When the U.S. House of Representatives took up the latest National Defense Authorization Act, I introduced an amendment to block the New START Treaty and the nuclear reductions it would force on the United States. My amendment, which passed the U.S. House, protects F.E. Warren Air Force Base from the inevitable cuts required by New START.
Anyone who thinks intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are protected under New START doesn’t understand the treaty. It’s a foregone conclusion that New START will cut our 450 ICBMs by at least 30, and this is a bare minimum reduction. Air Force officials have openly acknowledged that they might cut 50 ICBMs, which happens to be the size of an entire squadron at F.E. Warren as well as the missile bases in Montana and North Dakota. The likelihood of a squadron being eliminated from one of the three missile bases is so strong that every Congressman and Senator from the three missile states has sent a letter to the Obama Administration in opposition to such a cut.
Even worse, the Administration is conducting secret talks on reductions beyond New START, while organizations like Global Zero call for reductions of up to 90 percent to “encourage” Russia and China to follow suit. This is dangerous thinking. But this is precisely the kind of thinking that underlies New START, an agreement allowing Russia to up-arm while at the same time disarming the U.S.
Make no mistake, Russia does not have to reduce a single ICBM, nuclear-capable bomber, or sub-launched missile; Russia can increase its arsenal and still be compliant with New START. My amendment exposes this dirty little secret of the treaty by blocking any U.S. reductions so long as the treaty fails to require Russia to do the same.
We also need my amendment because the only weapons New START limits are the weapons with which the U.S. has an advantage over Russia. In contrast, Russia can point an unlimited number of short-range nuclear weapons at our allies in Europe, and still be compliant with the New START Treaty. Russia can proceed with plans to develop long-range cruise missiles capable of reaching the U.S., and still be compliant.
What does the U.S. get in return? We can conduct limited inspections in Russia. No one denies the importance of inspections. But as the Republican Senators who opposed New START asserted when they voted no on this sham of a treaty, both the quantity and quality of nuclear inspections gets worse under New START. Simply because the U.S. negotiated a bad deal for inspections doesn’t justify negotiating a bad deal for the rest of the treaty. Let’s also not forget that the Russians remind the world every chance they get that they reserve the right to pull out of the treaty altogether if they are dissatisfied with our missile defense efforts.
If the United States keeps making bad deals like this, nations who have been secure with our protection might think twice about pursuing nuclear arms of their own, whereas nations who never imagined that they could compete with the U.S. nuclear arsenal might start thinking about trying to catch up. So much for New START curbing nuclear proliferation. This is the danger of unilateral disarmament and why the Democrat-controlled Senate should adopt my amendment. New START was a terrible deal for the U.S., and a terrible deal for missile states, but it’s not too late to correct it.