Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates had an op-ed in The Washington Post yesterday urging prompt Senate approval of the New START treaty.
Their message to the Senate is clear and simple: It’s time to get your act together because “our national security depends on it”.
Clinton and Gates highlight three key national security objectives that will fall by the way side without New START:
1. Essential data about and verification of Russia’s nuclear arsenal, which we have not had since the START I Treaty expired last December , just over 340 days ago.
2. A “reset” in the relationship between Russia and the United States that has important benefits far beyond the issue of nuclear stability.
3. A reduction in the U.S. deployed strategic arsenal to an acceptable level that in no way hurts our national security interests
Last week Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen also spoke out about the importance of New START… At a gathering at Stanford University, Mullen explained that militarily, this treaty, “allows us to retain a strong and flexible American nuclear deterrent.” Mullen added that, “it [also] strengthens openness and transparency in our relationship with Russia.”
Mullen also noted: “as I have said many times, in many different contexts, in this fast-paced, flatter world of ours, information and the trust it engenders, is every bit as much a deterrent as any weapon we deploy.” As Clinton and Gates point out, “Ronald Reagan’s favorite maxim was ‘trust, but verify.’” Without New START, all we have is trust.
Other national security heavyweights have also recently spoke to the consequences of failing to ratify New START.
Senator Lugar stated in a November 8th speech in Madrid re: the Nunn-Lugar cooperative threat reduction program, which has been protecting the U.S. from the threat of Russian “loose nukes” for twenty years, “it is unlikely that Moscow would sustain cooperative efforts indefinitely without the New START Treaty coming into force.”
No New START means no verification of Russia’s still enormous deployed nuclear arsenal, no future agreement to increase transparency over or reduce Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal, and perhaps no future cooperative efforts to safeguard Russian nuclear materials, warheads, and delivery systems from potential loss or theft by terrorists.
And that is just what would happen to our relationship with Russia. We must remember that the world is watching the U.S. Senate’s deliberations on the treaty. If we fail to ratify New START, we’re essentially telling the rest of the world that we’re incapable of leadership on nonproliferation and that we’re unwilling to adhere to our obligation under the NPT to take steps to reduce our own nuclear arsenal. As former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel explained:
[Failure to ratify New START] would set in motion the disintegration of any confidence in the leadership of the two major nuclear powers to deal with this [nonproliferation] and it would set in motion a disintegration of any structural boundaries and capacities to deal with this. This would be devastating not just for arms control but for security interests worldwide.
So the question is simple: Are we really willing to give up verification of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and future arms control treaties, and hurt our relationship with not only Russia but all nuclear and non nuclear weapon states, all at a time when the threat of proliferation and nuclear terrorism pose the greatest threat to our national security? You certainly don’t need me to tell you what the answer should be.