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State of START

December 22nd, 2010

Despite concerns that the new START’s preamble contains language that links our strategic missile offense with defense, the U.S. Senate voted 59-37 to reject a Republican amendment that would have modified the preamble’s language.

The treaty heads for a ratification vote, as the Senate voted 67-28 to end debate. Who would have thought in the wake of a Republican takeover of the House that the troubled START would be so close to becoming ratified?

The Heritage Foundation’s Baker Spring said senators should not expect funding for modernizing nuclear weapons in exchange for approving START. The linkage is illusory. From The Foundry:

“Senators should understand that no matter how they may wish it were so, their vote will not get them any long-term funding for nuclear modernization. There is no deal. Moreover, Senators should also not be intimidated by the threat to withdraw this money if New START is not approved by the Senate.

“By threatening to withhold funding unless the treaty is ratified, this is playing crass politics with U.S. national security. Conditioning funding for nuclear program on New START is playing politics with our national security. If funds are needed for the most vital and sensitive military capability in the military’s arsenal, they should never be held hostage to a political deal. To bargain with the nation’s security is the antithesis of the appropriate behavior of the body charged to ‘provide for the common defense.’ If the dollars are needed, they should be provided without conditions—period.”

The Senate likely will approve START during the lame-duck session. Why have Republican senators capitulated to a policy they suspect will hamstring our missile defense strategy, while Russia gives up virtually nothing?

Sarah Palin Urges ‘No’ Vote on START

December 17th, 2010

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin weighs in the START vote at National Review Online’s The Corner. An excerpt:

“The proposed New START agreement should be evaluated by the only criteria that matters for a treaty: Is it in America’s interest? I am convinced this treaty is not. It should not be rammed through in the lame duck session using behind the scenes deal-making reminiscent of the tactics used in the health care debate.

“New START actually requires the U.S. to reduce our nuclear weapons and allows the Russians to increase theirs. This is one-sided and makes no strategic sense. New START’s verification regime is weaker than the treaty it replaces, making it harder for us to detect Russian cheating. Since we now know Russia has not complied with many arms control agreements currently in force, this is a serious matter.

“New START recognizes a link between offensive and defensive weapons – a position the Russians have sought for years. Russia claims the treaty constrains U.S. missile defenses and that they will withdraw from the treaty if we pursue missile defenses. This linkage virtually guarantees that either we limit our missile defenses or the Russians will withdraw from the treaty. The Obama administration claims that this is not the case; but if that is true, why agree to linking offensive and defensive weapons in the treaty? At the height of the Cold War, President Reagan pursued missile defense while also pursuing verifiable arms control with the then-Soviet Union. That position was right in the 1980’s, and it is still right today. We cannot and must not give up the right to missile defense to protect our population – whether the missiles that threaten us come from Russia, Iran, China, North Korea, or anywhere else. I fought the Obama administration’s plans to cut funds for missile defense in Alaska while I was Governor, and I will continue to speak out for missile defenses that will protect our people and our allies.”

Russia Optimistic About Missile Shield

December 15th, 2010

At last month’s NATO summit, the former Soviet Union tentatively agreed to cooperate with NATO in expanding missile defense in Europe. Members approved the proposal to expand and link missile defense shield systems in the U.S. and Europe to protect against long-range missile attacks.

Because of rogue countries like Iran and North Korea, intent on building missiles, transitioning our relationship with Russia away from a strategy based on retaliation toward one based on defense is key. Ria Novosti reports that Russia’s NATO envoy is optimistic about his country working with the U.S. on missile shields in Europe. Dmitry Rogozin said Russia looked forward to a “real exchange of data and evaluations.”

Janusz Bugajski, director of the New European Democracies Project, doesn’t mince words when it comes to how he feels about current agreements between Russia and the U.S. In the Washington Times, he asserts that Dmitry Medevedev blackmailed NATO into acquiescing.

For the Kremlin, NATO remains a threat not because it destabilizes Russia but because it thwarts its imperial aspirations. President Dmitry Medvedev blackmails the alliance by asserting that NATO’s eastward growth would terminate all collaboration with the West. Despite lofty declarations at the recent Lisbon Summit, NATO growth has been stymied indefinitely along Poland’s eastern border.

