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Would Ronald Reagan Sign the New START Treaty?

In 1987, at the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), President Ronald Reagan summarized his approach to arms-control by citing an old Russian proverb: “doveryai, no proveryai.” Translation: trust, but verify. When Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev noted, “You say that at every meeting,” Reagan shot back, “I like it.”

Like everything else the Obama administration does, their approach to arms control is the exact opposite of President Reagan. As the following exchange from this Tuesday’s Senate Armed Services Committee New START hearing shows, the Obama administration approach to arms control might as well be, “trust, but don’t bother to verify.” Here is the crucial exchange between Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and U.S. Strategic Command Commander, Air Force General Kevin Chilton:

Sen. McCain: General Chilton, do you agree with the unclassified statement in the State Department Verification Assessment that any cheating by the Russians would have little, if any, effect?

General Chilton: Senator McCain, I do agree with that

Sen. McCain: Well, what this brings to the casual observer’s mind, General, is if it doesn’t have any consequences if they do any cheating, what’s the point in having a treaty?

Only in the bizarro world of the Obama administration is this country made any safer by signing a treaty that the counter party has no intention of following. And that is just the beginning of New START’s many fatal flaws.

Not only has it been clearly established that New START’s verification mechanisms are completely inadequate to protect our country, but it is increasingly becoming clear that the Obama administration significantly weakened our missile defenses in order to get the Russians to sign.

From the beginning it was clear that New START’s preamble, which is a binding provision, linked our missile defense capabilities with Russian arms reductions. The Russians also made it clear on the day the treaty was signed that they believe New START limits our missile defenses. Since then, despite Obama administration claims to the contrary, experts have uncovered more and more limitations to our missile defense capabilities throughout the treaty’s other provisions.

Now there are reports that U.S. negotiators actually told the Russians that the U.S. had no intention of deploying strategic missile defenses in Europe. The Senate cannot in good faith sign off on this agreement until these statements are verified. The full negotiation records must be released.

Proponents of New START promise virtual Armageddon should the Senate reject the treaty. This is fear-mongering nonsense. As Heritage fellow Peter Brookes has noted.

Today, the levels of strategic nuclear weapons in the U.S. and Russia are governed by the Bush-era Moscow Treaty or as it’s technically known, the Treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on Strategic Offensive Reductions. The Moscow Treaty is still in force, is currently limiting the size of both strategic nuclear arsenals, and will remain so until the end of 2012, if New START is not ratified.

But more importantly the Obama administration’s obsession with New START betrays their antiquated Cold War mindset regarding national security. The greatest nuclear threat our country faces today comes from Iran and North Korea — countries not bound by New START and with a proven track record of not caring about what example such an agreement might set.

The better way to protect America is through a “protect and defend” strategy: Allow the U.S. and Russia to reduce operationally deployed warheads below Moscow treaty levels while leaving missile defenses unconstrained. Instead of signing treaties that weaken our missile defenses, we should be signing mutual commitment agreements to field cooperative missile defenses against strategic attacks. Finally, we should also pursue bilateral treaties with Russia and others to counter nuclear-armed terrorism.

New START only limits our ability to defend ourselves while offering no new verifiable commitments from the Russians. This is not an agreement Reagan would sign.

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