Senators Voice Doubts on Nuke Treaty

Daily News Article   —   Posted on April 9, 2010

(by Eli Lake, WashingtonTimes.com) – Key Senate conservatives are holding off support for the new arms treaty signed by President Obama and his Russian counterpart on Thursday and are seeking promises that the agreement will not limit missile defenses, arms verification and nuclear modernization efforts.

“Republicans have made clear for months what needs to be done in order to move this process; there’s been no ambiguity in our position on a strong missile defense, nuclear triad and the need to verify any treaty,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, Arizona Republicans, said they are concerned about additional references beyond the opening paragraphs of the treaty on missile defenses.

“While we were initially advised that the only reference to missile defense was in the preamble to the treaty, we now find that there are other references to missile defense, some of which could limit U.S. actions,” they said in a statement.

Russian statements outside the treaty that Moscow will pull out if missile defenses threaten Russian forces, also “has the potential to constrain improvements to U.S. missile defenses, if objected to by the Russians,” the senators said.

Additionally, the senators said the treaty will be difficult to ratify without fully funding a nuclear modernization program.

Mr. Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev signed the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) during a ceremony in the Czech Republic capital. If ratified, the treaty will reduce strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550, down from a level of 1,700 to 2,200 warheads that was negotiated under the last arms treaty signed in 2002.

Nuclear missiles and bombers will be cut to between 700 and 800 systems.

Mr. Obama said in Prague, “I feel confident that we are going to be able to get it ratified.”

The White House needs 67 votes to reach the two-thirds majority needed for the ratification of treaties, which gives Republicans some leverage to negotiate for a plan to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The nuclear triad refers to nuclear submarines, nuclear bombers and nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles. The nuclear proliferation review released by the Obama administration this week endorses keeping that triad but opposes the replacement of nuclear warheads, an issue Republicans in the past have supported.

The U.S. nuclear triad currently is made up of 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines each equipped with 24 Trident II missiles. The current ICBM force has 450 Minuteman IIIs with one to three warheads each. Additionally, 76 B-52s and 18 B-2s are part of the nuclear force.

Current Russian nuclear forces include 367 land-based missiles, 13 missile submarines with 165 multiple-warhead missiles, and 76 bombers that can fire up to 844 long-range cruise missiles. ……………….

On Dec. 15, 41 senators, all Republicans and one independent, sent Mr. Obama a letter saying their support for a START treaty was linked to the administration’s full funding and plan for modernizing the aging U.S. nuclear arsenal.

While the Obama administration’s nuclear posture review, made public on Tuesday, endorses the maintenance of existing warheads, it states that there will be no new warheads, only upgrades of existing weapons, some of which are more than 50 years old. …

A letter sent last month from Mr. Kyl and Mr. McConnell said, “The success of your administration in ensuring the modernization plan is fully funded in the authorization and appropriations process could have a significant impact on the Senate as it considers the START follow-on treaty.”

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, said he will condition his vote for START ratification on the administration’s nuclear modernization efforts as well.

“My vote on the START treaty will thus depend in large measure on whether I am convinced the administration has put forward an appropriate and adequately funded plan to sustain and modernize the smaller nuclear stockpile it envisions,” he said.

Republicans also plan to seek assurances from the administration that the new treaty does not constrain the country’s missile-defense systems.

The U.S. and Russia have offered differing views on links between START and missile defenses.

The treaty preamble states that current missile defenses “do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the parties.”

In Prague, Mr. Obama said in a statement, that “I’ve repeatedly said that we will not do anything that endangers or limits my ability as commander in chief to protect the American people.”

“And we think that missile defense can be an important component of that,” he said.

Mr. Medvedev said the preamble language is viewed by Russia as meaning that “to a certain extent, [it] replicates a legal principle of the unchangeability of circumstances that were basis for the treaty.”

Mr. Obama is expected to ask for the ratification process to start as soon as next month.

Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that START hearings will begin in several weeks.

“The White House has indicated that the full treaty will be completed and submitted to the Senate in early May,” Mr. Kerry said. “I plan to begin hearings on the treaty in the coming weeks, and then report a proposed resolution of advice and consent to ratification out of the Foreign Relations Committee for approval by the full Senate as soon as possible.”

