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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.”

James Carafano: START Limits Comprehensive Missile Defense

December 15th, 2010

In a web memo published last month at Heritage, James Carafano responded to Vice President Joe Biden’s Wall Street Journal article in which he asserts that our current missile defense plans are more than adequate. Our missile defense should be comprehensive, and Carafano said START would limit our ability to do that. An excerpt:

From Defending the West to Modest Protection for Europe

“Upon entering office, President Obama slashed the number of land-based interceptors planned to protect the U.S. homeland from North Korean and Iranian ballistic missiles by 44 percent. The cuts included scrapping the ‘third site’ ballistic missile defense plan to defend the United States and U.S. allies against the threat of long- and medium-range ballistic missiles from Iran. These installations were to be completed by 2013. In its stead the White House elected to focus on more limited regional missile defense.

“In conjunction with a plan approved by NATO at the recent Lisbon summit, Obama has sketched out what the Administration hopes will lead to the development of the Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense system, the Medium Extended Air Defense System (a U.S., German, and Italian joint program), and the U.S. Phased Adaptive Approach for missile defense in Europe.

“Obama dubbed his ‘new’ plan for Europe the Phased Adaptive Approach. The four-phase program is intended to be the cornerstone of NATO’s ballistic missile defense initiative. Under Phase I (which the White House hopes to begin in 2011), U.S. Aegis ships with SM-3 interceptors will deploy to the Mediterranean with sea- and forward-based sensors stationed in southern Europe. In Phases II (2015), III (2018), and IV (2020) more interceptors will be deployed, both on Aegis ships and ground platforms.

“In his effort to cheerlead for New START, Vice President Biden neglected to mention the limitations of this approach. Even if the Obama plan is implemented on schedule and at cost (questionable assumptions), parts of Europe will remain vulnerable to long-range Iranian threats until 2020. The program also makes no specific, sustained investment to exploit the full range of sea-based and SM-3 technology. Furthermore, land-based SM-3 is a dramatically different capability from the current sea-based SM-3. It has yet to be flown. The Missile Defense Agency is already two years behind the deployment plans.”

Read the full web memo at Heritage.

At The Foundry, Owen Graham presents an alternative to START.

“The administration acts as if the choice is between New START or nothing,” Graham writes. “This assumption is fallacious. Some of the treaty’s supporters maintain that criticism of New START stems from partisanship alone and that critics are simply opposed to arms control. Such assumptions are also wrong. The problems with New START are substantive.”

An alternative path to START begins from a position of strength. For example, a START alternative would not be tied to nuclear disarmament. Our response to a rogue state developing a nuclear weapon shouldn’t be nuclear disarmament, considering the treaty “imposes no constraints on these countries.” Read Graham’s full post at The Foundry.

SORT Negotiator on START

December 15th, 2010

Douglas J. Feith, who helped negotiate the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) as undersecretary of defense nine years ago, recalls his dealings with his counterpart, General Yuri Baluyevsky. From the Wall Street Journal:

“Gen. Baluyevsky pressed various demands. Some were for provisions designed to impede U.S. missile defense or U.S. military modernization. I said ‘no.’ When the Obama administration negotiated New Start, Russia resurfaced essentially the same provisions. This time, U.S. officials said yes.

“Russian officials oppose American plans for missile defense. In the SORT negotiations, they demanded that the treaty recognize an ‘interrelationship’ between offensive arms reductions and missile defense. They wanted language that would, down the road, legitimate Russian arguments that U.S. missile defense programs violate America’s obligations to preserve a strategic balance with Russia.

“The Russians also demanded elaborate but ineffectual verification measures. They focused, for example, on inspection of ‘declared facilities’—those that a party declared open to inspection. This was silly. We knew that any Russian violations would not likely occur in a declared facility subject to inspection.”

Feith said Russia was more concerned about protecting its image than overcoming its rivalry with the U.S. He says Baluyevsky eventually dropped his demands for terms that would limit U.S. missile defense and signed SORT in May 2002. In sharp contrast to Bush-era treaty negotiations, the Obama administration acquiesced to Russia’s demands. Eager to “repudiate its predecessor’s policies,” the Obama administration agreed to link missile defense and offense and other limitations.

