Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Mitt Romney Gets the New START Treaty Wrong

Posted by K.E. White on July 6, 2010

Mitt Romney excoriates the New START Treaty in today’s NYTimes.  But in arguing that the treaty jeopardizes American security, he notes treaty technicalities without accessing their actual impact.  In so doing, he gets the treaty wrong, needlessly politicizing U.S. foreign policy for partisan gain.

Romney’s chief charge?  New START impedes U.S. missile defense:

Whatever the reason for the treaty’s failings, it must not be ratified: The security of the United States is at stake. The only responsible course is for the Senate to demand and scrutinize the full diplomatic record underlying the treaty. Then it must insist that any linkage between the treaty and our missile defense system be eliminated. In a world where nuclear weapons are proliferating, America’s missile defense shield must not be compromised. As currently drafted, New START is a non-starter.

On this score Romney is technically correct, but misses the larger point.

Yes, there are limits on America’s missile shield development.  The Heritage Foundation and others point out the indirect limitation of U.S. missile defense within treaty.  From Baker Spring’s webmemo at Heritage:

This specific collection of restrictions pertains to test target missiles and their associated launchers and comes in addition to a general restriction imposed by language in New START’s preamble and a specific restriction in Article V that prohibits the conversion of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers into missile defense launchers.

As non-deployed launchers, these test target launchers are counted against the 800-unit limit on deployed and non-deployed launchers in Article II of the treaty. Similar to the missiles themselves, Article IV of New START restricts what kinds of facilities may host non-deployed launchers, where they may be located geographically, and transit time. Like non-deployed ICBMs and SLBMs, application of elimination or conversion procedures (leaving aside those addressed in Article V) and notification requirements could apply.

So yes, there are limitations.  But Steven Pifer at Brookings notes the mootness of this restriction (along with the NYTimes’s Peter Baker):

As for hard limits, the treaty contains only one regarding missile defense:  the United States would be barred from placing missile defense interceptors in ICBM silos or SLBM launchers.  That’s a constraint, but not one that will affect the U.S. missile defense program.  The Pentagon has no plans to put missile interceptors in ICBM or SLBM launchers; it would be cheaper to build new silos for missile defense interceptors than convert existing ICBM silos.

And events on the ground suggest Brooking’s is right.  Romney’s article omits continuing U.S. missile defense plans in Georgia.

Now are there flaws with the treaty?  Unquestionably.  But the treaty in no way sacrifices America’s development of missile defense.  On top of that, the treaty offers tangible benefits to American security.

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