That leads directly to another concern: the haste with which the agreement was reached. Obama wants the deal ratified before December, when the current Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) expires. But what’s the hurry?
In addition to the nuclear review, the administration is conducting a complete survey to determine what weapons systems the U.S. needs and how many people our military will require in the years ahead. That’s a smart thing for a new presidential team to do. But why agree to any reductions before this review is finished?
It’s not as if either side plans to build thousands of new nuclear weapons this year, anyway. The Russians already have fewer missiles than they’re allowed. Even if START I expires and isn’t replaced with a START follow-on agreement for a year or two, the geopolitical power picture will remain unchanged. This is because, among other things, another agreement known as the Moscow Treaty requires both sides to work toward no more than 2,200 operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads.
“Russian leaders hope to control or eliminate many elements of U.S. military power in exchange for strategic force reductions they will have to make anyway” Payne concludes. “U.S. leaders should not agree to pay Russia many times over for essentially an empty box.”
Before it can take effect, a START follow-on agreement, like all treaties, requires Senate approval. Let’s hope some senators question the wisdom of giving up valuable American weapon systems to get rid of crumbling Russian ones.
This agreement needs to go back to the drawing board. Anything less could checkmate our defenses.