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START III (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) was a proposed bi-lateral nuclear disarmament treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation. It meant to drastically reduce the deployed nuclear weapons arsenals of both countries and to continue the weapons reduction efforts that had taken place in the START I and START II negotiations. The framework for negotiations of the treaty began with talks in Helsinki between President Bill Clinton and President Boris Yeltsin in 1997. However, negotiations broke down and the treaty was never signed.
Proposed basic elements of the treaty included:
- By December 31, 2007, coterminous with START II, the United States and the Russian Federation would each deploy no more than 2,000 to 2,500 strategic nuclear warheads on intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers. Russian officials stated that they were willing to consider negotiated levels as low as 1,500 strategic nuclear warheads within the context of a START III agreement.
- The United States and Russia would negotiate measures relating to the transparency of strategic nuclear warhead inventories and the destruction of strategic nuclear warheads, as well as other jointly agreed technical and organizational measures to promote the irreversibility of deep reductions.
The talks faced a number of obstacles. Russia opposed the eastward expansion of NATO and American plans to build a limited missile defense system (which would have required changes to or the US withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty). Russia strongly hinted that any progress on START III would be subject to the satisfaction of its concerns on these issues. In addition, a Russian proposal to reduce stockpiles still further to 1,000-1,500 warheads was opposed by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Very little progress was made towards completing negotiations on START III. President Clinton revived the issue in 1999 and it played a role in the 2000 presidential elections, but persistent disagreement, especially on the issue of missile defense, resulted in stalemate. The 2002 decision by the Bush Administration to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty all but killed START III. It was superseded by the much weaker SORT treaty.
In popular culture
START III plays a large role in the 1998 video game, Metal Gear Solid. In the game a nuclear terrorist attack is scheduled on the date of the signing of START III which is supposed to take place at the end of February 2005.
- Arms Control Association, The START III Framework at a Glance, 2002