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  • New START Treaty Hurts U.S. Conventional Strike Capability

    In The Wall Street Journal, John Bolton, former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, raises significant concerns that the New START treaty will place numerical limits on conventional and non-conventional weapons launchers, delivery vehicles, and accountable warheads.

    These limitations will in turn weaken U.S. capabilities—not Russia’s. Bolton emphasized that a return to these Cold War limits would cripple our long-range conventional warhead delivery capability and severely constrain our nuclear flexibility and resiliency. And while limiting the quantity of weapons launchers is only one of many restrictions this treaty imposes on the United States, it is the one that will have the most harmful impact.

    First, the treaty subjects “Prompt Global Strike” (PGS) strategic missiles armed with a conventional warhead—missiles that could be launched in as little as 60 minutes for use against targets such as a terrorist stronghold when U.S. general purpose forces are not immediately available—to its numerical limits. New START is supposed to be about limiting strategic nuclear arms. There is no justifiable reason for counting conventional weapons against the numerical limits in the treaty.

    Second, a more complex world exists today with multiple nuclear powers and aspiring nuclear states rather than the Cold War standoff between two superpowers. Iran and North Korea continue on the nuclear march and China is expanding its nuclear-warhead and delivery capabilities, unconstrained by treaty limits. Foremost, in the current security environment the United States plays a far different role with greater responsibilities than Russia, for example, providing nuclear security guarantees to over 30 states. As such, New START discounts or ignores these realities.

    Third, by limiting our weapons launchers, we are severely constraining our conventional capabilities essential for future conflicts. Since launchers are counted for both conventional and nuclear purposes, adding one conventional launcher would thus entail losing one nuclear launcher. Thus, the New START treaty forces a damaging trade-off for the United States.

    While the counting rules subjecting PGS under New START are not the most striking flaw of the treaty, they are the most problematic. The whole treaty is designed around limitations on launchers and delivery vehicles, including procedures for inspections and many definitions whose numerical limits capture PGS. New START has numerous, substantive, and serious flaws. The U.S. Senate will find that the flaws encompassing PGS are not easily fixed.

    Co-authored by Matthew Foulger. Foulger 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.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    2 Responses to New START Treaty Hurts U.S. Conventional Strike Capability

    1. Robert, Edmonton Alb says:

      Those who oppose all types of power projection forces or the judicious use of force dream of the day when the US military stops being a global military power. The more US forces are inhibited the more the diplomats can seek to talk and talk.

      There are many who fail to understand that without that "big stick" behind their words, their words really don't mean much.

      But more to the point of this post. Limiting conventional prompt global strike could dangerously limit the President's options. What if N Korea is fueling a missile and we don't know whether it is nuclear or not yet are sure they are launching it against Tokyo and have two hours to try and take it out. Right now we have one option a nuke. That would dramatically limit our response, if fact we may not respond only threaten. The N Koreans knowing our limitations might not back down thinking that the US would never preemptively launch a nuclear armed missile against them. They would be in a very strong bargaining position.

      Wouldn't it be wise to be able to threaten but have a conventional capability?

    2. Owen Graham Owen Graham says:

      Exactly, Robert.

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