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Debate: New START Treaty

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Is the New Start nuclear arms reduction treaty a good idea?

Background and context

The New START Treaty (for STrategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is a bilateral nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation that was signed in Prague on April 8, 2010. It is a follow-up to the 1991 START I treaty, which expired in December 2009, and to START II and the 2002 Treaty of Moscow (SORT), which was due to expire in December 2012. It has, however, been opposed by a number of Republican congressmen, lead by Jon Kyl (R-AZ), on the grounds that it does not allow for sufficient modernization of the US nuclear arsenal nor adequate flexibility on nuclear missile defense systems. Obama compromised by offering 80 billion over a decade toward nuclear modernization and argued aggressively that the treaty does not limit, and actually strengthens US missile defense. These and other arguments are outlined below.

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Iran problem: Is New START key to addressing Iran problem?

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Pro

  • Signing New START saves US-Russia relations for Iranian problem. On Nov. 19, 2010, the Anti-Defamation League released a statement, which came from Robert G. Sugarman, ADL National Chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director: "The severe damage that could be inflicted on that relationship by failing to ratify the treaty would inevitably hamper effective American international leadership to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The Iranian nuclear threat is the most serious national security issue facing the United States, Israel, and other allies in the Middle East. While some Senators may have legitimate reservations about the New START treaty or its protocol, we believe the interest of our greater and common goal of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons must take precedence."[1]
  • New START preserves Russian help on rogue states and loose nukes. Henry A. Kissinger, George P. Shultz, James A. Baker III, Lawrence S. Eagleburger and Colin L. Powell. "The Republican case for ratifying New START." Washington Post. December 2, 2010: "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. Given those pressing dangers, some question why an arms control treaty with Russia matters. It matters because it is in both parties' interest that there be transparency and stability in their strategic nuclear relationship. It also matters because Russia's cooperation will be needed if we are to make progress in rolling back the Iranian and North Korean programs. Russian help will be needed to continue our work to secure "loose nukes" in Russia and elsewhere. And Russian assistance is needed to improve the situation in Afghanistan, a breeding ground for international terrorism."
  • New START important to Russian cooperation on many issues. Joseph Biden. "The case for ratifying New START." Wall Street Journal. November 25, 2010: "New Start is also a cornerstone of our efforts to reset relations with Russia, which have improved significantly in the last two years. This has led to real benefits for U.S. and global security. Russian cooperation made it possible to secure strong sanctions against Iran over its nuclear ambitions, and Russia canceled a sale to Iran of an advanced anti-aircraft missile system that would have been dangerously destabilizing. Russia has permitted the flow of materiel through its territory for our troops in Afghanistan. And—as the NATO-Russia Council in Lisbon demonstrated—European security has been advanced by the pursuit of a more cooperative relationship with Russia. We should not jeopardize this progress."


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Con

  • US should not sign New START to bribe Russia on Iran. Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA): "The particular complaints about New START, of which there are many, are waved aside. Instead, we are told that the real purpose of New START is to create a stronger U.S.-Russia bond in a broader international effort to restrain Iran's nuclear weapons program. Such a justification is wrong. Iran's nuclear ambitions are no secret; neither is Russia's past efforts in aiding that program. We seriously question whether Russia is serious about stopping Iran, with or without New START. There is no reason why the United States should be required to sacrifice its own defense capabilities to inspire Russia to a greater degree of diplomatic fortitude. If Russia is indeed concerned with a nuclear-armed Iran to its immediate south, it should need no extra incentive to take the action necessary to stop it."[2]
  • New START would constrain new weapons and defense systems. David Ganz, the president of JINSA to the Atlantic: "This treaty would restrain the development and deployment of new nuclear weapons, missile defense systems, and missile delivery systems."[3]
  • Reducing nuclear arms will not compel others to stop pursuing nukes. Baker Spring. "Twelve Flaws of New START That Will Be Difficult to Fix." Heritage Foundation, The Foundry. September 16th, 2010: "the Obama Administration is clearly committed to a policy that asserts that for every neg­ative development in the area of nuclear prolifera tion the U.S. needs to take a substantive step in the direction of nuclear disarmament, and New START is a product of this misguided approach. Ultimately, this approach effectively assumes that the posses sion of nuclear arms by the U.S. is the incentive driving other nations to pursue nuclear weapons programs. Not only is the assumption misplaced, but the policy will undermine deterrence and increase the likelihood of the use of nuclear weap ons.[7] At some point, the Obama Administration will need to recognize that it is foolish for the U.S. to take substantive steps toward nuclear disarmament at the same time the nuclear proliferation problem is growing worse."
  • New START reduces US deterrence in world that is arming, not disarming Peter Brookes. "Not a New START, but a bad START." The Hill. September 13th, 2010: "Drawing down US Will a U.S. drawdown undermine American strategic deterrence, a bedrock of our defense policy in the nuclear age, encouraging other potential rivals to bolster their current or future arsenals? And in a world that is arming — not disarming — could these major reductions in our nuclear force create (or feed) an image of American weakness and decline, leading to misperception and miscalculation — and conflict? Obama sees it differently, believing U.S. leadership on disarmament (even unilateral) gives us greater moral standing in battling proliferation. But will others follow? Looking around the world, there’s no evidence of 'denuclearization discipleship' so far."
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Verification: Are New START's verification provisions important?

