Let Freedom Ring: “Bad Start”

Let Freedom Ring’s minute-long ad attacking the New START nuclear weapons treaty President Obama negotiated with Russia places that group firmly in the small club of ideologues that opposed the treaty when it was ratified by the Senate in 2010. Support for the treaty encompassed nearly the entirety of the American national security establishment – including every living former Secretary of State – and the handful of specific claims about the treaty’s provisions in the ad range from disingenuous to blatantly false.

Vast, Bipartisan List Of National Security Experts Urged Ratification Of New START

71 To 26: Bipartisan Senate Vote For Ratification. From the Washington Post: “The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved a new nuclear arms-reduction treaty with Russia, the broadest such pact between the former Cold War foes in nearly two decades. The Senate ratified the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, known as New START, by a vote of 71 to 26, easily clearing the threshold of two-thirds of senators present as required by the Constitution for treaty ratification.” [Washington Post, 12/22/10]

National Security Network: “Opposition On The Merits Is Now Limited To A Small Group Of Ideologues” And Anti-Obama Partisans. From NSN: “Opposition on the merits is now limited to a small group of ideologues – Frank Gaffney, Rick Santorum, John Bolton, Newt Gingrich – whose worldview simply excludes pragmatic partnership with powers such as Russia.  One of the worst offenders has been Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), who has displayed not only a shaky grasp on history, but on national security fundamentals.  Appearing at an event sponsored by the Foreign Policy Initiative, DeMint made a series of astonishing comments, confusing Russia with the Soviet Union:  ‘As I look at…the proposed START treaty…we had a lot of hope that Russia would become democratic and a free market…those things have really not happened…as we look at who we’re doing business with…clearly the USSR as a democracy is a fraud…very little free market activity…the rule of law is very loose…murders go unpunished…the USSR…Russia…It’s synonymous, remember, the Russians are coming.’ In addition to this ideological worldview, there is also a political dynamic at play.  Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations puts this in a broader context, ‘Cast aside any doubts. There seems to be nothing Republicans won’t do to deny President Obama a political success at home-even if it means jeopardizing U.S. national security.'” [NSNetwork.org, 12/15/10]

Supporters Of New START Ratification Included “High-Ranking Members” Of The Last Seven Administrations And “Every Former Living Secretary Of State.” From the National Security Network: “The Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Energy, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, the director of the Missile Defense Agency, the directors of the nation’s three national laboratories, high-ranking members of the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, and Bush 43 administrations-including George H.W. Bush and every former living secretary of state, the Treaty’s negotiators, high-ranking intelligence officials, and numerous outside experts-have all unequivocally endorsed New START.” [NSNetwork.org, 12/15/10]

Secretaries Of State From Past Five GOP Administrations Wrote Letter Urging Ratification. In a Washington Post op-ed, former Secs. Of State Kissinger, Shultz, Baker III, Eagleburger and Powell wrote: “Republican presidents have long led the crucial fight to protect the United States against nuclear dangers. That is why Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush negotiated the SALT I, START I and START II agreements. It is why President George W. Bush negotiated the Moscow Treaty. All four recognized that reducing the number of nuclear arms in an open, verifiable manner would reduce the risk of nuclear catastrophe and increase the stability of America’s relationship with the Soviet Union and, later, the Russian Federation. The world is safer today because of the decades-long effort to reduce its supply of nuclear weapons. As a result, we urge the Senate to ratify the New START treaty signed by President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. It is a modest and appropriate continuation of the START I treaty that expired almost a year ago. It reduces the number of nuclear weapons that each side deploys while enabling the United States to maintain a strong nuclear deterrent and preserving the flexibility to deploy those forces as we see fit.” [Kissinger, Shultz, Baker III, Eagleburger & Powell Op-Ed, Washington Post, 12/2/10]

  • “The Commander Of Our Nuclear Forces Has Testified That The 1,550 Warheads Allowed Under This Treaty Are Sufficient For All Our Missions – And Seven Former Nuclear Commanders Agree.” In a Washington Post op-ed, former Secs. Of State Kissinger, Shultz, Baker III, Eagleburger and Powell wrote: “Along with our obligation to protect the homeland, the United States has responsibilities to allies around the world. The commander of our nuclear forces has testified that the 1,550 warheads allowed under this treaty are sufficient for all our missions – and seven former nuclear commanders agree. The defense secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the head of the Missile Defense Agency – all originally appointed by a Republican president – argue that New START is essential for our national defense.” [Kissinger, Shultz, Baker III, Eagleburger & Powell Op-Ed, Washington Post, 12/2/10]

