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Obama Diverged from Prior Administrations with Capitulation on New START Treaty

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Last month’s passage of the updated nuclear-arms reduction treaty with Russia, known as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, represents a key concession by the Obama administration towards Russia. Up until now, previous administrations had stood firm refusing to accede to Russia's aggressive posturing. The treaty favors Russia, requiring it to give up missiles it cannot maintain in exchange for real cuts by the U.S. The Russian Duma is expected to pass it later this month.

The treaty expands upon the old START Treaty which expired a year ago, further limiting development of the U.S.’s missile defense system and restricting our ability to prevent a possible nuclear attack from countries like North Korea or Iran. President Obama denies this. In a letter to Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, Obama wrote, "The New START Treaty places no limitations on the development or deployment of our missile defense programs.”

It is disingenuous of Obama to make this claim, since the treaty clearly does limit the development of missiles. It further reduces the number of missiles the U.S. and Russia may acquire, to 1,550 warheads each, down from the prior START Treaty's limit of 2,200 and 700 deployed. Together the U.S. and Russia own over 90% of the world's nuclear weapons. Also troublesome is language in the preamble that would permit Russia to abandon the treaty if the U.S. develops its missile system beyond "current strategic capabilities." The treaty resumes regular inspections of each country's nuclear arsenal through a joint inspection system.

The treaty fails to address Russia’s ten to one advantage in tactical nuclear weapons. Senator Chris Bond, who retired last month, said this translates into allowing the U.S. to inspect only two to three percent of Russia's missiles. 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, said that many of the tactical nuclear weapons have yields stronger than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that Vladimir Putin is using them to intimidate neighboring countries.

Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy and a former acting assistant secretary of defense for security policy, is concerned that Obama is seeking to denuclearize the only country the U.S. can denuclearize - itself. The New Deterrent Working Group, a coalition of more than 30 former defense and foreign policy officials and strategic weapons experts, sent the Senate a letter on December 20th opposing the treaty. Yet the Senate ignored the warnings, passing the treaty 71-26, with 13 Republicans joining the Democrats.

It is naive to believe that by eliminating a substantial amount of our missiles and a few of Russia's that we can bring about peace. Disarming ourselves leaves us more vulnerable to rogue nations and terrorists who refuse to play by “the rules.” The U.S. has been a force for good throughout history; to willfully abandon our ability to ward off powerful forces of evil is to accede to moral relativity and leave us without adequate protection. Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez has announced plans to deploy Iranian strategic missiles against the U.S.

Obama said this treaty was his top foreign policy priority. He may as well have said he no longer believes the U.S. holds a special place as the city on a shining hill; our higher ethical standards are not entitled to any more weight than judgments by other countries. But even Russia knows better. Tellingly, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev admitted that some Americans think all of the world's evil is concentrated in Russia.

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