In the real world, the Obama administration’s overly idealistic pursuit of a reduction in American and Russian stockpiles of nuclear arms has led it to actually sign a woefully flawed treaty. The goal may be worthy. The pact is not.
The first major problem with the treaty: It would definitely reduce the number of American weapons, but it wouldn’t necessarily trim the number of Russian ones.
That’s not how the administration sees things, of course. It claims that the new pact would reduce the number of strategic warheads each country could deploy by 30 percent. And yes, if ratified by the U.S. Senate, New START would set a limit of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads, fewer than the 1,700–2,200 allowed under the existing Moscow Treaty.
But there are loopholes large enough to fire an ICBM through.
“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,” writes the New START Working Group in a recent paper for The Heritage Foundation. “The number of Russia’s strategic nuclear warheads would be limited only by the financial resources it is able to devote to strategic forces, not by New START warhead ceilings -- which would be the case without this new Treaty.”
And the Russians are making no secret of the fact that they won’t cut their forces.
After the pact was signed, Gen. Nikolay Makarov, chief of the Russian General Staff, insisted, “The Strategic Rocket Forces will not be reduced. The Forces will be armed with modern mobile missile launchers.”
Furthermore, under New START, U.S. conventional warheads would be counted toward the treaty’s warhead and launcher limits, but tactical nuclear weapons wouldn’t be counted. That’s a problem, because Russia enjoys a 10-to-1 numeric advantage over the United States in such weapons, according to the 2009 report of the bipartisan Congressional Strategic Posture Commission. So the U.S. could find itself facing an actual nuclear-missile gap.
But we’ll still have something the Russians won’t, right? A tested, effective and expanding missile-defense system? Well, not quite.