The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on Tuesday on the implementation of the New START Treaty. Two weeks ago, Sen. John Kerry (D–MA) wrote in an op-ed that given all the testimony there was a clear record in favor of treaty ratification. However, had Sen. Kerry waited for the statements of The Honorable James Miller, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and General Kevin P. Chilton, Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, he may have been a little more hesitant to make such a proclamation.
Dr. Miller and General Chilton each asserted that there is no reason to worry about Russia cheating under the New START Treaty given that it will have no overall effect on U.S. security. These statements drew the wrath of Sen. John McCain (R–AZ), who retorted, “I always believed in all the treaties that I’ve been involved in, in the past 28 years, General, that cheating does matter and it does have an effect. And to say that it has little, if any, effect, then we’ve been wasting a lot of time and money on negotiations.” Even more bluntly, Sen. McCain asked, “Why have a treaty?”
This is the question many have been asking all along.
Russia’s cheating on treaties is certainly nothing new. In 1991 Russia admitted to building a large anti-ballistic missile, which was clearly in violation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The 2005 report from the Bureau of Verification, Compliance, and Implementation revealed a number of Russian violations under START I, which expired at the end of last year. Just last week, the State Department released its latest rounds of compliance documents to Congress. Paula DeSutter, former Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation from 2002 to 2009, stated that the reports, when made public, will show Moscow remains “in noncompliance on a whole range of START treaty issues.” To blithely ignore the likely possibility that Russia will cheat on the new treaty is nothing short of frightening.
President Obama has signed a treaty with a weak verification regime and preamble language that can potentially limit U.S. missile defense. As noted by Robert G. Joseph, former State Department Under Secretary for Arms Control, “‘Trust but verify’ has been the standard [on treaties with Russia] for more than 20 years. Whether the new START treaty meets this standard is a major issue.” Our national security is on the line.