Moreover, stalling New START undermines U.S. security. The previous START I treaty, negotiated by President Ronald Reagan, expired last December, and there have been no inspections of Russia's nuclear forces for the past 250 days.  "I’m not comfortable with that,” Gen. Kevin Chilton, U.S. STRATCOM Commander, said Aug. 12.  “Transparency is important, and I’m satisfied we will be in a position to sustain our nuclear deterrent and the security of the United States under the treaty.”

Nonetheless, some senators and skeptics continue to raise questions and seek to delay a floor vote on the treaty until next year.  Close scrutiny reveals that none of their concerns should stand in the way of prompt New START ratification when the Senate returns in September.

1. New START would not limit U.S. missile defense plans.  "[T]he treaty will not constrain the United States from deploying the most effective missile defenses possible," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said May 18.  The treaty's preamble acknowledges the interrelationship between offense and defense, and Russia has made a unilateral statement that if U.S. missile defense activities jeopardize Moscow's supreme interests, it may withdraw from the treaty.  Unilateral statements have no legal impact on the treaty, and both sides have the right to withdraw, just as the United States withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty during the Bush administration.  U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty did not lead to Russia's withdrawal from START I.

ADVERTISEMENT
Article V of New START prohibits both sides from converting launchers for ballistic missiles into launchers for missile defense interceptors, and vice versa.  Even though the United States has no plans for any such conversions in the future, some senators have expressed concern about this provision.

"It's a limit in theory, but not in reality," said U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones on April 20. "We have no plans to convert any additional ICBM silos. In fact, it would be less expensive to build a new silo rather than convert an old one. In other words, if we were to ever need more missile defense silos in California, we would simply dig new holes, which is not proscribed by the treaty."  Former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger testified April 29, "I don't think that [New START] inhibits missile defense in a serious way."

2.  New START is verifiable.  "I think that when the testimony of the intelligence community comes to the Hill, that the [Director of National Intelligence] and the experts will say that they are comfortable that the provisions of the treaty for verification are adequate for them to monitor Russian compliance, and vice versa," Secretary Gates said March 26.

Some senators are concerned that there are fewer inspections under New START than under START I.  However, Gates testified May 18 that, "for all practical purposes, the number of inspections [in New START] is about the same as it was," under START I.  That’s because inspections under New START are more efficient and can achieve two goals at once.

Moreover, START I's 28 inspections had to cover 70 facilities in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.  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.

ADVERTISEMENT
3.  The United States can maintain modern, effective, and reliable nuclear forces under New START.  "The reductions in this treaty will not affect the strength of our nuclear triad," Gates said March 26.  The Pentagon announced May 13 that it plans to meet the treaty's limits and still deploy up to 420 Minuteman III ICBMs, 240 Trident submarine missiles, and up to 60 heavy bombers.  Moreover, the Obama administration is planning to invest $80 billion over the next ten years on modernizing the National Nuclear Security Administration's nuclear weapons production complex and refurbishing the nuclear stockpile, and an additional $100 billion over ten years to maintain and modernize strategic delivery systems.

The U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories have sufficient resources to maintain the reliability of all current warhead types through the ongoing Life Extension Program (LEP).  New-design warheads and the renewal of nuclear testing are technically unnecessary and would undermine U.S. nuclear nonproliferation efforts.  Gates said May 18 that the budget increases "represent a credible modernization plan to sustain the nuclear infrastructure and support our nation's deterrent."

4.  New START is key to eventually controlling tactical weapons.  The critics are right about one thing: New START, by design, does not cover tactical nuclear weapons.  It covers U.S. and Russian strategic, or long-range, weapons.  Russian tactical weapons need to be reduced, but they do not currently affect the U.S.-Russian military balance.  President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama marks MLK Day by honoring King for his 'poetic brilliance' and 'moral clarity' Biden breaks away from 2020 pack in South Carolina National Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo MORE wants the next U.S.-Russian treaty to deal with tactical weapons.  "But if there's no agreement on [New START], the chances of moving forward to discuss non-strategic nuclear weapons is close to zero," former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft said July 23.

Senators have every right to ask hard questions and demand good answers.  But once the answers are in, senators need to have an open mind.  The answers are in, and the debate is over.  New START deserves to be ratified as soon as possible.

Tom Z. Collina is the Research Director of the Arms Control Association.