By Greg Thielmann
The White Paper on U.S. security strategy released October 7 by “Romney for President, Inc.” shows some improvement over the July 2010 articles of GOP presidential candidate Romney regarding New START, which were riddled with factual errors. His public comments were severely criticized then by the leading treaty experts of both parties.
Perhaps Romney’s recently announced foreign policy team deserves credit for helping the candidate with fact-checking and with establishing the pledge that, as president, he would “…review the implementation of the New START treaty and other decisions by the Obama administration regarding America’s nuclear posture and arms-control policies to determine whether they serve the best interests and national security of the United States.”
One would hope that any such review would reveal what Mr. Romney missed last year during the debate over the treaty in the Senate. The re-establishment of strategic arms control treaty limits and an effective treaty verification regime is restoring U.S. confidence that overall nuclear force levels will continue to decline. With New START, the United States will be able to better monitor Russian strategic forces, as well as predict more accurately how those forces will evolve over the next decade.
The positive expectations of the vast majority of former senior military and defense officials endorsing the treaty and the large and bipartisan majority of U.S. Senators voting last December for treaty ratification have already been fulfilled. Moreover, New START implementation during the first eight months has occurred more smoothly, at lower cost, and with less disruption to operational forces than during initial implementation of the original START agreement.
It is troubling, however, that candidate Romney still apparently believes the Obama Administration was “badly out-negotiated” and that U.S. missile defenses have somehow been “compromised.” That’s simply not the case.
As with all good arms control agreements, New START was a win for both sides. And the “reset” of U.S.-Russian relations to which the treaty contributed has yielded multiple benefits, including: the shifting of transit routes for Afghanistan-bound U.S. troops and supplies from Pakistan to Russia; securing Moscow’s support for the comprehensive 2010 UN Security Council sanctions on Iran; and Russia’s cancellation of its earlier sale to Iran of S-300 surface-to-air missiles.
Russia is an essential security partner of the United States, even regarding contentious issues. It is incumbent on Mitt Romney and all of the candidates in the 2012 presidential election to explain how this relationship will be managed and how Moscow’s help can best be secured in pursuing U.S. arms control and nonproliferation objectives.