Assuaging Concerns About New START

By ACA Intern Matt Sugrue

In the Washington Post, Stephen G. Rademaker’s chastises New START supporters for not having the “patience and respect for dissenting views” to allay critics’ concerns. He suggests steps treaty supporters could take in order to work out the differences between themselves and critics of New START. It is a valid point that proponents of New START should make time to listen to the concerns of critics, but many of Rademaker’s concerns have already been dealt with.

No Limits on Missile Defense and Prompt Global Strike

Frequently expressed concerns that the treaty may limit missile defense and long-range conventional weapons could be addressed through interpretive declarations in the resolution.

New START will not limit U.S. missile defense. Experts in the field of U.S. missile defense, such as Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Director Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, have testified that not only does New START not limit the deployment of missile defense systems it actually “reduces constrain[t]s on the development of the [U.S.] missile defense program.” In addition, Article V only prohibits converting existing ICBM silos into interceptor silos, which is not part of the MDA’s future plans for missile defense.

New START critics often point to a Russian statement regarding U.S. missile defense. However, Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated, “The Russians can say what they want. If it’s not in the treaty, it’s not binding on the United States.”

U.S. plans for a prompt global strike system will also not be constrained by New START. As Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee,

The treaty’s limit of 700 deployed delivery vehicles, combined with the ceiling of 1,550 deployed warheads, accommodates the limited number of conventional warheads we may need for this capability. We are also currently examining potential future prompt global strike systems that would not be limited by this treaty.

Real Limits on Russian Capabilities

“Many are concerned that, unlike previous agreements, New START appears not to limit certain types of Russian missiles.”

A vague reference to Russian missile systems and earlier treaties does not make a compelling case against New START.

Assuming that Rademaker is referring to Russian rail-mobile ICBM missiles, the criticism does not make sense. New START limits ICBMs. Rail-mobile missiles are a type of ICBM and are therefore limited under New START. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) has said, “I support the New START treaty and believe that it will enhance United States national security.”

No More Delays

Senate concerns about New START have been adequately addressed through numerous hearings. New START has been well vetted and is supported by a wide array of experts (both governmental and non-governmental). Former Secretary of Defense under the Nixon and Ford administrations James R. Schlesinger testified,

“I think that it is obligatory for the United States to ratify [New START]. And any treaty is going to have limitations, questionable areas. There are some in this treaty. We need to watch them for the future, but that does not mean that the treaty should be rejected.”

The fact is New START does not limit U.S. missile defense or long-range conventional weapons, it does limit Russian rail-mobile ICBMs, and it does have a robust verification system that the U.S. sorely needs.

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