Via Heather Hulburt, Executive Director of the National Security Network, comes still more evidence that despite what Jon Kyl would have you believe, there was a time not so long ago when some Republicans deemed it ok not to freak out about the configuration of Russia’s nuclear forces or the absence of provisions to verify the size and location of those forces.
In prepared testimony for a July 2002 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Moscow Treaty, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld chided those who viewed START I as a model of effective arms control:
There are those who do not see the difference in the size of these treaties as a sign of progress. To the contrary, they would have preferred a voluminous, legalistic arms control agreement, with hundreds of pages of carefully crafted provisions and intrusive verification measures.
These critics operate from a flawed premise: that, absent such an agreement, our two countries would both try to break out of the constraints of this treaty and increase our deployed nuclear forces. Nothing could be further from the truth.
During the Cold War, the stated rationale for arms control was to constrain an arms race. But the idea of an arms race between the United States and Russia today is ludicrous. The relationship between our two countries today is such that U.S. determined—unilaterally—that deep reductions in our deployed nuclear forces are in the U.S. interest.
We would have made these cuts regardless of what Russia did with its arsenal. We are making them not because we signed a treaty in Moscow, but because the fundamental transformation in our relationship with Russia means we do not need so many deployed weapons. Russia has made a similar calculation. The agreement we reached in Moscow is the result of those determinations—not the cause of them.
That is also why we saw no need for including detailed verification measures in the treaty. First, there simply isn’t any way on earth to verify what Russia is doing with all those warheads. Second, we don’t need to. Neither side has an interest in evading the terms of the treaty, since it simply codifies unilaterally announced reductions—and gives both sides broad flexibility in implementing them. Third, we saw no benefit in creating a new forum for bitter debates over compliance and enforcement. Today, the last place in the world where U.S. and Russian officials still sit across a table arguing with each other is in Geneva. Our goal is to move beyond that kind of Cold War animosity—not to find new ways to extend it into the 21st century.
None of which is to suggest that Rummy was right. Legally-binding, verifiable limits on the size of the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals greatly enhance U.S. security by bringing predictability and stability to U.S.-Russian nuclear relations, giving each side confidence that neither side is attempting to retain a significant strategic advantage, and reducing the chances for misunderstanding and worst-case scenario planning. While neither side wants to retain all of START I’s verification provisions, New START is likely to include an updated system of procedures so that each side can continue to have confidence that it knows what the other is doing.
Nor should we be cavalier about Russian missile development. As Daryl Kimball noted in response to news that the U.S. will soon lose its ability to continuously monitor Russian missile production at Votkinsk, “How significant [the loss of Votkinsk] is depends on what other monitoring mechanisms will be worked out.”