More than 30 former defense or foreign policy government officials and related experts issued an open letter to the Senate Monday expressing their “professional judgment” that President Barack Obama’s proposed nuclear weapons reduction treaty with the Russians, called New START, “is not consistent with the national security interests of the United States,” and “should be rejected by the U.S. Senate,” which is considering it now.
They argue that Russia easily could cheat secretly to our detriment, that it would restrict deployment of new U.S. anti-missile defenses, that it would reduce the survivability and flexibility of our our strategic forces and could be militarily destabilizing, that it permits a continued large Russian superiority in overall nuclear weapons, and that resulting insecurity among our allies about continued extended deterrence could lead to intensified production and proliferation of nuclear weapons — all unintended, harmful consequences, the opposite of the Obama administration’s announced goals for the agreement.
Among the many signers are: Ambassador Ed Rowny, former U.S. chief START negotiator; Vice Adm. Robert Monroe, U.S. Navy (Ret), former director, Defense Nuclear Agency; Judge William Clark, former national security adviser to President Reagan; Honorable Paula DeSutter, former assistant secretary of State for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation; Honorable Fred Ikle, former director, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Ambassador Read Hammer, former deputy director, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and former chief U.S. START Negotiator; Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerny, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), former deputy chief of staff; Ambassador John Bolton, former undersecretary of State for arms control and international security, and former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.; Ambassador Henry Cooper, former director, Strategic Defense Initiative of the Department of Defense, and former U.S. chief negotiator, Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union; and Hon. Edwin Meese, III, former counselor to the president and former U.S. attorney general.
More specifically, despite Obama administration claims to the contrary, the former officials and experts say that the proposed New START treaty has the following major problems, among others:
- It would effectively limit further U.S. anti-missile defenses for the American homeland in the face of growing rogue nation/terrorist nuclear threats, saying “it would be folly to limit, let alone preclude, available options to do so” in the future.
- It "is simply not adequately verifiable,”and “the Russians could engage in militarily significant violations with little fear of detection by the U.S.,” with years being needed before we could respond adequately.
- It “would reduce the survivability and flexibility of our (strategic) forces.”
- Its low limits on the number of nuclear launchers could end up being militarily and strategically destabilizing;
- It would solidify a large Russian superiority in nuclear weapons when considering its 10-to-1 advantage in tactical nuclear weapons, many of which have strategic capabilities and roles, and which have been termed an “urgent” problem by the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission.
- It could force cuts in some of our vital conventional capabilities (i.e., heavy bombers) as well.
- It would “create concerns” among our allies about America’s continuing extended deterrent capability to protect them, which could lead to “intensified proliferation” of nuclear weapons.
- "It is unnecessary and ill-advised for the US to make these sorts of deep reductions in its strategic forces” so that the Russians are authorized/enabled to modernize and build up to our levels.
The statement closes by saying, “For all these reasons, we urge the members of the U.S. Senate to resist pressure to consider the New START Treaty during the lame-duck session. The Senate should reject this accord and begin instead a long overdue and vitally needed process of modernization of the nuclear stockpile and refurbishment of the weapons complex that supports it. Only by taking such steps can we ensure that we will, in fact, have the 'safe, secure, and effective deterrent' that even President Obama says we will need for the foreseeable future.”
Following is the text of the letter and the signers:
OPEN LETTER TO THE U.S. SENATE on the New START Treaty
As you know, President Obama insists that the United States Senate advise and consent during the present lame-duck session to the bilateral U.S.-Russian strategic arms control treaty known as "New START" that he signed earlier this year in Prague. It is our considered professional judgment that this treaty and the larger disarmament agenda which its ratification would endorse are not consistent with the national security interests of the United States, and that both should be rejected by the Senate.
