By Tom Z. Collina and Daryl G. Kimball
On Thursday, Dec. 16, Minority Whip Jon Kyl made 14 points on the Senate floor against ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). None of Sen. Kyl’s concerns are new; all have been previously addressed by the administration and the Foreign Relations Committee’s Sept. 16 bipartisan resolution of advice and consent.
Sen. Kyl’s 14 points and ACA’s rebuttals are below.
1. “I think one thing you have to talk about, first of all, is whether we are going to have sufficient time in order to do what needs to be done to both amend the treaty as well as the resolution of ratification and debate some of the issues…”
ACA: There is plenty of time to debate and vote on New START this year. In 1992, the Senate spent five days debating the original START agreement, which was a more complicated treaty negotiated during the Cold War. It passed 93-6. In 2003, the Senate spent two days debating the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which passed 95-0. Two to three days of floor debate should be sufficient for New START.
Claims by opponents that New START has been ‘rushed’ are simply false. The Senate has held 18 hearings and four briefings over the last eight months, and 1,000 questions for the record have been answered. Three months ago the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the treaty by a bipartisan vote of 14-4, and New START has been ready for a floor vote ever since. The committee vote might have occurred sooner except that Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) agreed to delay the vote to allow Republican Senators additional time, which requested, to study the treaty. Now some critics of the treaty charge that because the treaty wasn’t done earlier, it is being “rushed” through. You can’t have it both ways.
2. “Secondly, what were the benefits of the treaty for the United States vis-a-vis Russia?”
ACA: New START would make real cuts in Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal and resume on-site inspections. Today, Russia deploys approximately 2,000 strategic nuclear warheads, not counting bomber weapons in storage, according to the Congressional Research Service. Contrary to assertions by critics that New START would not reduce Russian forces, the treaty would in fact reduce Russia’s force of deployed strategic warheads to 1,550 or less, meaning that hundreds of Russian nuclear warheads would no longer be deployed on ballistic missiles that could be aimed at the United States. Moreover, New START would lock-in these limits for the next decade or longer.
New START would also resume inspections of Russian strategic forces. It has been a year since the United States lost the ability to conduct intrusive, on-site inspections of Russia’s nuclear arsenal mandated by the 1991 START accord. The 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), still in force, contains no verification provisions. The longer New START remains in limbo, the longer this strategic blackout will continue.
New START would reestablish on-the-ground information gathering about Russian strategic forces that the United States could not get any other way. For example, satellites and other intelligence assets cannot look inside Russian missiles to see how many warheads they carry, but New START’s on-site inspection provisions would do just that. The treaty would provide predictability about Russian strategic forces, allowing the United States to make better-informed decisions about investments in nuclear forces and other military capabilities.
Without New START in force, the U.S. intelligence community would not be able to predict with high confidence the status of Russia’s nuclear forces, and both sides would be tempted to engage in more-costly force modernization and hedging strategies.
3. “Third, where will this treaty leave our nuclear forces, our delivery vehicles, and our warheads in terms of the deterrent capability not only for the United States but the 31 allies who rely on the U.S. nuclear umbrella? We will have cut our forces to the bone. Yet, interestingly, Russia will not be forced to make any reductions at all in these delivery vehicles for the nuclear warheads.”
ACA: New START would allow the United States to maintain a devastatingly powerful nuclear arsenal, which will be deployed on a “triad” of nuclear delivery systems: intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said Nov. 11 that New START would leave the United States with nuclear forces that are “more than enough for us to handle our military responsibilities.” Besides Russia, the United States’ only potential nuclear adversary is China, which has fewer than 50 nuclear-armed long-range missiles.
General James Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, concurs: “So both for myself, as a previous commander at STRATCOM, and also for General Chilton, we both feel very comfortable with these numbers [in New START]…I think we have more than enough capacity and capability for any threat that we see today or might emerge in the foreseeable future.”
All U.S. allies in NATO, who are all covered by U.S. extended nuclear deterrent policy, strongly support prompt approval of New START. Twenty-five foreign ministers of European allies wrote in today’s International Herald Tribune, “We urge a swift ratification and implementation of the New Start treaty.”
4. “Fourth…where does the administration’s modernization plan end up relative to START?”
ACA: New START allows the maintenance of nuclear forces. The Obama administration has pledged, pursuant to section 1251 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, to spend $85 billion over the next ten years to maintain the nuclear stockpile and modernize the weapons complex. The plan calls for spending another $100 billion over the same period to upgrade strategic nuclear delivery systems.
