Peter Brookes and Owen Graham: U.S.-Russia's New START is a non-starter

[Peter Brookes is Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs and Chung Ju-Yung Fellow for Policy Studies in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Owen Graham is Research Assistant in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.]

With Herculean-like effort, the Obama Administration continues to insist that the New START treaty between the United States and Russia will not limit U.S. ballistic missile defense or the strategic options available to the President. However, numerous limitations and other problematic issues have continued to be exposed throughout the treaty. A recent Heritage Foundation panel discussion titled "A Good or Bad START" identified additional limitations and shortcomings, which will weaken U.S. national security.

Broad Interpretation Likely

Ambassador David Smith , Senior Fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, and former leader of the U.S., Soviet Defense and Space Talks, pointed out that there exists a little known body called the Compliance Review Group, whose members are the real "high priests" of the treaty. They will determine what actions the United States can or cannot take in order to ensure compliance. This body will interpret the language of the treaty as it did with the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) and Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaties. Smith pointed out that in the past this body interpreted these treaties overly broadly in order to accommodate the concerns of the Soviet Union/Russia. This broad interpretation caused U.S. policymakers to impose major self-restraints in order to avoid compliance breach with the treaty.

This is no small point considering the disagreement between the U.S. and Russia over the extent to which the U.S. is allowed to build its missile defenses under the treaty. Given the Russian unilateral threat to withdraw from New START should the U.S. build its defenses, the U.S. Senate, [responsible for quality control oversight over the treaty], can be expected to push back on any plans deemed "provocative" to Russia.

In addition, the treaty will stand up the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC). The BCC is responsible for negotiating and resolving concerns between treaty parties. The extent and scope of the BCC's powers are yet unknown. Of major concern is that the BCC can change definitions (e.g., what constitutes missile defense, intermediate-range ballistic missiles, etc.) contained in the treaty, without congressional approval or oversight. Quibbling over treaty language now may prove to be irrelevant as the BCC arrives at its own conclusions after endless renegotiations.

Under previous treaties, over-interpretation and the subsequent self-imposition of restraints led to the retardation and negation of U.S. missile defense and weapon systems. This resulted in less efficient and more expensive systems as well as the lack of development of space-based missile defenses, which are the most effective option...

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