The START Treaty: Undermining National Security

Undermines America's Deterrence Strategy

  • START: After more than a year of negotiations on a follow-on to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev reached an agreement. While many arms control advocates are jubilant about a 30% reduction in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, larger questions linger.
  • No Priority on Defense: President Obama has slashed the defense budget and pulled back on building a comprehensive missile defense system. Now he wants to destroy weapons in the name of diplomacy when Iran and North Korea are developing nuclear capabilities. The Administration’s claim that this treaty will induce Iran to discontinue developing nuclear weapons is, at best, misguided. Tehran wants these weapons to intimidate us and its neighbors.
  • Protecting America in the New Missile AgeTimes Are Different: When President Reagan originally proposed the predecessor treaty, the world was dominated by only two superpowers. But the world today is much different, with many nations having nuclear capabilities.

Opens Way for Russian Vetoes of U.S. Missile Defense

  • Dangerously Links Offensive Weapons with Missile Defense: When President Obama abandoned missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic during early START negotiations, he unwisely played into Russia’s strategy to link these weapons.
  • Misperceptions: While the Administration insists the text of the treaty imposes no constraints on testing, development, or deployment of current or planned U.S. missile defense programs, Russia has stated that there is indeed a “legally binding linkage between strategic offensive and strategic defensive weapons.”

Questions About Modernization, Verification, and Transparency

  • Verification: Russia has a history of violating arms control agreements, and verifying the number of deployed warheads in its arsenal is difficult. The treaty will allow for warhead estimates based on the number of launchers, but it is unclear whether it will provide a method to ensure Russia doesn’t put more than the estimate on each launcher.
  • Abandoned: When the START treaty expired in December, the U.S. had to abandon a monitoring station for Russian weapons in Votkinsk. The U.S. is now unable to monitor Russia’s production of the highly destabilizing RS-24 mobile multi-warhead intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Open sources indicate that this missile will be the mainstay of Russian strategic forces by 2016.
  • Modernization: Some arms control advocates insist that the U.S. has a robust nuclear modernization program, which is simply inaccurate. America’s nuclear infrastructure is rapidly aging, is in deep atrophy, and is losing its reliability and effectiveness. The U.S. is not producing or testing nuclear weapons, and its aging ICBM force is shrinking.
  • Others Are Modernizing: Russia and China are engaged in major modernization efforts. On December 16, 2009, 41 U.S. Senators voiced concern and sent the President a letter saying they will oppose the new treaty if it does not include specific plans for nuclear modernization as stipulated in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010.

The Road Ahead

  • U.S. Conventional Forces Adversely Affected: The treaty also applies to bombers and launchers that could be used for conventional purposes, which will put more reliance on nuclear weapons.
  • Bad Policy Should Be Rejected: Signing arms control treaties to score public relations points in pursuit of a “getting to zero” nuclear pipe dream is bad policy. The Senate should not be rushed into ratifying a treaty that would undermine national security.

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