Congress must ratify the New START pact quickly, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) asserts in The Washington Post. Why? Because “Every day without its verification regime is a day without a clear view of Russia’s nuclear arsenal.”
But if Sen. Kerry wants to keep tabs on what Russia’s doing with its nuclear arsenal, he needs to come up with something other than the New START. As Paula A. DeSutter, the former U.S. assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance and implementation, noted in a July 6 Heritage Foundation lecture on the treaty: “An assessment that says it is effectively verifiable would be incorrect.”
Indeed, DeSutter observed, the New START treaty’s verification measures “add nothing to what was there before in the original START treaty.”
Administration officials have praised the treaty for its trailblazing verification provisions, but there is less there than meets the eye. Consider the so-called Unique Identifiers (UIs) which are supposed to allow the U.S. to track the movements of Russia’s intercontinental-range ballistic missile, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and heavy bombers. It just might work… if you could see them. But as DeSutter notes, the treaty’s Annex on Inspection provides that “Each party shall determine for itself the size of the unique identifier.” How many Unique Identifiers do you think can dance on the head of a Russian pin?
Moreover, DeSutter notes, “the inspected party is not supposed to change the Unique Identifier [on each missile and heavy bomber, but] how would you know?” Her final verdict on the UI approach: “I think of this as ‘verification by paint’ or, in a good case, ‘nail polish’.”
Worse, the treaty actually “permits concealment activities… at intercontinental-range ballistic missile bases.” How’s that for transparency, Sen. Kerry?
Summing it up, DeSutter concluded: “The Russians can do so much under this treaty to advance and expand their strategic forces… [yet] our ability to determine whether or not they are doing that and whether it violates the treaty is very, very low. The degree of verifiability is very low.”
If would be great if the U.S. could get “a clear view of Russia’s nuclear arsenal.” But the New START verification provisions give the Russians so much smoke and mirrors, a clear view is impossible.