December 8, 2010
Why the Senate Should Reject the New START
The new START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) currently under consideration by Congress is irredeemably flawed. Instead of accepting the "tax cuts for START" deal, Republican senators should reject the treaty for several reasons.
Firstly, the treaty will severely reduce America's nuclear stockpile (to just 1,550 warheads, down from 5,113) and the number of delivery systems (to no more than 700 deployed systems and 800 in total) -- i.e. to wholly insufficient levels. Vice Chairman of the JCS Gen. Cartwright (a former leader of the Strategic Command) says that the minimum number of delivery systems needed is 860. The current number on the American side is 883 (336 Trident-II SLBMs, 450 ICBMs, and 97 nuclear-capable bombers).
START will gut the U.S. military by reducing the arsenal of nuclear weapons and delivery systems to insufficient levels because that is exactly its point. The Russians have demanded that the American arsenal be reduced to the size of the Russian arsenal projected for the 2010s. Currently, it is agreed that Russia has fewer delivery systems subject to START provisions than the U.S.: 369 ICBMs, 113 (89+24) bombers, and a few hundred SLBMs. Russia's 177 (84+93) Tu-22M intercontinental bombers do not count, even though most could easily have refueling equipment installed (and some already have it).
The treaty is clearly designed to bring the U.S. strategic arsenal down to the sorry state of the Russians'. And Russia cannot afford to maintain its arsenal at its present size, let alone greatly increase it, as Putin has threatened to do.
Additionally, the treaty has unreliable, untrustworthy verification procedures, which will make it impossible for the U.S. to check that the Russians are complying. Moscow has violated SALT-I, SALT-II, and START-I, so there is no reason to believe that it will voluntarily comply with the new treaty. Nor does the new START address Russia's huge advantage in tactical nuclear weapons, which could be used against American troops deployed abroad.
But the treaty does address an issue it should not interfere with: missile defense. On Moscow's demand, the following clauses have been added to the treaty:
- An acknowledgment of a link between strategic offensive weapons and missile defense. This implies that American missile defense systems must be limited and reduced lest they undermine Russia's nuclear deterrent (Paragraph 9 of the Preamble).
- A ban on the usage of ex-ICBM siloes for missile interceptor siloes, as well as a ban on using ex-ICBM launchers as missile interceptor launchers, and vice-versa (Article V).
- A provision creating a Bilateral Consultative Commission authorized to impose further restrictions on America's missile defense.
Furthermore, Russia has stated that it will withdraw from the treaty if the U.S. takes any steps to improve its missile defense -- whether qualitatively or quantitatively. This raises the question: if Obama is really committed to missile defense (as he claims), why is he prodding the Senate to ratify a treaty that Russia will certainly withdraw from if Obama does build up America's missile defense? The answer: Obama doesn't really intend to improve America's missile shield. We know this because for years, Obama has been ideologically opposed to missile defense, speaking out against it and surrendering the European component of the Bush-planned system to Russia. And in 1983, he wrote an article protesting Reagan's defense policies, including the SDI, and endorsing pacifist student groups.
Obama, Gates, and Clinton are promoting the treaty as a panacea to nuclear proliferation. But the treaty will not convince, legally oblige, or technically cause China, North Korea, or Pakistan to reduce (let alone eliminate) their nuclear and delivery system arsenals. Nor will it convince Iran to end its nuclear weapons program. Quite the contrary -- it will only encourage all of them to build up their arsenals.
Supporters of the treaty claim that it will "boost America's credibility" on nonproliferation and thus convince other countries to cease pursuing nuclear weapons, as well as convince other actors to support the U.S. against proliferator countries such as Iran and North Korea. Do these naïve people really believe that America's credibility counts for anything to Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and China? It doesn't. "Credibility on nonproliferation" means nothing to the dictators ruling those countries.
The treaty would be a huge reward to a dictatorship which has been uncooperative -- indeed, hostile -- towards the U.S. through the past decade. Under Putin, Moscow has been hugging, aiding, and abetting proliferating, terrorist-supporting regimes in Tehran and Pyongyang. The Russians have built a nuclear reactor in Iran over American objections and has delivered nuclear fuel to it. They have repeatedly shielded Iran and North Korea from the UNSC, agreeing only to mild, symbolic, useless sanctions. They have sold tons of weapons to Venezuela, enabling Chávez to stir up trouble on America's own turf. They (according to General Baluyevski) have threatened a preemptive nuclear attack against the West. In 2007, Putin threatened to aim Russian missiles at Western Europe if the U.S. deployed missile defense systems in Central Europe. In 2008, when Poland allowed the U.S. to deploy such systems on its soil, Russia threatened a preemptive nuclear attack against Poland.
What was the bone of contention? Bush's plan to deploy just ten ground-based mid-course interceptors (no threat to Russia's arsenal of hundreds of delivery systems, including 369 ICBMs) in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, which is far from Russia's borders (even the Kaliningradskaya Oblast).
Most recently, Russia has agreed to build a nuclear reactor in Venezuela, and Putin has threatened America with a Russian nuclear weapons buildup if the U.S. refuses to ratify START. Thus, Putin is both blackmailing the U.S. with nuclear weapons and dictating which treaties the U.S. should ratify.
Meanwhile, President Medvedev has threatened an arms race if the West doesn't sign a missile defense agreement with Russia -- an accord which, if the new START is any guide, would certainly be dictated on Russian terms and would likely be designed to constrain missile defense.
Both threats are bluffs, as Russia doesn't have the money to carry them out. But they do show what sort of "partner" Putinist Russia is.
Clearly, the new START is untenable and ill-conceived. If our senators have any sense, they will reject it.