As the hearings on the New START Treaty continue in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, support for the treaty has come from many sources, including the United States military. Gen. Kevin Chilton, U.S. Strategic Command Chief and the man responsible for the country’s nuclear forces, presented both financial and tactical reasons for ratification. Without the treaty, U.S. insight into Russian nuclear capabilities would be severely limited. Guesstimates would replace concrete Intel, leading to one of two possibilities:
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* Under development: "It will be a security issue." By underestimating Russia’s capabilities, the U.S. fails to develop necessary systems.
* Over development: "It would be a cost issue." By overestimating, the U.S. could end up pouring money into the development of capabilities that it does not require.
Considering the budgetary quagmire the U.S. is currently faces, we can ill afford an unnecessary and unwarranted spending spree.
Does this treaty endanger America’s National Security?
With a vocal minority up in arms over perceived limitations to missile defense, suspicion abounds that the New START treaty will critically hinder U.S. defenses. Are these concerns warranted? The answer is a resounding no, and it has been reiterated by steady stream of military officials and foreign policy experts from both political parties. During his testimony before the SFRC, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates emphatically noted, "The treaty will not constrain the United States from deploying the most effective missile defenses possible nor impose additional costs or barriers on those defenses."
At another SFRC hearing, Senator Lugar (R-IN) said "Yesterday, our treaty negotiators told us that missile defense language, including the unilateral Russian and American statements accompanying the New START Treaty, in no way inhibits future missile defense deployments." As an afterthought for those conspiracy minded individuals who stubbornly resist ratification, the Senator added "And there are no secret deals with Moscow on missile defense."
While a renewed treaty with Russia certainly appears to be in the best interest of the United Sates, the threat of a nuclear exchange between these two nations seems remote. Does this treaty take into account the threat posed by rogue states such as Iran or North Korea? According to Kerry (D-MA), Co-Chair of the SFRC, it does indeed. "Numerous witnesses, including the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have testified that the treaty will not affect America's ability to defend itself from an Iranian or North Korean missile now or in the future." These statements hardly leave room for ambiguity.
The result of these hearings will reach far beyond the partisan gridlock that currently plagues Washington. The New START treaty allows us to renew and strengthen our relationship with the other major nuclear power. Considering the United States and Russia possess 95 percent of world’s nuclear weapons, a firm commitment for verification and reduction is essential to peace and security for both nations.
Following the end of the Cold War and passage of START I, the two countries have witnessed the benefits of mutual cooperation. START I created a watershed moment for the two nuclear powers. "Since Russia and the United States no longer presented an existential threat to each other," explained Sen. Kerry, "they now had a common interest in cooperating to make their nuclear deployments smaller, safer, and more secure."
The New START Treaty stands poised to continue this positive momentum built up over the last two decades. This security extends beyond the here and now. As gravely noted by Henry Kissinger during his testimony before the SFRC "This Committee's decision will affect the prospects for peace for a decade or more."
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