Nuclear History: The Current Era
Steps toward—and from—disarmament
The Soviet Union dissolves
Treaties from 1991 to the Present Day
The United States and U.S.S.R sign the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), a milestone reduction of U.S. and Russian/Soviet strategic nuclear stockpiles.
START II, a complement to START I, is signed, imposing a limit on strategic nuclear weapons with the goal of further reducing stockpiles. It never goes into effect.
The United States and Russia sign the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, which requires both states to reduce their deployed nuclear weapons to 1,700-2,200.
New START restricts the United States and Russia to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads apiece. The treaty is still in effect and expires in 2021.
Deadline for the United States and Russia to meet the New START requirements. As yet, there are no plans to extend New START or negotiate a follow-on treaty.
The U.S. and Russia collaborate to recover Soviet weapons
When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, four ex-Soviet states were left in possession of nuclear weapons. The United States worked with Russia to recover—and dismantle—these weapons, ensuring that Russia was the only nuclear successor to the U.S.S.R.
Presidents Bush and Gorbachev sign START I in Moscow
Nuclear standoff between Pakistan and India
The root of the crisis was a dispute over Kashmir, a region that both nations claim as their own.
NATO’s post-Soviet expansion
Ex-Soviet nations began to join NATO, an alliance formed to keep Soviet ambitions in check. Russia protested the move, claiming that “the near abroad”—their former territories—shouldn’t act against Russian interests.
U.S. withdraws from the ABM Treaty
U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration decided to build a nationwide missile defense system. To do so, they had to withdraw from the 30 year-old Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense Treaty with Russia. Russia viewed the move as a threat to their security.
Russia Withdraws from START II
The day after the United States withdrew from the ABM treaty, Russia responded in kind by dissolving START II, calling it “meaningless.” The treaty would never go into effect.
North Korea’s First Nuclear Test
An explosion the equivalent of less than 1,000 tons of TNT was detonated in North Korea. The U.S. viewed it as a failure: the Hiroshima bomb’s explosion 60 years previous was at least 15 times more powerful.
Nuclear Security Summits
Concerned about the threat of nuclear terrorism, U.S. President Barack Obama convenes the first Nuclear Security Summit with leaders from 47 countries.
Fifty-three countries and four international organizations attend the second Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea.
At the third summit, in The Hauge, Netherlands, attending countries fail to meet a self-imposed deadline of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials in 4 years.
Russia declines to attend the final Nuclear Security Summit in 2016 as retaliation for sanctions imposed after the 2014 invasion of Ukraine.
Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow testifies at the U.N.
The U.S. Withdraws from the INF Treaty
The U.S. accused Russia of violating the treaty. The withdrawal marks the end of an era and leaves the future of arms control and disarmament in an uncertain place.