What do Senators Jon Kyl (R–AZ), Scott Brown (R–MA), and George Voinovich (R-OH) all have in common? One Senator is from a blue state, one from a red state, and the other is retiring from office all together. But last week each of them told the White House that, despite their belief in the need for a nuclear treaty with Russia, this lame duck is not the right time to vote on President Barack Obama’s New START.
Faced with these setbacks, the Obama Administration has gone into campaign mode, throwing out any argument they can think of to browbeat Senators into voting on the treaty now. Their favorite talking point is that none other than President Ronald Reagan himself would have supported this treaty. The President invoked Reagan’s name three times at a White House event last Thursday. And this Saturday he mentioned Reagan’s name five times in his weekly radio address. The problem is that Reagan would never have signed on to President Obama’s New START.
While President Reagan did negotiate and sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with the Soviet Union, that does not mean he would have signed any agreement that reduced U.S. nuclear weapons. As Heritage Vice President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies Kim Holmes notes, Reagan would never sacrifice our missile defense capabilities for treaty concessions: “Why did Ronald Reagan walk away from Mikhail Gorbachev’s offer to eliminate nuclear weapons if only we gave up the Strategic Defense Initiative? Why did Reagan not take him up on that offer? The reason is that Reagan believed strategic defenses were the essential ingredient in disarmament—the exact opposite of what Gorbachev’s vision was then and President Obama’s vision is today.”
And President Obama’s New START contains at least five sections that limit missile defense, including: (1) Paragraph 9 of the Preamble explicitly links missile defense and offensive nuclear weapons; (2) Paragraph 3 of Article V prohibits conversion of offensive strategic missile launchers to launchers of defensive interceptors and vice versa; (3) an array of provisions limit and restrict certain types of missiles and missile launchers that are used as targets in missile defense tests; (4) Article XII and Part Six of the Protocol create an implementing body, called the Bilateral Consultative Commission, that could impose additional restrictions on the U.S. missile defense program; and (5) Article IX, Part Seven of the Protocol, and the Annex on Telemetric Information to the Protocol could be interpreted in a way that could lead the U.S. to share telemetric information from missile defense tests. This information could be used to undermine the effectiveness of our missile defenses.
Claims that Reagan would have supported New START are not the only myths emanating from the White House. Other false claims include:
(1) Without New START, terrorists would get nukes: There is a real threat that terrorists could get nuclear weapons. But the nukes that are most vulnerable to terrorist threats are Russia’s 10,000 tactical nuclear weapons—which are not covered by New START!
(2) Without New START, Israel’s security would be compromised: In their zeal to see the treaty passed as soon as possible, some proponents have proclaimed that New START is “a Jewish issue.” New START is only marginally relevant to Moscow’s policy in the Middle East. And not every foreign and national security issue is a “Jewish issue” because it has some tangential connection to Iran. New START should be considered on its merits.
(3) Without New START, our nuclear arsenal would not be modernized: By threatening to withhold funding unless the treaty is ratified, the White House would be playing crass politics with national security. If funds are needed for the most vital and sensitive military capability in the military’s arsenal, they should never be held hostage to a political deal. To bargain with the nation’s security is the antithesis of the appropriate behavior of a commander-in-chief. It would also demonstrate the lack of the President’s real commitment to his responsibility as the steward of America’s nuclear arsenal. Conditioning funding for nuclear program on New START is playing politics with our national security. If the dollars are needed, they should be provided without conditions—period.
(4) Without New START, we can’t verify Russia’s arsenal: 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.
(5) Without New START’s inspections, satellites would be diverted from other missions: The New START inspections are not nearly valuable enough to alter our satellite needs. Paula DeSutter, former Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance and Implementation, told The Washington Times: “Our overall satellite capability is not what it used to be and not what it ought to be. Eighteen spot inspections a year is not going to fill the gap left by inadequate NTM capabilities. If we want better coverage of Russia’s strategic threats, we are going to have to launch more satellites.”
In his weekly address this Saturday, President Obama said about New START: “Some have asked whether it will limit our missile defense—it will not.” Forgive us for not taking this President at his word. This is the same President who said Americans could keep their doctor under Obamacare, the same President who promised a net spending cut, and the same President who promised that his economic stimulus plan would keep unemployment below 8 percent. The Senate considered the original START for nearly a year. The Obama Administration took more than 12 months to negotiate New START but has sought approval from the Senate in less than five. And they still have not released the negotiating record. Just like Obamacare, they want votes without legislators knowing what they are voting for. If the case for New START is as strong as the Obama administration claims it is, than the White House should act like it and stop pushing for a lame duck vote.
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