Time for Kerry to Face Facts

As America's top diplomat heads to Moscow, here are some tough questions he needs to answer about the Obama administration's flawed nuclear treaty.

On the third anniversary of the signing of New START, the Obama administration's strategic arms agreement with Russia, Secretary of State John Kerry published the administration's best case for the success of the treaty, titled "Time to Face Facts." In it, he urges us to "relentlessly" follow the facts about the treaty. We agree, but by doing so, we are led to very different conclusions from his about the treaty's purported accomplishments. And with Kerry in Moscow this week, reportedly to discuss, among other issues, following up on National Security Advisor Tom Donilon's discussions with Russian officials about pursuing additional reductions in nuclear force, the stakes couldn't be higher.

Let's begin with the basic purpose of strategic arms reductions agreements: to reduce the nuclear arsenals of the parties and strengthen U.S. national security. While praising the treaty as working "exactly as advertised," Kerry fails to mention anything about actual cuts in nuclear forces, in stark contrast with his comments prior to ratification, when, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he repeatedly emphasized White House talking points that the agreement would reduce the maximum number of strategically deployed U.S. and Russian nuclear forces by one-third. Those of us who testified that this was simply false -- because of the bomber-counting rule and the fact that the treaty would require cuts in U.S. forces only -- were either ignored or derided. Our assessments of the treaty as unilateral disarmament in the guise of a two-party agreement were summarily rejected.

So what are the facts? In the initial New START data exchange, Moscow announced that it was already well below the new limits on deployed delivery vehicles set by the treaty. This should have come as no surprise. The Russian defense minister at the time, Anatoly Serdyukov, had earlier told the Duma, "We will not have to make any cuts to our strategic offensive weapons" because Russia's strategic nuclear weapons were already under the treaty limits for both warheads and launchers. Contradicting statements by Kerry and Obama, Serdyukov announced that Russia intended to build up to the treaty limits. >continue reading