It is time to put a little reality into the discussions about nuclear weapons and missile defense in the wake of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, signed April 8 by President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

It is time to put a little reality into the discussions about nuclear weapons and missile defense in the wake of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, signed April 8 by President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

U.S._Russia_Treaty_SigningRepublicans immediately raised questions about whether the treaty could “constrain improvements to U.S. missile defenses, if objected to by the Russians,” as Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain, both of Arizona, put it the day the pact was signed. Last week, at a hearing of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio) mentioned his concern that the United States will be “self-constrained” by the treaty.

The treaty in its preamble recognizes “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.”

In Article 3, however, missile-defense interceptors are excluded from the definition of a ballistic missile covered by the treaty. In Article 5, the treaty prohibits converting current ground- or sub-based intercontinental ballistic missile launchers to handle interceptors, and vice versa. That might be seen as a bow to Russian concerns, but it has no effect on U.S. programs.

Jeffrey Lewis, on his ArmsControlWonk Web site, points out that the preamble exempts the “five Minuteman III [ICBM] silos at Vandenberg [Air Force Base in California] that were converted for missile defense missions.”

Those worried that the United States is “constrained” in pursuing strategic missile defense of the homeland and of our forces overseas should also read the testimony last week of Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O’Reilly, director of the Missile Defense Agency.

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Source: The Washington Post
Photo: Jewel Samad / AFP – Getty Images