Moscow also seeks veto powers over troop deployments among new NATO members. It wants NATO to commit to stationing a maximum of 3,000 soldiers; if reinforcements were needed during a crisis, NATO would require Russia’s consent. In effect, the alliance would depend on Moscow’s permission to intervene if Russia invaded a NATO member.

Moscow also has been invited to participate in NATO’s missile-defense program and exploits that opportunity to divide the continent. Mr. Medvedev has proposed that Europe be split into two sectors of “military responsibility” to protect it from missile attack – one controlled by NATO, the other by Russia, encompassing all ex-Soviet states. In this context, cooperation over Afghanistan, Iran and nuclear proliferation remains contingent upon Western strategic concessions acknowledging Russia’s zone of influence across Eurasia.

Although Russia agreed to cooperate with NATO, everything seems to hinge on whether START is ratified. The treaty limits strategic nuclear weapons to 1,550 warheads and delivery vehicles to 800. But for the Republicans retaking the U.S. House of Representatives, START might have been ratified by now. As it stands, passage this Congress is unlikely.

START Around the Web

December 8th, 2010

Columnist Frank Gaffney, writing at Big Peace, says President Barack Obama seeks Senate approval on START before Christmas. He reminds senators who might agree to a vote during the lame-duck session why, by way of the Center for Security Policy, which released START-related videos.

The Heritage Foundation’s Kim Holmes wrote an op-ed about the treaty for the Washington Times. He makes the case that the president would have had an easier time ratifying START had he consulted with and listened to Republican senators before negotiations. But he pushed the deal through and proceeded to dismissed their concerns. Holmes suggests the U.S. amend the treaty to make it better.

At Heritage’s The Foundry blog, Owen Graham agrees with Senator John Barrasso’s assessment of START and adds that imposes “significant restrictions” in our missile defense, which will impede our ability to build the necessary comprehensive and layered missile defense need to protect us and our allies.

More from Brian Darling at The Foundry:

“The New START Treaty is promoted by the Obama Administration as a means toward a reduction of nuclear weapons.The Treaty is fatally flawed within the four corners of the document and in a side agreement to dismantle missile defense in consideration for Russia’s signature. And now the Obama Administration and allies in the House and Senate have inserted a position in a draft of the Continuing Resolution to condition money for nuclear modernization on ratification of the Treaty.”

Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice argued in support of START in the Wall Street Journal. Ironically, she seems to share the same concerns as Republican senators, but still believes the Senate should ratify the treaty. An excerpt:

“First, smaller forces make the modernization of our nuclear infrastructure even more urgent. Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona has led a valiant effort in this regard. Thanks to his efforts, roughly $84 billion is being allocated to the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons complex. Ratifying the treaty will help cement these commitments, and Congress should fully fund the president’s program. Congress should also support the Defense Department in modernizing our launchers as suggested in the recent defense strategy study coauthored by former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry and former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

“Second, the Senate must make absolutely clear that in ratifying this treaty, the U.S. is not re-establishing the Cold War link between offensive forces and missile defenses. New Start’s preamble is worrying in this regard, as it recognizes the “interrelationship” of the two. Administration officials have testified that there is no link, and that the treaty will not limit U.S. missile defenses. But Congress should ensure that future Defense Department budgets reflect this.”

Stopping START

December 7th, 2010

By Owen Graham and Matthew Foulger

The bilateral arms control treaty between the United States and Russia, known as New START has critical implications for the security of the U.S. and its allies. In a recent article, Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) addresses concerns regarding the treaty. These include: limits on U.S. missile defense capabilities, a weak verification regime, and an outdated view of the world that embraces the paradigm of the Cold War by focusing only on Russia with its porous limits on nuclear warheads, delivery vehicles, and inspection regimes instead of looking at the new and shifting 21st Century challenges.

