Obama and Medvedev

President Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor James Jones has sought to counter an April 17th Wall Street Journal editorial criticizing the New START arms control agreement with Russia for limiting U.S. missile defense options with an April 20th letter to the editor. General Jones acknowledges that there is a specific restriction in Article V of New START, but chose to ignore the editorial’s point that language in New START’s preamble also constitutes a limitation on missile defense.

The language in the preamble, which the United States has agreed to as part of the essential circumstances related to New START and is at least morally and politically bound to honor, establishes a logic that requires that the U.S. reduce the capabilities of its missile defense systems as the Russians reduce their strategic nuclear forces. The purpose of the reduction in U.S. missile defense capabilities, in the language of the preamble, is to preserve the “viability and effectiveness” of the Russian strategic nuclear force.

Unlike Article V, this is not a narrow and limited restriction. Rather, it is a very broad restriction that is designed to drive U.S. missile defense capabilities to ever lower levels. Since the Obama Administration is committed to eliminating all nuclear weapons, the restrictions on missile defenses, at least theoretically, will also be driven to zero. Ultimately, the policy becomes nonsensical in that it insists that missile defense limitations will serve to preserve the viability and effectiveness of a Russian strategic nuclear force that will have ceased to exist. It is well nigh impossible to imagine a more emphatic restriction on U.S. missile defense options than this one.