Moreover, since Russia has long opposed U.S. missile defenses and the treaty included them, many Senators suspected that the administration provided assurances in back-room deals that it would slow down the development and deployment of missile defense systems in exchange for Moscow’s support. Senators repeatedly asked for the negotiating records to see if this indeed took place, and the administration refused to provide them.
Yet rather than increasing the budget for nuclear modernization, the administration cut $372 million for it in the FY13 budget and failed to include the promised $4.1 billion for the next five years.
Acting Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller confirmed in a remarkably ideological speech at Yale University earlier this month [FEBRUARY 2012] that New START was “just the beginning” of the administration’s plan to reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
The White House is reportedly now considering reducing the U.S. nuclear arsenal by as much as 80 percent. At a Congressional hearing with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta earlier this month, vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) warned that further cuts would have the unintended, but entirely predictable, effect of spurring nuclear proliferation. “If they see that we are going to come down from 1,500 to some number in the low to middle hundreds, it does nothing but encourage our enemies and discourage our friends.”
As for missile defense, the president reduced the budget for it by $1 billion from the amount it told Congress it was planning on spending in FY13, scaling back a variety of programs including the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), which would defend against short-range missiles, and the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense program (GMD), which protects the U.S. homeland from missiles launched from countries like North Korea and Iran.
The Obama administration also effectively mothballed the SBX radar that would enable Washington to distinguish between a decoy and an actual warhead headed for the U.S.
On February. 21 Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said Russia will “work to neutralize” any advantages gained by the U.S.-NATO missile defense architecture, which centers on the deployment of increasingly advanced U.S. missile defense systems in Europe. “When Obama and I signed” New START, Medvedev said, “we proceeded from the assumption that we have certain parity. It has been a more or less parity-like situation, which creates or maintains a strategic balance model.”
The last phase of the president’s stated four-phase approach to missile defense would provide additional and necessary protection for the U.S. homeland by 2020. But Medvedev said that “If they give up these plans by that time -- and in a number of cases our partners demonstrated flexibility on the issue -- we shall demonstrate the same flexibility, too.”
The Obama administration hails New START as a great victory in “resetting” relations with the Russian Federation and moving the world toward nuclear zero. It has done nothing to placate Russia, or reset relations. Instead, it has caused the U.S. to shrink its nuclear arsenal, limit its missile defense capabilities, and betrayed the purpose of the Senate’s advise and consent role in ratifying international treaties.
The president may try to push for another arms control treaty that would further reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal, but Senators who supported New START on the basis of the president’s earlier promises, will -- and should -- have no stomach for another round.
Congress has a big mission. It must restore funding for missile defense and nuclear modernization -- even without the backing of the Commander-in-Chief himself.
Heinrichs is an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.