US Missile Warning Sats Fair Game If No New START?

WASHINGTON: After nearly 50 years, the mutual US-Russian ban on interfering with early warning and reconnaissance satellites — fondly known as National Technical Means — will disappear if the Trump Administration abandons (as is likely) the bilateral New START treaty.

Besides capping nuclear force levels, the New START treaty — like every other bilateral nuclear arms control treaty dating back to the early 1970s — includes a prohibition on interference with “national technical means of verification” known as NTMs.

New START expires in February 2021, and the Trump Administration is leaning against extending it for five years in favor of pursuing a highly unlikely trilateral deal that would include China. The administration also intends in August to withdraw from the only other extant nuclear arms treaty that includes this provision, the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treat, over violations by Russia.

“With the end of New START, there is no longer going to be any prohibition on interference with NTMs … for the first time in 50 years,” Gleason, a former Air Force officer now at the Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy, told a conference cosponsored by Aerospace and the George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute on Monday.

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