But even if the two sides meet that timetable, there is a strong possibility, according to many observers, that the new treaty will not be in force before the current START expires Dec. 5 because the Senate would have to consider and approve it. The administration officials said they are making plans for that contingency.
In the Senate, the expected submittal of the treaty, which the Department of State has designated “New START,” is already stirring debate. In a July 23 letter to President Barack Obama, a bipartisan group of senators said the pact should be accompanied by a 10-year budget assessment for maintaining the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation Rose Gottemoeller said the administration was putting “the pedal to the metal” to finish negotiations on the new treaty. However, in Aug. 14 comments at a U.S. Air Force-sponsored conference in
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs Michael Nacht told a House Armed Services Committee hearing July 15 that he expects the new treaty to be ratified by the Senate “some time by the spring of 2010.” He said he based his prediction on the opinion of Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that the ratification process might take four months from when the treaty is submitted.
The Pentagon says it will work with Congress to find a way to extend START to ensure continuity of verification and transparency measures. According to Nacht, “[W]e would seek an extension from the Congress to continue [START] while the [New START] ratification process goes forward.”
In an Aug. 4 telephone conversation, Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reaffirmed their commitment to concluding a new strategic arms reduction treaty by December, according to Ria Novosti.
During their phone call, Medvedev and Obama “agreed to give additional instructions to experts on intensifying work, to reach a constructive decision by December” on replacing START, RIA Novosti said.
At their July 6 summit in
The final numbers will be determined in part by how the weapons are counted. Under START counting rules,
As a result, START counting rules report hundreds more “deployed” warheads and delivery vehicles than each side actually has. Under SORT, which limits but does not verify “operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads,” the State Department announced that, as of May, the
If the counting rules for New START can be reformed to eliminate these “phantom” weapons, then the upper limits could be brought down. For example, the New START upper limit of 1,100 delivery vehicles may be revisited given that the
Missile Defense in the Mix
In addition to outlining targets for New START, at the
On missile defense, the Obama administration finds itself squeezed between
In response to cost and schedule concerns, missile defense contractor Boeing suggested last month at a missile defense conference in Huntsville, Ala., that European interceptors could be based on mobile launchers rather than in fixed silos, according to a Reuters report. This plan would allow interceptors to be deployed by 2015, Boeing said, before
In an Aug. 26 e-mail, a Boeing official said there has been “general discussion about potential alternatives for European missile defense.” Boeing officials “believe it’s an option that is lower risk, more affordable and can be fielded more quickly than other potential options,” he said.
Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the
The administration’s missile defense plans are on hold while it conducts a policy review. Peppi DeBiaso, director of missile defense policy in the Pentagon, told the
Missile defense supporters in Congress are concerned that Obama might shelve plans for the European deployment in exchange for Russian support of New START. Fueling these concerns is a section of the Joint Understanding from the Medvedev-Obama summit saying the New START will include “a provision on the interrelationship of strategic offensive and strategic defensive arms.” In a Senate floor speech July 10, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said the statement “is a dangerous connection to make and one the administration must not negotiate.”
Pressing his point, Kyl offered an amendment to the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill, almost identical to a Republican amendment in the House bill offered by Rep. Michael Turner (Ohio), that would have barred spending to implement New START unless the treaty, among other things, placed no limitations on missile defense, space capabilities, or advanced conventional weapons and fully funded modernization and refurbishment of U.S. nuclear weapons and the weapons production complex.
Senate Democratic leaders worked with Kyl to moderate his amendment in exchange for a joint letter by a bipartisan group of senators, including Kyl, John Kerry (D-Mass.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Lugar, Byrd, and John McCain (R-Ariz.), to the White House stating, in its entirety:
We believe that when the START treaty is submitted, you should also submit a plan, including a funding estimate for [fiscal year 2011] (and out years across the next decade), to enhance the safety, security and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile, to modernize the nuclear weapons, modernize the infrastructure, maintain the key capabilities and competencies of the nuclear weapons workforce (the designers and the technicians), and to maintain the delivery platforms.
The Senate subsequently passed a revised Kyl amendment that would require the administration to give lawmakers the information described in the letter. “The Senate decided wisely not to adopt the House approach of trying to bar
The administration has maintained all along that New START is unrelated to missile defenses. According to remarks by Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher at a conference hosted by U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha July 30, Obama and Medvedev “agreed that missile defenses will not be part of these negotiations, even while recognizing that there is an inherent link between offenses and defenses, something first recognized by the Nixon administration in 1972. The New START Treaty is about offensive arms.”
Jousting Over CTBT
Kyl, a longtime opponent of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), appeared to be using his amendment on START to raise doubts about the test ban. In response, Kerry, a CTBT supporter, said on the Senate floor that the administration should see the requirement laid out in the bipartisan letter “not as a burden, but as an opportunity.” To win Senate ratification of the CTBT, he said, “[m]embers will have to be convinced that the executive branch is prepared to sustain our nuclear deterrence by maintaining a stockpile of safe, secure, and reliable nuclear weapons, without resorting to nuclear testing.”
The challenge of maintaining confidence in the shrinking
Gates has long been of the view that building new replacement warheads rather than refurbishing warheads will be necessary to maintain the arsenal’s viability. Biden objected on the grounds that replacement warheads would create the perception that the administration was modernizing its nuclear arsenal and thereby undermine Obama’s nonproliferation agenda, particularly its efforts regarding
A spring 2010 Senate ratification vote on New START would not leave much time to seek ratification of the CTBT before the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May.
Former Republican presidential nominee McCain recently indicated openness to the CTBT. McCain, who opposed the treaty in 1999, told the Associated Press (AP) July 22, “The devil is in the details. If we could get it done, if it is acceptable, then it is a step forward on the path to the president’s goal and mine of a nuclear free world.”
AP also reported that Lugar, who opposed the CTBT in 1999 as well, is now undecided. Lugar said he does not want an acrimonious CTBT debate to sap support for the New START or weaken the
A Senate vote on the CTBT has not been scheduled.