Speaking to the French Minister of Defense this February, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates purportedly said that “Russian democracy has disappeared” and that “the government was an oligarchy run by the security services.” Fast forward to a CNN broadcast scheduled to air tonight, where the Batman of Russia’s oligarchy, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, threatened the U.S. with a new arms race unless Senators acquiesce to President Barack Obama’s New START treaty. Putin tells CNN it would take “a very dumb nature” for the Senate not to pass the treaty and that if they don’t give in, “then we’ll have to react somehow,” including the deployment of new nuclear missile technology.
Putin’s statements come on the back of news that, in defiance of pledges made to the U.S. in the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives of the 1990s, Russia moved short-range tactical nuclear warheads to facilities near NATO borders earlier this spring. And according to U.S. intelligence, Iran recently received 19 BM-25 missiles from North Korea that are capable of reaching European cities. Don’t worry though, Putin also tells CNN about Iran: “But such a threat, as of now, doesn’t exist.”
Putin and President Obama believe that New START is a great deal for our national security. But not everyone agrees. Former CIA Director James Woolsey, former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph, and former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman have all argued that New START actually weakens our defenses. The Heritage Foundation has identified twelve flaws of New START, including the following:
Unacceptable Limits to Missile Defense. The Obama Administration claims that New START contains no limits or constraints on our ability to protect ourselves through missile defense. This is false. There are at least five sections that limit missile defense: (1) Paragraph 9 of the Preamble explicitly links missile defense and offensive nuclear weapons; (2) Paragraph 3 of Article V prohibits conversion of offensive strategic missile launchers to launchers of defensive interceptors and vice versa; (3) an array of provisions limit and restrict certain types of missiles and missile launchers that are used as targets in missile defense tests; (4) Article XII and Part Six of the Protocol create an implementing body, called the Bilateral Consultative Commission, that could impose additional restrictions on the U.S. missile defense program; and (5) Article IX, Part Seven of the Protocol and the Annex on Telemetric Information to the Protocol could be interpreted in a way that could lead the U.S. to share telemetric information from missile defense tests. This information could be used to undermine the effectiveness of our missile defenses.
Inadequate Verification Regime. Edelman and Joseph warn: Those who are pushing a rush to judgment appear willing to ignore the long-held standard “trust but verify” by overlooking the monitoring gaps created by the treaty. While the on-site visits and data exchanges allowed under the treaty are valuable, New START abandons on-the-ground monitoring of Russia’s missile-manufacturing facility and permits Russia to withhold telemetry of some of its missile tests, undermining our ability to know both what is being produced and what is being developed.
Tactical Nukes Ignored. While the exact numbers are not public, Russia reportedly has a several-fold numerical advantage over the U.S. in tactical nuclear weapons like the ones moved close to our NATO allies this spring. Proponents of the treaty argue that New START is essential for keeping nukes away from terrorists. There is a real threat that terrorists could get nuclear weapons. But the nukes that are most vulnerable to terrorist threats are tactical nuclear weapons—which are not covered by New START!
Rail-Mobile ICBMs Exempted. The definitions of rail-mobile ICBMs and rail-mobile ICBM launchers established in the expired START, which applied to the associated restrictions and limitations in START, are not in New START. The Obama Administration asserts that rail-mobile ICBMs and launchers are captured by the treaty under generic definitions of deployed ICBMs. But Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Russian State Duma International Affairs Committee, has stated the opposite.
New START is great deal for Russia. But while Vladimir Putin can be sanguine about the threats posed to the U.S. by Iran and North Korea, U.S. Senators cannot. As Woolsey explains, rushing this treaty to appease Russia is just a bad deal for U.S. security:
A number of years negotiating arms-control agreements with the Soviets taught me that, when dealing with Russian counterparts, don’t appear eager—friendly yes, eager never. Regrettably, the Obama administration seems to have become eager for a deal in its negotiations on the follow-on treaty to the recently expired Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start). Hopes for a boost in efforts to “reset” relations with Russia, and for progress toward the president’s dream of a world without nuclear weapons, apparently combined to trump prudent negotiating strategy. As a result, concessions to Russian demands make it difficult to support Senate approval of the new treaty, known as New Start, as it currently stands.
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