From the words of President Reagan to the fears of people all over the world, unease over world-ending technology being at the fingertips of two belligerent powers defined the latter half of the twentieth century. Even today, with the potential for nuclear arms to fall into terrorist hands and resurgent tensions between Russia and the West, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament remain crucial international issues.
As the freeze of the Cold War began to thaw, however, leaders from both the United States and Russia began talks to limit their nuclear arsenals.
The first resulting treaty, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), which sought to limit the number of nuclear weapons and delivery systems each country could deploy, was signed in July of 1991 and entered into force in December of 1994. It remained active throughout the tumultuous negotiations and failed implementations of two other similar iterations until 2009. Other arms limitation treaties—namely the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), in place from 2003 until 2011—complemented START I until they were superseded by New START.
Signed by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on April 8th, 2010 and entered into force on February 5th, 2011, New START represented an even more progressive stance towards nuclear disarmament. On top of requiring each country to reduce their number of active delivery systems by 50 percent, New START implemented reciprocal monitoring mechanisms, which included both remote and on-site inspections of nuclear facilities. While Russian leadership has vocalized a willingness to negotiate a new treaty, New START is due to expire in 2021.