WASHINGTON – The lame-duck Senate voted 71-26 today to ratify President Obama’s strategic arms reduction treaty with the Russians, which numerous Reagan and Bush administration defense experts say will put America at a strategic disadvantage.
The Obama administration is “intent on putting the United States out of the nuclear weapons business,” said Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy and a former acting assistant secretary of defense for security policy.
Gaffney accused Obama of following a policy of “radical denuclearization.”
“Ours is the only country they can denuclearize,” Gaffney lamented.
The so-called New START treaty limits each side to 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons but fails to address the massive 10-1 Russian advantage in tactical nuclear weapons. Disputes over interpretation of the treaty may allow the Russians to expand their nuclear advantage even further.
“The Russians have already said they think they can have 2,200 warheads, far more than the 1,550 they’re supposed to have,” said Gaffney.
Critics say the treaty poses a serious threat to U.S. security by restricting America’s ability to develop and deploy missile defenses against threats posed by a number of potential foes. It also, they say, cripples American ability to verify Russian compliance with strategic arms deals.
In addition, the treaty gives the Russians the capability to quickly expand their number of deployed nuclear weapons should they decide to withdraw from the treaty, according to defense expert John Kwapisz.
“This is a bad day for the future safety of the American people,” said Kwapisz, with Gaffney an organizer of the New Deterrent Working Group, a coalition of more than 30 former defense and foreign policy officials and strategic weapons experts who sent the Senate a Dec. 20 open letter opposing the treaty. Kwapisz is former executive director of the Center for Peace and Freedom.
“These were the real nuts and bolts people involved in the hands-on implementation and design of security policies,” said Kwapisz of the working group, contending they are better judges of the treaty than the prominent politicians and diplomats advanced by the Obama administration to support it.
“The Russians have snookered the Obama administration,” Kwapisz told WND. “They got virtually everything they wanted but gave up nothing of importance to us on verification, missile defenses and their advantage in tactical nuclear weapons.”
“I believe we are impairing our ability to mount a strategic defense,” said one working group member, Ambassador Henry Cooper, former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative and the chief U.S. strategic weapons negotiator with the Soviet Union during the Reagan administration.
“The Russians have said we cannot make any qualitative or quantitative improvements on the strategic defenses we already have,” Cooper added, pointing out that the U.S. needs to deploy new defenses against newly developing threats from countries other than Russia.
“We may need to deploy Aegis missiles at bases in Florida, Texas and Louisiana,” Cooper told WND.
The ambassador explained that Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez has announced plans to deploy Iranian strategic missiles against the U.S., and terrorists are also developing the capability to launch ballistic missiles carrying electro-magnetic pulse weapons from ships. A single EMP weapon, a nuclear warhead detonated in the atmosphere, could destroy power grids and disable cars throughout the United States.
“Leaving out the tactical nuclear weapon issue is a major fault with this treaty. The Russians have a 10-1 advantage in tactical nuclear weapons,” Cooper added. “Those weapons constitute twice the number of weapons associated with the START treaty, and many have yields greater than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” Cooper pointed out that Russian strongman Vladimir Putin is already using tactical nuclear weapons to intimidate his European neighbors.
“What bothers me more than anything else about the treaty is the administration has refused to provide the records of the negotiations so the Senate can see what has actually been agreed to,” said Cooper, who observed that the U.S. and Russia already disagree about how the preamble of the treaty should be interpreted. “It doesn’t make sense to sign a contract when both sides don’t agree on the meaning. Would you buy a car when you don’t agree on the price?”
Another working group member, Paula DeSutter, the assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Verification, Compliance and Implementation during the George W. Bush administration, said the treaty’s verification provisions “fall way short” of verification standards in Bush-era strategic arms treaties.
“The problem is the limits in the treaty are going to be difficult if not impossible to verify because there is no limit on the number of warheads the Russians can put on any particular missile, or any type of missile,” said DeSutter.
In previous treaties, the number of warheads that could be deployed on any given type of missile were strictly limited, and inspectors had greater access to missiles to confirm that treaties were being observed.
In a Senate speech last month, retiring Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., denounced the New START treaty as unverifiable.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the United States cannot reliably verify the treaty’s 1,550 limit on deployed warheads,” said Bond.
Bond pointed out that under the treaty, the U.S. will be permitted to inspect only 2 or 3 percent of the Russian missile force each year.
“Compounding this verification gap is the current structure of the treaty’s warhead limits which would allow Russia to prepare legally to add very large numbers of warheads to its forces in excess of the treaty’s limit,” Bond continued.