As the U.S. treaty inspections of Russian nuclear missile production are set to expire this week, the expiration may yield other more positive alternatives.
This week, the nearly 15-year arms inspection protocol of Russia's main missile plant conducted by United States inspectors is set to expire. The existing Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, START, called for as many as 30 U.S. monitors to observe traffic to and from Russia's Votkinsk missile plant facility.
By December 5, the Americans must fully dismantle their inspections operation and leave the Votkinsk factory.
"We believe the verification protocols in the original treaty are very important," Marylia Kelley, Executive Director at Tri-Valley CAREs, said in a telephone interview.
The Tri-Valley CAREs organization defines itself on its web site as one that "works to strengthen global security by stopping the development of new nuclear weapons in the US and by promoting the elimination of nuclear weapons globally." This definition puts it squarely in the middle of the inspection expiration question.
"However, we are on record for supporting a START follow-on treaty," Kelley added.
The expiration could, in fact, yield a much greater reduction in nuclear weapons between Russia and the United States. The negotiations between the two countries have run aground over what Russia sees as an unbalanced program - with Russia viewing U.S. inspections as non-reciprocal.
Kelley believes that both nations could be more creative while negotiations drag on - meaning specifically that there is no need to stop inspections altogether by December 5.
There is a lot of room for weapons reduction, and Tri-Valley CAREs is optimistic that much more can be achieved.
"We think that both nations could go to 500 total - both strategic and tactical," Kelley said. In July, President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to reduce their arsenal to between 1,500 and 1,675 warheads each. A reduction to 500 would be a reset-button victory between both countries.