START Praying

While you were dreaming of a big box wrapped with a bow on top sitting under a heavily adorned tree, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) — which was signed between Obama and Russian President Dimitry Medvedev earlier this year — was ratified by the Senate. Now it’s official, we will reduce our nuclear arsenal by 30% in a matter of years. Unfortunately the short sighted treaty was seen as a way to “reset” our relations with Russia (because, you know, the “overcharge”, I mean, “reset” button went so well…) but it’s negative effects out way the positive effects of signing the treaty with Russia.

Even if it was true that this treaty would improve relations with Russia, there are many alternate ways to improve relations which have far less harmful effects. But alas, the treaty gained support from so many often for this reason alone. This is usually packaged with the same idea that if we draw back bad, nebulous, undefined things will happen. John R. Bolton said with National Review, “the consequences of rejecting the treaty… are not even vaguely apocalyptic.”

New START is the third in a series (all so far have been between America and the USSR/Russia.) START I was signed between George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev (the USSR leader at the time) which prohibited both countries from deploying more than 6,000 nuclear war heads and capped ICBM’s (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) and SLBM’s (Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles) at 1,600. START I expired in 2009.

START II was going to ban MIRVs (Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicle, basically a package of nuclear warheads launched together that will then separate and hit different targets or one target several times) from use on ICBMs. The USSR leader Boris Yeltsin and George H.W. Bush signed the treaty, but because of complications of ratification and other treaties START II never actually took effect.

The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT or Moscow Treaty) is perhaps the most relevant when considering the latest nuclear reductions treaties. SORT took the START I levels of warheads and lowered them to a range of 1,700-2,200 warheads. This meant reductions of over 60%. The treaty was signed between George W. Bush and then-Russian President Vladimir Putin and expires at the end of next year. SORT is the only treaty which is still in effect.


Not only is New START effectively pointless, it’s a harmful, half-baked document full of errors and favoritism.  First, Bolton points out that the SORT treaty’s warhead range recognized that one size does not fit all. The U.S. stayed towards the top of the range, whereas Russia managed to cling to the lower end of the range. New START ignores such differences setting the cap at 1,550, as a result the U.S. will shoulder most of the cuts.

This treaty also favors Russia in the way that it caps the delivery systems which transport the warheads, of which Russia has barely enough to get by while the U.S. has an abundance. The U.S. will bear the brunt of these cuts too. Also New START has no restrictions on tactical nuclear warheads, this time Russia is the one who possesses much more of the unregulated warheads than the U.S. In other words, Russia has few of what is being cut and much of what is being left unregulated, whereas the situation with the U.S. is almost the opposite.

One of the key differences between Russia and the U.S., which New START ignores, is our alliances. Russia hasn’t formed dozens of relations with other countries which rely on it the way the U.S. has. And many of our allies rely on our nuclear power as a protective deterrent against conflict. Yet as we dwindle down our weapons (their protection) and other nations threaten that they are close to acquiring it — and are just crazy enough to use it — this treaty is only going to encourage our allies to obtain their own nuclear weapons and cause the proliferation is was meant to stop.

As Bolton puts it “After START I and II, India, Pakistan, and North Korea tested nuclear weapons, and Iran rapidly approaches that point. Syria had a clandestine nuclear reactor until Israel destroyed it in September 2007. And if current and aspiring nuclear proliferators keep or develop weapons, this will encourage still more proliferation activity.”

Another major issues is that of verification. Ye olde’ START treaties had verification processes which involved on-site inspections, telemetry exchanges and production monitoring. New START throws them all into the wind, mostly because the Senate failed to renew the verification processes in 2009. Consequently, we can sign and ratify the treaty but have no way of actually knowing whether or not Russia is doing what they say they will. This raises the likelihood of increased tensions between the U.S. and Russia because each country will not know if the other is doing what they agree to do. Ronald Reagan’s most famous quote is probably, “Trust but verify.” This treaty fails on both counts.

Also, two of the worlds strongest countries cutting their nuclear weapons will only strengthen and empower smaller, more hostile countries which look to flick a few of their mortal enemies off the map. Therefore, New START causes the “problems” which it tries to solve, shows gross favoritism towards Russia, decreases trust between the U.S. and its allies and fails to verify with Russia, which looses more trust.

Other supporters of New START, like President Obama, believe it to be one more step towards nuclear zero, or the idea that no one should have nuclear weapons. This belief is dangerous because it ignores the relentless determination of countries like Iran who want a nuclear weapon, have promised to use it and show no signs of going back on their word.

The explosion above was caused by a nuclear weapon above was berried at 635 feet. These bombs are powerful, that’s why so many hostile countries want them, they want leverage and the power that comes with that leverage. Winston Churchill wisely warned us, “Be careful above all things not to let go of the atomic weapon until you are sure, and more than sure, that other means of preserving peace are in your hands.”

New START on the surface is pointless, at its core, detrimental.


UPDATE: The Russian parliament ratified the treaty January 26, 2011.



  1. So because India, Pakistan, and North Korea tested nuclear weapons after START I… they would not have done so without START I? Why?

    Even if this causation is proven, it is the only actual disadvantage to nuclear disarmament or to New START specifically. Letting Russia keep TNWs: why is this unique? Allies: how many nukes do they want us to keep? Cuts favoring Russia: why is this bad? Again, how many warheads, missiles, and launchers do we need?

    1. I cannot answer your first question authoritatively. No one can. One cannot accurately, in a sure fire way, exactly what would have happened if a different choice was made, at any point in history.

      Giving Russia a better end of the deal can, in an extreme scenario, create a dysfunctional between the two of us. In a less extreme scenario, it creates a semi-dysfunctional relationship. This happens because this deal sets the precedent that, in general, we will agree to deals with Russia which exploit us. It makes us an inferior. Yet relationships between two super powers (such as the US-Russia one) should have mutual respect for one another. Signing lop-sided deals deteriorates this relationship. Not to mention it’s flat out unintelligent and unnecessary.

      The question, “how many nukes do we really need?” Has been asked many, many times. But, with the current circumstances (hostile countries who want powerful weapons, and in some cases, are close to getting them) and the US influence on the world stage in general, brings me to the same conclusion Ronald Reagan came to 31 years ago: “Peace is lost when such strength disappears or – just as bad – is seen by an adversary as disappearing.” When we cut our arsenal, we empower hostile countries. Period.


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