The 111th Congress has been discredited by its arrogant disregard for the public and repudiated at the polls. President Obama and his allies in the Senate are, nonetheless, trying to use the lame duck session to get a "Zombie Senate" to foist on the American people right before Christmas a dangerous "New START" nuclear arms treaty with Russia. There are compelling reasons why the handful of Republican Senators who will decide whether this treaty is approved in its present form - under artificially constrained circumstances that allow minimal opportunity for informed debate - should just say "No."
Some of the most compelling include:
The treaty would leave the Russians with thousands more nuclear weapons than the United States when their ten-to-one advantage in "tactical" arms is factored in. Moreover, the Kremlin's tactical weapons are mostly modern. Ours are, on average, over thirty-years old; some actually rely on vacuum tubes. Theirs are deployed forward near our allies and, in some cases, are being moved still closer in order to intimidate America's friends. Meanwhile, our tactical bombs, artillery shells, etc. are no longer deployed aboard Navy ships and many of them are kept in the United States, and therefore are of limited, if any, deterrent value.
What is more, Russian doctrine holds that such weapons are useable and probably decisive in warfighting. Moscow's large arsenal of tactical nukes will be even more of a threat if sharp cuts are made in the "nuclear umbrella" historically provided to our friends by our strategic deterrent. Does anyone think this will make the world safer and strengthen America security?
New START shrinks the U.S. deterrent at a time when the threat from dangerous countries is growing, unconstrained by the treaty. China, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Myanmar and Venezuela are among those increasingly hostile nations who have obtained nuclear weapons or are working to get them. This list may shortly include others who have, until now, been American allies but may feel, under the circumstances, obliged "go nuclear," as well. If we are seen as less able (or willing) to protect them with our deterrent, the world is likely to have a lot more nuclear weapons, not fewer of them (let alone be rid of them, as Mr. Obama hopes) and surely be a lot more dangerous for the United States.
New START will allow the Russians to have a say - and what amounts to a veto - over America's defenses against missile attack. The Russians have said they will withdraw from the treaty if we improve the quantity or quality of our very limited anti-missile capabilities. That threat will be more than enough to dissuade an Obama administration that has already cut, slowed and refused to deploy U.S. anti-missile programs.
Such an arrangement is especially crazy since other dangerous countries that are not parties to New START are building up their ability to attack us and our allies with ballistic missiles (see above). For example, Iran will soon have a base for such missiles in Venezuela - a new "Cuban Missile Crisis" in the making. Why should Moscow be able to decide whether we can protect the American people from those missiles?
Russian compliance with New START cannot be properly verified. This is a particular problem because the Kremlin has cheated on every arms control treaty it has ever signed. Incredibly, New START supporters say that, without this treaty, we won't be able to monitor what the Russians are doing. In fact, since the treaty provides quite limited verification arrangements, we will only be able to monitor what Moscow wants us to monitor. You can bet that cheating will take place in the future in Russia, but it will probably occur in the countless places where we are not allowed to conduct inspections.
Under the kleptocratic Vladimir Putin, the Russian government is not our friend, let alone a reliable partner. The claim that New START is necessary to "reset" relations is misleading, and potentially dangerously so. In fact, Putin and his ruling clique are deeply hostile to America. He is continuing to arm, protect and otherwise embolden our enemies around the world. For example, Russia is making nuclear weapons-relevant know-how and technology available to the likes of Iran, Venezuela and North Korea. And it is continuing to proliferate ballistic missile, advanced anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles, submarines, tanks, highly capable fighter planes and immense quantities of AK-47 automatic rifles - without regard for the danger they will pose in the Middle East, Far East and even Latin America.
As a result, the United States, its allies and interests are at greater risk by the day. New START would actually reward the Kremlin for such behavior, rather than end it.
Action on the treaty to date has shown that the Senate's political equivalent of the "living dead" and other members of the 111th Congress cannot address, let alone fix, these problems in the few days left in the lame-duck session. That is precisely why President Obama is insisting that it vote on New START before year's end.
There is actually no compelling reason why the Senate should vote on New START under these circumstances - and plenty of reasons why it should not. If President Obama insists on Senators approving this defective treaty without sufficient time and information to debate and assess - let alone actually fix - its problems, at least 34 of them should firmly just say "No."