Lest it be suggested that the Russian Defense Minister “misspoke,” respected Russian defense journalist Alexander Golts reported the day prior to Serdyukov’s speech that the number of Russian strategic nuclear launchers will be well below New START’s ceiling of 700 deployed launchers “from the very beginning . . . and will decrease even further to roughly 390” launchers by 2017. The Russian Communist Party faction in the Duma has insisted that Russia maintain strategic nuclear launchers and warheads at numbers no lower than 10 percent below the treaty’s ceilings, according to Interfax – meaning that New START’s nuclear-warhead and launcher ceilings are higher than the levels to which even the militant Russian Communist Party aspires.
This point — that Russian forces already are below New START’s ceilings and the treaty effectively mandates unilateral U.S. reductions — was made openly and with obvious glee by some Russian commentators months prior to the U.S. Senate’s consideration of the treaty. But the Obama administration typically presented the treaty as requiring Russian reductions, and senior Russian officials remained mum until after the Senate had acted. Now, senior Russian officials appear to have acknowledged publicly that U.S. critics — whom the Obama administration had accused of “slanting” information — were correct.
Even with a full understanding of the treaty’s ramifications, the Senate may well have passed New START. But, on this question, like Rick who went to Casablanca for the waters, the Senate appears to have been misinformed.
— Keith B. Payne is a professor and head of the Graduate Department of Defense and Strategic Studies, Missouri State University (Washington Campus), and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.