The administration’s $7 billion request for the weapons complex for FY 2011 was 10 percent higher than the previous year. Linton Brooks, the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in the Bush administration, said in April, “I’d have killed for that budget and that much high-level attention in the administration.” As Secretary of Defense Gates wrote in his preface to the April 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), “These investments, and the NPR’s strategy for warhead life extension, represent a credible modernization plan necessary to sustain the nuclear infrastructure and support our nation’s deterrent.”
The SFRC’s resolution of advice and consent states that “the United States is committed to proceeding with a robust stockpile stewardship program, and to maintaining and modernizing the nuclear weapons production capabilities and capacities.” To achieve these goals, the resolution says that the United States is committed to providing the necessary resources, “at a minimum at the levels set forth in the President’s 10-year plan.”
The resolution also states that “if at any time more resources are required than estimated in the President’s 10-year plan,” the President shall submit a report detailing: 1) how he proposes to remedy the shortfall; 2) the proposed level of funding required; 3) the impact of the shortfall on the safety, reliability, and performance of U.S. nuclear forces; and 4) “whether and why, in the changed circumstances brought about by the resource shortfall, it remains in the national interest of the United States to remain a Party to the New START Treaty.”
Moreover, at the request of Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the directors of the three U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories wrote Dec. 1 that they are “very pleased” with the recently updated $85 billion budget to maintain the U.S. nuclear stockpile and modernize the weapons complex. Lawrence Livermore director Dr. George Miller, Los Alamos director Dr. Michael Anastasio, and Sandia director Dr. Paul Hommert wrote that the increased funding plan released in November provides “adequate support” to sustain the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
Further efforts to hold up New START in an attempt to secure still more funding for the already well-funded nuclear weapons complex are unnecessary, fiscally unsound, and politically unsustainable.
5. “Fifth is the administration’s uncertain commitment to the nuclear triad. This I find troubling because while they have committed to a modernization program, they have not yet committed to a program for the modernization of the three legs of the nuclear triad: the delivery systems, the ICBM force, the bomber force, accompanied by cruise missiles and our submarine force.”
ACA: New START allows for modernization of the triad. In May, the Obama administration committed more than $100 billion over the next decade to modernizing strategic nuclear delivery systems. The Pentagon is maintaining and replacing its strategic delivery systems, including complete rebuilds of the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and Trident II Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile. Minuteman can serve until 2030, and Trident is expected to last until 2042. The service lives of Trident Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines are being extended, and a new fleet of submarines is under development at an expected cost of $85 billion. The B-2 “stealth” bomber is being upgraded at a cost of $1 billion over the next 5 years. The Air Force is also planning to replace the Air-Launched Cruise Missile.
6. “This is the missile defense concern. There is [sic] significantly divergent views between the United States and Russia on this question of what the treaty does or does not do with respect to missile defense. Both explicitly and impliedly, there are limitations on U.S. missile defense activities in the treaty.”
ACA: New START is a “missile-defense friendly” treaty. The only missile defense “constraint” of any kind in New START is the prohibition on converting long-range missile launchers for use by missile defense interceptors, which isn’t something the Pentagon wants to do. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, testified to Congress that there are no plans to convert launchers, and that if any new missile defense launchers were needed, it would be quicker and cheaper to build new ones.
Moreover, O’Reilly explained that the treaty “…actually reduces constraints on the development of the missile defense program [compared to the 1991 START agreement],” by allowing the launch of missile defense targets from airborne and waterborne platforms.
Critics complain that New START’s preambular language recognizes the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms. This is neither new (similar language was in earlier U.S.-Russian agreements) nor does it create any numerical or qualitative limits on missile defenses.
As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said during a 2001 press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ivanov, “We agreed that it is perfectly appropriate to discuss offensive and defensive capabilities together.”
Moreover, the preamble also notes that “current strategic defensive arms do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the Parties” – a Russian acknowledgment that the 30 U.S. strategic ballistic missile interceptors currently deployed do not threaten Moscow’s strategic nuclear retaliatory capability.
Lost on Kyl is the fact that the Obama administration is going full-bore on its “Phased Adaptive Approach,” which would substantially increase SM-3 intermediate-range interceptor deployments in Europe, with NATO’s backing and potentially in cooperation with Russia. While some missile defense ideologues might bemoan Obama’s decision to shelve the Bush-era plan to deploy 10 unproven silo-based strategic interceptors in Poland, the new plan better addresses the existing Iranian and North Korean short- and medium-range missile threat.
The Sept. 16 bipartisan Senate Foreign Relations Committee resolution of advice and consent clearly states that it is the committee’s understanding that “the New START Treaty does not impose any limitations on the deployment of missile defenses” other than the treaty’s ban on converting missile launchers for use by interceptors–which the Pentagon has said it has no intention of doing in any case–and that any further limitations would require Senate approval.
