National Security Network

The Cold War is Over: Ratify New START

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Report 25 June 2010

Russia Russia New START treaty nuclear proliferation


The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty facilitates reductions in the strategic nuclear arsenals of the world's two largest nuclear powers and has earned overwhelming support from the military, national security experts and, just yesterday, thirty bipartisan national security leaders including Colin Powell.  These same experts have also warned that a rejection of this treaty would put our national security at risk.  Failure to ratify the agreement would, in the words of George H.W. Bush's National Security Advisor General Brent Scowcroft, throw our efforts to control nuclear threats into a "state of chaos." 

The strong support for the New START accord has been lost on a few Senators who are unaware that the Cold War ended years ago.  Deeply rooted Cold War ideologies have surfaced in recent weeks, leading one Senator to continuously confuse the Russian Federation with the Soviet Union and another Senator to refuse to show up to hearings in what can only be explained by a Cold War, ideological bias.  Nancy Soderberg, a former U.S. Representative to the United Nations and member of the National Security Council, has explained:  "It is time for the U.S. Senate to abandon the Cold War and support a nuclear security agenda designed for the 21st century. Nothing underscores the rift in generational thinking more than the debate taking shape in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee over whether to ratify the New START treaty.  At its core, the debate is not between liberals and conservatives but between those who understand that the world of nuclear weapons has changed dramatically and those who still view national security through a pre-9/11, Cold War lens." 

Treaty opponents must stretch credulity to disregard overwhelming support for the New START accord.  With the United States military and a growing, bipartisan array of national security leaders supporting the treaty, serious opposition to it is hard to find.  Yesterday Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe explained his failure to attend a single hearing on the agreement, despite being on both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Armed Services Committee, by saying, "I will continue to be absent until I see, Madame Chairman, that there's a committee with some witness on the committee who is opposed to it."  Ironically, as he was speaking, Sen. Inhofe was holding up a copy of the Partnership for a Secure America (PSA) letter from 30 high-level national security experts from across the political spectrum, strongly supporting the New START accord.  The signatories of the letter include Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, Samuel Berger, Frank Carlucci, Chuck Hagel, John Danforth and many other prominent national security experts.

The expert testimonies that Sen. Inhofe has chosen to dismiss come from a long list of bipartisan experts including:

James Schlesinger, Secretary of Defense for Presidents Nixon and Ford and the Secretary of Energy for President Carter: "It is obligatory for the United States to ratify."  [James Schlesinger, 4/29/10]

Stephen Hadley, National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush: "The New START Treaty makes its modest but nonetheless useful contribution to the national security of the United States and to international stability." [Stephen Hadley, 6/10/10]

Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: "I encourage the Senate to fully study the treaty. I believe you will see the wisdom of ratifying it, and I sit before you recommending that you do so." [Michael Mullen, 6/17/10]

General Kevin Chilton, STRATCOM Commander: "I want to begin by assuring you that I was fully consulted during the treaty negotiation process and I support the ratification of New START."  [Kevin Chilton, 6/16/10]

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu: "We share a strong belief that the New START treaty will make our country more secure. And we urge the Senate to ratify it expeditiously." [Gates, Clinton and Chu, 6/17/10]

Henry Kissinger, National Security Advisor to President Nixon and Secretary of State to Presidents Nixon and Ford:  "I recommend ratification of this treaty." [Henry Kissinger, 5/25/10]

[SFRC, 6/24/10. PSA, 6/10]

Bipartisan experts:  Failure to ratify the New START treaty in a timely manner will have negative consequences for national and global security.  A rejection of the New START agreement would not only wipe clean the progress that has been made on reducing the threat of nuclear weapons, but it would also severely strain our relations with the international community.  Global cooperation is paramount for dealing with rogue states like Iran and North Korea.  By rejecting this treaty, the United States would also be rejecting opportunities to thwart the threats posed by such states.  As President George H.W. Bush's National Security Advisor, General Brent Scowcroft (Ret.) explained, "The principal result of non-ratification would be to throw the whole nuclear negotiating situation into a state of chaos."

