A second leading Republican is opposing Senate ratification of the New START treaty based on classified intelligence that the arms pact cannot be verified and that Moscow is manipulating the treaty to prevent the U.S. from expanding missile defenses.
“New START suffers from fundamental flaws that no amount of tinkering around the edges can fix. I believe the better course for our nation, and for global stability, is to put this treaty aside and replace it with a better one,” Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, said in a little-noticed floor statement last week.
Mr. Bond, vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said he outlined the problems with the treaty in a classified letter to senators and then presented several comments based on the secret intelligence explaining why, as he put it, “I cannot in good conscience support this treaty.”
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, earlier called for debate on ratification to be put off during the lame-duck session of the Senate because he had concerns about U.S. nuclear modernization and treaty constraints on missile defense and conventional long-range strike weapons.
President Obama has made ratification of New START a top priority for the White House during the lame-duck session.
Mr. Obama said over the weekend that treaty ratification is vital to national security because no U.S. officials have been able to inspect Russian missile sites since Dec. 5, when the old START expired.
After the treaty expired, Russia and the U.S. promised not to undermine the “strategic stability” provided by the old treaty. Nonetheless, both sides failed to sign an agreement extending the inspections past the expiration date.
Mr. Bond said the new treaty is considerably weaker than the one it replaces and does not allow for verification by inspectors and spy satellites.
Key intelligence assessments and testimony from analysts on the U.S. ability to monitor compliance with the treaty has left “no doubt in my mind that the United States cannot reliably verify the treaty’s 1,550 limit on deployed warheads,” Mr. Bond said.
For example, the 10 annual warhead inspections in Russia will limit checks to 2 percent to 3 percent of the Russian strategic forces, he said.
Additionally, all missiles can be armed with unlimited numbers of warheads. “So even if the Russians fully cooperated in every inspection, these inspections cannot provide conclusive evidence of whether the Russians are complying with the warhead limit,” he said.
Also, the treaty provides no limits on the number of warheads Russia can place on a missile it is testing. “The Russians could deploy a missile with only one warhead, but legally flight-test it with six warheads to gain confidence in the increased capability — a practice they could not employ under the original START,” Mr. Bond said.
The extra five warheads then could be legally stored nearby each missile for use on short notice, all within treaty limits, he said.
Another flaw is the treaty does not limit the number of non-deployed missiles and spare warheads the Russians may store.
“This potential for Russia to ‘break out’ of the treaty in a short period of time — perhaps without adequate warning to the United States — may undermine the very nuclear stability this administration claims this treaty provides,” Mr. Bond said.
Some defenders of the treaty have pointed out that Russia lacks the money to expand its nuclear arsenal beyond the 1,550 limit in New START.
Many Senate Republicans oppose voting on treaty ratification this year because there is no precedent for approving a major treaty during a lame-duck session. Another reason is that Republicans have been denied access to the transcript of the Obama administration’s negotiating record, which congressional aides say could show secret concessions or understandings.
The Obama administration has countered that it has complied with almost every information request from Senate Republicans.
The administration countered treaty critics’ arguments by pointing out that there is no verification of Russia’s nuclear arsenal today.
“We have no verification without a treaty about what’s going on in Russia’s nuclear program,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday on NBC. “So I think whether you’re already convinced or can be convinced, I think we want to get our inspectors back on the ground, and the only way to do that is by ratifying this treaty.”
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said: “There is a flaw in Sen. Bond’s logic. Without the treaty, we have absolutely no means to monitor the warhead loadings on Russian missiles. The treaty provides for a large number of on-site inspections that allow the United States to spot-check Russian missile loadings and deter any militarily significant cheating.”
The break-out and verification elements of the treaty were analyzed in a national intelligence estimate submitted to Congress in July. This highly classified document, according to sources familiar with its content, calls for greater investment in overhead surveillance, or national technical means, to verify Russian compliance with the pact.
“It is not surprising that the intelligence community has identified other resources it would like to have to improve national technical means for monitoring Russian nuclear forces, that has no bearing on the bottom line finding that New START is effectively verifiable,” Mr. Kimball said.
Mr. Bond also dismissed administration assertions that the treaty will not limit U.S. missile defenses. He noted that Russia’s nonbinding statement that any expansion of U.S. missile defenses would lead to Moscow’s withdrawal is “manipulation” of U.S. defense policy designed to prevent building defenses.
“At some point down the road, our nation will need to expand its missile defenses,” he said. “Because of this unilateral statement, however, the reaction from some in the administration or in Congress will be to reject any expansion lest we upset the Russians and cause them to pull out of this new treaty. The Russians surely are counting on this reaction. Yet in all the rhetoric in support of this treaty, I have not heard any reasonable explanation for why we would give Russia this lever to use against our legitimate and necessary right to defend ourselves against ballistic missile attack.”