Via Max Bergmann over at the The Wonk Room, today’s Wall Street Journal editorial on Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech predictably includes far more misinformation than truth about the “New START” negotiations…
For example, according to the Journal, U.S. ICBMs “are being fitted with conventional weapons.” If that is the case, then apparently the editors know more about U.S. strategic forces than STRATCOM Commander Gen. Kevin Chilton and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright.
The Journal also claims that with the loss of U.S. monitoring at Votkinsk, the U.S. will have no means of verifying Russian mobile missile deployments. This would be true if monitoring at Votkinsk was our only way to count these missiles. It is not.
First, let’s not forget that it was because of the Bush administration that Rose Gottemoeller and her team were put in such a tight spot re: Votkinsk in the first place.
Second, remember that national technical means (NTM) is the basis for most of the information we get about Russian nuclear forces. Cooperative verification measures supplement and confirm information gleaned from NTM. Under START I, Votkinsk was but one of many cooperative provisions used to count mobile missiles. Other procedures included data exchanges, notifications, location restrictions, and on-site inspections.
Though New START is still being negotiated, it will likely include an updated version of START I-style data exchanges, notifications, and inspections which will continue to allow us to monitor Russia’s mobile missiles. And of course, we will still have NTM.
Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Steve Pifer elaborated on this point at a briefing the Center co-hosed with the Arms Control Association earlier this week. As Pifer put it:
I think the Votkinsk provision…perhaps at this point, we no longer need that. And so the verification provisions really need to be driven by the actual limitations that you agree to, and to the extent that you have different limitations than were in the START treaty…I think in some ways this new agreement is going to be simpler than the START treaty. That may impose, in some ways, less demanding verification requirements. And that gives the side the opportunity, then, to eliminate the inspections if they make no contribution to the overall understanding of the other side’s compliance with the treaty.
But you have to give it to the Journal: at least they’re consistent (well sort of). When news broke in May 2002 that the Bush administration planned to sign a legally-binding treaty with Russia (aka the Moscow Treaty), the Journal called it a “A Gift for Mr. Putin”. That’s right: Even the Bush administration’s largely nonexistent arms control agenda was too liberal for the Wall Street Journal!
Still, the editors couldn’t help but praise the treaty for its indifference:
At least this one does relatively little mischief. It is only three-and-one-half pages long, and a third of that is rhetorical throat-clearing. The pact does nothing to restrict defenses, and it allows either side to deploy the warheads that remain as each sees fit.
That’s right: Praise a Republican administration when it says it doesn’t care how Russia deploys its forces, yet pitch a fit when a Democratic administration attempts to negotiate an updated and adapted verification infrastructure to ensure we know what the Russians are doing, a task made all the more difficult by the previous Republican administration’s bumbling.