START’s Future Shock

New START is, to borrow from Winston Churchill, not quite the beginning of the end but perhaps the end of the beginning. But what is this is the beginning of? Well, there the White House sees things different from us New START skeptics.

Obama would have you believe this will lead to more cooperation with the Russians and more arms-control agreements — that nuclear weapons will be devalued and the threat of nuclear terrorism reduced. Sadly, none of that is in the cards. Likely as not, this is the beginning of something really bad.

Russia will agree to reductions in tactical nuclear arms only if they wind up with a significant asymmetrical advantage. They might say, for example, “We’ll cut 1,000, if you cut 1,000.” That would take our side to about zero, and their side to about 9,000. Russia believes nuclear weapons are the cornerstone of their national-security strategy. They have zero interest in devaluing the importance of their nuclear force.

Moscow will not be more cooperative. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that “reset” has already failed. Meanwhile, anti-Americanism in Russia and the suppression of freedoms in Russia have never been higher. All this has to led to circular logic from administration officials: “We need New START to reset Russian relations.” You ask, “What did we get from reset?” Their answer is, “New START!”

The world, meanwhile, will become a more dangerous place. By simultaneously pursuing a strategy of minimalist missile defense and allowing the U.S. nuclear deterrent to atrophy, the president is lowering the bar for other states to become significant actors. As that trend accelerates, there could well be fewer nuclear weapons in the world — because they’ll have been used in nuclear war. “Pursuing a policy of nuclear disarmament in a proliferated setting actually leads to instability,” our research finds. “When confronted with a crisis, countries rely on nuclear weapons more, not less.”

To make matters worse, the White House will likely follow up New START with an even more ambitious arms-control agenda — one that will likely accelerate our journey down this troubling path.

James Jay Carafano is director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation.

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