The Hartung Test

James Carafano Director, Heritage Foundation's Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies
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If William Hartung really believes what he wrote about the New START treaty, he ought to be dead set against it. Seriously.

On the issue of “whether New START will place limits on U.S. missile defense development efforts,” Hartung declares, “The short answer to this question is ‘no.’”

If that’s true, then he should have a real problem with the treaty. After all, he started out by arguing that “while START leaves open the possibility of deploying as extensive a missile defense system as possible, there are good reasons to not to do so.” Well, if that’s true and he thinks comprehensive missile defense really is dangerous and destabilizing, then he ought to be the first to stand up and denounce Obama’s treaty as inadequate. He ought to be insisting on language that limits missile defense.

The Senate should put Hartung’s assertion that the treaty will not limit missile defenses to the test. It should remove every reference of missile defense from the treaty. Then we’ll see if the Russian Duma still ratifies the treaty.

Russian officials have stated that they believe the present text limits future defenses — and that’s one of the reasons they want the treaty. When viewed together, it’s clear that the treaty’s preamble, the Russian unilateral statement on missile defense, and remarks by senior Russian officials suggest an attempt by Russia to limit or constrain future U.S. missile defense capabilities by threatening to withdraw from the treaty should the U.S. expand its current capabilities.

Hartung also cites current and former officials who say there are no problems with the treaty. I can just as easily point to a number of former senior officials and experts who are deeply concerned.

Furthermore, Hartung wrongly asserts that those concerned with the treaty have forgotten Reagan’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons. Here he is dead wrong. We shared Reagan’s vision in living in a world without the threat of nuclear Armageddon. We believe that effective and comprehensive missile defenses are a key — indeed, the most vital part of achieving that vision. We also believe there are far better roads to zero than the one mapped out by New START.

The Senate has pushed off passing the treaty out of the Foreign Relations Committee. That was a prudent step. Hartung’s cheerleading aside, it is clear that some have some real concerns about what is in the treaty and whether it is ready for prime time.

Treaties concerning nuclear weapons are too important to rush to judgment.

James Jay Carafano is senior research fellow for national security at The Heritage Foundation.