The START Treaty Must Be Opposed

Thursday, 16 Dec 2010 01:28 PM

By Newsmax Editorial

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Within days, maybe hours, the U.S. Senate will vote on ratifying the New START treaty.

If approved, it will be a dangerous and capricious move that will undermine our security for years to come.

Some Senate Republicans appear ready to cave in to the strong-arm tactics the Obama administration and Sen. Harry Reid are using in their effort to ram through a lame-duck Congress one of the most sweeping nuclear treaties the United States has ever signed, a treaty that has many problems that could jeopardize America's national security.

Make no mistake about it: Limiting nuclear weapons on all sides is a worthy call. As President Ronald Reagan said, "A nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought."

But Reagan also understood that treaties with the Russians must be made deliberatively, be fair to both sides, be verifiable, and be linked to good behavior on the Russians’ part.

None of these attributes would be complied with fully if the United States signed New START today.

Indeed, many who played central roles in Reagan’s arms-control strategy that led to the end of the Cold War are warning that it would be a major mistake to sign and ratify New START.

Among those with sterling conservative credentials urging Senate Republicans to oppose the unprecedented move to pass a major international treaty during a lame-duck session of Congress: former Assistant Defense Secretary Richard Perle, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, former national security adviser William P. Clark, former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III, former Reagan administration Assistant Secretary of Defense and Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney, and many more.

“We already know there is galactic disagreement between what Russia and the Obama administration say the treaty portends for missile defense,” columnist Andrew C. McCarthy writes on NationalReview.com.

So why the rush to ratify an agreement the meaning of which the principals already disagree on?

Especially when the treaty depends on the good faith of one Vladimir Putin, who ordered Soviet tanks to roll into Georgia as recently as 18 months ago in a reckless military adventure that cost hundreds of civilian lives.

In striking a deal that Russian leaders are delighted with, President Barack Obama conveniently overlooks the fact that his “strategic partner,” Vladimir Putin, is no Mikhail Gorbachev — tragically, far from it.

In fact, Putin has waved a big cudgel to get the Senate to go along with the treaty: If they don’t approve it, he threatens a new arms race and a buildup in Russian forces. And that’s the negotiating partner that the administration, desperate to counter the nuclear ambitions of Iran, has determined to be trustworthy.

When Republicans noted that the preamble of the treaty appears to hand the Russians the long-sought weapon they need to eviscerate the U.S. edge in development of a missile shield to guard against rogue nuclear attacks from Iran or elsewhere, the administration downplayed the significance of treaty language.

As Obama might say: Words matter!

When Senate Republicans offered an amendment to clarify the preamble to ensure the United States can develop missile defenses, Democrats blocked it.

A greater concern, however, is the Russian negotiators’ insistence that President Obama did in fact negotiate a de facto prohibition on further U.S. development of its missile defenses.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declared that the missile defense strictures are “clearly spelled out in the treaty” and “legally binding.”

Understandably concerned over how such a drastic schism already could exist in the treaty’s interpretation, Republicans asked the administration to release the extensive diplomatic record of the negotiations. The administration has stonewalled that request — but insists it has nothing to hide.

Missouri’s Sen. Kit Bond, who has seen some of the documentation, is urging fellow senators to vote against the measure because he says it is virtually unverifiable.

Perhaps the most serious and immediate flaw is that the treaty ignores the vast imbalance between U.S. and Russian tactical nuclear forces.

By some estimates, Russia maintains 10,000 or more of these smaller tactical nuclear warheads, which can be delivered via artillery shells, cruise missile, short-range tactical missiles, and aircraft.

The post-Cold War U.S. inventory is in the hundreds by some estimates.

Yet the treaty, which would freeze missile launchers at 1,550 for each side, willfully ignores the massive Russian advantage in tactical weapons.

Despite these flaws, a host of Republican senators appear to be lining up to support a treaty that is being pushed through the Senate without proper deliberation, during a lame-duck Congress, no less.

Key senators said to favor New Start include Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John McCain of Arizona, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and George Voinovich of Ohio. Anyone who wonders why there is such a headlong rush to ratify a treaty that raises grave national-security issues should contact them and demand an answer.

Other shortcomings the treaty raises include:
  • Like any treaty, New START is only as solid as the inspection regime that backs it up. Critics say the verification measures in the treaty are far weaker than previous arms reduction deals.
  • Russia already is widely believed to be in violation of other international accords. It failed to abide by international agreements to withdraw all of its forces from South Ossetia following the war in Georgia, and the Strategic Posture Commission has declared that Russia “is no longer in compliance” with agreements to limit deployment of tactical nuclear weapons.
  • Russia has been loath to cooperate with international sanctions against Iran and has provided anti-aircraft missiles to Venezuela, a close ally of Iran.
  • Also, Russia continues to engage in Soviet-style espionage against the United States. The latest example was the discovery of a massive Russian “sleeper cell” network in the United States.
  • Washington Times columnist Bill Gertz recently revealed that a State Department memo extensively documents secret talks between the Russians and the administration on missile defense — despite assurances that no such deal was being discussed. McCarthy writes: “Obama not only is philosophically opposed to robust missile defense, but has actually reneged on missile-defense commitments the nation made to Poland and the Czech Republic.”
  • Because the new treaty would limit launchers, it encourages the Cold War-era practice of MIRVing, that is, placing multiple warheads on a single missile. The SS-18 of that period was called a “city-buster” because each launcher contained 10 missiles that could be independently targeted to rain death on U.S. cities.
  • The treaty does not constrain the quality of offensive missiles. Russia is embarking on an extensive modernization program. The administration has promised to do the same for U.S. missiles, but so far the funds have not been requested.
The greatest reason to suspect the true motivations behind the treaty is the inexplicable, headlong rush to ratify it.

Former U.N. Ambassador Bolton points out that, because the administration was unable to meet its Dec. 5 deadline to implement a new inspection regime for ongoing verification, there is no way to know what the Russian military may be doing to make verification more difficult. A simple bridging agreement on verification would be adequate to maintain the current level of security until New START could receive a more thorough review by the new, incoming Congress, he writes.

The Cold War has ended, but Russia continues to maintain a state-of-the-art strategic and tactical nuclear force. This fact, coupled with the questionable fate of democracy in Russia and moves toward authoritarianism there, should give the U.S. Senate pause about signing such a far reaching arms treaty.

Newsmax strongly urges the Senate to table New START for consideration before the new Congress that sits next month. Then, ample time should be given to examine the treaty and appropriate changes made to insure it complies with the Reagan model for such treaties: fair, verifiable, reliable.

Note: It's important to let your senator know how you feel about New START. The vote on the treaty will take place soon. Please call your senator in Washington today at 202-224-3121.


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