Romney wrong on claim that New START harms missile defense

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

In a Washington Post op-ed, Mitt Romney makes false and misleading assertions to claim that the strategic missile reduction treaty with Russia "jeopardizes our missile defense system." In fact, the head of the Missile Defense Agency testified that "the new START treaty actually reduces constraints on the development of the missile defense program."

Romney claims treaty requires U.S. to "effectively get Russia's permission for any missile defense expansion"

Romney complains that "Russia has expressly reserved the right to walk away from the treaty." In his Washington Post op-ed, Romney claims that the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) "impedes" America's missile defense capability because "Russia has expressly reserved the right to walk away from the treaty if it believes that the United States has significantly increased its missile defense capability." Romney continues: "Hence, to preserve the treaty's restrictions on Russia, America must effectively get Russia's permission for any missile defense expansion." Romney concludes: "New START does something the American public would never countenance and the Senate should never permit: It jeopardizes our missile defense system."

Military Defense Agency chief: Treaty "actually reduces constraints" on missile defense

Treaty does not limit the number of missile defense systems U.S. can build. The New START treaty and protocols, signed by President Obama and Russian President Medvedev in April, do not contain a single provision limiting the number of missile systems the U.S. can build. Nor do they require the U.S. to reduce the number of its already existing systems. Indeed, the treaty specifically states: "A missile of a type developed and tested solely to intercept and counter objects not located on the surface of the Earth shall not be considered to be a ballistic missile to which the provisions of this Treaty apply." [New START, 4/8/10]

Missile Defense Agency's Gen. O'Reilly: "[N]ew START treaty actually reduces constraints" on missile defense. Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Missile Defense Agency (MDA) chief Lt. General Patrick O'Reilly testified in April (accessed via Nexis): "Relative to the recently expired START treaty, the new START treaty actually reduces constraints on the development of the missile defense program." O'Reilly added: "our targets will no longer be subject to START constraints, which previously limited our use of air-to-surface and water-borne launches of targets which are essential for the cost- effective testing of missile defense interceptors against medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missile targets in the Pacific area." [Senate Armed Services Committee, 04/20/10]

Russia's unilateral statement on missile defense is not binding, not unusual, and not part of the treaty

Russia accompanied the treaty with non-binding unilateral statement warning that it might withdraw over missile defense systems. New START contains a withdrawal clause that is standard with arms control agreements. Russia referenced that clause in a non-binding statement accompanying the treaty that warned that it might withdraw from the treaty over missile defense issues. From the Russian Federation statement:

The Treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms signed at Prague on April 8, 2010, may be effective and viable only in conditions where there is no qualitative or quantitative build-up in the missile defense system capabilities of the United States of America. Consequently, the extraordinary events referred to in Article XIV of the Treaty also include a build-up in the missile defense system capabilities of the United States of America such that it would give rise to a threat to the strategic nuclear force potential of the Russian Federation. [State.gov, 4/7/10]

The U.S. included a unilateral statement calling for "improving and deploying its missile defense systems." Also accompanying the treaty, the United States issued a statement saying that "The United States missile defense systems are not intended to affect the strategic balance with Russia" and that the systems "would be employed to defend the United States against limited missile launches, and to defend its deployed forces, allies, and partners against regional threats." The statement concluded: "The United States intends to continue improving and deploying its missile defense systems in order to defend itself." [State.gov, 4/7/10]

DOD Undersecretary Miller: The unilateral statements"are not part of the treaty." Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James N. Miller stated (accessed via Nexis): "[T]hese statements are not part of the treaty, and obviously that's why they're called unilateral statements. They're not unilaterally binding, but they do provide some insight into Russian and U.S. thinking." [Senate Armed Services Committee, 4/20/10]

Miller: "[M]ost other arms-control agreements have similar provisions." Miller also testified: "In fact, both sides would have the right to withdraw from a new START treaty if they deemed it necessary for their supreme national interest. The previous START treaty and most other arms-control agreements have similar provisions." Miller concluded that "U.S. unilateral statement, the Ballistic Missile Defense Review and our budget proposals all made clear, this administration is committed to continuing to improve our missile defenses as needed to defend the U.S. homeland, our deployed forces and our allies and partners."

Romney criticizes prohibition of converting ICBM sites to missile defense sites

Romney: Treaty "explicitly forbids" the US from converting offensive sites to defensive. The treaty does include one limitation on missile defense systems. It prohibits the conversion of intercontinental ballistic missile launcher sites from offensive to defensive capacities. Citing this provision, Romney complains that the treaty "explicitly forbids the United States from converting intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos into missile defense sites."