Administration efforts to compel the Senate to vote under circumstances in which an informed and full debate are effectively precluded is inconsistent with your institution's precedents, its constitutionally mandated quality-control responsibilities with respect to treaties and, in particular, the critical deliberation New START requires in light of that accord's myriad defects, of which the following are especially problematic:
• It is unnecessary and ill-advised for the United States to make these sorts of deep reductions in its strategic forces in order to achieve sharp cuts in those of the Russian Federation. After all, the Kremlin's strategic systems have not been designed for long service lives. Consequently, the number of deployed Russian strategic intercontinental-range ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and long-range, nuclear-capable bombers will drop dramatically, with or without a new arms control agreement.
Russian sources indicate that, within eight-to-nine years, Russian Federation's inventory of strategic launchers will have shrunk from approximately 680 launchers today (some of which already are no longer operational) to approximately 270 launchers, simply as a result of the aging of their systems and the pace of their modernization program. By contrast, the service life of existing U.S. systems extends several decades. In other words, the Russians are going to undergo a substantial contraction in the size of its strategic nuclear arsenal, whether we do or not.
There are serious downsides for the United States in moving to the sorts of low numbers of strategic launchers called for in the New START Treaty. These include:
• New START would encourage placing more warheads on the remaining launchers, i.e., "MIRVing" — which is precisely what the Russians are doing. Moving away from heavily MIRVed strategic launchers has long been considered a highly stabilizing approach to the deployment of strategic forces — and a key U.S. START goal.
• New START would reduce the survivability and flexibility of our forces — which is exactly the wrong posture to be adopting in the uncertain and dynamic post-Cold War strategic environment. The bipartisan Congressional Strategic Posture Commission concluded that "preserving the resilience and survivability of U.S. forces" is essential. The very low launcher levels required by New START are at odds with both of those necessary conditions.
• New START's low ceilings on launchers and warheads can only create concerns about America's extended deterrent. Allied nations have privately warned that the United States must not reduce its strategic force levels to numbers so low that they call into question the credibility of the U.S. nuclear umbrella or encourage China to see an opportunity to achieve strategic parity with the United States. Some of those who have long looked to us for security may feel constrained to develop and field their own deterrents — a formula for intensified proliferation.
• New START's limitations could result in the destruction of U.S. multi-purpose strategic bombers, affecting not only the robustness of our nuclear deterrent but cutting into our conventional capabilities, as well.
• Were the United States to slash its strategic nuclear forces to match those the Russians can afford, it would ironically ensure that it has far fewer nuclear weapons — not parity with the Kremlin — when the latter's ten-to-one advantage in tactical weapons is taken into account. The Russians have consistently refused to limit their tactical nuclear arms, and will surely continue to do so in the future, especially since Moscow has little incentive to negotiate limitations on such weapons when the numbers are so asymmetrical.
This stance should not be surprising since it is this category of weaponry that makes up the bulk of Moscow's nuclear stockpile. Russian doctrine emphasizes the war-fighting utility of such weapons and their modernization and exercising remain a priority for the Kremlin. In fact, some of those weapons with an explosive power comparable to, if not greatly in excess of, that of the Hiroshima bomb are believed to be aboard submarines and routinely targeted at the United States. Others are targeted against our allies. These were among the reasons that prompted the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission to identify the Russian tactical nuclear arsenal as an "urgent" problem.
Such capabilities constitute a real asymmetric advantage for Moscow. What is more, given that these Russian tactical nuclear weapons are of greatest concern with regard to the potential for nuclear war and proliferation, we cannot safely ignore their presence in large numbers in Russia's arsenal. It is certainly ill-advised to make agreements reducing our nuclear deterrent that fail to take them into account.
• New START imposes de facto or de jure limitations on such important U.S. non-nuclear capabilities as prompt global strike and missile defenses. In the future, the nation is likely to need the flexibility to field both in quantity. It would be folly to limit, let alone effectively preclude, available options to do so.
• New START is simply not adequately verifiable. Lest assurances that the treaty will be "effectively" verifiable obscure that reality, the truth is that the Russians could engage in militarily significant violations with little fear of detection by the United States. And, for reasons discussed below, it could take years before we could respond appropriately.
These and other deficiencies of the New START treaty are seriously exacerbated by the context in which Senators are being asked to consent to its ratification. Specifically, the Senate's endorsement of this accord would amount to an affirmation of the disarmament agenda for which it is explicitly said to be a building block — namely, Mr. Obama's stated goal of "ridding the world of nuclear weapons."
