I’m a little late to the game on this but Keith Payne published an op-ed in the Washington Times last month attacking the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review and the New START treaty. NoH has long been fascinated by Payne’s views on arms control, particularly his willingness to run roughshod over the final report of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, on which he served as a Commissioner. As Mort Halperin – who also served on the Commission – noted at recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on New START, “the Treaty now before the Senate conforms in every material way with the recommendations of the Commission.”
It appears that the Obama administration has had just about enough of Payne as well. At the Senate Armed Services Committee’s June 17 hearing on New START with Secretary of Defense Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen, Secretary of State Clinton, and Secretary of Energy Chu, Senator Roland Burris (D-IL) asked the witnesses about Payne’s op-ed, specifically the claim that the treaty only requires U.S. force reductions. To borrow a line from Blades of Glory (I watched it again recently for probably the 24th time), Clinton slipped Payne a very public note in response:
You will find there are unfortunately a number of commentators or analysts who just don’t believe in arms control treaties at all and from my perspective are, you know, very – unfortunately slanting a lot of what they say.
And this is a perfect example of that, because as Secretary Gates just pointed out, there would be reductions on the Russian side.
The perfect example indeed. Payne’s claim that Russia won’t have to make any cuts to its nuclear forces is both substantively incorrect and misses the point.
Let’s take a closer look at Payne’s argument that Russia gets off scot free:
In addition, the NPR emphasizes the resilience of U.S. strategic forces, but New START limits their resilience by mandating a lower ceiling on deployed bombers and missiles than was earlier suggested publicly by senior Defense Department and military officials, and by effectively requiring only U.S. force reductions – a fact Russians have noticed. Russian strategic analyst Aleksey Arbatov notes in a March 5 Russian article: “The new treaty is an agreement on reducing the American and not the Russian [strategic nuclear forces]. In fact the latter will be reduced in any case because of the mass removal from the order of battle of obsolete arms and the one-at-a time introduction of new systems.” Russian defense journalist Alexander Golts similarly writes in the Moscow Times that Russia can “fulfill its pledge without eliminating a single actual weapon. The same is true regarding warheads.”
First, STRATCOM Commander Gen. Kevin Chilton recently addressed the concern raised last summer by some in the military that New START should not limit deployed delivery vehicles below about 800 (New START limits the U.S. and Russia to no more than 700 deployed missile and bombers and no more than 800 deployed and non-deployed launchers). According to Gen. Chilton, “time has passed…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.”
Second, while Russia is already under the treaty’s limit on delivery vehicles, Secretary Gates has stated on more than one occasion that the number of Russian deployed strategic warheads “is above the treaty limits. So they [the Russians] will have to take down warheads.” In fact, if you believe the open source estimates of the current number of deployed U.S. and Russia warheads, then New START will require Russia to cut more warheads from its deployed force than the U.S.
In any event, Payne should have found someone other than Arbatov and Golts to support his point that New START is a bad deal for the U.S. In April Arbatov opined: “The main significance is restoration of the formal, legally binding dialogue and framework of strategic relationship between the two leading nuclear superpowers.” Meanwhile, Golts has written that “Moscow gave in to practically all U.S. demands.”
But to a certain extent all of this is beside the point. As numerous commentators (including Arbatov) have pointed out, New START is not in the first instance a reductions treaty, although some reductions in deployed forces are required. Rather, the treaty’s legally-binding limits and monitoring and verification provisions will prevent the growth of Russia’s deployed forces and give us an essential window into their composition and location that we haven’t had since START I expired on December 5 of last year.
This in turn will ensure a predictable and stable U.S.-Russian nuclear relationship, thereby reducing the risk of mutual suspicion, worst case scenario planning, and by extension the chances of an accidental or unauthorized U.S.-Russian nuclear exchange. And the more stable and predictable the relationship, the better off our allies are, which probably explains why so many of them support New START.
To sum up, I’ll again defer to Gen. Chilton:
If we don’t get the treaty, [the Russians] are not constrained in their development of force structure and…we have no insight into what they’re doing. So its the worst of both possible worlds.
The longer New START awaits Senate advice and consent, the longer U.S. inspectors will remain in the U.S. and not on the ground in Russia inspecting Russia’s nuclear arsenal. Someone should ask Keith Payne how this benefits U.S. security.