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article imageOp-Ed: START’s uncomfortable truths, and why it should still be ratified

By Jason Li     Dec 9, 2010 in Politics
Republicans appear to be stalling the ratification of the New START Treaty, saying they don’t have enough deliberation time. You might think that the whole issue is pretty straightforward: the less nukes, the better, right?
Well, yes, but there are serious concerns why the treaty may not be good for America.
Ed Feulner makes a convincing case in the Washington Post. Loopholes in the treaty are “large enough to fire an intercontinental ballistic missile through.” Not only will Russia be able to exploit ‘legal lapses’ to produce as many nuclear warheads as they like, America may potentially find itself on the wrong side of a nuclear missile gap because the treaty leaves out ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons, an area Russia supposedly holds a 10-1 numerical advantage.
Furthermore, in the National Review, Robert Joseph and Eric Edelman add that “New START abandons on-the-ground monitoring of Russia’s missile-manufacturing facility and permits Russia to withhold telemetry of some of its missile tests, undermining our ability to know both what is being produced and what is being developed.”
When the US and the then-USSR inked START I in 1991, Time wrote that the treaty was too one-sided against the USSR, which had to take more drastic strategic adjustments than the US. Over the next few months, the world witnessed the dissolution of the Soviet Union. While the agreement was not the cause, it was certainly a harbinger that exposed Soviet inability to bargain a better deal.
Could the same be said of New START- is it a sign of American weakness?
In many ways it is reflective of waning US power. Russian officials emerge from negotiations confident of their strategic position, and appear to have no qualms scrapping the treaty altogether if the US fails to ratify it. Putin has threatened to build up Russian nuclear forces if that happens. In contrast, Obama has yet to convince the legislative branch that New START does not harm US interests.
But that does not mean that New START shouldn’t be ratified. Three reasons that immediately come to mind:
First, if Senate fails to ratify New START (which requires a super-majority of 67 votes out of 100), it would further undermine the US in foreign negotiations. President Obama has fought hard for the treaty, and if he is unable to get his house in order to back him up on what is arguably his biggest accomplishment in foreign affairs, his international credibility would doubtlessly suffer. He would be perceived as a leader incapable of enacting his own policies.
Second, the threat of nuclear war is way overrated. It’s almost impossible to conjure up a situation that benefits Russia to nuke the US. There are economic ties involved, tons of Russian immigrants in America, and while the two countries may not be besties, they share enough common goals, North Korea for example, to need each other. Also, Russia can employ a whole range of other more effective, less deadly ways to exert its influence.
Third, denuclearization would be good for cash-strapped America. Those dollars could, and should, be channeled to the economy where they are most badly needed. More so now that tax cuts for the rich are extended for another two years.
What America really needs to do is recognize that its days as the world’s only superpower are numbered. Instead of trying to keep up appearances internationally, it should work on bettering itself internally. What that entails I don’t really know: it could be economic restructuring, political restructuring (much partisanship, no?), or even finding another comparative advantage to propel it back to the top.
It is okay not to have the biggest guns, especially since you’re probably never going to use them.
Now, quit stalling, and get the damned treaty ratified.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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