S01E13: The New START Treaty

The New START Treaty is undoubtedly one of the most significant items on the docket for the lame duck session of Congress. The previous treaty expired on December 5th of last year and the President has vowed to get the new one ratified by the Senate before the year ends. Previous START treaties received widespread bipartisan support seemingly disconnected from the usual bickering and posturing between Republicans and Democrats.

This year, it appears that no legislation escapes the partisan divide. Republicans have been holding up the treaty’s ratification and whether or not it will get the needed 2/3 vote (should there even be a vote before the end of the lame duck session) depends on several of them joining the Democrats.

One-page summary below the fold…

The New START Treaty (Treaty Doc. 111-5)
Full name: Treaty Between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Arms
Signed 4/8/10
Click here to download this summary (pdf)

Status: Approved on a 14-4 vote by Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 9/16/10. The treaty is expected to be considered during the lame duck session, though its fate remains uncertain. Treaties are constitutionally required to receive a 2/3 vote, so New START must earn the support of at least nine Republicans. Russia has said its legislature (the Duma) will take up and pass the treaty once it is ratified by the Senate.

Read the treaty: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/140035.pdf
Read the accompanying protocol: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/140047.pdf

Purpose: Over the past quarter-century, the number of active global nuclear warheads has declined from roughly 65,000 to 8,000. This drastic decrease is largely due to cooperation between the United States and Russia, the two nations holding over 90% of those weapons, in the post-Cold War era. The original START Treaty, signed in 1991, has provided an effective framework by laying out both hard reduction targets and formal verification mechanisms.

Since then, further efforts have built in further reduction targets as supplements to START guidelines. However, the START Treaty expired on December 5th of last year, and the still-effective Moscow Treaty does not contain a verification provision. Meanwhile, there remain enough active nuclear warheads to obliterate all of the Earth’s major population centers many times over.

Summary: The New START Treaty would reestablish concrete guidelines and strengthen nuclear nonproliferation efforts.

The Treaty is designed to accomplish the following:

• Aggregate limits on nuclear capacity:

◦ 1,550 deployed warheads (current estimates: U.S. 1,950; Russia 2,600);
◦ 700 deployed delivery vehicles (missiles);
◦ 800 deployed and non-deployed launchers (e.g. missle silos);

• Verification requirements – each country must:

◦ Exchange data about its force size and structure;
◦ Notify its counterpart of major changes;
◦ Allow up to 18 short-notice inspections each year.

The Treaty is organized into three components of increasing complexity: the Treaty itself, a Protocol that lays out additional rights and obligations, and a series of Technical Annexes to the Protocol. Its duration will be ten years, unless superseded by a later agreement.

Supporters: President Obama, military and civilian Pentagon leadership, Partnership for a Secure America, etc.

• Supporters believe the Treaty is vital to our national security, as we must maintain the ability to ensure Russia’s nuclear arsenal is properly safeguarded and prevented from falling into the hands of terrorists. As well, a soured relationship with Russia would undermine the international coalition pressuring Iran and close off supply routes into Afghanistan. The Treaty will also continue the gradual path towards a world without nuclear arms.

Opposition: Some Senate Republicans, Heritage Foundation, some neoconservatives

• Opponents argue that we must keep our nuclear arsenal well-maintained and that the Treaty does not to enough to hold Russia accountable to its end of the bargain. It is suspected, however, that opposed Senate Republicans simply wish to deny President Obama a significant foreign policy accomplishment.

Further links
White House blog post with background info: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/04/08/new-start-treaty-and-protocol
President’s 11/20 Weekly Address on New START: http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2010/11/20/weekly-address-new-start-treaty-fundamental-security
Partnership for a Secure America bipartisan statement of support: http://www.psaonline.org/article.php?id=668
Article on Russian position: http://www.rferl.org/content/Russia_Hopes_For_START_Treaty_Approval_This_Year/2218314.html NYT article on Republican opposition: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/17/world/europe/17start.html
The Hill article on Heritage position: http://thehill.com/opinion/letters/112957-heritage-action-opposition-misrepresented-in-column

This entry was posted in 90 Second Summaries. Bookmark the permalink.