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  • Russian Duma’s Impending Action on New START Could Spell Trouble for the Treaty

    It now appears likely that the Russian Duma will attach an understanding to the new strategic nuclear arms control treaty with the U.S., known as New START, that specifically rejects the U.S. Senate’s understanding that Russia has no grounds for using New START to impose general limits on U.S. missile defense options. The Duma is scheduled to continue consideration of the treaty next month.

    Such an action by the Duma would confirm the suspicions of a number of Senators, led by John McCain (R–AZ), that the Russian government would point to language in New START’s preamble as a means of limiting U.S. missile defense options. This language re-establishes the “link” between strategic offensive arms and missile defenses that was broken by President George W. Bush in 2002, when the U.S. withdrew from the Soviet-era Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which imposed severe restrictions on the U.S. missile defense program. Accordingly, McCain offered an amendment to New START in the Senate to delete this language in the preamble. The amendment was defeated on the basis that the language in the preamble is not legally binding.

    As a weaker alternative to the McCain amendment, Senators McCain, Bob Corker (R–TN), and Joe Lieberman (I–CT) attached an understanding on December 22 that specifically rejects the Russian claim that the language in the preamble is legally binding. Apparently, the understanding the Duma will consider will clearly and unequivocally reject the understanding attached by the Senate.

    The Heritage Foundation has expressed concerns about the negative impact New START’s provision in the preamble could have on the U.S. missile defense program and pointed out during Senate consideration of the treaty that the Senate had the option to strike this language. The Senate rejected this option and chose to adopt the understanding.

    An explicit action by the Duma to reject the Senate understanding raises two fundamental questions, one of which could be very explosive. The first is whether the two diametrically opposed understandings will bar the exchange of the instruments of ratification and entry into force of New START. The Obama Administration is legally bound to include the Senate understanding in the U.S. instrument. It cannot simply walk away from it. While the Administration could try to ignore the understanding in the Russian instrument of ratification, this runs the risk of the U.S. being charged by Russia with material breach of New START if it undertakes steps to improve U.S. missile defense capabilities. In reality, the language of the two understandings will reveal that there is no agreement between the parties on an issue that is essential to the treaty. The honest thing to do would be for both parties to acknowledge this and not exchange the instruments of ratification.

    The second and more explosive issue is what would happen if the Russians reveal relevant portions of the treaty negotiating record that show that U.S. negotiators pledged to limit the U.S. missile defense program in accordance with the logic of the language in the preamble. It is all but certain that the understanding attached by the Senate contradicts such a pledge, if it was provided. Accordingly, such a revelation by Russia would constitute compelling evidence that the Obama Administration misled the Senate. Compounding the problem for the Administration will be the fact that it withheld the negotiating record from the Senate, despite demands from some Senators. The Heritage Foundation on took the position that access to the treaty negotiating record should have been provided to the Senate.

    In short, the impending action by the Russian Duma may well raise fundamental questions about the viability of New START. These include whether there is no proper agreement between the parties on the issue of missile defense and whether the basis for the Senate granting consent to ratification does not correspond to the requirements of the treaty.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    9 Responses to Russian Duma’s Impending Action on New START Could Spell Trouble for the Treaty

    1. DanJ, DTW says:

      I seem to remember a certain SC Justice shaking his head and mumbling "that's not true" and a Legislator being reprimanded for saying "you lie". It seems like they may have been right and Obama is indeed being less than truthful with the Senators and the people.

      This could very well be one of the most embarrassing moments for American international politics. BO has lost a lot of credibility overseas and this could be the big one.

    2. Walter Brown, Americ says:

      Great article…

    3. Bobbie says:

      Where's the seriousness? What about some fundamental questions regarding Obama's administration misleading the senate? America is at stake! Incompetence or the excuse, cannot be afforded. America is being attacked from every angle, people. All by design. Let's give 'em what they love most…HELL!!!!!

    4. Robert, Edmonton Alb says:

      Another very interesting occurrence, a Russian general was telling Duma members what a great treaty this was because only the US has to destroy launchers under the provisions of New Start.

      He basically said, "we cannot maintain and replace our aging systems to stay even at SORT levels but that's OK because New Start forces the US to come down to our levels, we don't have to do a thing".

      What a great treaty doesn't everyone feel more secure that we signed it?

    5. Jeanne Stotler,Woodb says:

      If we trust Russia, we are dummer than dirt, who in their
      right mind would agree to a treaty to lessen thir defense when we
      know Russia helps Cuba, Iran and Korea.

    6. Barbara Brown, Russe says:

      Just the simple fact that we had 13 Rino's and 3 not voting tells us a lot of the mess we have going for We The People. Murkowski, Isakson, Lugar, Collins, Snowe, Brown, Cockran, Johanns, Gregg, Voinovich, Alexander, Corker, Bennett,Not voting Brownback, Bunning, and Bond. We can only hope that someone will check into what kind of deals were made with the Obama Bunch.

    7. Don, NJ says:

      The overall situation surely makes one feel warm and bubbly all over !

      What possessed our Senate to pass this abomination without having access to the complete details of the negotiations ????

      This is truly an either/or situation !!

      Either gross incompetence or treason !

    8. Tom, GA says:

      Below is a the quote from Isakson's staff email to me on START: Don't think he understands this treaty. Would love to start a recall petition on our GA senator.

      Despite many emails to him to vote no on START. I do not see a lot of hope for the new arrangement of deck chairs on the Leviathan Titanic.

      "On December 22, 2010, I voted to ratify the New START treaty, which was approved by a vote of 71-26. I supported ratification of the treaty because it in no way hinders the ability of the United States to move forward with a robust missile defense system and it reopens Russia's nuclear arsenal to the United States for verification."

    9. Mike, Wichita Falls says:

      "The Obama Administration is legally bound to include the Senate understanding in the U.S. instrument."

      Will they save face with the Russians and backstab the Senate on this bipartisan understanding that the preamble is not binding, or will they stand with the Senate and their original position and PO the Russians? They were also legally bound to leave out Medicare payment of end-of-life counseling, but they wrote in that rule anyway. This administration has a poor track record of honoring its previous statements and the rule of law.

      If we're lucky, the Russians will cry foul, and we can revote the START with full access to negotiations.

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