For Sen. Barrasso, this nuclear arms treaty hits close to home. On Oct. 26, 2010, one-ninth of the United State’s land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) went offline at F. E. Warren Air Force. The senator asserts that by ratifying New START, the Senate risks taking America’s nuclear deterrent offline. He is absolutely correct. This incident certainly reveals the need for the U.S. to modernize its nuclear weapons arsenal as soon as possible in order to maintain its nuclear deterrent. Yet the Administration’s plan is overwhelmingly weighted in favor of sustainment over modernization. Current White House policies bar steps that would lead to the development and procurement of “new nuclear warheads” or “capabilities” to meet new missions in the 21st Century. Furthermore the president’s threat to withhold money on nuclear program unless Senators vote to ratify New START rings hollow and is reprehensible. The President has no way of guaranteeing the money because the Congress passes the budget. Conditioning funding for nuclear program on New START is playing politics with our national security.

The senator’s reasoning for opposing New START is logically sound. The treaty imposes significant restrictions on U.S. missile defense. These are found in the treaty, its protocols, and annexes. Paragraph 9 of the Preamble also establishes a bias against missile defense and codifies the old “balance of terror.” Building a comprehensive and layered missile defense will be much more difficult under the treaty. Indeed, these restrictions will leave the United States and our allies increasingly vulnerable to growing ballistic missile threats from Iran and North Korea or coalitions of hostile parties. In pursuit of New START, the Administration is holding to a cold-war view of the global environment where the U.S. falsely perceived Russia as its only nuclear rival.

With respect to the verification regime, New START is far less verifiable than the original treaty. The U.S. will know significantly less about current and future Russian missiles under New START, and the Russians will be able to do much to advance and expand their strategic forces. The consequences of circumvention or cheating are more dangerous when nuclear forces come down and in the absence of robust U.S. missile defenses.

The Administration is currently rushing to ram New START through the brief “lame duck” session of Congress. Treaties requiring cuts to the U.S. nuclear arsenal require more scrutiny than others. Moreover, Senate consideration of New START during lame duck is also inappropriate for procedural reasons. This is why the Republican Senators-elect have written a letter to Senator Reid (D-NV), the Majority Leader, which states that it should be their responsibility to consider and vote on this treaty in the “lame duck.” They will be seated next month and need time to become educated on the content of the treaty.

Senator Barrasso has pointed out major flaws regarding New START. The treaty, if ratified as it currently stands, would undermine the security of the U.S. and its allies. Instead of hastily forcing the Senate vote during the “lame duck” session, the new Senate should be given enough time to become educated on the treaty and address its numerous flaws.

Russia Denies Missiles Near NATO Allies

November 30th, 2010

This morning we blogged about suspicions that Russia broke a 1991 pledge and moved short-range tactical nuclear warheads to areas near NATO allies (see the Wall Street Journal). As expected, the former Soviet Union has denied the charges.

Mikhail Margelov (pictured), head of the upper house of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, told Bloomberg that his country has “relations of trust now with our American partners and don’t take any steps without informing our partners and consulting with them.” Russia’s Defense Ministry neither confirmed nor denied the report.

A defense analyst in Russia implied that the report was just a scheme to stop START ratification in the Senate (as if START’s many problems played no role!).

The Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano weighed in on the tactical nuclear warheads report:

“More and more it looks like the Russians have played Obama like the Soviets played Jimmy Carter. Yet, it seems the President still does not get it. His top priority is still—ratification of New START. Meanwhile, the White House continues to live in La-La Land. Ben Rhodes, a White House deputy national security adviser, said Obama remains strong internationally.”

U.S. Suspects Russian Missiles Near NATO Allies

November 30th, 2010

Obama and Medvedev

President Barack Obama wants the U.S. Senate to ratify a treaty that reduces our arsenal and weakens our missile defense, no questions asked. While he’s busy avoiding answering Republican senators’ questions about START, Russia is doing what it does best: breaking promises.

Twenty years ago, Russia pledged to pull tactical nuclear warheads back from areas bordering NATO allies and to reduce these weapons. Although Russia threatened to deploy missiles to Kaliningrad (its territory near the Polish border) if the U.S. deployed missile shields to Poland and the Czech Republic, U.S. officials thought they’d talked Russia down from the threat.

Now the U.S. has reason to believe the former Soviet Union has moved short-range tactical nuclear warheads to areas near NATO allies, breaking its 1991 pledge to refrain from such activity. An excerpt from the Wall Street Journal:

“Russia’s movement of the ground-based tactical weapons appeared to coincide with the deployment of U.S. and NATO missile-defense installations in countries bordering Russia. Moscow has long considered the U.S. missile defense buildup in Europe a challenge to Russian power, underlining deep-seated mistrust between U.S. and Russian armed forces despite improved relations between political leaders.

“The Kremlin had no immediate comment.

“Republican critics in the Senate say it was a mistake for President Barack Obama to agree to the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia, or New Start, without dealing with outstanding questions about Moscow’s tactical nuclear weapons. New Start would cap the Russian and U.S. deployed strategic nuclear arsenals at 1,550 per side. It doesn’t address tactical weapons, which are smaller and for use on a battlefield.”

It’s safe to say senators already concerned that START weakens our missile defense will put up even more resistant to ratification, in light of these developments. Surely, Obama understands that the U.S. has agreed to protect allies, and Russia is a direct threat to those allies. Why would he want to push through a treaty that puts these allies in Russia’s crosshairs? More from the article:

“U.S. officials believe the most recent movements of Russian tactical nuclear weapons took place in late spring. In late May, a U.S. Patriot missile battery was deployed in northern Poland, close to Kaliningrad, sparking public protests from Moscow.

“Some officials said the movements are a concern but sought to play down the threat. Russian nuclear warheads are stored separately from their launching systems, U.S. officials say.

“In the fall of 1991, the U.S. had about 5,000 tactical nuclear weapons deployed overseas, most assigned to NATO, according to the Arms Control Association. The U.S. destroyed about 3,000 as a result of the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives. Today, the U.S. is believed to have some 1,100 tactical nuclear warheads, of which about 480 are nuclear gravity bombs stored in six European countries.”

If U.S. suspicions about Russia deploying tactical nuclear weapons to NATO borders are true, our allies face a serious threat. For years the U.S. has addressed such threats in part by maintaining strategic nuclear forces. While START reduces strategic nuclear forces, it doesn’t even address tactical nuclear forces, thanks to Obama. The imbalance and lack of flexibility are obvious.

Our president trusts a country that can’t be trusted, and he asks our elected officials to trust him. Meanwhile, Russia gets the last smirk.

Keith Payne on START Mischaracterization and Misdirection

November 29th, 2010

Keith B. Payne, a former deputy assistant secretary for defense, suggests that Republican opposition to new START may have as much to do with how the Obama administration is trying to sell the treaty as the treaty’s many problems, including limits on our missile defense strategy. An excerpt of his article at National Review Online:

“Senior members of the administration have contributed to the skepticism by engaging in a pattern of mischaracterization and misdirection while simultaneously being disdainful and dismissive of reasonable treaty concerns identified by knowledgeable commentators.

“For example, even before Presidents Obama and Medvedev signed the treaty in April 2010, some U.S. commentators expressed concern that the administration would agree in New START to limits on U.S. missile defense. Russian commentators fanned this flame by claiming frequently that the treaty would indeed limit U.S. defenses. In response, the administration reassured all that there would be no such limits whatsoever; New START was to be a treaty on strategic offensive forces, not on defensive forces. During an April 29 press conference to explain New START, Ellen Tauscher, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security, stated that ‘the treaty does nothing to constrain missile defenses . . . this treaty is about offensive strategic weapons.’ And: ‘There is no limit or constraint on what the United States can do with its missile defense system.’ Further: ‘There are no constraints to missile defense.’

“Yet the actual text of the treaty shows Russian commentators and U.S. skeptics to be correct: New START’s Article V, paragraph 3, explicitly limits some U.S. missile-defense options, and the treaty establishes a Bilateral Consultative Commission wherein missile defense can be the subject of further ongoing discussions and possible limitation. The administration, however, has repeated the false claim of no limits on missile defense so often and so definitively that it continues to be presented as fact by some journalists and commentators sympathetic to New START.”

Although START limits missile defense and non-nuclear strategic forces, it doesn’t specifically mention limiting rail-mobile ICBMs, “an old Russian favorite.” When concerned senators sought clarification, Russia’s Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the parliament committee responsible for treaties, seemed to be offended, issuing a veiled threat to “stop action” on START.