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Con

  • New START is not adequately verifiable. Baker Spring. "Twelve Flaws of New START That Will Be Difficult to Fix." Heritage Foundation, The Foundry. September 16th, 2010: "Flaw #11: New START is not adequately verifiable.[13] Compared to the expired START’s verification regime, the New START verification regime is signif icantly less robust, even though New START will drive the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal to lower levels. The specific areas that are significantly less robust include: A narrowing of the requirements for exchanging telemetry, A reduction in the effectiveness of the inspections, Weaknesses in the ability to verify the number of deployed warheads on ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), Abolition of the START verification regime gov erning mobile ICBMs, and A weakening of the verification standards gov erning the elimination of delivery vehicles."
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Arms reduction: Is reducing nuclear arms wise?

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Pro

  • Reducing US-Russian nuclear weapons makes for a safer world. Dr. David P. "Security, Sin and Nuclear Weapons: A Christian Plea for the New START Treaty." Huffington Post. December 4th, 2010: "The issue on the table is a nuclear arms reduction and verification treaty between the United States and Russia. The treaty, called New START, would reduce Russian and American deployed nuclear weapons to 1,550 and delivery vehicles to 700 each. This would be a 33 percent reduction in the existing arsenals, which is worth achieving and celebrating even as we know that countless cities and millions of precious human beings could be destroyed by the use of even part of the remaining arsenals. Still, these reductions would be a great step on the way to a safer world, as would the re-establishment of bilateral, intrusive verification measures for both sides, also part of the treaty."
  • Russia will build-up nuclear arms without New START. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in an interview released in early December 2010 that Russia might be forced to build up its nuclear forces against the West if the United States fails to ratify the New START treaty.[4]
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Con


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Nuclear capability: Does New START maintain US nuclear capabilities?

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Pro

  • Nuclear armament will be modernized along with New START. Henry A. Kissinger, George P. Shultz, James A. Baker III, Lawrence S. Eagleburger and Colin L. Powell. "The Republican case for ratifying New START." Washington Post. December 2, 2010: "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."
  • New START is important to medical health. The Maine Medical Association strongly supported New START as essential to protecting the public's health: "even small nuclear explosions show devastating immediate and long-term medical consequences including death, blast injury, burns, radiation sickness and malignancy, on a scale far beyond the ability of the medical community and the public health infrastructure to respond to adequately."[5]


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Con

  • Atrophying US nuclear arsenal makes New START unwise. Baker Spring. "Twelve Flaws of New START That Will Be Difficult to Fix." Heritage Foundation, The Foundry. September 16th, 2010: "Flaw #3: The atrophying U.S. nuclear arsenal and weapons enterprise make reductions in the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal even more dangerous. Article V of New START permits strategic nuclear modernization, but the U.S. strategic nuclear arse nal has aged, and the weapons enterprise that is necessary to pursue modernization has atrophied over the past two decades. This includes an alarm ing weakening of the industrial base for solid rocket motors. These nuclear modernization problems are not in the text of the treaty or its interpretation, but exist only in relation to the treaty, which exacerbates these problems. The solution to the ongoing problems with the lack of nuclear weapons modernization depends on a commitment between the Obama Administration and Congress to pursue nuclear modernization on a sustained basis. During the consideration of New START, the Senate could amend the resolution of rat­ification with a condition that requires President Obama and congressional leaders to commit to a detailed nuclear modernization agenda that extends for the 10-year life of New START. Specifically, this condition would outline this agenda and require the President to certify that he supports it and that he has received a letter cosigned by leaders of both the House and Senate certifying that they support it."
  • New START leaves in place Russian tactical nuclear advantage. Baker Spring. "Twelve Flaws of New START That Will Be Difficult to Fix." Heritage Foundation, The Foundry. September 16th, 2010: "Flaw #7: New START leaves in place a large Russian advantage in nonstrategic (tactical) nuclear weapons. While the exact numbers are not public, Russia reportedly has a several-fold numerical advantage over the U.S. in tactical nuclear weapons.[8] New START does not impose any limits whatsoever on tactical nuclear weapons. As such, the Russian advantage poses a significant challenge for the U.S. in maintaining a credible extended deterrence pol icy for the benefit of its allies. Given the Russian advantage in tactical nuclear weapons, the Obama Administration understand ably chose not to include this subject in the New START negotiations. U.S. negotiators would have no cards to play in the negotiations on tactical nuclear weapons, and the outcome would inevita bly have been strongly in Russia’s favor."


