Butt’s Rebuttal of Joseph and Edelman

Yousaf Butt has published a good rebuttal of criticism of Obama’s nuclear arms control policy penned by  Bush-era arms controller Joseph and Edelman. But there are a few wrong points, including factual errors, that Joseph and Edelman have made, but Butt has not highlighted.
See main points of both pieces below with my comments in Italics.
“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,” Robert Joseph and Eric Edelman,  FP, 05.06.13.

  • 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 New START treaty.
  • 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. Not true – the treaty does require cuts in Russia’s launchers, which have been and are above the New START level. See here http://saradzhyan.livejournal.com/9096.html
  • 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. Yes, but then in October 2011 Russia exceeded that limit. Also Russia has consistently remained above treaty limits for deployed and non-deployed launchers combined See here http://saradzhyan.livejournal.com/9096.html
    • New START provided Moscow an incentive to go up, not down, in strategic nuclear arms. So Russia would have stopped carrying about parity, if it were not for the treaty?
  • Kerry declares that, because U.S. and Russian inspection teams have conducted multiple on-site visits, the "verification regime works." This assertion — that "boots back on the ground" equals effective verification — was a principal argument of treaty supporters. But again, the facts belie the conclusion. Because the treaty eviscerates telemetry exchanges and ends the on-the-ground monitoring of Russia's missile production facility, the United States is no longer able to argue credibly that New START strengthens mutual confidence and predictability. Yes, but verification continues to work, as Kerry asserts because inspections continue. The alternative to not signing the treaty would have been no verification except through intelligence.
  • Kerry lauds New START for setting a positive example that will elicit greater cooperation from others. Unfortunately, the facts tell a different story. Since the ratification of New START, Pyongyang and Tehran have continued to advance their nuclear and missile programs. It would be harder to convince other nations to support the effort to curb Iran’s and DPRK’s programs if US and Russia refuse to honor their NPT obligations, including progress toward disarmament.
  • Kerry reminds us that Obama intends to pursue further reductions in nuclear weapons, "strategic and nonstrategic, deployed and non-deployed." But this fact should concern those who believe in a strong and secure America able to deter and defend against attacks on the U.S. homeland and on the country's friends and allies. I can’t believe they are arguing that cutting down the US nuclear arsenal, which includes 1600 warheads on deployed strategic launchers, 200 tactical nukes and thousands in reserves, would undermine US ability to deter and defend.
  • Although another agreement with Russia is possible, such an agreement would likely be even worse than New START and would have an even more detrimental effect on the U.S. ability to provide for extended deterrence and effective missile defenses. Disagree for reasons stated above.

“The Case for Nuclear Unilateralism. New START may be flawed, but it also holds an opportunity for Obama to do something truly momentous,” Yousaf Butt, FP, 05.08.13.

  • The main problem with the New START treaty has less to do with Russia than with the outrageous ransom demanded by the far-right Republicans — and granted by the administration — for passing the treaty.
  • Obama entered office not favoring the ill-tested missile defense system but changed his mind, in part, because he understood he needed additional votes to ratify New START. This missile-defense "time bomb" — attached to New START at GOP insistence — is what is now going off, poisoning Washington's relations with both Moscow and Beijing.
    • Joseph and Edelman argue that the United States is reducing nuclear weapons while other nations modernize their stockpiles. They are right: Missile defense has provided a convenient pretext for hawkish Russian and Chinese analysts arguing for increased support for enlarging and upgrading their strategic weaponry. So Capitol Hill has succeeded in alienating Russia and China over a missile defense system that will provide an ineffective defense against North Korea and Iran. At least partially true in the case of Russia.
  • Contrary to what Joseph and Edelman argue, there is much to recommend unilateralism, especially (given it can) take months to resolve the minutiae in various subsections of the various subparagraphs. Agree that pushing through another arms control treaty through Senate doesn’t seem like a realistic option in short-term.
  • The mere act of hammering out a bilateral treaty with Russia casts each party in an adversarial role which may reinforce the historical perception of enmity. If we are now finally comfortable that the Cold War has ended, why not simply reduce our nuclear stockpile?
  • Because New START will be in effect through early 2021, Washington could go ahead and unilaterally reduce the U.S. nuclear stockpile while still benefiting from monitoring and transparency measures provided by the treaty
  • The chief of the Strategic Plans and Policy Division of the Air Force has indicated that U.S. nuclear-deterrent needs can safely be met by just 311 nuclear weapons. We ought to go to that number right away, or perhaps even substantially lower, and let Russia do whatever it wants. Problem solved. Too drastic.
  • And if Russia wants to continue to waste their precious rubles on a bloated and outdated stockpile, that's their problem.

 

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