Feith calls the president’s negotiating skills “poor” and suggests the U.S. Senate should, at a minimum, see the START negotiating record before voting on ratification.

New START: Is There a Good Time?

December 8th, 2010

The Heritage Foundation will host an event titled, “New START: Is There a Good Time?”, featuring remarks by Senator Jim DeMint, followed by a discussion with Ambassador Henry Cooper, former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization during the Bush administration; and Steven Groves and Baker Spring of the Heritage Foundation.

The event’s host is Becky Dunlop.

The discussion will take place tomorrow, Thursday, December 9, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at Heritage. You may RSVP online or call (202) 675-1752.

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.

Israel Committee Letter to Charles Schumer and Carl Levin

December 3rd, 2010

From the Emergency Committee for Israel:

“We write in response to your remarkable public letter to Howard Kohr, the Executive Director of AIPAC. His ongoing institutional responsibilities will probably prevent him from responding to you—two powerful Senators unafraid to use your power—as frankly as we can. But we will be frank.

“Your letter—an effort to pressure an organization to lobby on a matter far outside its expertise and area of concern—is a disgrace. We’ve rarely seen Senators stoop to this kind of public bullying. AIPAC ‘cannot afford to stand on the sidelines?’ What threat do you mean to convey by this statement?

“It’s clear that defenders of the New START treaty (on which, needless to say, the Emergency Committee for Israel takes no position) are frantic to have it ratified in the lame duck session, and they apparently lack the votes to ram it through. But your desperation about New START does not justify behavior unworthy of Senators.

“Furthermore: Is it your position that if the Senate does not ratify START in the lame duck session, Russia will be justified in violating UN sanctions against Iran, or in selling Iran air defense missiles? If not, why do you appear to give the Russian government such a justification? Is that the action of true friends of Israel, or true opponents of a nuclear Iran?

“We urge you to withdraw the letter to which you have so unfortunately lent your name.”

Sen. Jim DeMint: Why I May Filibuster New START: UPDATED

December 3rd, 2010

Senator Jim DeMint, critical of the Obama administration’s decision to drop Bush-era plans to deploy missile defense shields to Poland and the Czech Republic, is equally critical of START. He believes the treaty will limit how future presidents could pursue missile defense. DeMint asserts that Cold War-era foreign policy is no longer feasible, since the U.S. faces threats from rogue states like Iran and North Korea, and START would have no effect on these countries’ capabilities to develop nuclear weapons.

In a recent statement published at National Review Online‘s The Corner blog, DeMint argues why he may filibuster the new treaty. An excerpt:

“Many of us have been concerned that the START Treaty would weaken our national security, and recent revelations of previously undisclosed talks with Russia on missile defense and movement of Russian tactical nuclear warheads only raise more questions that must be answered. I’ve asked for the full negotiating records, as have been provided to the Senate on previous treaties, but the Obama administration has continually denied that request and promised that missile defense was never part of the negotiations with Russia. But we have now learned that the State Department did in fact meet with Russia to specifically discuss missile defense, after months of denying these discussions ever took place.”

Read the rest at NRO.

Update: Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney weighs in on START in the Boston Globe. An excerpt:

“Why the hurry, Mr. President? It’s a question we’ve asked twice before. There was a rush to pass his $787 billion ‘stimulus’’ to hold unemployment below 8 percent. Congress obliged, and now we are saddled with higher unemployment and crushing debt. Then there was his health care assault: no time for our representatives to even read the bill. As ObamaCare has been revealed, it has frightened business into retreating from hiring. Now the president is in a hurry again: affirm the New START treaty right away, he insists, during the lame duck session. Fall for his rush once, shame on him; twice, shame on Congress; a third time, shame all around.

“A treaty so critical to our national security deserves a careful, deliberative look by the men and women America has just elected. The president is in a hurry for the same reason he has been in a hurry before: he knows that if his vaunted treaty is given a thorough review by the Senate, it will likely be rejected. And well it should be.”

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.