The proposed New START agreement should be evaluated by the only criteria that matters for a treaty: Is it in America’s interest? I am convinced this treaty is not. It should not be rammed through in the lame duck session using behind the scenes deal-making reminiscent of the tactics used in the health care debate.
New START actually requires the U.S. to reduce our nuclear weapons and allows the Russians to increase theirs. This is one-sided and makes no strategic sense. New START’s verification regime is weaker than the treaty it replaces, making it harder for us to detect Russian cheating. Since we now know Russia has not complied with many arms control agreements currently in force, this is a serious matter.
New START recognizes a link between offensive and defensive weapons – a position the Russians have sought for years. Russia claims the treaty constrains U.S. missile defenses and that they will withdraw from the treaty if we pursue missile defenses. This linkage virtually guarantees that either we limit our missile defenses or the Russians will withdraw from the treaty. The Obama administration claims that this is not the case; but if that is true, why agree to linking offensive and defensive weapons in the treaty? At the height of the Cold War, President Reagan pursued missile defense while also pursuing verifiable arms control with the then-Soviet Union. That position was right in the 1980’s, and it is still right today. We cannot and must not give up the right to missile defense to protect our population – whether the missiles that threaten us come from Russia, Iran, China, North Korea, or anywhere else. I fought the Obama administration’s plans to cut funds for missile defense in Alaska while I was Governor, and I will continue to speak out for missile defenses that will protect our people and our allies.
There are many other problems with the treaty, including the limitation on the U.S. ability to convert nuclear systems to conventional systems and the lack of restriction on Russian sea launched cruise missiles. In addition, the recent reports that Russia moved tactical nuclear weapons (which are not covered by New START) closer to our NATO allies, demonstrate that the Obama administration has failed to convince Russia to act in a manner that does not threaten our allies.
If I had a vote, I would oppose this deeply flawed treaty submitted to the Senate. Just because we were out-negotiated by the Russians that doesn’t mean we have to say yes to this. New START’s flaws have to be addressed in the form of changes to the treaty language that, at a minimum, completely de-link missile defense from offensive arms reductions. Other issues would have to be addressed in the ratification process. If this does not happen either now or next year, Senate Republicans, vote no!