Monday, December 20, 2010

START Should Be Stopped Not Rushed

President Obama has made one of the major fixtures of his foreign policy the reduction of nuclear weapons in the arsenals of both Russia and the United States. To that end on April 8th, 2010 he and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty- a.k.a. the New START treaty- that would reduce the number of nuclear warheads deployed by the U.S. from approximately 2,200 to 1,550.

A number of Republican senators, most notably Arizona Senators John Kyl and John McCain, have said that they have significant concerns about the New START treaty as it is currently constituted. They have also said that they will not vote for it in the lame duck session, as has Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

The concerns of these, and other, senators revolve manly around the treaty’s weakness on the verification front and what they say are provisions that would limit the ability of the United States to modernize our remaining warheads and develop and deploy missile defense systems in the future.

Also expressing their opposition to ratification of the treaty due to it’s flaws are defense, intelligence and military experts.

“According to Frank Gaffney, head of Center for Security Policy, the new S.T.A.R.T. is bad for America because:
·      It forces the U.S. to reduce its stockpile of nuclear weapons, and makes our existing nuclear arsenal unreliable
·      It gravely reduces the ability of the U.S. to defend itself by banning the use of missiles to shoot down incoming missiles
·      It compromises our sovereignty by creating a Bilateral Consultative Commission---which could open the U.S. up to more restrictions without Senate approval
·      It requires sharing missile defense secrets with Russia---who could then use that intelligence against us, or share it with rogue nations
·      It abandons President Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify” monitoring deal with Russia, undermining our ability to know what kind of missiles they are developing and testing
·      It forces the U.S. to eliminate as many as 150 delivery vehicles, even though they may be used for transporting conventional weapons, so it harms other military actions---and it allows Russia to ADD more than 130!
·      It does nothing to address the danger of nuclear terrorism, ignoring the threats we face from Iran and North Korea”

The fact that we will be reducing our ability to pursue missile defense is especially worrisome considering the threats we face go far beyond an unlikely attack from Russia itself. It’s far more likely that a future missile attack on the United States would come from a rogue nation like Iran, North Korea or Venezuela- or a terrorist group (like Hezbollah) acting as a proxy.

As Major General Paul E. Vallely, U.S. Army (retired) points out: Moscow markets a cruise missile launched from a freight container - Russia's Club-K Freight Container cruise missile. This relatively cheap, extra-smart, easy-to-use Club-K Container Missile System, which Moscow has put on the open market (Iran will be first acquirer), allows cruise missiles or Shehabs concealed in freight containers to be launched from a pre-positioned or moving land or sea platform container ship. I have warned of this spear and threat for years now with no response from the powers-to-be. It is virtually undetectable by radar until activated. No wonder, Iran and Venezuela were keenly interested when the Club-K was put on the market at the Defense Services Asia exhibition in Malaysia for $15 million”.

Obama’s new treaty, which Democrats in the Senate like John Kerry and Harry Reid seem bent on passing quickly- even hastily, does nothing to address these concerns. However the treaty may actually weaken our ability to defend ourselves from these emerging threats by putting restrictions on missile defense and requiring us to share missile defense secrets with the very nation that is marketing a cheap and already difficult to detect missile system to rogue nations that are not easily deterred in the first place.

The New START treaty seems to be not just shortsighted, but also a huge step back to a time when our defense policy was based on the idea of a Soviet Union that could be deterred by the idea of mutually assured destruction.

Brigadier General Jim Cash, U.S. Air Force (retired) had this to say about the treaty: “It should not be ratified in this runaway lame-duck Congress, where it is common to pass a bill so we can see what is in it.  I have no problem with reducing our nuclear weapons arsenal, as these weapons are expensive to maintain, and we have more than required for adequate deterrence.  I have a major problem with doing anything that restricts future upgrading [of] that arsenal, or creating a defense system that will render the ICBM obsolete.  That is exactly what Russia wants, as they cannot afford to develop such a system”.

Lt. General Thomas McInerney, U.S. Air Force (retired) added: “… I believe they should not ratify it until [the] Russians acknowledge that the preamble does not stop US Missile Defense efforts plus the Senate should have the minutes of the meetings available to them. Time is not critical now to ratify”.

One must question why President Obama is once again rushing to ram an important and sensitive item through the United States Senate during a lame duck session of Congress. Unlike the DREAM Act, this treaty is likely to gain bipartisan support and ratification once the legitimate concerns of lawmakers are addressed. This is not the kind of thing that should be done in a hasty fashion by a Senate that has one eye on the door before Christmas.

Article II, section 2, of the Constitution states that the president "shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur." This power and responsibility should not be taken lightly. Nor should the members of the Senate allow themselves to be pushed to vote on a flawed treaty, as potentially dangerous as this one, without first having all of their questions and concerns addressed.