You can always tell you’re winning a policy debate when your opponent starts name-calling. Now that Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) has pulled New START off his Senate Foreign Relations Committee schedule, that’s exactly what the treaty’s supporters are doing.
So Brent Scowcroft, U.S. National Security Advisor under President Gerald Ford, tells The Washington Post that the treaty is losing support because “some just don’t want to give Obama a victory” before the midterm elections. And Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) tells The Associated Press: “We are in the midst of an election campaign which is bitterly partisan, and it could be difficult to move legislation of any sort.”
Lugar ought to spend more time addressing the substantive policy claims of his colleagues than impugning their motives. Specifically, he, Scowcroft and other treaty supporters have failed to address the following major concerns:
- New START Weakens Our Missile Defense Capabilities: The Washington Post editorial board asserted last month that “attempts by Moscow to insert [limits on missile defense] into the treaty failed.” This is just plain false. First, even the Post admits that the preamble links missile defense and offensive nuclear weapons. The Post says that this was also true of previous STARTs. But the language in this preamble stronger, and the Russian leadership said that any increase in our missile defense system would be considered a breach of the treaty. Moreover, Article V specifically limits our ability to convert ICBM and submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers into defensive interceptors. The Post is silent about this fact.
- New START Fails to Maintain Our Nuclear Forces: The Post has conceded that our nuclear weapons are “in need of renewal, as are the laboratories and industrial complex that sustain it.” But then they claim, “the Obama administration accepts this priority,” which is odd, considering that President Obama has promised not to develop any new nuclear weapons. The administration is promising Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) $80 billion on the “nuclear weapons complex” over the next decade, but no legislation has been produced. Any such promise would have to be passed by the House. Why exactly should Lugar’s colleagues trust House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to spend $80 billion on nuclear weapons? Your answer to that question tells you all you need to know about the credibility of New START’s nuclear modernization claims.
- New START’s Verification Procedures Are Inadequate: The Obama administration is telling skeptical senators that “rejecting the treaty would leave the two countries dangerously uncertain about each other’s arsenals.” But New START’s verification terms are so weak that they add little informational value. Paula A. DeSutter, the former U.S. assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance and implementation, noted in a Heritage lecture last month: “The Russians can do so much under this treaty to advance and expand their strategic forces… [yet] our ability to determine whether or not they are doing that and whether it violates the treaty is very, very low. The degree of verifiability is very low.” Worse, the administration admitted in Congressional testimony last week that they don’t even care if the Russians cheat on the treaty.
There are many other problems in the treaty. Mitt Romney has identified eight problems with New START that must be resolved. You can read The Heritage Foundation’s full non-partisan and independent analysis of New START here.