But military says it's cheaper to build new missile defense sites then to convert ICBM sites

O'Reilly: "It would be less expensive" to build new missile defense cite than it would be to convert ICBM sites. O'Reilly also testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the treaty allowed the United States to maintain former ICBM launching sites at Vandenberg Air Force Base that had already been converted to missile defense sites. He added that MDA "never had a plan to convert additional ICBM silos at Vandenberg Air Force Base." and that "it would be less expensive to build a new GBI missile field, which is not prohibited by the treaty." From O'Reilly's testimony:

In addition, under new START, we no longer will be limited to five space-launch facilities for launching targets. The new START treaty also has no constraints on ballistic missile defense system deployment. Article V, Section 3 of the treaty prohibits the conversion of ICBM or sea-launched ballistic missile launchers to missile defense -- conversion to missile defense launchers and vice versa, while grandfathering five former ICBM silos at Vandenberg Air Force Base already converted for ground-base interceptors.

MDA never had a plan to convert additional ICBM silos at Vandenberg. Moreover, we've determined that if more interceptors are added at -- to Vandenberg Air Force Base, it would be less expensive to build a new GBI missile field, which is not prohibited by the treaty.

New START has bipartisan support

National security experts support START. The Partnership for a Secure America, founded by Sen. Warren Rudman (R-NH) and Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IN), issued a statement supporting New START's ratification signed by 30 former public officials and former high-ranking national security and foreign policy experts, including George H.W. Bush White House chief of Staff Kenneth M. Duberstein, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and former Reagan Secretary of State George Schultz. Below is the full list of the statement's signers:

Madeleine Albright Secretary of State 1997-2001
Howard Baker US Senator (R-TN) 1967-85
Samuel Berger National Security Advisor 1997-2001
Linton Brooks Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration 2002-07
Harold Brown Secretary of Defense 1977-81
Frank Carlucci Secretary of Defense 1987-89
Warren Christopher Secretary of State 1993-97
William Cohen Secretary of Defense 1997-2001
John C. Danforth US Senator (R-MO) 1977-95
Kenneth M. Duberstein White House Chief of Staff 1988-89
Chuck Hagel US Senator (R-NE) 1997-2009
Lee Hamilton US Congressman (D-IN) 1965-99; Co-Chair, PSA Advisory Board
Gary Hart US Senator (D-CO) 1975-87
Rita E. Hauser Chair, International Peace Institute
Carla Hills US Trade Representative 1989-93
Nancy Kassebaum-Baker US Senator (R-KS) 1978-97
Thomas Kean Governor (R-NJ) 1982-90; 9/11 Commission Chair
Richard Leone President, The Century Foundation
Donald McHenry US Ambassador to the UN 1979-81
Sam Nunn US Senator (D-GA) 1972-96
William Perry Secretary of Defense 1994-97
Thomas Pickering Under Secretary of State 1997-2000
Colin L. Powell Secretary of State 2001-05
Warren Rudman US Senator (R-NH) 1980-92; Co-Chair, PSA Advisory Board
Alan Simpson US Senator (R-WY) 1979-97
George Shultz Secretary of State 1982-89
Theodore Sorensen White House Special Counsel 1961-63
John Whitehead Deputy Secretary of State 1985-88
Timothy E. Wirth US Senator (D-CO) 1987-93
Frank Wisner Under Secretary of State 1992-93

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mullen: "This treaty has the full support of your uniformed military." Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen testified: "I am pleased to add my voice in support of ratification of the New START Treaty and to do so as soon as possible. We are in our seventh month without a treaty with Russia. This treaty has the full support of your uniformed military." Mullen continued:

Throughout its negotiations, Secretaries Clinton and Gates ensured that professional military perspectives were thoroughly considered. During the development of the New START Treaty I was personally involved, to include two face to face negotiating sessions and several conversations, other conversations with my counterpart, the chief of the Russian general staff, General Makarov, regarding key aspects of the treaty. [Senate Armed Services Committee, 6/17/10]

Brent Scowcroft: "[P]rincipal result of non- ratification would be ... a state of chaos." Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, National Security advisor to Presidents Ford and George H.W. Bush Gen. Brent Scowcroft testified (accessed via Nexis): "I think the principal result of non- ratification would be to throw the whole nuclear negotiating situation into a state of chaos, and the reason this treaty is important is over the decades we have built up all these counting rules, all these verification procedures and so on, so that each side feels, 'Yes, we can take these steps.'" Scowcroft continued: "If you wipe those out, you're back to zero again, and they've taken since the late 1960s to put together. So that's the real part of it." [Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 6/10/10]

Henry Kissinger: "I recommend ratification of this treaty." Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Henry Kissinger testified "In deciding on ratification, the concerns need to be measured against the consequences of non-ratification, particularly interrupting a [bilateral arms control] process that has been going on for decades, the relationship to the NPT, and to the attempt to achieve a strategic coherence. And so, for all these reasons, I recommend ratification of this treaty." Kissinger also stated: "Concerns have been raised with respect to missile defense and with respect to [nuclear] modernization. I agree with the Chairman. I do not believe this treaty is an obstacle to a missile defense program or modernization. Those are decisions that the United States can and should take as part of its own strategic design." [Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 5/25/10]

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