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Thursday, December 30,2010

Ratifying START was insane

By Paul Danish

The START strategic arms reduction treaty that the U.S. Senate recently approved should never have been negotiated, much less ratified.

Embracing the START treaty required the Obama administration, the U.S. Senate and most of the country’s foreign policy establishment to ignore an ugly little fact — that while Russia may be agreeing to reduce its own nuclear arsenal under START, it is actively engaged in enabling virulently anti-American rogue states to acquire nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

The North Korean, Pakistani, Iranian and Syrian strategic weapons programs are shot through with Russian nuclear and ballistic missile technology. (So were the Iraqi and Libyan programs before Presidents Bush 41 and Bush 43 liquidated them). Moreover, Russia has used its diplomatic leverage, particularly at the U.N., to prevent meaningful international cooperation to stop rogue state programs.

(The Chinese are also playing this game, but we are not contemplating a strategic arms limitation treaty with China at the moment, so set that aside for now.)

The kindest thing that can be said about START is that it is a solution to a problem whose time has passed — the threat of all-out nuclear war between the U.S and the U.S.S.R.

However, the likelihood of the United States and Russia directly engaging in a nuclear war is minuscule at the moment. It isn’t going to get any smaller just because both sides have agreed to reduce their stocks of strategic nuclear bombs to 1,550 each, down from 2,200 each, as called for by START. It wasn’t getting rid of a lot of redundant nukes that reduced the risk of nuclear war with Russia and, previously, the U.S.S.R. It was getting rid of communism and the U.S.S.R.

Or so we thought. It turned out Russia didn’t entirely abandon the arms race and the Cold War with the U.S. It outsourced them to a clutch of Third-World crazies.

So while the U.S. peels away its strategic arsenal and nascent anti-missile systems to make nice with the Russians, a growing number of Russian-enabled rogue states builds up theirs. Within a few years the United States could be looking at half a dozen or more hostile nuclear mini-powers, each with a nuclear arsenal ranging from a few dozen to a couple hundred atomic bombs, while having hamstrung its ability to deploy a credible deterrent or a credible defense.

Agreeing to draw down strategic arms with Russia to reduce the risk of a nuclear exchange that is unlikely to happen — while ignoring the real strategic arms problem, their acquisition by enemy rogue states and Russia’s complicity in it — is insane. But that’s what the Obama administration and 77 U.S. senators have done.

Pretending that ratification of START might induce Russia to help rein in the rogues — as the Obama administration and START’s supporters in the Senate have argued — is delusional. Enabling Third-World thug states hostile to the U.S. to acquire weapons of mass destruction is, self-evidently, a Russian strategic priority. Watch what they do, not what they say.

Russia isn’t going to change course just because the U.S. ratified an arms reduction treaty. Quite the opposite. Chances are Russia will actively support Hugo Chavez’s nuclear and ballistic missile wet dreams, having concluded (probably correctly) that Obama is no James Monroe, let alone Jack Kennedy.

The worst part of START is that it doesn’t limit just nuclear bombs. It also limits the missiles used to deliver them.

The problem is that ballistic missiles can be fitted with non-nuclear warheads as well as nuclear ones, some of which — fuel air explosives, for instance — begin to approach nuclear explosives in their destructiveness. That, together with improvements in guidance, means even conventionally armed ballistic missiles take on a strategic dimension. For example, China is reportedly developing ballistic missile systems capable of attacking aircraft carriers.

This may not be all that hard to do in the age of GPS. And don’t think the fact that the global positioning system is American-controlled will save us. Both Russia and China are building their own GPS systems. They aren’t doing it to compete with Garmin.

And while it might take states like Iran or North Korea a decade or more to build up a substantial nuclear arsenal, their ballistic missile arsenals already number in the hundreds if not the thousands and are growing at an accelerating pace.

So while the United States limits the number of ballistic missiles in its arsenal, Russia’s cutout states are adding thousands to theirs — mostly based on Russian designs.

That the Obama administration would enter into START without even raising the issue of Russian complicity in the spread of nukes and ballistic missiles, let alone resolving it, is an act of political malfeasance of stunning proportions. This is the sort of thing that gives peace a bad name.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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This is the dumbest thing I've read in quite some time.  Bravo!