It’s been only a month since the Senate gave its nod to ratifying New START, a strategic arms control treaty with Russia that the Administration hopes to bring into force next week. But already Moscow is discounting the clarifications the Senators stipulated and added to their resolution of ratification.
Senator Jon Kyl (R–AZ) wisely raised concerns about this in his latest floor statement. He pointed out that Russia’s ratification law cites “understandings” that the Russian and U.S. officials came to during negotiations that justify Russia’s claim that the treaty limits U.S. missile defenses and applies to any new type of strategic offensive arms.
But the understandings in the Senate’s resolution of ratification state that New START imposes no limits on missile defense deployments (outside a narrow provision in Article V), that the language on missile defense in the treaty’s preamble is not legally binding, and that New START does not impose any new limitations on Prompt Global Strike systems or exempted systems. The Russian Duma’s draft ratification law states that any new type of strategic offensive arms must be approved by New START’s implementing body, the Bilateral Consultative Commission, prior to deployment.
So, as Senator Kyl asked, what “understandings” is Russia talking about? Unfortunately, the Administration rejected Senators’ request to share its negotiating record. That would have cleared this up before the treaty was voted on. Now, after the Senate has given its advice and consent, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is no meeting of minds on the implications of the treaty. Worse, as Senator Kyl points out, “What was to serve as a vehicle for ‘reset’ may, in fact, serve to promote increasing discord.”