Via lefty Spencer Ackerman, who notes that the liberal religious group behind this spot is not only being hysterical but actually deceptive. If you’re worried that we can’t monitor all of Russia’s nukes at the moment because there’s no treaty in place to let our inspectors in, well, bad news: We can’t monitor all of Russia’s nukes when the inspectors are there, either.
Except that even under New START, the U.S. still won’t be able to catalog every Russian warhead, so it’s not as if the loose-nuke problem resolves itself when the inspectors return. It’s true that on-the-ground inspectors provide more precision in understanding the state of the Russian nuclear arsenal than satellites do. But the point of the video is to inspire fear, not persuade people on the merits of the treaty.
Given Russia’s endless troubles with Chechen jihadis, they have as much interest as we do in preventing loose nukes. Rest assured, even without American inspectors there, they’re taking precautions to keep the stockpile safe. Here’s a slightly more persuasive reason why having inspectors on site can help:
Unlike the past, U.S. inspectors would be able to track precise numbers of warheads, bombers and strategic missiles that Russia deploys, allowing the U.S. military to adjust its own deployments more accurately, he said.
Until then, the United States must rely on less accurate counting rules that assume Russia is deploying more warheads, missiles and bombers than it actually does, compelling the U.S. military to maximize its deployments, he said…
The result is that the United States is deploying more nuclear weapons and spending more money than necessary, he said.
Better intel equals greater operational efficiency, although even here, the Cold War logic of America scrambling to counter a Russian nuclear build-up seems antiquated and vaguely absurd. Or does it? I freely admit to having avoided the subject of START this week despite The One’s urgent pronouncements about it simply because an intelligent commentary requires a national security expertise that I don’t have. Commenters who do have that expertise are cordially invited (seriously!) to make the case below or via trackback, but given the amount of authority arrayed in favor of ratifying the treaty ASAP, I’m not clear on why the GOP should resist. Gates and Mullen are in favor, and both James Baker and Henry Kissinger were onhand for The One’s presser yesterday to call for ratification. George Shultz, Reagan’s Secretary of State, actually endorsed ratification months ago:
In addition to our military leadership, there is overwhelming bipartisan support for the treaty among national security experts. Also, officials from the past seven administrations, Republican and Democrat alike, testified before Senate committees in support of the treaty. In fact, the number of Republican former officials testifying outnumbered the number of Democrats.
We were part of a group of 30 former national security leaders from both political parties — including former secretary of state Colin Powell, former defense secretary Frank Carlucci and former national security adviser Sandy Berger — who published an open letter in support of the treaty.
The Senate has done its due diligence: Over the course of 21 hearings and briefings during the last five months, senators have had the opportunity to ask questions and put to rest concerns. From the director of the Missile Defense Agency, Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, senators learned that the treaty in no way limits the ability of our military to deploy the missile defenses it needs or wants. From STRATCOM Commander Kevin Chilton, they learned that with the treaty in place, the United States will retain a strong and reliable deterrent. Sen. John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, even delayed the committee vote on the treaty to give senators an extra month to review background materials and seek answers to their questions.
Jon Kyl, the chief Republican negotiator on the issue, held out initially in exchange for guarantees from Obama that we’ll increase funding to modernize our own stockpile. Obama responded by pledging billions for the effort, whereupon Kyl decided that they should forget about this during the lame-duck session and take it up in January with the new Congress. From a political standpoint, I understand why: Reid could have forced a vote on this before the election, but as it is, the 10 incoming Republican senators would like him to wait until the freshmen are seated next year before voting on the treaty. But if, as even hawks like Max Boot and Robert Kagan claim, the treaty really is modest and mostly symbolic, why not ratify it now? Says Boot:
As Kagan suggests, [delay] will allow the administration to blame Republican “obstructionism” if and when relations with Russia deteriorate. Therefore, Republican foot-dragging on ratification isn’t smart politics. It’s not necessary for the national defense either. Republicans should keep their powder dry to fight off attempts to slash the defense budget — an issue that really could imperil our security. That will be harder to do, however, because there are a number of Republicans who appear willing to go along with defense cuts, even as they’re taking pot shots at the (largely symbolic) New START treaty.
Vote for this and, when The One starts whining later about the “party of no,” you can point to it as proof that he’s a liar. Of course, they could vote for it too in January after Rubio, Paul, et al. are sworn in, but I wonder if tea-party senators might feel pressured to stall on it just to stall on it, so that their terms begin on an appropriately defiant note. On the other hand, it could be that Kyl’s already talked to a bunch of them and knows that they’re in privately planning to vote for ratification, in which case it would make sense to wait: Having the new tea-party class vote yes would let them bank some early bipartisan cred too instead of letting the current Congress take all the credit.
Biden, like Leslie Gelb, thinks this is mostly about Republican senators living in fear of the base, unwilling to hand Obama even a small victory lest the cursed name of “RINO” fall upon them. I hope that’s not true, especially when it comes to foreign policy, but I’m not sure what’s a RINO litmus test anymore and what isn’t. In any case, as I say, I’m open to persuasion on the treaty. Where’d I go wrong here, experts?