Sen. Kerry (D–MA), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, took to the pages of U.S. News and World Report again trying to make the case for ratification of the New START treaty. He continues to tow the Administration line in attempts to demonstrate how the treaty is in the national security interest of the U.S. After posing a series of questions, he concludes, saying, “The opponents of New START cannot provide good answers to these questions. All they can do is stand in the way of common sense—and of our nation’s security.” Presented with the opportunity, here are common sense reasons why this Administration has it all wrong on the New START treaty.
Question 1: “Why is this treaty less deserving of approval than, say, the original START treaty, whose reductions were significantly more dramatic and which was signed in 1991, at a time of great international upheaval?”
There are a number of areas to address in answering why this treaty is less deserving of approval than its predecessor. The verification regime is one such area. When negotiations for New START began, it was believed that it would largely be a continuation of the 1991 START treaty. Nevertheless, out of the seven provisions in the original START treaty that dealt with verification, only two have survived. Most worrisome are the elimination of restrictions on the encryption of telemetry and the reduction of both the number and effectiveness of on-the-ground inspections, both of which will severely decrease our knowledge of the Russian arsenal. Furthermore, compliance reports from the State Department in both 2005 and 2009 demonstrate that the Russians cheated numerous times under the provisions of the START treaty. In response to the reports, General Chilton, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, testified to the Senate that he was not concerned with the prospects of Russian cheating under the new treaty. In other words, this Administration has tossed the Reagan mantra of “trust, but verify” out the door.
Question 2: “Why, nearly 20 years later, when relations with Moscow are far better, would we not agree to modest reductions in our nuclear arsenals?”
Senator Kerry acknowledges that decades have past since the history of U.S.-Russian nuclear agreements began, but fails to realize that the role these two nations play around the globe is vastly different. This is a Cold War treaty in the post-Cold War era. Nuclear parity should not be the standard by which the United States negotiates treaties. Maybe in the world sought by this Administration where the United States is a country among equals, but most certainly not one in which the U.S. is that exceptional nation defined by President Reagan as the “shining city on a hill.”
Question 3: “Why, when the fight against proliferation is ever more crucial, would we not approve a treaty that will encourage international cooperation in the fight against the spread of nuclear weapons to rogue states like Iran?”
The thought that this treaty is going to be held up as a great landmark moment in the history of the non-proliferation regime is naive. What is similarly confusing is whether the treaty will negatively affect Iran in any way. If anything, it reinforces the pivotal role nuclear weapons play in getting a seat at the negotiating table. It also demonstrates that, once there, the U.S. is willing to make concession after concession while getting nothing in return (witness the failure to address tactical nuclear weapons and a ceiling on launch vehicles well above the number Russia possesses, meaning they must reduce nothing in that respect).
In the end, it is not the opposition that is threatening U.S. national security, but rather the actual ratification of this ill-conceived treaty.
Ricky Trotman is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm