Yesterday the Kremlin announced that the Obama administration and Russia had reached agreement on a new nuclear arms agreement intended to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). The declaration appeared to surprise the White House, as Press Secretary Robert Gibbs could only confirm that the two sides were “close” to a treaty. But U.S. officials confirm that “all major obstacles” in negotiations with Moscow have been cleared.
Russian approval of a new START agreement has been the cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s “long road toward eliminating nuclear weapons” policy. President Obama’s desire to appease Russia is why he began negotiations by unilaterally surrendering to Kremlin demands that the United States betray our Czech Republic and Polish allies by going back on our promise to build ballistic missile defense facilities in Eastern Europe. Russians took President Obama’s easy and early capitulation on missile defense as a sign of naivete and weakness and concluded that the Obama administration was far more desperate for a new nuclear treaty than they were and, as The Los Angeles Times reports, “used that fact in negotiations.”
The full text of the new agreement has not been released, but early reports indicate that it will not adequately address three key issues and would therefore compromise U.S. national security:
Verification: The Russians have a long and well documented history of violating arms control agreements. By focusing intently on the reduction in each nation’s strategic arsenal, the U.S. has lost some negotiating ground on the issue of verification. The Senate must ensure that the new treaty is adequately verifiable. There is no reason to sign the treaty if the verification mechanisms fall by the wayside.
Nuclear Modernization: Some arms control advocates insist that the U.S. has a robust nuclear modernization program. This claim is simply inaccurate. The truth is that America’s nuclear infrastructure is rapidly aging, in deep atrophy, and is losing its reliability and effectiveness. The U.S. is not producing new nuclear weapons, and its ICBM force is shrinking and not being modernized. In contrast, Russia and China are engaged in a major modernization effort. On December 16, 41 U.S. Senators voiced their concerns and signed a letter saying they will oppose the new treaty if it does not include specific plans for U.S. nuclear modernization as stipulated in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010.
Missile Defense: It is absolutely imperative that a new START agreement not undermine our post-Cold War defensive posture by linking offensive weapons with missile defense. But early reports indicate that the treaty does exactly that. The New York Times reports: “Administration officials describing the draft treaty said its preamble recognized the relationship between offensive weapons and missile defense, but that the language was not binding.” But the Times goes on to quote retired major general Vladimir Dvorkin who says Moscow will scrap the treaty if the U.S. pursues missile defense: “If, for example, the U.S. unilaterally deploys considerable amounts of missile defense, then Russia has the right to withdraw from the agreement because the spirit of the preamble has been violated.”
The Obama Administration’s arms control strategy has been deeply flawed. It is based on outdated 1970s arms control strategy and 1960s idealism and naivete. It will not work because it does not account for Russian nuclear strategy, which is based on approximate parity between the two sides, Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), denial of missile defenses to the U.S., and nuclear warfighting capability. The U.S. needs to reset the reset before the Obama administration is allowed to seriously undermine our national security.
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