“The pattern of mischaracterization and misdirection also extends to the repeated administration claims that New START will reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads by ‘about 30 percent below the 2200 maximum that was in the 2002 Moscow treaty.’ However, the specific terms of the treaty actually permit the number of nuclear weapons to move higher than the 2,200 maximum under the previous Moscow Treaty because under New START all of the weapons on a bomber would count as only one warhead, even though some bombers are capable of carrying many more. A Russian strategic expert, Mikhail Barabanov, described this sleight of hand regarding New START’s supposed reductions as ‘nothing short of fraudulent, and clearly designed to mislead the public.’”

Payne noted, as we did during START negotiations, that Russia had less to lose than the U.S. Russia was already below START’s launcher limits, for example. The U.S. felt the greater impact of the treaty’s imposed limits. Payne also points out the Obama administration’s new selling point: the Senate must ratify START during the lame-duck session, or our national security will be weakened.

“Yet Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has stated repeatedly that Russia poses no military threat to us or our allies. This bit of illogic remains unexplained, and even the Washington Post labels such administration claims of urgency as ‘more than a little overstated’ and ‘hyperbole.’”

It’s time for the Obama administration to stop obfuscating and begin addressing critics’ concerns about START.

Doyle McManus on START Ratification

November 29th, 2010

Los Angeles Times columnist Doyle McManus notes the Obama administration’s implication that the U.S. Senate must ratify new START, despite serious concerns, because we owe Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.

“‘President Medvedev has made every effort to move Russia in the right direction,’ President Obama said last weekend at the NATO summit in Lisbon.  ‘It’s also important that we don’t leave a partner hanging after having negotiated an agreement like this.’

‘Vice President Joe Biden, in Washington, made the point a little more bluntly, as Biden often does. Medvedev, he said, has been the key Russian leader pushing for a “reset” of better relations with the United States — not Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has been more skeptical — and it’s in our interest to give Medvedev a boost.

“But there are problems with this argument.

“Although Medvedev technically has the top job (and titular responsibility for foreign policy), every Russia watcher knows that Putin is the real boss, and that he could reassume the post of president as soon as Russia’s constitution allows him to, in 2012.”

Experts say the Obama administration’s perceived special relationship with Medvedev may be an illusion, and McManus reminds readers about the relationships Obama’s predecessors had with Russian leaders. The positive effects of a “reset” with Russia will be ephemeral, if the Senate doesn’t ratify START. The Republican takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives, coupled with Obama’s declining popularity, don’t portend well for “reset” relations.

“If New START isn’t ratified, Biden warned, other governments, not only Russia’s, will ask: ‘You guys can’t even deliver on something you helped tie down?’”

North Korea Fires On South Korea

November 23rd, 2010

Today, North Korea fired artillery shells on the disputed South Korean border island Yeonpyeong, killing an indeterminate number of people. What motivated the attack? North Korea implied that South Korea fired first. The latter was conducting military exercises around the island. (Source)

The president called it an “outrageous act.”

The rogue state recently revealed that it was operating a uranium enrichment program. Last month, the Institute for Science and International Security released a report that concluded North Korea is enriching uranium for nuclear weapons. Among other things, North Korea has a centrifuge program, which enables the rogue state to develop nuclear weapons and to assist other countries attempting to build centrifuge programs. The Washington Post reported that the rogue state might own 500 to 1,000 centrifuges, and experts say the country would need 3,000 such systems to make a nuclear weapon.

The Heritage Foundation recently published a fact sheet list the top ten reasons not to trust Russia. Listed among the reasons is Russia violating nonproliferation agreements by providing ballistic missile technology to Iran and North Korea, which have continually threatened America and its allies. Several months ago, the Defense Intelligence Agency reported that in as little as five years, Iran may be capable of hitting the U.S. with an intercontinental ballistic missile, with North Korea’s help.

Today’s attack is part of a continuum of North Korea’s determination to develop nuclear weapons and antagonize U.S. allies. Heritage’s Conn Carroll urges the Obama administration not to give in to North Korea’s inevitable demands.

(Photo credit: Reuters)