By Kingston Reif and Trish Morris
Last summer, Mitt Romney unintentionally proved in a Washington Post Op-Ed attacking the New START treaty that his national security GPS is less effective than a broken compass.
His argument was promptly devastated by critics wielding facts.
Slate’s Fred Kaplan noted that he had “never seen anything quite as shabby, misleading and—let’s not mince words—thoroughly ignorant.” Senator John Kerry (D-MA) used words like “uninformed” and “baloney” to describe Romney’s attack on the treaty. Most devastatingly for Romney, fellow Republican Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) publically excoriated the former Massachusetts Governor for defying the advice of U.S. military leaders and raising “discredited objections.”
Despite these stinging rebukes, Romney held firm in his opposition to New START, which was approved by the U.S. Senate on December 22, 2010, by a vote of 71-26.
With the race for the 2012 Republican nomination for President now in full swing, Romney is revisiting his opposition to the treaty in an attempt to score political points.
In a June 15 post on his blog titled “The Price of Inexperience,” Romney stated that because Russia is already below New START’s limits on deployed warheads and delivery vehicles, “we’re the ones who now have to give, while Russia gets.” Both Keith Payne and Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) have made the same argument.
Like Payne and Kyl, what Romney fails to recognize is that without the treaty there would be no verifiable limits on the size of Russia’s nuclear arsenal. Whether some Russian reductions might have happened with or without the treaty is beside the point, as former STRATCOM Commander Gen. Kevin Chilton argued last April:
One thing I was pleased to see in the treaty were these limits because as you look to the future though Russia may be close to or slightly below them already, 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…
Romney also criticizes New START for failing to tackle Russia’s numerical advantage in tactical nuclear weapons. However, ratification of New START was a necessary precursor to deal with these weapons.
Romney ends his post by accusing the President of abandoning the George W. Bush administration’s Europe-based missile-defense program as part of his “reset” policy with Russia, “leaving Poland and the Czech Republic in the lurch.”
The same day that Romney filed his post, outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had the following to say about the Bush administration’s plans for missile defense in Europe at a hearing of the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee:
And let’s be blunt: The third site in Europe was not going to happen, because the Czech government wouldn’t approve the radar….And so if it was going to happen at all, it would’ve taken years longer [than the Phased Adaptive Approach] and we still hadn’t negotiated the required agreements with the Poles in terms of the interceptors.
In other words, if Mitt Romney were President instead of Barack Obama, there would be no verifiable limits on the size of Russia’s still enormous nuclear arsenal and no credible plan (at least relative to the Bush plan) for dealing with the Iranian ballistic missile threat. Talk about the price of inexperience.