New START Doesn’t ‘Give’ Anybody Tactical Nukes – But It Paves The Way For Talks On Russia’s Longstanding Stockpile

AP Fact Check: Previous START Treaty Didn’t Touch On Tactical Weapons, But “Talks On Tactical Nuclear Weapons Are Unlikely To Occur Unless New START Is Approved.” From the Associated Press:

THE CLAIM: The treaty favors Russia because it doesn’t deal with Russia’s much larger arsenal of smaller tactical nuclear warheads intended for use on the battlefield in a conventional war. “New START gives Russia a massive nuclear weapon advantage over the United States. The treaty ignores tactical nuclear weapons, where Russia outnumbers us by as much as 10 to 1,” former Massachusetts GOP governor and 2012 presidential hopeful Mitt Romney wrote last summer in The Washington Post.

THE FACTS: New START is intended to replace the 1991 START treaty, which also did not deal with tactical nuclear weapons. Russian and U.S. officials have both said that issue would be addressed in subsequent negotiations, along with the large number of U.S. warheads now in storage. Those U.S. warheads also weren’t addressed by New START. Russia has maintained a large number of such weapons to address weaknesses in its conventional forces. But military analysts are dismissive of the military usefulness of these weapons, given the small chance that the U.S. and Russia would face off in a conventional war of tanks and combat forces. Talks on tactical nuclear weapons are unlikely to occur unless New START is approved. [AP, 11/19/10, emphasis added]

Secs. Clinton And Gates: New START Reduces Both U.S. And Russian Strategic Arsenals To 1,550 Warheads And “Will Also Set The Stage” For Discussion Of Tactical Warheads. In a Washington Post op-ed, Sec. of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and then-Sec. of Defense Robert Gates wrote: “New START will advance critical national security objectives: Reducing the number of deployed nuclear weapons while retaining a safe and effective deterrent; providing direct insight into Russia’s nuclear arsenal; and creating a more stable, predictable and cooperative relationship between the world’s two leading nuclear powers. It will put in place an effective verification regime to track each side’s progress in reducing its arsenal to 1,550 strategic warheads. We will be able to count the number of deployed strategic weapons more accurately, because we will exchange more data on weapons and their movement than in the past. We will also conduct 18 short-notice inspections of Russian nuclear forces each year, including checking warheads on individual missiles. New START will also set the stage for future arms reductions, including negotiations on tactical nuclear weapons.” [Clinton & Gates Op-Ed, Washington Post, 11/15/10]

  • President George H. W. Bush Ordered All Ground-Based Tactical Nukes Destroyed, And All Sea-Based Tactical Nukes Removed From Deployment. From Air Force magazine: “In 1991, with a stroke of his pen, President George H. W. Bush forever changed America’s nuclear force structure. Twenty years ago this fall, President George H. W. Bush announced sweeping changes to the US nuclear force structure. In a speech to the nation on Sept. 27, 1991, Bush said he ordered the destruction of all American ground-based tactical nuclear weapons. Sea-based tactical nukes would be withdrawn from deployment as well. All Air Force strategic bombers and 450 Minuteman II missiles were taken off alert status. Mobile US ICBM programs were halted—as was the AGM-131 nuclear short-range attack missile. Bush made these moves unilaterally, with a few strokes of his pen. He indicated the US would carry them out regardless of Soviet reaction. But he invited Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev to take similar actions. ‘If we and the Soviet leaders take the right steps—some on our own, some on their own, some together—we can dramatically shrink the arsenal of the world’s nuclear weapons,’ said Bush in his address. Days later, Gorbachev responded with his own reductions. He said the USSR would match the US on removal and dismantlement of tactical nuclear weapons, while taking 500 missiles off alert and canceling some strategic modernization programs.” [Air Force, September 2011]

Conservative Foreign Policy Expert Howard Baker Supported New START In Part Because Nearly A Year Had Passed Without U.S. Nuclear Inspectors At Russian Facilities. In a USA Today op-ed, Baker wrote: “The Senate is ready to vote in the next few weeks on a new strategic arms limitation treaty with Russia. Having worked on such treaties since the 1970s, as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as minority and majority leader of the Senate, and as White House chief of staff under President Reagan, I believe this treaty should be ratified — and soon. President Reagan was famous for his adage about dealing with the old Soviet Union: ‘Trust but verify.’ Since the last START treaty expired in December 2009, we’ve had no right to conduct inspections of Russian nuclear bases, and thus no way to verify what the Russians are doing with their nuclear weapon systems. And, of course, it’s not just about us and the Russians any more, if it ever was. A world of dangerous characters out there would love to gain access to a nuclear weapon, and we need to be doing everything we know how to do to keep watch over the supply of such weapons. We and the Russians keep more than 90% of them in our respective arsenals— the other 10% still keeps me awake at night — and it’s beyond me how anyone could conclude that refusing to ratify this inspection treaty would somehow enhance America’s security.” [Baker Op-Ed, USA Today, 12/1/10]

