and regularly—sometimes multiple times a day—informing each other of the movement of their nuclear systems.
Through these measures—backed up by its own national technical means (satellites, reconnaissance aircraft, radars, etc.)—the United States has been able to keep a close eye on developments in the Russian strategic nuclear forces. This effort has proven highly important in recent months. It has been a significant source of predictability, offering 24/7 insights into Russian nuclear operations.
The effort has not been easy, however. The 18 on-site inspections that each party is allowed every year had to be suspended during the first wave of the COVID pandemic when mortality rates were high and no vaccines existed.