Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The New START is a Bad Start for Obama

The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed in Prague last month, is a great deal –for the Russians. Unfortunately, very few people outside the government -- and very few inside Congress -- got a look at the arms-control pact before the two leaders signed it. That may change soon as the Senate starts hearings on it. (Like any US treaty, the new START requires the approval of 67 senators for ratification.)

President Obama is pressuring the Senate to pass the treaty before the November elections – probably out of fear that a shift in political power to the right might sink the already leaky arms-control proposal (which, in the name of our national security might be the best thing to happen to the Son of START).

Here is a summary of the main defects:

* To meet the new START-mandated warhead limits of 1,500, the United States must eliminate nearly 80 more warheads than the Russia need to.

* The U.S. needs to get rid of approximately 150 delivery platforms (that includes submarines, bombers or missile silos) to reach the 700 limit; But, under the terms agreed to by President Obama, Russia can actually add more than 130 vehicles (That's right: Moscow can actually raise the number of its launch/delivery platforms under the new START).

(Apparently, the "reduction" in START applies mostly to us . . .)

* US conventional warheads on ICBMs are counted toward the treaty's nuclear-warhead limit. This would stop the 'Prompt Global Strike' program-- a new ICBM armed with a non-nuclear payload that could be used globally on short notice (a capability that would sure be nice if you knew where Osama bin Laden was going to be in an hour but didn't have any forces nearby).

Then there's missile defense: The White House insists the treaty doesn't affect it, but the Kremlin's official take is very different: "[START] can operate and be viable if the United States of America refrains from developing its missile-defense capabilities quantitatively or qualitatively."

Not good news, considering Iran will have an ICBM as soon as 2015 -- and we don't have a comprehensive defense against it.

While these treaty limitations may match this administration's (misguided) missile-defense vision, the question is whether START will hamstring future administrations dealing with yet-to-be-determined threats. A sea of experts is also expressing concern that, in a world that is arming, not disarming, these major reductions in the US nuclear-force structure may create (or feed) an image of American weakness and decline.

They worry about whether a US draw-down would undermine American deterrence, a bedrock of our defense policy.

Unfortunately, well-meaning objections to the treaty are coming after the ink has dried; talks with the Russians are difficult -- if not impossible -- to reopen now. Some openness during the negotiations would've been nice. However, transparency for this administration is selective and sometimes perplexing -- such as its recent, unilateral release of the previously classified number of nuclear weapons in our stockpile.

Hopefully, the Obama team may come to regret its secretiveness and "generosity" with our national security when the Senate begins to ask some tough questions on this treaty.

Something on the Lighter Side:


No comments: