December 7, 2010 | Commentary on Arms Control and Nonproliferation
For two election cycles in a row, a frustrated American people voted to throw out the incumbent party because they did not like how Washington was operating. In 2008 the Republicans lost the White House and in 2010 the Democrats lost the House. The message from the American people is clear: stop the cynical backroom deal-making and start addressing our nation's problems in a principled way. But some in Washington just refuse to hear this message. The Washington Post reported last week that the White House is offering to allow a temporary extension of current tax rates in exchange for ratification of the New START treaty. Worse, some Republicans are considering the deal.
New START either is, or is not, good for national security; we think it's not. Senators should vote on the merits of New START by itself. It is absolutely shameful that any senator from any party would use New START as a bargaining chip on tax policy.
Speaking to the French Minister of Defense in February, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates purportedly said that "Russian democracy has disappeared" and that "the government was an oligarchy run by the security services." Fast forward to a CNN broadcast, where the Batman of Russia's oligarchy, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, threatened the U.S. with a new arms race unless senators acquiesce to President Barack Obama's New START treaty. Putin tells CNN it would take "a very dumb nature" for the Senate not to pass the treaty and that if they don't give in, "then we'll have to react somehow," including the deployment of new nuclear missile technology.
Putin's statements come on the back of news that, in defiance of pledges made to the U.S. in the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives of the 1990s, Russia moved short-range tactical nuclear warheads to facilities near NATO borders earlier this spring. And according to U.S. intelligence, Iran recently received 19 BM-25 missiles from North Korea that are capable of reaching European cities. Don't worry though, Putin also tells CNN about Iran: "But such a threat, as of now, doesn't exist."
Putin and President Obama believe that New START is a great deal for our national security. But not everyone agrees. Former CIA Director James Woolsey, former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph, and former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman have all argued that New START actually weakens our defenses. The Heritage Foundation has identified 12 flaws of New START, including the following:
•Unacceptable limits to missile defense. The Obama administration claims that New START contains no limits or constraints on our ability to protect ourselves through missile defense. This is false. There are at least five sections that limit missile defense.
•Inadequate verification regime. Edelman and Joseph warn: Those who are pushing a rush to judgment appear willing to ignore the long-held standard "trust but verify" by overlooking the monitoring gaps created by the treaty. While the on-site visits and data exchanges allowed under the treaty are valuable, New START abandons on-the-ground monitoring of Russia's missile-manufacturing facility and permits Russia to withhold telemetry of some of its missile tests, undermining our ability to know both what is being produced and what is being developed.
•Tactical nukes ignored. While the exact numbers are not public, Russia reportedly has a several-fold numerical advantage over the U.S. in tactical nuclear weapons like the ones moved close to our NATO allies this spring. Proponents of the treaty argue that New START is essential for keeping nukes away from terrorists. There is a real threat that terrorists could get nuclear weapons. But the nukes that are most vulnerable to terrorist threats are tactical nuclear weapons – which are not covered by New START.
•Rail-mobile ICBMs exempted. The definitions of rail-mobile ICBMs and rail-mobile ICBM launchers established in the expired START, which applied to the associated restrictions and limitations in START, are not in New START. The Obama administration asserts that rail-mobile ICBMs and launchers are captured by the treaty under generic definitions of deployed ICBMs. But Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Russian State Duma International Affairs Committee, has stated the opposite.
New START is great deal for Russia. But while Putin can be sanguine about the threats posed to the U.S. by Iran and North Korea, U.S. senators cannot.
Conn Carroll is the assistant director for The Heritage Foundation's Strategic Communications.
First appeared in The Orange County Register