On June 24, former George W. Bush administration officials Robert Joseph and Eric Edelman will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the New START treaty. Joseph and Edelman are considered to be strong skeptics of the agreement.
While they have yet to oppose the treaty, Joseph and Edelman published a piece in the National Review last month that recycles most of the well-worn objections to the treaty. These criticisms have been forcefully addressed in previous hearings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate Armed Services Committee on New START. Below is a point-by-point rebuttal (in italics) to their article.
May 10, 2010
New START: Weakening Our Security
The Senate needs to ask some tough questions.
“All previous nuclear-arms-control treaties have been subjected to close scrutiny and the nation has benefited as a result.”
There is an important distinction between “close scrutiny” and the delay strategy some Republicans seem to be advocating, which is that the Senate should take a really, really long time to evaluate New START. For instance, Sen. Jon Kyl has argued that 430 days elapsed between the signature of START I and Senate advice and consent to ratification. However, this example overlooks the fact that the Soviet Union collapsed five months after the treaty was signed on July 31, 1991, which required the negotiation of the Lisbon Protocol to include Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine as parties to the treaty. The more relevant measure of scrutiny is thus to the time that elapsed between the signature of the Lisbon Protocol on May 23, 1992, and Senate advice and consent to ratification on October 1, 1992, a period of just over 4 months.
“Despite claims by the administration that the treaty will reduce by 30 percent the number of nuclear warheads each side is permitted to deploy (from 2,200 to 1,550, a net reduction of 650), the numbers are really smaller, since both the U.S. and Russia were moving towards force levels significantly lower than those permitted under the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty negotiated by President Bush, which reduced the levels by almost 4,000 warheads.”
In the absence of limits on the size of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, Russia would have less confidence in its ability to maintain a stable strategic nuclear relationship with the United States. This could prompt Moscow to maintain a larger number of deployed warheads (and delivery vehicles) targeted at the U.S. than it would with a new treaty. As STRATCOM Commander General Kevin Chilton stated, “One thing I was pleased to see in the treaty were these limits because…when you look to the future we certainly don’t want them to grow and they would have been unrestricted otherwise without these types of limits articulated in the treaty.”
“Moreover, some of the claimed reduction is an artifact of a revised counting rule. In fact, because a bomber will now be counted as one warhead no matter how many bombs or cruise missiles it carries, the agreement may be the first of its kind to permit an actual increase in fielded warhead levels.”
New START’s bomber counting rule is not a fundamental departure from how START I, which the authors supported, counted bomber weapons. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) noted that counting one weapon per bomber “appears to continue guidance first set down by President Reagan….President Reagan’s position was to minimize the counting of bombers reflecting their stabilizing nature.” Bombers are inherently less destabilizing than missiles because they take much longer to deliver warheads to their target and can be recalled. Neither side is likely to get a strategic leg up on the other via the bomber counting rule. Moreover, according to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the number of Russian deployed strategic warheads “is above the treaty limits. So they [the Russians] will have to take down warheads.”
“Furthermore, as some analysts have suggested, the treaty may contain a startling loophole, large enough to drive a train through, which would not count ICBM launchers on rail-mobile platforms. Given past and present Russian interest in such forces, the Senate must certainly determine whether such a gap exists and, if it does, fix it.”
There is no loophole in the treaty regarding rail-mobile ICBM launchers. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Dr. James Miller testified that “The treaty central terms and definitions cover all ICBMs and all ICBM launchers, which would therefore include any rail-mobile systems. In the event that Russia deploys rail-mobile ICBMs in the future, the launchers and the ICBMs they carry would be – and the warheads as well would be accountable under the New START Treaty.”
“The agreement, by reducing deployed-launcher levels to 700 while keeping warhead levels high and discounting bomber loads, creates an even greater incentive for Russia to field land-based missiles with multiple warheads — which is exactly what Moscow intends to do.”
Russia’s deployment of a new, multiple-warhead version of the single warhead SS-27 (known as the RS-24) is a concern. Yet rejecting New START would only heighten uncertainty about the number and location of these missiles and provide Russia with an even greater incentive to maintain a larger number of warheads on its delivery vehicles.
“As for “tactical” nuclear weapons — as though any nuclear weapon can be tactical or “non-strategic” — the agreement is silent; which is exactly what Moscow wanted, to preserve its estimated 10-to-1 advantage in this category of weapons.”
Like previous strategic arms control agreements supported by the authors, New START does not impose limits on non-strategic warheads. While experts agree that these weapons present difficult challenges, the best way to address tactical nuclear weapons is to ratify the New START agreement as soon as possible, and then to begin negotiations with Russia on this issue. In response to questioning from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger stated that ratification of New START is a necessary “precursor” to deal with threat posed by Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal.
“Other senators, including Kerry, Carl Levin, and Dianne Feinstein, also issued scathing criticisms of the Bush agreement, especially because it failed to place any limitations on overall stockpiles or to require any elimination of warheads.”
