In the spring of 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton handed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a plastic button that was supposed to read “reset” on both sides, once in English and once in Russian. But while the Obama Administration got the English part right, the State Department got the Russian word for “reset” wrong, instead emblazoning the button with the word “overload.”
With the Senate set to ratify New START sometime today, that error might just prove prophetic as already identifiable flaws in the treaty grant the Russians numerous opportunities to pressure for restrictions to American missile defense capabilities. The Senators voting for this treaty should be vigilant to resist any further erosion of our sovereign right to self-defense.
The first order of business will be to ensure that President Barack Obama follows through on the promises he made in his letter to the Senate to fully develop a U.S. missile defense system in Europe. Senators should also monitor any new rounds of nuclear and defense arms negotiations with Russia to make sure they do not repeat the mistakes of New START. Already there are troubling reports of negotiations about further U.S. reductions of launchers and warheads. With the rise of China and other nuclear states, the U.S. should not undertake any further nuclear reductions that would favor Russia as strongly as New START does or would increase U.S. vulnerability to those that possess nuclear weapons now or in the future.
Unfortunately, further undoing the viability of our nuclear arsenal appears to be exactly what is next on the foreign policy agenda. The New York Times reports today that the White House plans to press ahead with President Obama’s campaign promise to bring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) up for another vote. President Bill Clinton first brought the CTBT to the Senate in 1999, where it fell more than 15 votes short of ratification. The Senate rejected ratification in 1999 for good reasons, and the ratification of New START only makes those reasons more pertinent today. The effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear deterrence posture has declined in recent years through atrophy within the weapons complex, and the United States has no margin for error. Ratification of the CTBT, on top of New START, would be nothing less than gambling with the survival of the United States.