The Repub­li­can case for rat­i­fy­ing New Start

The Pak Banker - - Editorial5 - Henry A. Kissinger

Repub­li­can pres­i­dents have long led the cru­cial fight to pro­tect the United States against nu­clear dangers. That is why Pres­i­dents Richard Nixon, Ron­ald Rea­gan and Ge­orge H.W. Bush ne­go­ti­ated the SALT I, START I and START II agree­ments. It is why Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush ne­go­ti­ated the Moscow Treaty. All four rec­og­nized that re­duc­ing the num­ber of nu­clear arms in an open, ver­i­fi­able man­ner would re­duce the risk of nu­clear catas­tro­phe and in­crease the sta­bil­ity of Amer­ica's re­la­tion­ship with the Soviet Union and, later, the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion. The world is safer to­day be­cause of the decades-long ef­fort to re­duce its sup­ply of nu­clear weapons.

As a re­sult, we urge the Se­nate to rat­ify the New START treaty signed by Pres­i­dent Obama and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Dmitry Medvedev. It is a mod­est and ap­pro­pri­ate con­tin­u­a­tion of the START I treaty that ex­pired al­most a year ago. It re­duces the num­ber of nu­clear weapons that each side de­ploys while en­abling the United States to main­tain a strong nu­clear de­ter­rent and pre­serv­ing the flex­i­bil­ity to de­ploy those forces as we see fit. Along with our obli­ga­tion to pro­tect the home­land, the United States has re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to al­lies around the world. The com­man­der of our nu­clear forces has tes­ti­fied that the 1,550 war­heads al­lowed un­der this treaty are suf­fi­cient for all our mis­sions - and seven for­mer nu­clear com­man­ders agree. The de­fense sec­re­tary, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the head of the Mis­sile De­fense Agency - all orig­i­nally ap­pointed by a Repub­li­can pres­i­dent - ar­gue that New START is es­sen­tial for our na­tional de­fense.

We do not make a rec­om­men­da­tion about the ex­act tim­ing of a Se­nate rat­i­fi­ca­tion vote. That is a mat­ter for the ad­min­is­tra­tion and Se­nate lead­ers. The most im­por­tant thing is to have bi­par­ti­san sup­port for the treaty, as pre­vi­ous nu­clear arms treaties did. Al­though each of us had ini­tial ques­tions about New START, ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have pro­vided rea­son­able an­swers. We be­lieve there are com­pelling rea­sons Repub­li­cans should sup­port rat­i­fi­ca­tion.

First, the agree­ment em­pha­sizes ver­i­fi­ca­tion, pro­vid­ing a valu­able win­dow into Rus­sia's nu­clear arse­nal. Since the orig­i­nal START ex­pired last De­cem­ber, Rus­sia has not been re­quired to pro­vide no­ti­fi­ca­tions about changes in its strate­gic nu­clear arse­nal, and the United States has been un­able to con­duct on-site in­spec­tions. Each day, Amer­ica's un­der­stand­ing of Rus­sia's arse­nal has been de­graded, and re­sources have been di­verted from na­tional se­cu­rity tasks to try to fill the gaps. Our mil­i­tary plan­ners in­creas­ingly lack the best pos­si­ble in­sight into Rus­sia's ac­tiv­ity with its strate­gic nu­clear arse­nal, mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult to carry out their nu­clear de­ter­rent mis­sion.

Sec­ond, New START pre­serves our abil­ity to de­ploy ef­fec­tive mis­sile de­fenses. The tes­ti­monies of our mil­i­tary com­man­ders and civil­ian lead­ers make clear that the treaty does not limit U.S. mis­sile de­fense plans. Al­though the treaty pro­hibits the con­ver­sion of ex­ist­ing launch­ers for in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal and sub­ma­rine-based bal­lis­tic mis­siles, our mil­i­tary lead­ers say they do not want to do that be­cause it is more ex­pen­sive and less ef­fec­tive than build­ing new ones for de­fense pur­poses. Fi­nally, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has agreed to pro­vide for mod­ern­iza­tion of the in­fra­struc­ture es­sen­tial to main­tain­ing our nu­clear arse­nal. Fund­ing these ef­forts has be­come part of the ne­go­ti­a­tions in the rat­i­fi­ca­tion process. The ad­min­is­tra­tion has put forth a 10-year plan to spend $84 bil­lion on the En­ergy Depart­ment's nu­clear weapons com­plex. Much of the credit for get­ting the ad­min­is­tra­tion to add $14 bil­lion to the orig­i­nally pro­posed $70 bil­lion for mod­ern­iza­tion goes to Sen. Jon Kyl, the Ari­zona Repub­li­can who has been vig­i­lant in this ef­fort. Im­ple­ment­ing this mod­ern­iza­tion pro­gram in a timely fashion would be im­por­tant in en­sur­ing that our nu­clear arse­nal is main­tained ap­pro­pri­ately over the next decade and be­yond.

Al­though the United States needs a strong and re­li­able nu­clear force, the chief nu­clear dan­ger to­day comes not from Rus­sia but from rogue states such as Iran and North Korea and the po­ten­tial for nu­clear ma­te­rial to fall into the hands of ter­ror­ists.

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