Arms Control: The Heritage Foundation Recommendations

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Arms Control: The Heritage Foundation Recommendations

February 12, 2010 4 min read Download Report
The Heritage Foundation

Over the past year, the Obama Administration has made several arms control missteps, including pursuing overly ambitious policies that have emboldened Russia and have left America’s allies uneasy.

The following Heritage Foundation research outlines the dangers pursuant to the Administration’s arms control policies while providing policy recommendations that will better defend America and its allies.

START Follow-On Treaty Could Interfere with Conventional Strike Systems

WebMemo No. 2704

The Obama Administration is currently rushing to establish a treaty to succeed the expiring Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Any successor treaty should:

  • Not subject conventionally armed intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles or bombers to the limits on delivery vehicles;
  • Exclude conventionally armed delivery vehicles from the definition of equipment subject to numerical limitation—particularly if it differentiates between conventionally armed delivery vehicles and those armed with nuclear warheads; and
  • Be adequately verifiable.

The Senate’s role in the making of treaties is to serve as a quality-control mechanism. The Senate should not fail to perform its constitutional duty just because of the pressure applied by an Obama Administration infatuated with arms control.

Arms Control: One Year Later, the Obama Administration Needs a New Strategy

WebMemo No. 2771

President Barack Obama’s haste to conclude the successor treaty to START and make progress on the “road to zero” (a world without nuclear weapons) is damaging the arms control process. The U.S. needs a different strategy, which should:

  • Move Moscow away from a nuclear posture based on the ability to threaten or intimidate the U.S. and its allies and toward a fundamentally more defensive posture.
  • Submit a plan for the modernization of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and arsenal that is sufficient to sustain an effective nuclear arsenal.
  • Ensure that the new treaty is adequately verifiable. There is absolutely no rationale for rushing to sign the treaty if the verification mechanisms fall by the wayside.

These are the prerequisites for an acceptable treaty and the foundation for a new U.S. strategy.

Not a Good Start: The Future of Arms Control

Fact Sheet No. 43

In addition to reviewing fundamental arms control principles, as well as the Obama Administration’s desire to “reset” relations with Russia, this fact sheet provides several critical recommendations for a better arms control solution:

  • Pursue arms control conservatives support. Conservatives support efforts to reduce the likelihood of aggression and war, not just the number of armaments, and reduce America’s vulnerability to attack.
  • Protect and defend. The U.S. should pursue a “protect and defend” strategic posture, missile defense, and nuclear modernization.
  • Moscow Treaty. The U.S. should negotiate a verification and transparency protocol to the Moscow Treaty, which expires in 2012 and lacks detailed verification procedures.
  • Multilateralism. The U.S. and Russia should encourage other countries, such as China, to join an intermediate nuclear forces treaty, as well as the multilateral cooperative effort they have spearheaded to address the threat of nuclear-armed terrorism.

The U.S. should not pursue an overly ambitious arms-control strategy, try to conclude a START follow-on treaty at a breakneck pace, make unilateral concessions in order to conclude the negotiations and/or prevent a new arms race, accept a Russian strategic posture designed to threaten the U.S. and its allies, or further reduce its nuclear threshold.

Dangerous Trajectories: Obama’s Approach to Arms Control Misreads Russian Nuclear Strategy

Backgrounder No. 2338

As the deadline for START follow-on treaty negotiations approaches, U.S. policymakers need to focus on the long-term objectives rather than the short-term goal of simply concluding arms control agreements at any price. Specifically, the U.S. should:

  • Negotiate a transparent, verifiable, and enforceable protocol;
  • Pursue a “protect and defend” strategic posture;
  • Fight anti-Americanism with more effective public diplomacy; and
  • Propose a realistic, detailed, transparent, enforceable, and verifiable joint arms control and nonproliferation agenda.

Nuclear weapons have been center stage in U.S.–Russian relations since the 1950s. Today, both countries can avert a new Cold War and move beyond the “mutually assured destruction” paradigm of the 20th century.

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control for the Protect and Defend Strategy

Backgrounder No. 2266

The Obama Administration should observe the following eight rules in pursuing a new strategic nuclear arms limitation treaty with Russia:

  • The U.S. should not enter into a negotiation from which it is not willing to walk away.
  • Arms control should not become an end in itself.
  • In arms control, process should not dominate substance.
  • The U.S. should seek treaties in narrowly defined subject matters.
  • The U.S. should seek treaties that reduce the likelihood of conflict, not only the number of armaments.

As the Founding Fathers wrote into the Preamble of the Constitution, military forces are designed, first and foremost, to provide for the common defense. Diplomacy and arms control should be used to prevent aggression.

As the Obama Administration and the Senate consider the arms control options with Russia, they need to honor these fundamental principles. They should be determined to use arms control to test Russia’s willingness to commit to the same principles. If Russia proves unwilling to do so, arms control should and will fail.

Policies Needed to Protect America

Rather than pursuing arms control for the sake of arms control or to assuage the international community, the White House should focus on making the policy decisions that will best protect America.


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