The Global Citizen: New START
Last week, the US administration of Barack Obama announced that it would reduce the number of deployed US Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) from 450 to 400. The silos that housed these nuclear weapons will be maintained, unfortunately, and the 50 weapons will be stored rather than dismantled. The reduction comes as part of the United States' obligations under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with the Russian Federation.
The treaty requires both parties to limit their deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 and reduce their nuclear weapons delivery systems to 800 (700 deployed) by 2018. As of October, 2013, the Russian Federation had already accomplished this reduction with 473 reported deployed delivery systems. The US currently has 886 deployed and non-deployed delivery systems, still above the 2018 goal.
Last Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the implementation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), seeking to gauge the treaty's performance in the time since February 2011, when it first came into effect. Witnesses brought before the committee included the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, Thomas P. D'Agostino; the Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security at the State Department, Rose Gottemoeller; and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs, Madelyn R. Creedon.
Each of the witnesses offered positive assessments of New START's effectiveness, highlighting the ways in which the agreement has helped to make nuclear relations between the US and Russia more stable and transparent. In her testimony, Gottemoeller remarked that New START has helped to improve the flow of nuclear weapons-related information between the two countries. In particular, she cited the treaty's verification mechanisms, including exhibitions of strategic arms and guaranteed on-site inspections, as concrete examples of provisions that have helped to improve the aforementioned information flow.
Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana lost his Republican primary yesterday to Tea Party backed conservative Richard Mourdock, after more than 35 years in the Senate. His defeat is not just a defeat for Lugar and his supporters, but a defeat for American national security and indeed the entire world. In the words of fellow Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Senator John Kerry, "It will soon almost sound cliché to say that America is safer today because of Dick Lugar's 36 years of service in the Senate, but it really does bear repeating."
Lugar's challenger, Richard Mourdock, said in his victory speech, that his campaign was about ideas for the future of both the Republican Party and our nation as a whole. Unfortunately, Mourdock's win is part of a disturbing pattern of election victories for Tea Party ideas, of unilateralists over more moderate, internationally minded Republicans.
Getting two-thirds of the Senate to agree on anything is a daunting task. So it was no small feat when the Senate approved New START, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, during its December lame duck session. New START was the first major international agreement passed by the Senate since the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1997.
The United States is a bit schizophrenic when it comes to treaties. The U.S. government does a great job negotiating them. From the International Criminal Court to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, U.S. diplomats have forged very constructive compromises on major human rights and security agreements. Unfortunately, the U.S. Senate has a history of letting these accords molder. The Senate and the White House still have a long list of treaties that are overdue for ratification.
Much can be learned from the successful passage of this treaty. Here are seven lessons for policymakers to consider as they move forward.
If the people will lead, the leaders will follow. The ratification of the new START treaty, without question, was uncertain as recently as one week ago. But because of the indefatigable efforts of us, citizens who stand for global solutions to global challenges, we turned the tide. We moved the mountain. We carried the day.
Imagine what other mountains we're going to move in the months and years to come.
At the heart of the new START treaty stands a Big Idea that can be expressed in a single sentence. When both we and our potential adversaries agree to mutually limit our military muscle and to mutually open ourselves to external inspections, that's better for us, for American national security, than when we insist that we cannot allow our armaments or our sovereignty to be constrained in any way (as the right demagogically demands), and consequently our potential adversaries remain wholly unconstrained as well.
Five months after being signed by the President, the New START treaty successfully made it out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC). Fourteen senators voted for it and four against after a long and heated debate over issues like missile defense and nuclear modernization. Three Republicans threw their chips in favor of New START.
This is a major win for the arms control advocacy community, given that until just a few days ago, it wasn't clear how some influential GOP senators on the treaty were going to vote. With a Democratic majority in the committee, the treaty would have been voted out regardless. But the treaty will need 67 votes on the floor (read: at least 8 Republicans) to be ratified, which is no easy task in this divided Senate.
However, as Senator Kerry stated, the country is safer when SFRC can rise above partisan politics. The treaty's ratification on the Senate floor would have been a pipe dream without Republican votes on the committee.
Stephen Rademaker's recent piece in the Washington Post is the latest in a series of offensives against the New START treaty with Russia. He falsely plants the blame for the delayed ratification schedule on the Democrats, although it is the Republicans who have spent the past few months scrambling to hold the treaty hostage to political maneuvering. On the plus side, he implicitly concedes that the debate on the content of the treaty is essentially over - he has no beef with the text or implications of New START. At a loss for substantive things to critique, he turns to an otherwise tedious and boring topic: Senate processes.
Rademaker says that critics of the treaty have been unfairly excluded from the process, but the evidence is to the contrary. Claiming that Senate leaders haven't given Republicans time to formally file their complaints with the treaty is a criticism of last resort. There have been 20 hearings, three classified briefings and almost 800 questions asked on the record. There have been countless meetings between concerned Senators (primarily Republicans) Secretary Clinton, Vice President Biden, and various members of the negotiating team.
Two members of Maroon 5, a widely popular American rock band, recently taped a PSA in support of new-START and the film Countdown to Zero. They are part of a growing number of musicians who have spoken out in support of the new-START treaty. You can watch the video below. The video is somewhat NSFW and includes questionable content, but it's ok to drop the f-bomb if it is supporting a nuclear weapons free world.
You can find more Musicians supporting new-START HERE.
To take action now visit the new-START treaty page on Facebook.
What's more dangerous: the thousands of nukes that will still target U.S. and Russian cities if the New START treaty is not ratified OR the opportunistic, Tea Party pandering politicians who would derail this commonsense agreement?
If you answered "the nukes", you're wrong.
New START will reduce the global inventory of strategic nuclear warheads on hair-trigger alert to levels not seen since I was born in 1954. But these weapons are not nearly as dangerous as the obstructive "Cold War" messaging that treaty opponents are deploying to upset New START's ratification.
Seven former commanders of the Strategic Air Command and the U.S. Strategic Command who recently endorsed the pact said, "There is little concern today about the probability of a Russian nuclear attack." The terrorist bomb that takes out Washington or New York will most likely come in a shipping container rather than an ICBM.
Ideological diverse yet respected foreign policy experts and high-ranking military officials—Henry Kissinger, George P. Schultz, Richard Burt, Robert Gates Hillary Clinton, and Adm. Mike Mullen—support the New START treaty. Ambassador Nancy Soderberg noted the reason for this phenomenon: “At its core, the debate is not between liberals and conservatives but between those who understand the world of nuclear weapons has changed dramatically and those who still view national security through a pre-9/11, Cold War lens.”
Treaty opponents embrace this Cold War hysteria, imagining a game of international chess that did not stop with the collapse of the Soviet Union. For them, first strike capability, acceptable losses, and thousands of nuclear weapons trained on major population centers have become a way of life. They demand to see negotiation records, hoping to uncover proof of Ivan’s cunning as he stealthily softens up lazy American capitalists for a surprise nuclear strike. Small wonder that those who entertain this skewed fantasy would sacrifice the proven benefits of a strategic arms treaty and bet the house on an unwanted, nonexistent panacea. These neo-Cold Warriors either are incapable of accepting the changes resulting from the end of the Cold War or they seek to return to the heady days of an unfettered nuclear arms race.
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