Despite the concerns they raised, former Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) and every other Democratic Senator voted in favor of the 2002 Moscow Treaty.
“The September 2008 Defense-Energy White Paper suggested a future force of approximately 900 launchers necessary for deterrence purposes and, as the Wall Street Journal noted on March 31, “In Congressional testimony last summer, Deputy Joint Chiefs Chairman General James Cartwright put 860 launchers as the bare minimum.” What has changed since these assessments were made?”
Gen. Chilton recently observed that “time has passed since General Cartwright testified, and we have had the opportunity to do a lot more analysis during this period. And as we looked at it, it not only made sense strategically, but it certainly is doable to continue to sustain the triad at these current [New START] numbers.” Secretary Gates proclaimed: “[T]he first step of the year-long nuclear posture review was an extensive analysis which, among other things, determined how many nuclear delivery vehicles and deployed warheads were needed. This, in turn, provided the basis for our negotiation of New START.”
“But will New START allow for a resilient Triad, including a credible bomber leg?”
According to Secretary Gates, the U.S. will continue to maintain a robust triad of delivery vehicles and “retain…complete flexibility to deploy, maintain, and modernize our strategic nuclear forces in a manner that best protects our national security interests.” The Department of Defense has established a baseline force structure to guide U.S. planning under New START in which the U.S. will retain up to 240 deployed SLBMs distributed among 14 submarines, up to 420 deployed Minuteman III ICBMs, and up to 60 deployed heavy bombers. This planned force structure would reduce SLBMs from a current force of 288 to 240, deployed ICBMs from a current force of 450 to 420, and nuclear-capable bombers from 94 to 60. The U.S. can meet the limits in the treaty without physically destroying a single launcher or altering current or planned basing arrangements. In addition, the administration has announced a plan to spend $100 billion over the next ten years to sustain and modernize all three legs of the triad.
“All of these issues are complicated by the verification challenges raised by the treaty.”
New START contains an updated, streamlined, and more cost-effective system of verification procedures that are tailored to the limits in the treaty, reflect the realities of the current U.S. and Russian arsenals, and, most importantly, will allow the U.S. to effectively verify Russia’s compliance with the treaty. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen testified that, “in totality, I’m very comfortable with the verification regime that exists in the treaty right now.” Gen. Chilton argued that without the treaty “we would have no verification regime because…START I has expired. And so…we would lose any transparency or right to inspect the Russian force structure. And I think that’s important that we have that…visibility into their force.”
“New START abandons on-the-ground monitoring of Russia’s missile-manufacturing facility and permits Russia to withhold telemetry of some of its missile tests, undermining our ability to know both what is being produced and what is being developed.”
In November 2008 the Bush administration presented the Russians with a proposal for a follow-on agreement to START I that did not include continuing monitoring at Votkinsk, where Russia produces its Topol-M (SS-27) and Bulava (SS-26) missiles. START I negotiator Ambassador Linton Brooks recently remarked last year that “the continuous monitoring at Votkinsk was done at a time when we were worried about large numbers of spare launchers and large numbers of spare missiles that could be brought together, and that has proven not to be a genuine worry.” While New START will not include on-site monitoring at Votkinsk, it will include provisions that will continue to allow the U.S. to monitor Russia’s mobile missiles. For example, the treaty requires Moscow to notify the U.S. 48 hours before new solid-fueled ICBMs and SLBMs leave Russian production facilities such as Votkinsk.
According to Secretary Gates, “we don’t need telemetry to monitor compliance with this treaty.” That the U.S. negotiating team was still able to secure an agreement to exchange telemetric information on up to five missile launches a year is a nice win for transparency and confidence-building.
“Beyond its specific terms, much of the rationale for the treaty is that it will help with resetting our relations with Russia and help win support for the administration’s approach to Iran’s nuclear program as well as other issues of mutual concern. Here, there has always been reason to be skeptical…”
The resumption of the formal arms control process between the U.S. and Russia has in fact enhanced relations between the two countries and facilitated cooperation in other areas vital to U.S. national security. As Sen. Kerry put it in an op-ed this week, “[a] major achievement of our outreach has been Russia’s increased cooperation in addressing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.” Russia had been skeptical of further sanctions against Iran but supported new sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council last month. After the vote, Moscow also canceled the sale of the S-300 anti-missile system to Iran. Russia has also aided the U.S. effort in Afghanistan by granting the U.S. access to Russian airspace and overland transit routes, thereby making it easier to get crucial supplies to our troops in the field.
“With missile defense, the explicit limitation is found in Article 5, which precludes any further conversion of ICBM silos for use by defensive interceptors.”
