There are three essential things that the Administration must commit to before the strategic arms control agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation (known as New START) is approved in the Senate, writes James Woolsey in The Wall Street Journal.
Safeguarding the option to develop and deploy the most effective missile defenses possible is at the top of the list. Given the current multipolar nuclear landscape, the U.S. should be moving away from the Cold War retaliation-based deterrence policy and toward a more defensive strategic posture. Unfortunately, New START does nothing to facilitate this transition.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee adopted a resolution of ratification when it voted to report New START to the Senate. The resolution includes conditions, an understanding, and declarations that are designed to protect U.S. missile defense options against limitations that could be imposed by the treaty. While these provisions in the resolution are imperfect and may not be fully effective in protecting U.S. missile defense options, their inclusion serves as a testament to the fact that New START, either directly or indirectly, imposes restrictions on missile defense—something the Administration denied.
Recent news reports suggest that the White House is trying to secure votes for ratification of New START during the short “lame duck” session of Congress by threatening to withhold vital funding for the aging nuclear program. This is reprehensible. Placing conditions on funding for the U.S. nuclear program is playing politics with our national security. The modernization of America’s nuclear weapons arsenal and infrastructure is more urgent than ever, as the incident at Warren Air Force Base on October 24 showed.
During the incident, the United States Air Force lost communication with a squadron of 50 nuclear-armed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles. The broad scale of this disruption resulted in one of the most serious and sizable ruptures in nuclear command and control in history. If money is needed, it should be provided without conditions. Period. Furthermore, the White House cannot make iron-clad guarantees on funding nuclear programs because Congress passes annual budgets.
The Administration and proponents of the treaty are also arguing for a quick “lame duck” ratification by saying that the U.S. is in danger without New START, because without a verification regime it lacks insight into Russia’s nuclear forces. This is rather amazing, considering that Administration officials have insisted that Russia is not a threat.
Moreover, the lack of verification measures, supporters of the treaty argue, is increasing instability and uncertainty between the two major nuclear powers. Yet this is the result of the Administration’s own actions. The White House did not move to take advantage of a five-year extension clause under START I and instead insisted on negotiating a separate agreement. At the time, the Administration justified its approach by saying that it was more important to get the treaty right rather than get the treaty soon.
The Senate considered the original START for nearly a year. The Moscow Treaty, which was far less complex than New START, was before the Senate for nearly nine months. The Obama Administration took more than 12 months to negotiate New START but has sought approval from the Senate in less than five. The rush to ratify a flawed treaty undermines the important role of “advice and consent” that the Senate must exercise on any treaty of this magnitude.
Co-authored by Michaela Bendikova.