May 14, 2010 | Commentary on Arms Control and Nonproliferation
It turns out the Russians got a great deal on the new Strategic Arms Reduc tion Treaty, which President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed in Prague last month.
At our expense, of course.
The bad news is late in leaking out because seemingly no one outside the government -- and likely few, if any, inside Congress -- got a look at the arms-control pact before the two leaders inked it.
But the treaty's problems should be front and center as early as next week, when the Senate starts hearings on it. (Like any US treaty, the new START requires the approval of 67 senators for ratification.)
Obama says he wants the Senate to pass the treaty before the November elections -- most likely for fear that a shift in political power to the right might scuttle an already leaky arms-control proposal.
Yet, from the looks of it, sinking it in the name of our national security might be the best thing to happen to the Son of START.
The key flaws:
* To meet the new START-mandated warhead limits of 1,500, the United States must eliminate nearly 80 more warheads than Russia does.
* Worse yet, America needs to get rid of as many as 150 delivery platforms (subs, bombers or silos) to reach the 700 limit; Russia can oddly add more than 130 vehicles.
That's right: Moscow can actually raise the number of its launch/delivery platforms under new START. In other words, the "reduction" in START applies mostly to us . . .
* US conventional warheads on ICBMs are counted toward the treaty's nuclear-warhead limit. This would strangle Prompt Global Strike -- a new ICBM armed with a non-nuclear payload that could be used globally on short notice.
That sort of quick, reach-out-and-touch-you capability would sure be nice if you knew where Osama bin Laden was going to be in an hour but didn't have any forces nearby.
The same is true for other quick-turnaround military scenarios that don't require nukes, such as taking out a WMD-armed ballistic missile ready for launch or vaporizing some counterspace weapons before they strike your satellites.
Then there's missile defense: The White House insists the treaty doesn't affect it, but the Kremlin's official take is very different: "[START] can operate and be viable if the United States of America refrains from developing its missile-defense capabilities quantitatively or qualitatively."
Not good news, considering Iran will have an ICBM as soon as 2015 -- and we don't have a comprehensive defense against it.
Plus, while treaty limitations may match this administration's (misguided) missile-defense vision, the question is whether START will hamstring future administrations dealing with yet-to-be-determined threats.
A sea of experts is also expressing concern that, in a world that is arming, not disarming, these major reductions in the US nuclear-force structure may create (or feed) an image of American weakness and decline.
They worry about whether a US drawdown would undermine American deterrence, a bedrock of our defense policy, encouraging other potential rivals to bolster their current or planned arsenals.
But Obama sees it differently, believing US leadership on disarmament (even unilateral) gives us greater moral standing in battling proliferation. But will others follow? Looking around the world, especially at Iran, North Korea and China, there's no evidence of "denuclearization discipleship."
Unfortunately, well-meaning objections to the treaty are coming after the ink has dried; talks with the Russians are difficult -- if not impossible -- to reopen now.
Some openness during the negotiations would've been nice. But transparency for this administration is selective and sometimes perplexing -- such as its recent, unilateral release of the previously classified number of nuclear weapons in our stockpile.
The Obama team may come to regret its secretiveness and "generosity" with our national security when the Senate begins to ask some tough questions on this treaty next week.
Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.
First appeared in the New York Post