The administration is launching a full-scale defense of the new START Treaty, as evidenced by two days of testimony in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and an op-ed out this morning in The Wall Street Journal by Michele Flournoy and Ashton Carter.
Ms. Flournoy and Mr. Carter rightly point out the successes of the missile defense program over the past few years. Over 10 tests conducted since 2006, the Standard Missile (SM)-3 interceptor has had a 90% success rate. Missile defense is effective and a key component in our national defense arsenal. Each official testifying before the Senate and the authors of today’s op-ed insist that the new START Treaty will not hamper the current and future plans of the US Missile Defense Agency. In essence, they argue that the US can continue its plans for the phased adaptive approach in Europe and build upon it if necessary, without any response from Russia. Nevertheless, the Russians have made it abundantly clear that any “quantitative or qualitative” advancement in the US missile defense system will be grounds for withdrawing from the treaty. This seems like a pretty big divergence of views between the two parties of the treaty.
What is at issue here, therefore, is what was said at the time of the negotiations between the United States and the Russian Federation. In her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Assistant Secretary Gottemoeller asserted that no backroom deals were made regarding missile defense. She claimed that the negotiating records had never before been disclosed to the Senate, which is patently false given that records were available for the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Maybe the records can be released only when there is a Republican in the White House and a Democratic majority in the Senate? Finally, Ms. Gottemoeller asserted that the position of future negotiators will be weakened if the country with which we are negotiating is aware that the records will become public.
Why should negotiators on any treaty greatly affecting US policy have anything to hide? Furthermore, the senators who are requesting these records are not asking for public disclosure, but rather are asking for the release of the records to the Senate, whose constitutional duty it is to advise and give consent to any treaty on a fully informed basis. Anything that impedes upon the ability of the Senate to obtain as much information on a treaty as possible, especially one that greatly affects our national security policy, is simply unacceptable. This administration needs to focus more on how an unfettered missile defense program will further the cause of re-setting US-Russian relations.
Ricky Trotman is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm