The New START Treaty is one year old, and the results are in. This Treaty, the result of years of negotiations between the United States and Russia, works. New START enhances U.S. national security, bringing U.S. nuclear policies in line with the security challenges of the 21st century.
Yet there are rumblings that some Senators are unhappy with nuclear weapons funding provisions and will seek to halt New START implementation as a result. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a New START hearing this week. The hearing will show that the Treaty, regardless of funding issues, deserves support.
There are five key benefits to the New START Treaty. First, New START enhances US nuclear force planning. Without the treaty, the U.S. would be flying blind, with no way of understanding Russia’s nuclear plans. The U.S. military would have to plan for a “worst case scenario” and spend more money on nuclear capabilities than necessary. With the Treaty, the U.S. military can avoid wasting money on unneeded nuclear weapons at a time when military resources are stretched thin.
Second, New START verification measures enhance transparency regarding our U.S. and Russian deployed strategic systems. Data exchanges provide each side with information on numbers, locations, and other details of nuclear forces. On-site inspections and dates exchanges allow the U.S. to verify the size and composition of the Russian nuclear arsenal. The Treaty also guarantees that U.S. national technical means of surveillance, such as satellites, are not subject to Russian interference, and the United States will have a variety of tools at its disposal for monitoring Russian compliance.
Since the treaty entered into force over one year ago, the U.S. and Russia have each conducted 23 on-site inspections and exchanged thousands of data notifications. These verification measures provide critical insight into Russian nuclear forces. Our relationship with Russia has its ups and downs. The treaty’s transparency means both nations can understand each other’s strategic forces activities, no matter the state of U.S.-Russia relations.
Third, U.S. nuclear modernization is preserved under New START. Much has been made of nuclear modernization funding, or lack thereof, but the New START Treaty itself does not stipulate the “right level” of modernization funding. Indeed, one of the benefits of the treaty is that it provides for strategic stability between the U.S. and Russia, without impacting U.S. or Russian force modernization programs or limiting funding for nuclear infrastructure upgrades.