Tim Starks recently penned a piece for Congressional Quarterly titled “Republicans Take Pause at START Accord’s Missile Defense Implications.” His bottom line: “No matter how often Democrats or Obama administration witnesses try to sway them, Republicans continue to express doubts about whether a new arms treaty would constrain U.S. missile defense plans.”
Who can blame them? There are many reasons to hate the treaty. Consider just these five:
1. The Administration’s “Trust Us, Don’t Verify” Policy. Turning Reagan’s old arms-control dictum on its head, White House officials continue brushing aside the fact that Russian officials interpret the preamble of the treaty differently than U.S. officials do. That’s a problem, particularly when the administration refuses to let senators look at the negotiating records, the memos and other records of what both sides said during the negotiations.
The negotiating record would verify whether U.S. officials are being completely forthright. Failing to turn it over looks suspicious, particularly when there is plenty of precedent for letting the Senate look at treaty negotiating records.
2. The Return of Cold War Days. Basically, what the treaty does is solidify Russia’s position as a dominant nuclear power on par with the U.S.—taking us right back to the bad old days of the Cold War. Under this treaty Russia can build more nuclear delivery systems; modernize all it wants; and have an unlimited number of tactical nuclear weapons. Russian doctrine clearly states that nuclear weapons are vital to their defense strategy and that they’ll use them whenever they want, for any purpose they want.
3. Obama’s Poor Negotiating Skills. The old Moscow treaty and the original START agreement would have reached lower numbers and had much stronger verification measures. Approving this treaty just tells the Russians, and any other nation that this White House negotiates with, that the U.S. is a soft touch.
4. This is Just Act I. The ratification of New START would create irresistible momentum for the president’s denuclearization strategy. His next push would be for ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Then, despite any promises the White House or Congressional leaders might make on modernizing nuclear “infrastructure,” Obama will never build the capacity we need to field a new generation of nuclear weapons (with better safety, security and reliability features) to replace the ones we have now—weapons better suited to providing deterrence in the 21st century. If Obama gets his way, the U.S. nuclear arsenal will be on an irreversible course to atrophy and obsolescence.
5. We Could All Die. Obama’s road to zero is the superhighway to disaster. The notion that as the U.S. draws down its reliance on nuclear weapons the other lemmings will follow is simply bogus. With a lower bar to being a nuclear power on par with the U.S., adversaries likely will step up their programs. Nervous friends and allies will go their own way and build their own weapons arsenals. A new arms race will result. The likelihood of a nuclear conflict will go up, not down.
How much of this GOP leaders understand is another matter. Part of their concern over the bill might be that they are looking over their shoulders, worrying that if conservatives ever stop and realize how bad this treaty is for U.S. interests, they will get really mad … and they might turn that anger on both parties.
Whatever their motivation, however, lawmakers should be under no illusions that New START is anything other than old problems in a new package.