According to Representative Trent Franks (R–AZ) and Representative Doug Lamborn (R–CO), Russian President Vladimir Putin’s potential withdrawal from New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) would serve America’s strategic interests more than the Obama Administration’s attempts to “reset” the United States’ relationship with Moscow.
Putin’s mobilization of Russian troops into Ukraine’s Crimea region fulfills his pattern of disregard for human rights and international mandates. His flagrant indifference to Ukraine’s national sovereignty reveals his untrustworthy and unprincipled nature.
However, in the midst of this crisis, the United States subjects itself to multiple arms reduction treaties with Russia, which require each party to rely on the other’s full compliance. In light of Putin’s recent actions and record of violating past arms treaties, the U.S. should reevaluate the current New START with Russia.
Franks and Lamborn are correct. Russia has repeatedly failed to comply with treaties concluded with the U.S., most recently the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. In light of this reality, it is naive to expect Moscow will be bound by international agreements, including New START.
Sadly for the U.S., New START is so lopsided in Russia’s favor that it is unlikely that Russia will withdraw. For example, it allows Russia to build up its strategic forces (which Putin promised to do), while mandating that the U.S. significantly reduce its strategic forces. To make matters worse, U.S. ability to verify Russian compliance in New START has dramatically diminished in comparison to past arms control treaties. Under New START, Moscow receives a 24-hour warning prior to an onsite inspection of their nuclear facilities. This gives the Russians ample time to hide or relocate missiles and nuclear warheads prior to inspection.
While Franks and Lamborn agree with Putin on the issue of withdrawing from New START, they disagree with Putin’s objections to U.S. missile defense plans. U.S. missile defenses pose no threat to the Russians—they are inherently defensive systems. Yet, the Obama Administration indefinitely halted “the development and deployment of advanced interceptors to Poland and Romania,” which would provide the U.S. homeland with much-needed protection from Iranian ballistic missiles. Rogue states continue to devote special attention to ballistic missile development in light of America’s relative vulnerability in this area.
Considering the loopholes in New START, Russia’s troubling record of treaty compliance, and the unilateral concessions made by the U.S., Putin would actually do the U.S. a favor by withdrawing from this harmful treaty.
Rebecca Robison is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.