The resolution clarifies that “the April 7, 2010, unilateral statement by the Russian Federation on missile defense does not impose a legal obligation on the United States.” It also reaffirms language in the 1999 Missile Defense Act that it is the policy of the United States to deploy an effective national missile defense system “as soon as technologically possible” and that nothing in the treaty limits future planned enhancements to the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system or the European Phased Adaptive Approach.
7. “Seventh, the Senate gave advice to the administration not to limit missile defense or conventional prompt global strike, which is a capability that would permit us to deliver over long ranges, intercontinental ranges, a warhead that is not a nuclear warhead, something which this administration and I think are very important for our future ability to deal with rogue states, for example. Nevertheless, contrary to Congress’s instructions, the administration has subjected advanced U.S. conventional military capabilities to limitations in this treaty…”
ACA: New START allows conventional global strike weapons. Conventional warheads that the United States may in the future decide to deploy on strategic ballistic missiles, they would be subject to New START limits. However, there are no firm plans to deploy Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) weapons, and any future deployments are likely to be small in number. As a result, there is room within the treaty’s limits for future CPGS deployments.
In an answer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee record, Secretary of Defense Gates stated: “As envisaged by our military planners, the number of such conventionally armed delivery vehicles and the warheads they carry would be very small when measured against the overall levels of strategic delivery systems and strategic warheads. Should we decide to deploy them, counting this small number of conventional strategic systems and their warheads toward the treaty limits will not prevent the United States from maintaining a robust nuclear deterrent.”
8. “Eight is something else. There are people who say there is nothing that stands between us and a nuclear-free world. It is called zero nuclear, the President’s stated goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Some say this treaty needs to be adopted, ratified in order to permit us then to take the next step, which is to achieve that great goal. I submit that goal is neither feasible nor desirable, and that to the extent this treaty is deemed as a stepping stone toward that, it is a bad step to take.”
ACA: New START does not in any way commit the United States to the elimination of nuclear weapons. That is a question for another day.
9. “Ninth is a question about verification… It is very clear that with lower force levels, we need better verification. But this New START treaty has substantially weaker verification provisions than its predecessor, START I.”
ACA: New START is verifiable. The U.S. intelligence community and Secretary of Defense Gates have said New START’s verification and monitoring system is more than adequate. After hearing testimony in closed session from U.S. Intelligence Community witnesses, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee concluded in its Oct. 1 report that “the New START Treaty is effectively verifiable.”
A July 30 letter from Secretary of Defense Gates to the committee reached the same conclusion: “The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Joint Chiefs, the Commander, U.S. strategic Command, and I assess that Russia will not be able to achieve militarily significant cheating or breakout under New START, due to both the New START verification regime and the inherent survivability and flexibility of the planned U.S. strategic force structure.”
New START allows up to 18 on-site inspections per year, including direct monitoring of Russian nuclear warheads, something no treaty has allowed before. Moreover, the original START’s 28 inspections had to cover 70 facilities in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, as the Soviet nuclear complex was spread across these four now-independent nations. Today, all former Soviet nuclear weapons and facilities have been centralized in Russia, and New START’s 18 inspections need to cover only 35 Russian sites.
Furthermore, without New START there is no verification program at all. It has been over a year since U.S. inspectors were on the ground in Russia. The U.S. intelligence community cannot confidently assess Russia’s nuclear forces without this new treaty, which provides more information about Russian strategic warhead deployments than the original 1991 START.
As Gen. Kevin Chilton, the commander of STRATCOM, stated June 16: “If we don’t get the treaty, [the Russians] are not constrained in their development of force structure and…we have no insight into what they’re doing. So it’s the worst of both possible worlds.”
10. “Of course, Russia has a history of cheating on every arms control treaty we have ever entered into with them, which amplifies the concern.”
ACA: Russia was in compliance with START I. The July 2010 U.S. State Department report Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements found that Russia was in compliance with the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), which expired last December. The compliance report states that Russia was “in compliance with the START strategic offensive arms (SOA) central limits for the 15-year term of the Treaty.”
As Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said last year: “Our experiences over many years have proven the effectiveness of the [START I] Treaty’s verification provisions and served to build a basis for confidence between the two countries when doubts arose.”
11. “I think we also need to talk about the New START and Russian reset. I will talk about that a little bit when I begin discussing the reasons for trying to act so quickly here. But I think it also requires some further discussion because, frankly, Russia is threatening a new arms race if the Senate does not ratify this treaty. Is that the reset the President is so fond of talking about, this new wonderful relationship with the Russian Federation?”
