• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • New START Leaves the U.S. Vulnerable

    Obama and Medvedev sign new START

    New START, a strategic offensive arms reductions treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation, would limit the U.S. ability to defend against an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. According to experts James Carafano and Richard Weitz, “A nuclear device detonated high in the atmosphere above the American mainland can easily disable the country’s electrical grid.” Currently, the United States does not have missile defenses that would protect it against this “Scud in a bucket” scenario. By limiting U.S. ballistic missile defense options, New START would contribute to leaving the United States vulnerable to an EMP attack.

    Moreover, New START might easily become a tool of proliferation. Not only does the treaty ignore the nuclear program of North Korea and other nuclear weapon states (e.g., Pakistan and India), but it does not address Russia’s manifold advantage over the United States in tactical nuclear weapons. Tactical nuclear weapons are easily concealable and transportable and are a more serious concern for proliferation because of their quantities. Most importantly, by focusing on Cold War–style arms control, the treaty distracts from a real threat—the Iranian, North Korean, and newly discovered Syrian nuclear weapons programs.

    Nuclear-armed Iran would be a game-changer in the Middle East and would threaten the stability of the entire region. Other states are likely to be quick to follow. In the past, Saudi officials met with representatives of Pakistani A. Q. Khan network, the major seller of dual-use uranium enrichment technology and nuclear weapons technology. This network is responsible for building up Libya’s nuclear weapons program before Libya renounced the program following Saddam Hussein’s capture in 2003.

    North Korea is becoming more and more aggressive toward the South, an important U.S. ally. In addition, Pyongyang has ballistic missiles that can reach U.S. territory. Other countries are not timid, as well. Iran and Syria repeatedly denied the International Atomic Energy Agency access to facilities suspected of working on the nuclear weapons program, and according to the Air Force’s estimate, Iran will have a long-range ballistic missile capable of reaching U.S. territory by 2015.

    Clearly, this is not the time to focus on Cold War-style arms control, much less to limit U.S. ballistic missile defense options.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    7 Responses to New START Leaves the U.S. Vulnerable

    1. Cameron, California says:

      The US needs to start a treaty with Europe and possibly Russia, the Russians have gone back to a normal government since the Soviet Union took place. We as Americans should support the building of arms of Russia and sign a treaty so that our country can be safe.

    2. PeterTF says:

      This is a remarkable exercise in half-truths.

      What the author curiously neglects to mention is that the START Treaty is supported by every living former Secretary of State, five former Secretaries of Defense, nine former National Security Advisors, seven former commanders of our strategic nuclear weapons, and former President George H. W. Bush. They all agree that the New START Treaty strengthens our national security.

      Defense Secretary Gates has testified that "the New START Treaty has the unanimous backing of America’s military leadership." The Director of US Missile Defense, the Commander of our nuclear forces and the Joint Chiefs of Staff support the START treaty.

      It is also supported by America’s NATO allies, and according to the most recent CBS News poll, the treaty now has the support of 82 percent of Americans and a strong majority of Republicans.

      Heritage is way off the mark on START – urging conservatives to flatly reject the best advice of our national security leadership, both at the Pentagon and elsewhere.

    3. Cameron, Calfiornia says:

      I think that the New start was a great way, however it would be a great idea to create a safety net between the Russians nuclear bombs and the US. The nuclear arms race seems to be picking up again.

    4. Max, Washington says:

      "but it does not address Russia’s manifold advantage over the United States in tactical nuclear weapons."

      The treaty is on strategic weapons, not tactical. It is a bridge between the original START Treaty and the next treaty which will discuss tactical or sub-strategic weapons. Besides, if you reject this treaty, you can forget about any deal whatsoever on tactical weapons. Why should the Russians deal with the U.S. on tactical weapons if the New START Treaty is dead?

      Also, lowering the number of Russian tactical weapons brings into play NATO and conventional superiority as well as U.S. tactical weapons in Europe. Any deal on tactical weapons would be a long, drawn out complex process, which is why the administration just wanted a continuation of START.

      Finally, the START Treaty is part of the larger toolkit on dealing with the other nuclear or want to be nuclear states. A continuation of the treaty with Russia allows cooperation with Russia on Iran and North Korea, no treaty would imperil the stance the Russians have taken, especially against Iran. There is no one magic treaty that can cover all the proliferation dangers, so each action is taken separately, but together form a nice toolkit to really rollback Iran, North Korea and other programs. But, without New START, it would be much harder to deal with those problems, not easier.

    5. James Carafano james carafano says:

      All these comments miss the point.

      1) Russian modernization program will be completely unaffected by New START. The Russians were planning on reducing their number of strategic warheads and modernizing them. They have no plans to increase strategic launchers and they have no plans to cut tactical nuclear weapons. So the treaty accomplishes exactly zero.

      2) It has no provisions nor impact on addressing wider proliferation issues so it accomplishes exactly zero on the non-proliferation front.

      3) It does impact on the US ability to expand missile defenses–something that actually encourages adversaries to increase their nuclear inventories and limits the US capacity to deter these threats.

      4) Coupled with dileberate self-weakening by refusing to upgrade US systems or weapons–it encourages other countries to seek to gain credible capacity to threaten the US–this New START could perversely encourage proliferation.

      4) The treaty has lesser verification procedures–thus encouraging the Russians to cheat more than already do.

      The US gains no-strategic advantage from this treaty and incurs risks….to suggest that this treaty is a "no-brainer" is to stake a claim at being "brainless."

    6. Martin says:

      It's important to remember that many defense experts in the West and many on the other side already see an axis formed among Russia, China, and Iran, and for very good reason. (1) And as we've seen, both Russia and China have contributed to the DPRK's nuclear weapons program at its onset and then used North Korea to aid Pakistan, Libya, and so forth. It is no secret Russia and China are waging an all-out proxy war against the West, but unlike the Cold War, it seems apparent that somehow this time, they intend to have WMD used against the US at some point. With the advent of uncontested Iranian medium-range missiles in Venezuela, a sea-faring delivery system is really no longer the only way to get a nuclear-tipped Iranian scud over our skies (although an attack from Venezuela would certainly be suicide for the regime, but it could also work as a more indirect partner, as well).

      If we are to look at Iran's testing of airborne missile detonations and China's extensive testing of EMP and consider the obvious strategic value of knocking the US off the world stage in one blow by destroying the electrical grid, transportation, and communication and thus wiping out 90% of the US population, one begins to see a candied carrot dangling in front of them that, in the absence of any strong deterrent would be irresistible.

      Employing deterrents, therefore, is our only logical way to diminish the likelihood of an EMP attack. The unambiguous threat of total retaliation not just against the proxy actors but the puppet masters; a continuous strengthening of our missile defense and intelligence capabilities; and hardening our infrastructure so that an attacker will realize that even were he to get through our defenses, such an attack would not be a mortal blow, allowing the US to engage a protracted response, if necessary.

      1. Simpson Jr., George L.. 2010. Russian and Chinese Support for Tehran. Middle East Quarterly 17, no. 2.

    7. Robert, Edmonton Alb says:

      I wouldn't think I would find a comment section at Heritage with people so willing to weaken the US militarily.

      It is so incredibly lazy to trot out "well these guys are supporting it". Why are they? Why are you? Think for yourselves people.

      But I can't be to critical because here is my laziness, "I don't have the time to refute all the illogical and silly arguments put forth to support the treaty."

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.