The top 10 reasons why New START is a non-starter

James Carafano Director, Heritage Foundation's Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies
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# 10. An Out-moded, Unreliable Nuclear Arsenal Is No Deterrent. New START offers no assurance that the U.S. nuclear force will be an effective deterrent in the future. President Obama has already declared he won’t replace and modernize the nuclear arsenal. Yes, he said he would spend billions on the supporting infrastructure and called that “modernization.” But that’s like saying you’ll take your car to Jiffy-Lube and calling it a transportation system “modernization” initiative. Furthermore, Obama’s budget still underfunds our nuclear support structure — and delays most of the funding to out-years after the president’s term expires. Obama’s claim to the mantel of nuclear modernization is bogus.

#9. Making Russia a More Dominant Nuclear Power Is Bad Strategy. Why empower a country that invades and threatens its neighbors and works everyday to extinguish the light of democracy within its borders? That’s what this treaty will do. The Russians will not walk hand-in-hand with President Obama the full length of the “road to zero” (a world without nuclear weapons). Nukes remain the cornerstone of Russia’s military and foreign relations strategy. Even before New START negotiations began, Moscow had made clear it planned to reduce its stockpiles of aging, strategic nuclear weapons, replacing them with a combination of upgraded strategic and tactical nukes. New START accommodates that plan quite nicely. Russia’s 10,000-plus tactical nuclear weapons (a 10-to-one advantage over NATO) are not covered by the treaty. Under New START, the U.S. cuts more weapons and launchers than Russia. Indeed, it allows Moscow to build more launchers. Bottom line: The treaty assures that Russia will one day have a qualitative and quantitative advantage over the U.S.

#8. Reagan Would Have Hated New START. Conservatives are for arms control. President Reagan negotiated the largest reduction in nuclear arsenals in history. But Reagan believed in a “protect and defend” strategy, maintaining a first-class nuclear arsenal and robust missile defense rather than leave the innocents of both sides hostage to the threat of nuclear holocaust. Reagan believed that if you devalued nuclear weapons, fewer nations would want them. President Obama explicitly rejects this approach. His strategy repudiates Reagan’s vision for how to achieve a nuclear-free world.

#7. We Could All Die. Again and again, President Obama has cast New START as the first step on the “road to zero.” But by intentionally diminishing America’s stature as a nuclear power, the treaty effectively “lowers the bar” for other nations that might seek to become established nuclear powers. The perverse outcome of Obama’s “road to zero,” then, will be to encourage proliferation of nuclear weapons among more nations, not less. Pursuing nuclear disarmament in a proliferated world without employing missile defense and maintaining credible nuclear deterrence increases instability, which can lead to nuclear war. Moreover, it is likely that New START will fail to protect the U.S. and its allies from attack, to provide verification of existing programs, and to prevent nuclear proliferation.

#6. Compromising on Missile Defense Is Bad. The Russians have publicly stated that the treaty limits future U.S. missile defense options. The president denies that. But when two parties to a treaty disagree as to what it means … that’s not good. Beyond the Russian pronouncements, there is good reason to believe the treaty restricts our missile defense capabilities. After the treaty signing, the White House issued a “fact sheet” declaring that it imposed no limits on missile defense. It then withdrew the fact sheet and issued a new one — one that now omitted that “fact.” President Obama may not be troubled by additional barriers to building a comprehensive missile defense. After all, he has already cut the missile interceptor force for protecting the U.S. by 44 percent. However, future presidents who are serious about missile defense would be hamstrung by this treaty, which would be in effect for 10 years.

#5. Giving Away Secrets is Not Smart. The treaty requires sharing Telemetric Information that includes missile defense test flight data. Russia might use that information to help devise ways to counter U.S. missile defenses. Or Moscow might share the data with countries like Iran.

# 4. Compromising on Sovereignty is Not Good. The treaty creates an independent Bilateral Consultative Commission with a broad mandate to promote the objectives of the treaty. This broadly worded mandate could allow the Commission to impose additional restrictions on our missile defense program.

#3. Abandoning “Trust But Verify” is a Mistake. Reagan’s old arms control mantra is as apt and necessary as ever. We know the Russians have been cheating on implementation of arms control agreements for years. We also know that the combination of the Moscow Treaty and the original START agreement would have put in place a more comprehensive verification regime than what is in the New START agreement.

#2. Letting Terrorists Get Their Hands on Nuclear Weapons is Suicidal. Russia has thousands of tactical nuclear weapons that Bin Laden would love to get a hold of. The mass-murdering terrorist calls getting and using these weapons “a sacred goal.” New START does nothing to address Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons or the danger of nuclear terrorism. New START is like painting the house when you are worried about arsonists — investing a lot of effort in something that does not deal with the threat.

#1. Iran and North Korea Are the Real Danger (and China Bears Watching Too). These countries would love to have America in their nuclear cross-hairs. They are willing and able to proliferate materials, technology, and assistance to other adversarial countries. Their actions could well provoke nations friendly to the U.S. (countries no longer confident that our shrinking nuclear umbrella is sufficient to protect them) to develop independent nuclear weapons programs of their own as a countermeasure. President Obama’s myopic focus on hashing out a New START treaty that will have the Nobel Awards committee high-fiving ignores these greater threats. Russia has done nothing of substance to help slow the Iranian nuclear program. And China is using Russia’s revitalization of its strategic nuclear arsenal as an excuse to step-up its own modernization program. Just last week we learned that North Korea has a lot more nuclear capability than we thought.

New START is a deeply flawed, counterproductive treaty that demonstrates this administration’s failure to keep its eye on the nuclear ball. Conservatives oppose the treaty not because they are “partisan” (as the White House routinely claims) but because they see the treaty as useless in limiting proliferation, detrimental to missile defense, and counter to the purpose of defense treaties — defending and protecting America from her enemies.

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