START III, nukes, Romney and others

July 15th, 2010  

Topic: START III, nukes, Romney and others

Some of you might know that not so long ago a new START treaty was signed by US and Russia's presidents. Document preparation lasted for almost a year since April 2009, it was signed on April, 8 this year. In May-June the treaty was sent to the Congress and Russian parliament. Its ratification is planned on autumn. I tried to follow its critics' articles and notes, but this one made me very surprised.

A few days ago former Massachusets governor Mitt Romney wrote a weird article for Washington Post, where he tears the treaty to tatters. Here is the link: I'd like to comment on some of his points:

New-START impedes missile defense, our protection from nuclear-proliferating rogue states such as Iran and North Korea. Its preamble links strategic defense with strategic arsenal.
New START does not impede missile defense, because there is not a single word on missile defense in the treaty. Preamble is not a treaty, but a preamble - words. The preamble says that both nations recognize the existence of the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms, that this interrelationship will become more important as strategic nuclear arms are reduced, and that current strategic defensive arms do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the Parties. Where in this words did Mr Romney find prohibition of US anti-ballistic missile program and limitation of US protection from Korea and Iran?

It explicitly forbids the United States from converting intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos into missile defense sites.
The treaty does not forbid this. ICBM silos can not be converted into missile defense sites or anything else, they can only be destroyed. Moreover, what silos does Mr Romney want to convert into missile defense sites? Those in Dakota?

And Russia has expressly reserved the right to walk away from the treaty if it believes that the United States has significantly increased its missile defense capability.
Same with the United States.

For example, rail-based ICBMs and launchers are not mentioned. Similarly, multiple nuclear warheads that are mounted on bombers are effectively not counted.
Artilce III, point 8, item a-ii: Existing types of ICBMs are for the Russian Federation, the RS-12M, RS-12M2, RS-18, RS-20, and RS-24. There are NO other types of whether silo-based or mobile ICBMs in Russia. Rail-based ICBMs were removed from operational status and eliminated several years ago. The only one left is now stationed at a railway museum in St. Peteresburg.
Also, aircraft-based missiles are NEVER equipped with multiple warheads, because they are cruise missiles, not ballistic ones.

And more troubling, the treaty fails to apply the MIRV limits that were part of the prior START treaty. Again, it may not be coincidental that Russia is developing a new heavy-load -- meaning MIRV-capable -- ICBM.
The prior START treaty did not prohibit developing MIRVed missiles. It prohibited equipping existing single warhead missiles with MIRVes. Also, heavy-load and MIRVed missiles are not the same thing. The missile Mr Romney is talking about (designated RS-24) is not heavy, it was developed to replace the same-class old RS-18 missile.

But the main thing here is that Mr Romney and many other critics simply ignore one simple fact that the treaty is drawn up on a basis of absolute parity. This means that not only Russia can or cannot do this or that, but the United States as well. The philosophic pivot of START treaty is mutual control over nuclear arms. It won't matter in case of extreme circumstances if the START exists or not. But now both countries are disarming, and this process should and must be controlled. And both countries have a choise what price they pay: they whether reduce their absolute nuclear capability or they spend billions of dollars on its faster growth.

Any international treaty is a set of compromises because you can't eat a cake and have it. This one is not an exception. This is wrong and dangerous to intend to convert such treaty into a unilateral victory.

Why am i writing this? In Russia, we have the same category of critics who have stroke with people but have no clue what they are talking about in Parliament, among non-governmental organizations, opposition movements etc etc. But in Russia, the majority of Parliament seats are occupied by pro-presidental party and this treaty is among Medvedev's favourite brainchildren, so it will be ratified anyway. As for the United States, this seems more and more blurred to me.