This goal has shaped the administration's Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and would, if left unchanged, condemn the United States to a posture of unilateral nuclear disarmament. (See, in this regard, the attached essay by Vice Admiral Robert Monroe, which appeared in The Wall Street Journal on Aug. 25, 2010.) By precluding the development and production of new nuclear weapons and the realistic testing of those currently in the stockpile and by "devaluing" the role played by these weapons and the mission of those responsible for maintaining our deterrent, the NPR sets the stage for the continued obsolescence and atrophying of our arsenal. No other nuclear power is engaged in such behavior. And, given our global security responsibilities and the growing dangers from various quarters, neither should we.
For all these reasons, we urge you to resist pressure to consider the New START Treaty during the lame-duck session. The Senate should reject this accord and begin instead a long-overdue and vitally needed process of modernization of the nuclear stockpile and refurbishment of the weapons complex that supports it. Only by taking such steps can we ensure that we will, in fact, have the "safe, secure and effective deterrent" that even President Obama says we will need for the foreseeable future.
Judge William P. Clark, former national security adviser to the president
Hon. Edwin Meese III, former counselor the president; former U.S. attorney general
Hon. Kathleen Bailey, former assistant director, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
Norman Bailey, former senior director of International Economic Affairs
Hon. Robert B. Barker, former assistant to the secretary of Defense (atomic energy)
Amb. John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, former undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, former assistant secretary of State for international organization affairs
Brig. Gen. Jimmy L. Cash, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), former vice commander, 7th Air Force
Honorable Fred S. Celec, former assistant to thesecretary of Defense for nuclear and chemical and biological defense programs
Ambassador Henry F. Cooper, former director, Strategic Defense Initiative, former chief U.S. negotiator, defense and space talks with the Soviet Union
Honorable Paula DeSutter, former assistant secretary of State for verification, compliance, and implementation
Honorable Fritz W. Ermarth, former chairman and national intelligence officer, National Intelligence Council; former member of the National Security Council staff
Frank J. Gaffney Jr., former assistant secretary of Defense for international security policy (acting)
Daniel J. Gallington, former secretary of Defense representative, defense and space talks; former general counsel, United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and former special assistant to the secretary of Defense for policy
Honorable Bruce S. Gelb, former director, U.S. Information Agency, former ambassador to Belgium
Honorable William Graham, former chairman, General Advisory Committee on Arms Control, former science adviser to the president, former deputy administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Ambassador Read Hammer, former U.S. chief START negotiator; former deputy director, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
Honorable Fred Iklé, former undersecretary of Defense for policy
Sven F. Kraemer, former arms control director, National Security Council
Dr. John Lenczowksi, former director of European and Soviet affairs, National Security Council
Admassador James "Ace" Lyons Jr., U.S. Navy (Ret.), former commander in chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet
Tidal W. McCoy, former secretary of the Air Force (acting)
Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), former deputy chief of staff
Honorable J. William Middendorf II, former secretary of the Navy, former ambassador to the European Union, the Netherlands, and the Organization of American States
Vice Adm. Robert Monroe, U.S. Navy (Ret.), former director, Defense Nuclear Agency
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, former senior staff, Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States; former senior staff, Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack
Roger W. Robinson Jr., former senior director of International Economic Affairs at the National Security Council, former executive secretary of the Cabinet-level Senior Inter-Governmental Group for International Economic Policy
Ambassador Ed Rowny, former U.S. chief START negotiator; former special adviser to President Ronald Reagan on arms control
Michael S. Swetnam, former program monitor, intelligence community staff with liaison responsibilities to INF and START Interagency Groups, and former member of the Technical Advisory Group to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely, U.S. Army (Ret.), former deputy commander, U.S. Army Pacific
Honorable Michelle Van Cleave, former national counterintelligence executive
Dr. William Van Cleave, former director, Department of Defense Transition Team
Honorable Troy Wade, former director, Defense Programs, U.S. Department of Energy
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