U.S. Suspects Russian Missiles Near NATO Allies
President Barack Obama wants the U.S. Senate to ratify a treaty that reduces our arsenal and weakens our missile defense, no questions asked. While he’s busy avoiding answering Republican senators’ questions about START, Russia is doing what it does best: breaking promises.
Twenty years ago, Russia pledged to pull tactical nuclear warheads back from areas bordering NATO allies and to reduce these weapons. Although Russia threatened to deploy missiles to Kaliningrad (its territory near the Polish border) if the U.S. deployed missile shields to Poland and the Czech Republic, U.S. officials thought they’d talked Russia down from the threat.
Now the U.S. has reason to believe the former Soviet Union has moved short-range tactical nuclear warheads to areas near NATO allies, breaking its 1991 pledge to refrain from such activity. An excerpt from the Wall Street Journal:
“Russia’s movement of the ground-based tactical weapons appeared to coincide with the deployment of U.S. and NATO missile-defense installations in countries bordering Russia. Moscow has long considered the U.S. missile defense buildup in Europe a challenge to Russian power, underlining deep-seated mistrust between U.S. and Russian armed forces despite improved relations between political leaders.
“The Kremlin had no immediate comment.
“Republican critics in the Senate say it was a mistake for President Barack Obama to agree to the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia, or New Start, without dealing with outstanding questions about Moscow’s tactical nuclear weapons. New Start would cap the Russian and U.S. deployed strategic nuclear arsenals at 1,550 per side. It doesn’t address tactical weapons, which are smaller and for use on a battlefield.”
It’s safe to say senators already concerned that START weakens our missile defense will put up even more resistant to ratification, in light of these developments. Surely, Obama understands that the U.S. has agreed to protect allies, and Russia is a direct threat to those allies. Why would he want to push through a treaty that puts these allies in Russia’s crosshairs? More from the article:
“U.S. officials believe the most recent movements of Russian tactical nuclear weapons took place in late spring. In late May, a U.S. Patriot missile battery was deployed in northern Poland, close to Kaliningrad, sparking public protests from Moscow.
“Some officials said the movements are a concern but sought to play down the threat. Russian nuclear warheads are stored separately from their launching systems, U.S. officials say.
“In the fall of 1991, the U.S. had about 5,000 tactical nuclear weapons deployed overseas, most assigned to NATO, according to the Arms Control Association. The U.S. destroyed about 3,000 as a result of the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives. Today, the U.S. is believed to have some 1,100 tactical nuclear warheads, of which about 480 are nuclear gravity bombs stored in six European countries.”
If U.S. suspicions about Russia deploying tactical nuclear weapons to NATO borders are true, our allies face a serious threat. For years the U.S. has addressed such threats in part by maintaining strategic nuclear forces. While START reduces strategic nuclear forces, it doesn’t even address tactical nuclear forces, thanks to Obama. The imbalance and lack of flexibility are obvious.
Our president trusts a country that can’t be trusted, and he asks our elected officials to trust him. Meanwhile, Russia gets the last smirk.