New START Myths Debunked, Missile Defense Edition
Posted by Kelsey Hartigan
As the Senate moves to offer the advice and consent of Congress, legislators need to distinguish between dangerous myths and reality. Here are the facts:
Myth: New START limits our ability to deploy missile defenses.
Reality: New START preserves our ability to deploy effective missile defenses. New START does not limit U.S. missile defense systems or in any way diminish our ability to protect and defend our allies. Our leading uniformed officers have repeatedly stressed that New START does not constrain the missile defense plans of the United States. In fact, the U.S. now has the freedom to conduct certain tests that were limited by the previous START agreement.
Henry A. Kissinger, George P. Shultz, James A. Baker III, Lawrence S. Eagleburger and Colin L. Powell: “The testimonies of our military commanders and civilian leaders make clear that the treaty does not limit U.S. missile defense plans. Although the treaty prohibits the conversion of existing launchers for intercontinental and submarine-based ballistic missiles, our military leaders say they do not want to do that because it is more expensive and less effective than building new ones for defense purposes.” [Kissinger, Shultz, Baker, Eagleburger and Powell, 12/2/10]
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: “The treaty will not constrain the United States from deploying the most effective missile defenses possible nor impose additional costs or barriers on those defenses.” [Sec. Gates, 6/17/10]
Reality: It is quicker and less costly to construct new launchers for U.S. missile defense systems. The U.S. has no plans or desire to convert additional ICBM silos into missile defense interceptors, or vice versa. Article V, paragraph 3 grandfathers in the five ICBM silos at Vandenberg AFB that were converted into missile defense interceptors and prohibits these sites from being inspected by the Russians. As Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly testified, it costs $20 million less to build new Ground-Based Interceptors. Gen. O’Reilly further concluded that converting ICBM or SLBM launchers would not be “prudent or operationally effective.” [Lt. Gen. O'Reilly, 6/16/10]
Myth: A unilateral statement by Russia will allow Russia to veto U.S. missile defense.
Reality: Unilateral statements are not legally binding. Such statements have accompanied treaties for years and do not affect the bounds of the treaty. As Sen. Lugar has explained, because the missile-defense statements are outside the main text, “they are in essence editorial opinions.” As the administration has explained, "The Russian government made a statement about missile defense with which the United States did not, and does not, agree. If we had agreed to it, the issue would be put into the treaty text, or issued as a "joint" statement. In fact, the United States issued its own unilateral statement, indicating that it plans to continue to develop and deploy its missile defense systems in order to defend itself. Neither the Russian statement nor the U.S. statement is legally binding on the other party. But each side is making its intentions clear -- to the other party, and to the world." [Sen. Lugar, 3/24/10. White House, 4/8/10]
Myth: The treaty's preamble ties the hands of the U.S. and limits our missile defense options.
Reality: Perambulatory language is merely a statement of fact. As in previous U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control agreements, New START contains perambulatory language that acknowledges the “the interrelationship of strategic offensive and strategic defensive arms.” This is a matter of reality, not a limit.