Nuclear treaty limits America’s options for missile defense
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.
Those who oppose New START are troubled by the answers to the following questions:
■Does New START limit America’s options for missile defense? Yes. For the first time, we would agree to an interrelationship between strategic offensive weapons and missile defense. Moreover, Russia already asserts that the document would constitute a binding limit on our missile defense program. But the WikiLeaks revelation last weekend that North Korea has supplied Iran with long-range Russian missiles confirms that robust missile defense is urgent and indispensable.
■Is the treaty’s compliance verification program inadequate? Yes. In a break from prior treaties, we would no longer be allowed to witness the destruction of Russian mobile ICBMs and launchers. Further, the prior provision for continuous on-site inspection of the principal Russian missile factory would be eliminated. And our verification inspectors would only be permitted to view Russia’s officially declared facilities — undeclared sites are available for treaty violations.
■Is Russia’s substantial nuclear missile advantage over the United States exacerbated? Yes. The treaty excludes tactical nuclear weapons where Russia has a more than five-to-one advantage. But these weapons are a threat to our forces abroad, and to our allies. Moreover, they could be re-deployed on Russia’s submarines to threaten us at home.
■Under the treaty limits, is the United States the only country that must reduce its launchers and strategic nuclear weapons? Yes. Russia has negotiated the treaty limits to conform to the weapon levels it has already planned. Thus, the United States must make what are effectively unilateral reductions.
■Does the treaty provide gaping loopholes that Russia could use to escape nuclear weapon limits entirely? Yes. For example, multiple warhead missile bombers are counted under the treaty as only one warhead. While we currently have more bombers than the Russians, they have embarked on new programs for long-range bombers and for air-launched nuclear cruise missiles. Thus, it is no surprise that Russia is happy to undercount missiles on bombers.
■Does the treaty restrict not only our strategic nuclear program but also our conventional weapons program? Yes. Any of our existing land-based or submarine-based launchers that are fitted with conventional weapons would be counted toward the treaty’s launchers limits.
■Does the treaty fail to limit Russia’s submarine-launched, long-range cruise missiles? Yes. As former CIA Director R. James Woolsey observes, given Russia’s planned deployment of a new 5,000 kilometer sub-launched cruise missile, “It is inexplicable that the administration would seek no limitations over systems such as these.’’
The administration excuses these lapses by insisting that Russia is not the bitter Cold War enemy of the past. Thus, more trust and less verify. But isn’t the administration also arguing that the Senate must immediately confirm the treaty in order to keep a Russian foe from taking imminent and dangerous nuclear steps? The president can’t have it both ways.
Mitt Romney is the former governor of Massachusetts.