Copyright 2010 News World Communications, Inc.  Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times.  For educational purposes only.  This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization.  Visit the website at washingtontimes.com.

Questions

1. Define the following words as used in the article:
-ambiguity (para. 2)
-verify (para. 2)
-preamble (para. 4, 21)
-ratify/ratified (para. 6)
-triad (para. 11)
-intercontinental ballistic missiles (para. 11)
-proliferation (para. 11)
-constrain (para. 19)

2. a) What is START?
b) If ratified, what reductions will START make in the number of U.S. nuclear weapons?

3. a) What concerns do Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Jon Kyl have about START?
b) What assurances will Republicans ask the President for? (see para. 19)
c) Read about missile defense under “Background” below the questions. Do you agree with the Republican senators that the treaty should not hinder our missile-defense system? Explain your answer.

4. There are currently 57 Democrat, 41 Republican and 2 Independent Senators. How many votes are needed to ratify a treaty?

5. What will Sen. Joe Lieberman’s vote on the treaty depend upon?

6. How does President Obama’s nuclear posture review differ from what the Republicans say is important?


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Background

THE U.S. MISSILE-DEFENSE SYSTEM:
The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was proposed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983 to use ground-based and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. The SDI was intended to defend the United States from attack from Soviet ICBMs by intercepting the missiles at various phases of their flight.

The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic offense doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD), that assumed that neither side would start a nuclear war because it would not be able to avoid imminent destruction. Reagan’s “Star Wars” program drew the Soviets into a costly effort to mount a response. The race depleted Soviet funds and triggered the economic difficulties that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Read a detailed report on the U.S. Missile Defense System at heritage.org/Research/MissileDefense/bg1798.cfm

PATRIOT MISSILES:
The Patriot missile system … is designed to detect, target and then hit an incoming missile that may be no more than 10 to 20 feet long and is typically flying at three to five times the speed of sound. The upgraded Patriot system can also destroy incoming aircraft and cruise missiles. The Patriot missile system has been deployed in many situations because it is able to shoot down enemy missiles (e.g. Scud missiles) and protect soldiers and civilians from a missile attack. Patriot missile batteries were activated several times in the Iraqi war and were used extensively in the 1991 Gulf war. (from howstuffworks.com)

Patriot missiles are designed to intercept enemy missiles before they reach their target. Since production began in 1980, 9,000 missiles have been delivered to countries including Germany, Greece, Taiwan and Japan. …Since the Gulf War, the U.S. has spent more than $10 billion improving, among other aspects, the system’s radar and computer compatibility for joint forces action. Once in position, the system requires a crew of only three people to operate. Each missile … has a range of about 100 miles. The U.S. navy is in the process of upgrading all its Ticonderoga class cruisers and a number of destroyers to carry the Aegis ballistic missile defence system. It uses a surface-to-air missile that is capable of intercepting ballistic missiles above the atmosphere. It has also been tested on failing satellites as they fall to earth. Each missile is over 6m long and costs more than $9m. (by James Sturcke, Guardian.co.uk)

BALLISTIC MISSILES:
A ballistic missile is a missile that follows a sub-orbital ballistic flightpath with the objective of delivering one or more warheads (often nuclear) to a predetermined target. The missile is only guided during the relatively brief initial powered phase of flight and its course is subsequently governed by the laws of orbital mechanics and ballistics. To date, ballistic missiles have been propelled during powered flight by chemical rocket engines of various types.
An intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is a ballistic missile with a long range (greater than 3,500 miles) typically designed for nuclear weapons delivery (delivering one or more nuclear warheads). Due to their great range and firepower, in an all-out nuclear war, land-based and submarine-based ballistic missiles would carry most of the destructive force, with nuclear-armed bombers having the remainder. ICBMs are differentiated by having greater range and speed than other ballistic missiles.

Resources

Read about ballistic missiles at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballistic_missile.

Read about intercontinental ballistic missiles at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intercontinental_ballistic_missile.

Read a detailed report on the U.S. Missile Defense System at heritage.org/Research/MissileDefense/bg1798.cfm