  • Baker: “Under The Terms Of This New Treaty, We Give Up No Rights To Maintain An Effective And Reliable Nuclear Arsenal.” In a USA Today op-ed, Baker wrote: “Under the terms of this new treaty, we give up no rights to maintain an effective and reliable nuclear arsenal. In fact, one of the core principles of the treaty is that each side should have the right to determine for itself the composition and structure of its strategic offensive arms. That means the United States will have the flexibility to modernize its nuclear weapon systems as it sees fit.” [Baker Op-Ed, USA Today, 12/1/10]

Claims Of Restricted Missile Defense Programs Contradicted By Think Tanks, Experts, Top Missile Defense General

National Security Network: Treaty Preserves “Effective Missile Defenses” And Has “Unanimous Backing” Of Military Leaders. From the National Security Network: “The treaty enjoys the unanimous backing of the United States military leadership and overwhelming bipartisan support.  It has now been over a year since we’ve had U.S. inspectors on the ground in Russia to inspect its nuclear facilities.  New START preserves our ability to deploy effective missile defenses; it is accompanied by unprecedented long-term funding to ensure our nuclear stockpile remains safe, secure and effective; and it will reinstate a stringent verification regime that our military planners say is essential.  What is debated on the Senate floor will be less about the treaty itself and more about two visions of our national security:  the tested, pragmatic views of our national security leaders versus the views of a small ideological fringe.” [NSNetwork.org, 12/15/10]

Conservative Foreign Policy Expert Howard Baker: “Under The Terms Of This New Treaty, We Give Up No Rights To Maintain An Effective And Reliable Nuclear Arsenal.” In a USA Today op-ed, Baker wrote: “Under the terms of this new treaty, we give up no rights to maintain an effective and reliable nuclear arsenal. In fact, one of the core principles of the treaty is that each side should have the right to determine for itself the composition and structure of its strategic offensive arms. That means the United States will have the flexibility to modernize its nuclear weapon systems as it sees fit.” [Baker Op-Ed, USA Today, 12/1/10]

Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly: New START Treaty “Actually Reduces Constraints On The Development Of The Missile Defense Program.” Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly, U.S. Army, is Director of the Missile Defense Agency of the Department of Defense. At a hearing of the House Armed Forces Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Lt. Gen. O’Reilly testified: “Relative to the recently expired START Treaty, the New START Treaty actually reduces constraints on the development of the missile defense program. Unless they have New-START accountable first stages (which we do not plan to use), our targets will no longer be subject to START constraints, which limited our use of air-to-surface and waterborne launches of targets which are essential for the cost-effective testing of missile defense interceptors against MRBM and IRBM targets in the Pacific area. In addition, under New START, we will no longer be limited to five space launch facilities for target launches.” [Gen. O’Reilly Testimony, 4/15/10, emphasis added]

Associated Press Fact Check: No “Practical Restraints On Missile Defense.”. From the AP: “The treaty doesn’t place any practical constraints on missile defense. The document’s preamble, which is not legally binding, acknowledges a link between nuclear weapons and missile defense. It’s an assertion that was accepted by George W. Bush’s administration: The point of missile defense is to counteract nuclear-tipped missiles.” [AP, 11/19/10]

[NARRATOR:] The U.S. and Russia signed a New START treaty that contains two fatal flaws. First, it gives Russia ten times more tactical weapons than the US. Just one of these bombs could destroy almost all of New York City. Second, START prevents America from building more defensive missiles that can intercept incoming enemy warheads. [ON-SCREEN TEXT: “Tactical Warheads are 6x more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb”] [NARRATOR:] Because of the START treaty, America can only increase its missile defense arsenal against possible missile attacks from North Korea, Iran, Venezuela or other rogue nations if Russia gives America permission to do so. Americans need to ask two important questions: First, should America’s defenses be controlled by Russia? And second, according to the Constitution, isn’t the president supposed to protect America’s national security? This treaty isn’t good for America. In fact, we call it a bad start. Paid for by Let Freedom Ring, which is responsible for the content of this ad. [Let Freedom Ring, 4/21/12]