October 29, 2009

October 29, 2009 | Factsheet on Missile Defense

Not a Good Start: The Future of Arms Control

The Reset Button?

  • Bilateral Relations: President Obama has made overt efforts to "reset" bilateral relations with Russia--even while Russia continues to call the U.S. its "principal adversary." Moscow publicly applauds U.S. disarmament and arms control efforts while they continue a strong and abiding commitment to nuclear weapons.
  • Increasing Militarization: Russia is reviving Mutually Assured Destruction targeting plans, restarting bombing flights along the Atlantic and Pacific, conducting military visits to Cuba and Venezuela, and building bases in the Arab world. With increasing militarization comes modernization of nuclear weapons.
  • Russian's Nuclear Deterrent: Nuclear deterrence is Russia's most cost-effective way to preserve security given its deficiencies in its conventional forces and difficulty deploying high-tech weapons.
  • Protect America in the New Missile Age graphicRussia in Violation: Critics say Russia is already violating existing arms control agreements, including the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

Arms Control Principles

  • Be Constitutional: Arms-control initiatives must be consistent with the constitutional mandate to "provide for the common defence." Arms control agreements that leave America vulnerable should not receive support.
  • Be Ready to Walk Away: The U.S. should enter arms-control negotiations only if it is willing to walk away from them, as President Reagan did in Reykjavik after the Soviet Union demanded that the U.S. scrap missile defense. Reagan nevertheless achieved the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987 and put in place arrangements for concluding the START and the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty.
  • Remain Strong: The U.S. should always negotiate from a position of strength. Making concessions without obtaining comparable concessions from the other side risks making America vulnerable and is interpreted as a sign of weakness.
  • Substance Over Process: The arms-control process shouldn't be permitted to dominate the substance of the negotiations. The U.S. shouldn't accept a deal merely because it would preserve the process.
  • Focused and Verifiable: Arms-control measures are likely to succeed if the subject matter is focused and adequately verifiable. As Reagan said: "Trust, but verify."
  • Enforceable and Enforced: Arms-control measures are likely to succeed if the U.S. is willing to declare a treaty partner in material breach and take countervailing military steps in response.
  • Honor Commitments: The U.S. should never enter into arms control agreements that would call into question or undermine its alliance commitments.

A Better Arms Control Solution

  • 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 verifications 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, nor further reduction of the nuclear threshold.

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