In a critical op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor titled A ‘New START’ to an arms race between the US and Russia? Yousaf Butt of the Federation of American Scientists outlines just how missile defense, among other things, mucked up the New START arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia. Butt writes that

… the domestic bargains struck to ensure the passage of this modest treaty in the US were much more significant – and, ultimately, destabilizing – than its meager benefits. Huge funding increases for America’s nuclear-weapons complex and “modernization” programs as well as the green-lighting of the flawed missile-defense system were offered as concessions to reluctant hawks to get their agreement to sign on the dotted line. Obama entered office not favoring the ill-tested missile defense system but changed his mind because he needed additional votes to pass New START.

But, writes Butt (sorry, couldn’t resist)

… this missile-defense “time bomb” in New START is what is now going off. … The problem with European missile defense is that while it’s designed to counter Iran, the faster interceptors due to come online in 2018 will also be able to engage Russian warheads, upsetting this all-important perception of parity. … The anticipated increase in security by slightly reducing strategic-nuclear-warhead numbers is now more than negated by the poisoning of relations with Russia over missile defense [which isn’t even] actually effective against Iran or North Korea.


It is not only the monetary cost of the funding increase for the nuclear-weapons complex and missile defense, totaling about $200 billion over the next decade, but also the negative arms control blowback that make the domestic ransom paid to get passage of New START a ridiculously bad deal. The huge concessions made were simply not worth the modest goals of the treaty and, in fact, are now actively undermining it. A proper cost-benefit analysis carried out before acceding to the demands of defense-hawks would have clearly indicated this.

Butt’s conclusion? “Arms control treaties should not be ratified at any cost.” By which he doesn’t that arms control treaties should never be ratified, but only if the cost is too high. He continues (emphasis added).

It would have been wiser to have no New START treaty and no missile defense and no large funding increases for the nuclear-weapons complex, than having all three as we now do. In fact, signing such treaties casts Russia as an adversary and there are some sound arguments to avoid such neo-cold-war treaties in the future. The data-exchange and transparency measures could have been negotiated without a formal treaty – and without the domestic ransom.

Focal Points readers owe it to themselves to read the rest of Butt’s op-ed.

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