ACA: New START bolsters U.S.-Russian relations to stop proliferation. The revival of U.S.-Russian strategic dialogue has already improved cooperation in a variety of fields. For example, Russia supported the U.S.-led effort to enact U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran, and Russia has cancelled its sale of the S-300 air-defense system to Iran. New START will help strengthen U.S.-Russian joint efforts to keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists, as well as keep pressure on Iran to suspend its nuclear fuel cycle activities.
Without New START, Russian support will be harder to obtain. On Nov. 8, for example, Sen. Lugar said it is unlikely that Moscow would sustain cooperative threat reduction efforts indefinitely without New START coming into force. “The prospects for extending Nunn-Lugar work in Russia after  would be especially complicated without New START’s transparency features that assure both countries about the nuclear capabilities of the other,” Lugar said.
12. “Twelfth, I think we need to talk about tactical nuclear weapons. The treaty did not deal with tactical nuclear weapons, and respected Members of this body, including the Vice President of the United States, then a Senator, made clear that after the last treaty the next item on the agenda had to be to deal with tactical nuclear weapons. It should have been, but it was not done here.”
ACA: Tactical reductions won’t happen without New START. Establishing greater accountability and controls on tactical weapons is important, but it is naïve to expect that President Obama could have or should have tried—for the first time in history—to convince Russia to limit tactical nuclear weapons when he had less than a year to negotiate a replacement treaty to START I.
It is also important to recognize that many of Russia’s tactical nuclear bombs are in disrepair, many are in deep storage, and they cannot be delivered at intercontinental distances.
Secretary of State Clinton and Defense Secretary Gates, in a joint answer for the Senate record, wrote that: “Because of their limited range and very different roles from those played by strategic nuclear forces, the vast majority of Russian tactical nuclear weapons could not directly influence the strategic nuclear balance between the United States and Russia… Because the United States will retain a robust strategic force structure under New START, Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons will have little or no impact on strategic stability.”
We should be concerned about Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons because they are a target for nuclear terrorism. We should ratify New START so we can move on to further talks with Russia on all types of nuclear weapons (strategic and nonstrategic, deployed and non-deployed) as the Obama administration has proposed. By delaying or killing New START, we will doom efforts to reduce Russian tactical nuclear weapons.
13. “Thirteenth—and this deals with some of the amendments that are going to be necessary—there is a Commission in here that somewhat like previous treaty commissions—it is called the Bilateral Consultative Commission—and the treaty delegates to this Commission the ability, even in secret, to modify terms of the treaty—a group of Russians and a group of U.S. negotiators.”
ACA: Bilateral Consultative Commission is subject to Senate approval. Treaty critics erroneously claim that the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC) under New START could make substantive changes to the treaty, for example on missile defense, without Senate consent.
First, having a bilateral forum to discuss treaty issues is typical of all arms control treaties, including the original START. Moreover, no substantive changes could be made to the treaty without Senate approval. The SFRC resolution requires prompt presidential consultation with the Foreign Relations Committee regarding the BCC to ensure that substantive changes to the treaty are only made with the Senate’s approval.
The Oct. 1 SFRC report states that the Senate will have “the opportunity to participate fully in decisions about any use of the BCC’s procedures to make changes to the treaty’s protocol or annexes, and to ensure that the Senate’s role in the treaty making process will be respected.”
14. “Then, as I mentioned, it is also important for us to determine how this treaty is distracting attention from what the President has said, and I agree, is our top priority; that is, dealing with proliferation and terrorism.”
ACA: New START bolsters U.S. efforts to constrain Iran’s nuclear program. The revival of U.S.-Russian strategic dialogue has already improved cooperation in a variety of fields. For example, Russia supported the U.S.-led effort to enact U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran, and Russia has cancelled its sale of the S-300 air-defense system to Iran. New START will help strengthen U.S.-Russian joint efforts to keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists, as well as keep pressure on Iran to suspend its nuclear fuel cycle activities.
More broadly, New START helps to demonstrate that the United States and Russia are keeping up their end of the bargain under the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). New START would increase Washington’s leverage in seeking stronger non-proliferation measures, such as more effective nuclear inspections, tougher penalties for states that do not comply with nonproliferation obligations, and faster action to secure the most vulnerable nuclear weapons materials. Improving the NPT system is essential to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons to terrorists and additional nations.
For more information on New START, see ACA’s comprehensive, all-in-one guide to the treaty, The Case for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.