Provide for the Common Defense: Bolton and Yoo Attack New START

By Matt Sugrue

There are certain openings that let you know that you’re in for an experience: the first five minutes of the first Lord of the Rings film, Eli “Paperboy” Reed’s soul scream at the start of the song “Come and Get It,” or the first page of any Terry Pratchett novel. Added to that list is the introductory paragraph of the new John Bolton and John Yoo New York Times op-ed,

The sweeping Democratic midterm losses last week raise serious questions for President Obama and a lame-duck Congress. Voters want government brought closer to the vision the framers outlined in the Constitution, and the first test could be the fate of the flawed New Start arms control treaty, which was signed by President Obama and President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia last spring but awaits ratification. The Senate should heed the will of the voters and either reject the treaty or amend it so that it doesn’t weaken our national defense.

Ratifying New START would, in fact, constitute the U.S. government fulfilling one of its duties as imagined by the framers of the Constitution, specifically the duty to “provide for the common defence.” New START enhances U.S. national defense by lowering the total number of Russian warheads, reinstating on-site verification of Russian warheads, and allowing the U.S. to develop missile defense unhindered. New START should be ratified without modification.

Bolton and Yoo claim that New START both blocks “significant United States efforts on missile defense” and endangers the U.S. “nuclear capacity.” The experts agree that this is not the case.

According to testimony by Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), New START does not inhibit U.S. plans to build or improve U.S. ballistic missile defense systems. Article V of the treaty only prevents the signatories from converting ICBM or SLBM silos into missile defense interceptor silos. In fact, O’Reilly testified that MDA has found that it costs “20 million dollars less” to build a new ground-based missile defense interceptor silo than to convert an ICBM silo. In addition, the treaty allows the five already converted silos at Vandenberg AFB to remain.

In the same hearing, Gen. Kevin Chilton, commander of U.S. strategic command, stated that the United States “will be safer and more secure with this treaty than without it.” He also pointed out that New START allows the United States to maintain its “deterrent forces” at a level necessary to deal with any future security needs. New START also reinstates a rigorous verification regime that updates the START I verification regime and provides the United States with invaluable boots-on-the-ground insights into the Russian nuclear warheads stockpile.

New START does not prevent the United States from developing and perfecting ballistic missile defense, whether it is the Aegis system, ground-based interceptors, PAC-3, THAAD, or any current plans for future missile defense systems. The treaty also ensures the maintenance of the U.S. nuclear deterrent. The 1,550 warheads allowed under New START are more than enough to maintain the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Finally, allowing U.S. inspectors much needed access to Russian nuclear sites is one of the invaluable benefits that will come with treaty ratification.

Despite Bolton and Yoo’s claims to the contrary, New START does not endanger U.S. national security. Instead, it helps provide for and ensure the common defense.

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