Yes: Treaty protects against nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism.

September 7, 2010

Atlanta Journal Constitution

By Paul D. Eaton

9:40 a.m. Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Through repeated tours at Fort Benning and eventually serving as its commanding general, I got to know Georgia and Georgians pretty well.

Among the places I have served, my neighbors around Fort Benning display a pride, patriotism and national security awareness that helped me in my mission at the Home of the Infantry. And they are natural allies to those of us in uniform who devote our careers to America’s national security.

Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson will soon have the opportunity to protect America’s national security by voting in favor of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia, which would further a process started by Ronald Reagan to verifiably reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals to 1,550 warheads and 700 deployed launchers.

New START also ensures strategic stability by reinstating a strong verification regime that allows U.S. inspectors, for the first time, to peer inside Russian missiles and track warheads with unique identifiers.

As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has written, “The New START Treaty has the unanimous support of America’s military leadership — to include the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all of the service chiefs, and the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, the organization responsible for our strategic nuclear deterrent.”

Recently, I joined a group of retired flag officers, including Lt. Gen. Dirk Jameson, former commander of all ICBM units and Deputy Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, in expressing my support for the New START accord. Like Secretary Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, we understand that New START is essential to national security.

For more than 40 years, the U.S. has pursued strategic stability through an arms control process that has been vigorously supported by Republicans and Democrats alike. The New START Treaty both continues these established principles and tailors them to meet the security needs of the 21st century.

In today’s security environment, we must protect against the dual threats of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism. With the nuclear arsenals of the U.S. and Russia accounting for nearly 95 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, the first step to nuclear security begins with New START.

The original START agreement expired Dec. 5, 2009, leaving the U.S. without the intrusive inspection and verification regime that allowed U.S. inspectors to monitor Russia’s nuclear arsenal for so many years.

The U.S. Senate should work to reinstate these verification provisions by ratifying New START and getting U.S. boots back on the ground.

Without these measures, our strategic command loses its access to Russia’s nuclear forces, and the predictability between the world’s two largest nuclear powers is called into question.

Some have argued that we’ve not yet fully explored the treaty. That’s not true. The Senate has held an extensive series of hearings and meticulously reviewed the treaty and its accompanying documents.

Throughout this process, serious national security experts of all ideological stripes have voiced strong support for the New START treaty. James Schlesinger, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Stephen Hadley and Colin Powell have all expressed strong support for this treaty.

Gen. Brent Scowcroft, George H.W. Bush’s national security adviser, previously warned senators that a rejection of this treaty would throw our nuclear policies into a “state of chaos.”

The support for New START from our military is clear. The national security benefits of New START are clear. So is the choice.

Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton, retired, served more than 30 years in the United States Army, including a tour as command of the Army Infantry Training Center in Fort Benning.