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START Stopped in Its Tracks?

Eli Lake reports:

A second leading Republican is opposing Senate ratification of the New START treaty based on classified intelligence that the arms pact cannot be verified and that Moscow is manipulating the treaty to prevent the U.S. from expanding missile defenses.

“New START suffers from fundamental flaws that no amount of tinkering around the edges can fix. I believe the better course for our nation, and for global stability, is to put this treaty aside and replace it with a better one,” Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, said in a little-noticed floor statement last week.

Bond identifies a number of substantive concerns that the administration has not allayed:

Key intelligence assessments and testimony from analysts on the U.S. ability to monitor compliance with the treaty has left “no doubt in my mind that the United States cannot reliably verify the treaty’s 1,550 limit on deployed warheads,” Mr. Bond said. For example, the 10 annual warhead inspections in Russia will limit checks to 2 percent to 3 percent of the Russian strategic forces, he said.

Additionally, all missiles can be armed with unlimited numbers of warheads. “So even if the Russians fully cooperated in every inspection, these inspections cannot provide conclusive evidence of whether the Russians are complying with the warhead limit,” he said.

Also, the treaty provides no limits on the number of warheads Russia can place on a missile it is testing. “The Russians could deploy a missile with only one warhead, but legally flight-test it with six warheads to gain confidence in the increased capability — a practice they could not employ under the original START,” Mr. Bond said. …

Mr. Bond also dismissed administration assertions that the treaty will not limit U.S. missile defenses. He noted that Russia’s nonbinding statement that any expansion of U.S. missile defenses would lead to Moscow’s withdrawal is “manipulation” of U.S. defense policy designed to prevent building defenses.

Given this, and the certainty that other Republicans share the concern, why is the administration trying to jam a vote now? Perhaps there simply aren’t sufficient answers to the concerns Bond has raised and the administration would just as soon attribute the treaty’s defeat to GOP “intransigence” than to their own negotiating skills.

But what of the argument that without New START, we won’t have a verification system in place? Go get a better treaty, Republicans would respond. That’s no easy order, especially for an administration that contorts itself to avoid stressing its new relationship with the Russians. In sum, Obama negotiated a not-very-good treaty and now can’t get it through the Senate. Sort of a mess, isn’t it? Welcome to the Obama foreign policy brain trust.



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