Amid the Administration’s full-court press to get the Senate to consent to ratify New START, a strategic offensive arms control treaty with the Russian Federation, Moscow is being described as a responsible, reliable, and cooperative international partner. However, these descriptions do not comport with reality, as Heritage’s “Top 10 Reasons Not to Trust Russia” fact sheet made clear. Russia’s domestic and international policies are often contrary to U.S. and allied interests and in breach of contractual obligations. There are even more reasons to reconsider signing such an important treaty with Russia that will constrain our own strategic defenses:
1. The Russian legislature is not committed to ratification of New START. Last month, the Russian State Duma International Affairs Committee decided to delay its consideration of legislation that would authorize the ratification of New START by the full Duma. The committee is concerned about the U.S. Senate’s interpretation of how the treaty impacts strategic non-nuclear weapons (i.e., Prompt Global Strike), rail-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, and missile defenses. Senators should wait until the resolution of ratification by Russia’s Duma becomes public and they receive and review the U.S. negotiating record.
2. Russia threatens to start a new arms race if New START is not ratified. Earlier this month, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promised a renewed arms race if the Senate does not consent to ratify New START. If a new strategic partnership were developing, Russia wouldn’t resort to Cold War rhetoric and threats.
3. Russia is again threatening U.S. friends and allies in Europe with tactical nuclear weapons deployment. According to recent reports, the U.S. believes that earlier this year Russia moved tactical nuclear warheads to facilities near the borders of some of our NATO allies. Moscow has denied those reports. New START does not deal with tactical nuclear weapons, and Moscow hopes to retain its immense dominance in this class of weapons. Moscow had threatened to deploy these weapons during the Bush Administration to dissuade the U.S. from deploying missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic.
4. Russia is already in violation of agreements relating to tactical nuclear weapons. Moscow’s tactical nuclear weapon arsenal may be 10 times larger than that of the U.S. In 1991–92, the U.S. and the USSR/Russia committed in the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNIs) to dramatically reduce the number of deployed tactical nuclear weapons. In 2009, the Strategic Posture Commission stated, “Russia is no longer in compliance with its PNI commitments.”
5. Russia has provided anti-aircraft missiles to Venezuela, which closely cooperates with Iran. The U.S. intelligence community has already charged Russia with providing ballistic missile technology to Iran and North Korea. On top of this, Russia has sold Venezuela as many as 1,800 sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles since 2009. Iran is increasing its presence in our own hemisphere through cooperation with Venezuela, which means Iran could obtain these missiles despite the latest U.N. sanctions and transport them back to Iraq and other places in the volatile Middle East.
6. Russia continues to promote Cold War–style espionage in the U.S. The recent discovery of the Russian spy network inside the U.S. indicates that the current Russian leadership continues to view America with fear and suspicion. Moscow still sees the U.S. as an intelligence target, not a “partner,” as the Obama Administration posits.
7. Russian intelligence officials and diplomatic offices are closely working with organized crime. Viktor Bout, one of the most infamous alleged arms traders, who was extradited to the U.S. last month, is one example of this corruption. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation made numerous statements on Bout’s behalf, challenging the legality of his arrest and extradition.
8. Russian authorities are backsliding on freedoms for their people. Russian human rights workers and journalists who support a free press, democratic elections, free markets, and Russia’s integration into the global economy are under threat if they voice their opinion in media outlets. Murder cases for over 18 journalists remain unresolved. Impunity from prosecution is a major reason for continued attacks on the press in Russia.
The Senate should not allow Russia’s intimidating rhetoric and coercive actions to affect its consideration of the merits of New START for U.S. security. Indeed, a realistic assessment of Moscow’s behavior cautions prudence when considering contractual and binding agreements. It is imperative that the Obama Administration make all U.S. and Russian commitments under New START transparent to the U.S. Senate. To this end, the negotiating record should be released, and the Senate should be allowed time to review it carefully and demonstrate due diligence in its constitutional role. The safety and security of the American people demand just that.
Co-authored by Michaela Bendikova.