What’s the rush? asks Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center and a member of the congressionally mandated Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation, and Terrorism.
The U.S. has several nuclear arms containment options, so why rush to renew the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and allow Russia to dictate our missile defense policy?
Last month, the U.S. and Russia agreed to honor the spirit of the expired START, as they continue to negotiate a replacement Under the treaty, signed by Russia and the U.S. in 1991, both countries agreed to reduce nuclear warheads to roughly 6,000 and delivery vehicles to 1,600. Eleven years later, the Moscow Treaty, a follow-up to START, required warhead reductions to between 1,700 and 2,200.
Russia blamed our plans to continue developing a comprehensive missile defense system for the renewal delay. Sokolski, writing at National Review Online:
“The odds of START’s being ratified before November’s elections are hardly on the rise. The next round of negotiations begins today in Geneva…As it is, 41 Senators (all 40 Republicans plus one independent, Sen. Joe Lieberman) have warned President Obama that they are in no mood to approve START unless the White House supports a ‘significant’ nuclear-weapons-modernization program. The Defense Department’s Nuclear Posture Review, which details U.S. nuclear-weapons requirements for Congress every five years, was due in December. The administration is divided and has asked for two extensions; the review is now due in March and may be delayed again. Complicating matters even further, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin is pushing to link missile defenses with offensive missiles in START, a potential killer provision for most pro-missile-defense Republicans.”
Senior officials in the administration are keen to “show progress” with Russia, in light of the mid-term elections. They may resubmit a Bush-era nuclear cooperation agreement between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, whose approval would “pretty much be a slam dunk.” But bringing this agreement before Congress has drawbacks, the most important of which, is that it is sure to force a debate over Russia’s cooperation with Iran in the nuclear weapons and rocket fields. This is unlikely to make passage of START easier in the Senate.
If Obama stops pushing START, and the U.S. diversifies “arms-control portfolio to address nuclear threats outside” Russia , whose deployed nuclear capabilities have diminished in the last 25 years, we might make some headway, without letting Russia call the shots.
Will Obama be proactive and take the initiative in containing Russia , or will appeasement policies prevail?