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Will Senate GOP sell out U.S. national security?

By David T. Pyne
web posted December 13, 2010

This past April, the Obama administration signed the controversial New START Treaty with the Russian Federation. It is pushing the U.S. Senate to vote on the treaty during the 'lame duck' session as early as this week. Their plan to present this and other sweeping legislation for a vote before a dozen newly-elected Republican Senators can be sworn into office represents an insult to the American people who voted by a large margin to repudiate the radical Obama legislative agenda. Disturbingly, it appears Senate Republicans, most notably Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), are now considering selling out our  national security and ratifying this defective treaty.

Many Republican policymakers have rightly argued that U.S. Senate ratification of this nuclear disarmament treaty would pose an unacceptable risk to America's national security. The New START Working Group, which includes some of America's top nuclear experts, recently issued a report concluding that "if Russia exploits the legal lapses in New START, there is no actual limit in the new Treaty on the number of strategic nuclear warheads that can be deployed." On the other hand, the Obama administration could be expected to strictly adhere to treaty limits on warheads and launchers potentially putting the U.S. at a huge disadvantage against Russia which already has a nuclear arsenal nearly three times larger than our own. Furthermore, this treaty does nothing to limit the size of the Chinese nuclear arsenal which has been expanding rapidly during the past decade. Proliferation to other hostile nations such as North Korea and Iran argue against precipitate unilateral disarmament. 

Arms control experts have raised concerns that the treaty language may be interpreted by the Obama administration as limiting our development of a national missile defense system to protect our citizens against the increasing threat of nuclear attack. Governor Mitt Romney was absolutely correct when he warned, "The president's New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia could be [Obama's] worst foreign-policy mistake yet. New START impedes missile defense" and "gives Russia a massive nuclear-weapons advantage over the United States." Furthermore, there have been alarming reports that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has stated that the U.S. and Russia are close to reaching an agreement on missile defense, which would likely limit our development and deployment of missile defenses even further.

The failure of the Obama Administration to negotiate effective verification measures utilized in previous nuclear arms control treaties with Russia is troubling and would make it difficult, if not impossible, for us to ensure that Russia is complying with the terms of the treaty. Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, recently stated: "In their rush to pass a treaty before Congress can evaluate the intelligence community's assessment on its impact and the treaty's lack of verification necessary to detect Russian-cheating, the administration is taking us down a dangerous path." Rather than have the Senate vote to approve such a flawed treaty, the President should conclude an agreement with Moscow, which would extend the START I Treaty's verification provisions for another five years.

This treaty, if ratified, would force the U.S. to reduce our nuclear arsenal to a level nearly 60% smaller than the nuclear deterrent Obama inherited from the Bush administration--below the level necessary for minimal deterrence against potential nuclear blackmail or nuclear attack. It represents just the first step in Obama's ongoing plan to achieve "a world without nuclear weapons" starting by getting rid of our own, which would be highly irresponsible in the increasingly dangerous world we live in today. This is a very idealistic, naïve and irresponsible proposition. Russia and the People's Republic of China, with nuclear arsenals rivaling or exceeding the U.S., will never agree to give up their own nuclear weapons. America must never unilaterally disarm itself of the very weapons which protect and safeguard our citizens against the horrors of nuclear attack.

Many experts have testified that America's nuclear arsenal is becoming increasingly obsolescent and is in dire need of modernization. Back in December 2009, every Republican in the Senate and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) sent a letter to Obama announcing their opposition to ratification of this treaty absent an ironclad commitment by the President to fund the modernization of our aging nuclear arsenal. Thus far, he has refused to commit to support the additional funding necessary to do so. 

Rather than continuing to decimate America's nuclear arsenal which has kept the nuclear peace for the past six decades, we should begin immediately to restore a credible strategic nuclear deterrent by doubling the number of warheads deployed on our Trident II SLBM's from 4 to 8 warheads a piece. This could be done at virtually no cost by returning recently retired W88 warheads to active service. In view of the fact that they constitute the most survivable leg of our venerable nuclear triad, we should also significantly increase the operating tempo of our Ohio-class nuclear missile submarines so that two-thirds (as opposed to a mere 28% today) are deployed at all times in order to help ensure that we can deter any would-be nuclear aggressor. It is also critical that we strive to realize Ronald Reagan's vision of establishing a comprehensive national missile defense system to protect our country from nuclear attack by deploying thousands of SM-3 Block 2 ABM interceptors aboard US Navy Aegis cruisers and destroyers during the next five years. Finally, it is vital that Congress vote to significantly increase funding for measures designed to protect us from a potentially catastrophic Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) attack and/or crippling cyber attack on our nation.

Over the past two years, the Obama administration has seriously mismanaged America's national security. Senate Republicans need to stand united in championing a return to a policy of 'peace through strength' and vote to reject this dangerously flawed treaty. ESR

David T. Pyne serves as National Security Policy Coordinator to Senator-elect Mike Lee (R-UT), as a Vice President of the Association of the United States Army's Utah Chapter and as 2nd Vice President of the Military Officers' Association of America's Salt Lake Total Force Chapter. © 2010 David T. Pyne

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