Last year, when President Obama was pushing for ratification of his New START nuclear-arms treaty with Russia, I was reminded of a simple maxim: When you give something, you’re supposed to get something. But New START, as I wrote in the Washington Post, handed the Russians deep reductions in our nuclear capabilities in return for essentially nothing.
The Obama administration claimed at the time that the treaty was an excellent deal. This claim has been proven false. A new official accounting performed by the State Department acknowledges that the number of launchers and warheads in Russia’s nuclear arsenal was already below New START’s limitations when the treaty took effect, while the U.S. arsenal was well above them. In short: We’re the ones who now have to give, while Russia gets.
In agreeing to START, President Obama squandered an opportunity to extract a number of concessions from the Russians that would have advanced U.S. interests. He could have pressed for meaningful reductions not only in Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal, but also in its tactical nuclear force, which outnumbers ours by an overwhelming margin. He could have tried to elicit Russian help in dealing with North Korea and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But instead he frittered away American bargaining chips and got nothing in return.
Unfortunately, that’s become a bit of a pattern. Before signing New START, he abruptly abandoned our Europe-based missile-defense program as part of his “reset” policy with Russia, leaving Poland and the Czech Republic in the lurch. In return? Nothing. He’s been pressing Israel for concessions to the Palestinians on settlements and borders even before negotiations between them begin. In return? Nothing.
There’s a price to be paid for inexperience in the White House. We are paying it.