In a week dominated by new START op-eds, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) penned another piece supporting treaty ratification while rejecting the arguments of former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) from earlier this week. This follows the article by Senator Kerry (D-MA) also in support of new START. For Sen. Kerry opposing the treaty is “political,” for Sen. Lugar the arguments of Romney were “hyperbolic. Getting down to the sheer facts of the matter, however, make it clear that opposing the treaty is simply in the best interest of United States security.
Quoting Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Sen. Lugar makes the point that the Russians have always hated missile defense and as much as they want to stop us from developing it, nothing in the treaty makes that possible. The first claim by the administration was that flat out, nothing in the treaty limited missile defense. Then the administration countered that the limit on converting ICBM launchers to missile defense launchers was overly expensive and not part of the Missile Defense Agency’s current or future plans. If so, then fine.
However, the limitations go on. When several provisions of the treaty are taken together, it becomes evident that this treaty will impose limits on test target missiles. Baker Spring comments, “According to General O’Reilly’s testimony, any missile defense target that includes the first stages of the specifically identified existing ICBMs and SLBMs or new ICBMs and SLBMs will be subject to restrictions—including the first stages of the Minuteman II and Peacekeeper ICBMs, despite the fact that they are retired.” The original claim of this administration regarding missile defense is thus patently false.
The question of tactical nukes is another cause for serious concern regarding ratification of the new START precisely because is does nothing to address them. Sen. Lugar mentions that the Russians have a far larger stock pile compared to the U.S. (in fact the ratio is about 10:1), but that they have short-ranges and are not a threat to Europe or the United States. It cannot be denied, however, that tactical nuclear weapons have been an important part of Russian defense strategy. Overall, nothing in this treaty prevents Russia from neither building upon its capabilities nor increasing the size of its tactical weapons arsenal. This is what makes Sen. Lugar’s comment that they treaty will limit potential arms competition puzzling. As Russia continues to modernize its nuclear arsenal and grow its tactical weapons arsenal, it is likely that China will respond in kind, North Korea will accelerate its program and instability becomes the norm. To write off the threat is naïve at best.
What Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar both overlook is probably one of the most important questions to address – why in the post-Cold War era is the U.S. content with accepting the Cold War status quo? This treaty solidifies Russia’s role as a dominant nuclear power by putting the Russian arsenal on par with ours. It was a classic example of nuclear diplomacy and will only lead to Russia seeking further concessions down the road. It is imperative that this treaty is looked at as something more than an arms control document. Once that is done, it will become clear why this treaty is wrong for the U.S.