The New START treaty does not limit current or planned U.S. missile defense programs. Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly said: “I do not see any limitation on my ability to develop missile defenses.” He added that “from a technical basis…I would say that either one of those approaches of replacing ICBMs with ground-based interceptors or adapting the submarine-launched ballistic missiles to be an interceptor, would actually be a setback—a major setback—to the development of our missile defenses.” In fact, New START actually helps U.S. missile defense programs. According to Gen. O’Reilly, “[u]nder New START the Trident-1 missile is not accountable so we will have greater flexibility in using it as a missile defense test target with regards to launcher locations, telemetry collection and data processing, thus allowing more efficient test architectures and operationally realistic intercept geometries.”
“[T]he Russians…have already threatened to leave the treaty if the U.S. increases its missile-defense capabilities.”
As was the case with START I, the U.S. and Russia have issued unilateral statements on how they interpret the relationship between the new treaty and missile defense. In its statement accompanying START I, the Soviet Union threatened to withdraw from the treaty if the U.S. withdrew from the ABM treaty. Yet when the U.S. did withdraw from the ABM treaty in 2001, Russia did not withdraw from START I. As Secretary Gates pointed out, “the Russians can say what they want. If it’s not in the treaty it’s not binding on the United States.”
“As for conventional global precision strike weapons, the NPR makes explicit that they will be counted under New START.”
New START will count ICBMs and SLBMs whether they carry nuclear or conventional warheads, thus a prompt global strike capability would be subject to the treaty’s limits. However, Secretary Gates stated that <strong.“the New START treaty does not restrict our ability to develop and deploy conventional prompt global strike capabilities that could attack targets anywhere on the globe in an hour or less. The treaty’s limit of 700 deployed delivery vehicles, combined with the ceiling of 1,550 deployed warheads accommodates the limited number of conventional warheads we may need for this capability.”</strong> Moreover Undersecretary Miller testified that “DoD is also exploring the potential of conventionally-armed long-range systems that fly non-ballistic trajectory, for example, boost-glide systems. We are confident that these non-nuclear systems…would not be accountable…for the purposes of the treaty.” It remains to be seen what the Obama administration’s full plans are for a prompt global strike capability.
“[T]he NPR…announces a new declaratory policy that undercuts our ability to deter biological attacks that may be as lethal and more likely than nuclear attack.”
Joseph and Edelman misconstrue the impact of the Nuclear Posture Review on U.S. national security. The NPR strengthens U.S. security by making clear that any state using chemical or biological weapons against the U.S. or its allies would still face a devastating conventional military response, and that the leaders of the responsible countries would be held personally responsible. This is a far more credible threat than the use of nuclear weapons, which no country has employed since the end of World War II. The NPR also notes that: “Given the catastrophic potential of biological weapons and the rapid pace of bio-technology development, the United States reserves the right to make any adjustment in the assurance that may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of the biological weapons threat and U.S. capacities to counter that threat.”
“[T]he NPR imposes severe constraints on the modernization and maintenance of our nuclear stockpile.”
The Nuclear Posture Review and the Section 1251 report make clear that “the Laboratory Directors will ensure the full range of life extension program approaches, including refurbishment, reuse, and replacement of nuclear components are studied.” This approach reflects the fact that there is no technical or strategic need to replace the nuclear components in warhead primaries and secondaries, and that doing so could undermine the safety, security, and reliability of the stockpile. However, if replacement of such components becomes necessary, then the President has the option to do that. The director’s of the three U.S. nuclear weapons labs have strongly endorsed the NPR’s approach. In their April 9 joint statement, they said: “We believe that the approach outlined in the NPR, which excludes further nuclear testing and includes the consideration of the full range of life extension options (refurbishment of existing warheads, reuse of nuclear components from different warheads and replacement of nuclear components based on previously tested designs), provides the necessary technical flexibility to manage the nuclear stockpile into the future with an acceptable level of risk.”
“The Senate will have to decide whether the limitations on future U.S. capabilities that are in this treaty will enable us to have adequate means for meeting the threats we know we will face, as well as those that we cannot know but may well emerge.”
To date, every witness who has testified before the Senate Foreign Relations and Senate Armed Services Committees on New START has strongly endorsed the New START treaty as big win for U.S. national security that will allow the U.S. to maintain a robust nuclear deterrent and will not limit U.S. missile defense plans or advanced long-range conventional strike capabilities. Most of theses witnesses have been former high-ranking officials in Republican administrations (e.g. Schlesinger, Hadley, and Scowcroft) or military leaders that assumed their commands during the administration of George W. Bush (e.g. Gates, Mullen, and Chilton).
Furthermore, nearly every witness has testified that failure to ratify the treaty would make the U.S. less secure. In the words of Schlesinger, “to fail to ratify the treaty in the due course of the Senate’s deliberation would have a detrimental effect on our ability to influence others with regard to particularly the nonproliferation issue.” Likewise, Gen. Chilton remarked that “if we don’t get the treaty, they [the Russians] are not constrained in their development of force structure and…we have no insight into what they’re doing. So it’s the worst of both possible worlds.”