LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Stop nuclear umbrella holes before START

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Adm. James Lyons in his article “Halt START negotiations” (Commentary, Monday) summarized many of the issues that should concern the current administration with respect to nuclear policy. He suggested that these issues provide a reason for delaying or stopping the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty negotiations, now on a fast track with Russia.

While it is clear that short-term concerns with negotiations for a new START agreement with Russia are driving policy, it is foolhardy to conclude such a treaty before the administration receives the much-anticipated Nuclear Posture Review. The United States has too many issues on hold while awaiting the NPR to even consider making agreements with Russia now. The issues of concern are as follows:

(1) Russia has embarked on an aggressive modernization program for nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles.

(2) The United States is the only one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council not making provisions for upgrading their nuclear capability.

(3) Secretary of defense Robert Gates and director of Los Alamos Michael Anastasio have both acknowledged that warheads in the stockpile are subject to material changes that limit weapon lifetimes. Having been responsible in the past for Britain’s nuclear stockpile management, I know first-hand about such problems.

(4) It is so long since we have had an active nuclear weapon program that our capability to reconstitute one has been seriously degraded.

(5) Proliferation of warhead and missile capabilities continues unabated. This means that we still must retain our deterrent posture, if indeed some emerging nations and terrorist groups can be deterred, while also enhancing our missile and other defenses.

(6) It is unsurprising that Russia has advocated a limitation on missile defenses in the START talks.

(7) Our current administration has yet to recognize how these problems are inter-related. Continuing to ignore these major issues places us - and our many allies that still shelter under the umbrella of America’s extended deterrent - at increasing risk.

Let us hope that some rays of sunshine will penetrate the gloom that presently pervades the lack of a comprehensive nuclear policy in the Obama White House.

STANLEY ORMAN

Rockville Md.

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