Henry Kissinger further explained the impact on the international environment in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee saying: "In deciding on ratification, the concerns need to be measured against the consequences of non-ratification, particularly interrupting a [bilateral arms control] process that has been going on for decades, the relationship to the NPT, and to the attempt to achieve a strategic coherence. And so, for all these reasons, I recommend ratification of this treaty...In short, this committee's decision will affect the prospects for peace for a decade or more. It is, by definition, not a bipartisan, but a nonpartisan, challenge... This START treaty is an evolution of treaties that have been negotiated in previous administrations of both parties. And its principal provisions are an elaboration or a continuation of existing agreements. Therefore, a rejection of them would indicate that a new period of American policy had started that might rely largely on the unilateral reliance of its nuclear weapons, and would therefore create an element of uncertainty in the calculations of both adversaries and allies. And therefore, I think it would have an unsettling impact on the international environment." Kissinger was joined by his fellow Cold Warriors who outlined the consequences of failing to ratify the new accord.  Secretary Schlesinger stated that failure to ratify this treaty "would have a detrimental effect on our ability to influence others with regard to, particularly, the nonproliferation issue," and Secretary Perry further commented that "If we fail to ratify this treaty, the U.S. forfeits any right to leadership on nonproliferation policies."  [Brent Scowcroft, 6/10/10. Henry Kissinger, 5/25/10. William Perry and James Schlesinger, 4/29/10]

Outdated mentality, national security incompetence on full display in conservative attacks on New START. In the absence of any expert opposition to the treaty, its opponents have been reduced to outdated, ill-informed or simply specious arguments.  One of the worst offenders has been Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), who has displayed not only a shaky grasp on history, but on national security fundamentals.  Appearing at an event sponsored by the Foreign Policy Initiative, DeMint made a series of astonishing comments, confusing Russia with the Soviet Union:  "As I look at...the proposed START treaty...we had a lot of hope that Russia would become democratic and a free market...those things have really not we look at who we're doing business with...clearly the USSR as a democracy is a fraud...very little free market activity...the rule of law is very loose...murders go unpunished...the USSR...Russia...It's synonymous, remember, the Russians are coming."

Last week before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, DeMint again confused Russia and the Soviet Union and appeared to express concern that the New START treaty would limit the ability of the U.S. to build a missile defense shield "capable of shooting down multiple missiles fired by the Soviet Union."  However, "following Senator DeMint's exit from the hearing, Senator Lugar commented: ‘I don't know any serious thinker who has envisioned a comprehensive missile defense program."'  In fact, no Administration, Republican or Democratic, has ever supported such a policy:  Secretary Gates explained to Senator DeMint that "trying to render useless Russia's nuclear capability that in our view, as in their view, would be enormously destabilizing not to mention unbelievably expensive."

An administration official told Foreign Policy's the Cable, "We are happy to let Senator DeMint keep digging away at the hole he is already in...He seems to have forgotten that even the Rumsfeld-led Pentagon in the last administration explicitly ruled out a U.S. missile defense system targeting Russia's nuclear forces -- and for good reason." [Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) via FPI, 6/24/10. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), 6/15/10. Secretary of Defense Gates, 6/15/10. Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, 6/16/10. The Cable, 6/24/10]

What We're Reading

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Pakistan is exploiting the troubled United States military effort in Afghanistan to drive home a political settlement with Afghanistan that would give Pakistan important influence there but is likely to undermine United States interests.

Congress approved tough new unilateral sanctions aimed at squeezing Iran's energy and banking sectors.

At a joint news conference with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, President Obama gave an unqualified endorsement of Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization.

Kosovo is optimistic about starting talks on visa free travel and a basic trade pact with the EU, but its prospects are unclear given its non-recognition by five EU countries.

Israel's president and elder statesman, Shimon Peres, urged the United States and other world powers this week to engage with Hamas in order to persuade the Islamist group to renounce violence and prepare for peace with Israel.

A year into his presidency, leftist Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes faces mounting criticism for failing to tackle corruption and halt rising violence and drug trafficking.

Nine Iraqi police officers were killed during a series of attacks in Mosul and Baghdad as the country's political stalemate dragged on.

The Chinese are increasingly relying on domestic consumption to drive the country's economy and decrease its reliance on exports.

Four days of talks by members of the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme established to keep so-called blood diamonds off worldwide markets left in place an effective ban on the international sale of diamonds from the controversial Marange field in eastern Zimbabwe.

Commentary of the Day

Micah Zenko and Rebecca Friedman say cutting funding for U.S. diplomatic efforts is shortsighted -- just ask the secretary of defense.

Paul Krugman writes that Americans shouldn't be fooled: China is only letting its currency appreciate a nominal amount, mostly to deflect criticism ahead of the G-20 meeting.

Ray Takeyh explains the downside of sanctions on Iran.