Section 1251 of the fiscal year 2010 Defense Authorization Bill Congress warned President Barack Obama not to include any “limitations” on U.S. advanced conventional weapons in New START. Now that New START has been signed, the State Department is putting out fact sheets on the agreement. An April 8th fact sheet from the State Department is entitled: “Key Point: The New START Treaty does not contain any constraints on current or planned U.S. conventional prompt global strike capability.”
So it would appear that President Obama listened to Congress’s concern regarding limitations on conventional weapons system. Unfortunately, appearances deceive. Later in the same release, the following is stated: “Long-range conventional ballistic missiles would count under the Treaty’s limit [emphasis added] of 700 delivery vehicles, and their conventional warheads would count against the limit [emphasis added] of 1550 warheads, because the treaty does not make a distinction between missiles that are armed with conventional weapons and those that are armed with nuclear weapons.”
Apparently, the State Department believes that words have no inherent meaning and that in this case the words “limitations” and “limit” have no commonality. Contrary to the release’s first assertion, New START very clearly imposes limitations on U.S. advanced conventional weapons. President Obama has ignored Congress’ warning. Further, it never should have come to this because the Obama Administration could have stuck to the 2002 Moscow Treaty on strategic nuclear arms reductions with Russia. The Moscow Treaty — which remains in force today, but will be terminated by New START – avoided limitations on conventional systems by restricting its application to the number of operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads. Thus, if the Senate rejects ratification of New START, the Moscow Treaty will remain in force. Given President Obama’s decision to ignore Congress’ warning, the Senate has little choice but to consider this option.