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Missile defenses: Does New START preserve missile defense capabilities?

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Pro

  • New START important to Russian cooperation on missile defense. Joseph Biden. "The case for ratifying New START." Wall Street Journal. November 25, 2010: "The U.S. contribution to this effort will be the European Phased Adaptive Approach, which will include Aegis ships capable of ballistic missile defense, a forward-based radar, and land-based SM-3 interceptor sites in Romania and Poland. Our European missile-defense system will employ cost-effective and proven technologies, using a distributed network of sensors and shooters, making it far more flexible, adaptable and survivable than earlier proposals. This system demonstrates America's enduring commitment to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty—that an attack on one is an attack on all.NATO missile defense also provides the opportunity for further improvements in both NATO-Russian and U.S.-Russian relations. NATO and Russia agreed at Lisbon to carry out a joint ballistic missile threat assessment, to resume theater missile-defense exercises, and to explore further cooperation on territorial missile defense—things that were nearly unimaginable two years ago. These agreements underscore the strategic importance the alliance attaches to improving its relationship with Russia. But trust and confidence in our relationship with Russia would be undermined without Senate approval of the New Start Treaty, which reduces strategic nuclear forces to levels not seen since the 1950s, and restores important verification mechanisms that ceased when the first Start Treaty expired last December."


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Con

  • New START does not move US to defense posture. Baker Spring. "Twelve Flaws of New START That Will Be Difficult to Fix." Heritage Foundation, The Foundry. September 16th, 2010: "Flaw #1: New START fails to speak to the issue of protecting and defending the U.S. and its allies against strategic attack. Given the trends in the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, the most important step that the U.S. needs to take is to move away from the Cold War deterrence policy. That pol icy bases deterrence on the U.S. threatening to retal iate for a strategic attack on the U.S. or its allies with a devastating nuclear counterstrike. The U.S. needs to move toward a deterrence policy based on pro tecting and defending the people, territory, institu tions, and infrastructure of the U.S. and its allies against looming or attempted strategic attacks.[4] New START does nothing to facilitate this transition. The Senate can best remedy the flaw that New START does not move toward a defense-oriented deterrence policy by attaching a declaration to the resolution of ratification stating that the U.S. is com­mitted to defending its population, territory, institu tions, and infrastructure and those of its allies against strategic attack to the best of its ability."
  • New START restricts US missile defense options The White House insists the treaty doesn’t affect it, but the Kremlin’s takes a different view: "[START] can operate and be viable only if the United States of America refrains from developing its missile-defense capabilities quantitatively or qualitatively."[6]


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Republican support: Have Republicans supported arms reduction in past?

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Pro

  • Reps supported arms reduction in past, should support New START. Henry A. Kissinger, George P. Shultz, James A. Baker III, Lawrence S. Eagleburger and Colin L. Powell. "The Republican case for ratifying New START." Washington Post. December 2, 2010: "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."
  • Delay risks dangerous non-ratification. "New Start." Salt Lake Tribune Editorial. Nov 24, 2010: "Delay to next year, by contrast, would accomplish little of substance. What’s more, it could jeopardize ratification as new members of the Senate would have to be brought up to speed on the treaty and its context in the complex world of nuclear arms control. Delay always risks that the treaty might not be ratified."
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Con

  • New START Treaty gives more to Russia than US Mitt Romney. "Obama's worst foreign-policy mistake." Washington Post. July 6th, 2010: "The treaty also gives far more to the Russians than to the United States. As drafted, it lets Russia escape the limit on its number of strategic nuclear warheads. Loopholes and lapses -- presumably carefully crafted by Moscow -- provide a path to entirely avoid the advertised warhead-reduction targets. For example, rail-based ICBMs and launchers are not mentioned. Similarly, multiple nuclear warheads that are mounted on bombers are effectively not counted. Unlike past treaty restrictions, ICBMs are not prohibited from bombers. This means that Russia is free to mount a nearly unlimited number of ICBMs on bombers -- including MIRVs (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles) or multiple warheads -- without tripping the treaty's limits. These omissions would be consistent with Russia's plans for a new heavy bomber and reports of growing interest in rail-mobile ICBMs."
  • New START deserves a careful look by the new Congress. Mitt Romney. "Stop START." Boston.com. December 3rd, 2010: "A treaty so critical to our national security deserves a careful, deliberative look by the men and women America has just elected. The president is in a hurry for the same reason he has been in a hurry before: he knows that if his vaunted treaty is given a thorough review by the Senate, it will likely be rejected. And well it should be."


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