- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A classified State Department report to Congress says that potential Russian cheating on the new START nuclear-arms pact would not be significant because of the size of U.S. nuclear forces.

But the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday questioned the commander of U.S. nuclear forces about the time and expense of negotiating the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty if Moscow is expected to violate the pact, now facing a difficult ratification fight in the Senate.

The State Department report on arms-control verification, dated July 12, stated that because of the terms of the new START, “the potential benefits to be derived from Russia from cheating or breakout from the treaty would appear to be questionable.”

Because of the adequacy of U.S. land-based and sea-based missiles and nuclear bombers, “any Russian cheating under the treaty would have little effect if any on the assured second-strike capabilities of U.S. strategic forces,” the report said in an unclassified section obtained by The Washington Times.

“In addition to the financial and international political costs of such an action, any Russian leader considering cheating or breakout from the new START Treaty would have to consider that the United States will retain the ability to ‘upload’ large numbers of additional nuclear warheads on both bombers and missiles under new START, which would provide the ability for a timely and very significant U.S. response,” the report said.

The new treaty will provide an “improved understanding” of Russian nuclear forces, and the report noted that spy satellites and other technical intelligence gathering would deter Russian cheating.

The report was disclosed as the State Department prepared to release several long-delayed annual reports to Congress that are expected to show numerous incidents of Russian violations of arms treaties, including the 1991 START I pact that expired in December.

Additionally, U.S. intelligence analysts, in a major National Intelligence Estimate on START, have raised questions about whether Russian cheating could be detected.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, asked Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, U.S. Strategic Command commander, whether he agreed with the State Department verification report that Russian cheating on START would be of little consequence.

“I do agree with that,” Gen. Chilton said.

“Well, what this brings to the casual observer’s mind, General, is if it doesn’t have any consequences if they do any cheating, what’s the point in having a treaty?” Mr. McCain said.

“I always believed in all the treaties that I’ve been involved in, in the past 28 years, General, that cheating does matter and it does have an effect. And to say that it has little if any effect, then we’ve been wasting a lot of time and money on negotiations,” the senator said.

Gen. Chilton then clarified his remarks to say he agreed that cheating would have an effect, but that “we’re in a good position with the treaty” and that “significant cheating” would be detected.

Under the treaty, U.S. and Russian nuclear forces will be limited to 1,550 warheads. U.S. nuclear forces will put those weapons on 420 single-warhead Minuteman III missiles, 14 missile submarines with 240 Trident II missiles, and on 60 B-2 and B-52 bombers.

Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said he agreed with Mr. McCain.

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