Ratify the New START treaty -- but wait until January to do it
Reaching agreement on the New START treaty should not be difficult. With proper conditions, New START protects US national interests and shouldn't be rushed through a lame-duck Senate session, but taken up in full daylight when the new senators take their seats in January.
The "New START" treaty (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) now under consideration in the US Senate serves US national security interests and should be ratified, provided three conditions are met. Congress and the administration should:Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
• agree on a program for modernization of US nuclear forces to ensure maximum safety, effectiveness, and reliability;
• reach a clear understanding that nothing in the treaty limits US missile defense efforts, and agree on a program of continued development of missile defenses, including in Europe to cover the territory of all NATO allies; and
• agree that there will be no unilateral US withdrawal of the small number of remaining US nuclear weapons from Europe, and that there will be no further nuclear treaties submitted to the Senate for ratification, until we have addressed the problem of the thousands of Russian tactical nuclear weapons based on the borders of Europe.
These conditions are already factors in administration thinking, and reaching agreement on them between the administration and Congress should not prove too difficult a task. Doing so would make the treaty’s other modest but real benefits – a cap on US and Russian warheads, information exchanges, on-site inspections, etc. – well worth achieving.
What New START will and won't do
This argument in favor of ratification, under the right conditions, is a hard-headed assessment of US national interests – just as Russia has made its own hard-headed assessment of its own national interests in obtaining a limit on total numbers of US strategic nuclear warheads.
By contrast, this argument is in no way premised on buying good behavior from Russia. The suggestion made by some, that failure to ratify the New START treaty would endanger the “reset” in US-Russia relations is faulty on a number of grounds.
For another view: Senate must ratify new START agreement on nuclear arms
US-Russia 'reset' isn't a factor
First, this argument is based on the view that the reset policy has produced significant results – i.e., that Russia has changed its behavior or policies as a result of a new tone coming from Washington. This view is subject to considerable debate.
The examples cited in favor of this position – the New START Treaty itself, military transits to Afghanistan, and support for a UN sanctions resolution on Iran – are areas where progress was already made under the Bush administration, before any “reset,” and where Russia itself has argued that it is acting purely in its own interest, not in response to any US overtures.