Treaty critics can’t explain away military support for New START

October 21, 2010

The Hill

By Lt. General Dirk Jameson - 10/21/10 09:36 AM ET

Critics of the New START Treaty have recently taken to the pages of the Washington Times in an attempt to raise doubts about the treaty. Despite their best efforts to muddy the waters, however, they have been unable to explain away the overwhelming support that the treaty has among both U.S. military leadership and the national security establishment.

The reason for that support is simple. The treaty makes us safer.

That’s why Defense Secretary Robert Gates made it clear that the treaty had the “unanimous support of America’s military leadership.” Senate committees heard testimony in support of the treaty from former Republican and Democratic officials alike, including Secretaries of Defense James Schlesinger and William Perry, former Secretaries of State James Baker and Henry Kissinger and former National Security Advisors Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft and Stephen Hadley.

Thirty former national security officials from both political parties – including Colin Powell, Frank Carlucci, Madeleine Albright, Chuck Hagel and John Danforth – recently published an open letter in support of the treaty. Seven former commanders of U.S. Strategic Command wrote to senators, calling for the treaty’s prompt ratification.

It’s a straightforward treaty. The New START Treaty replaces a treaty negotiated under the Reagan administration and signed by President George H. W. Bush, which expired last December. It will provide stability and predictability between the world’s two leading nuclear powers as well as modest reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. Most importantly it will replace the previous treaty’s lapsed verification regime with a state of the art system that builds on twenty years of verification experience and will put U.S. inspectors back on the ground to monitor Russia’s nuclear weapons.

As the commander of the U.S. 20th Air Force, it was my job to make sure that our ICBMs launched in the event of a nuclear war. Being at the sharp end of the nuclear spear made me a strong believer in President Reagan’s admonition that we should “trust, but verify.”

Unfortunately, if the Senate fails to ratify the New START Treaty, we will be reducing that to simply “trust.”

By December 5th, an entire year will have passed since the U.S. lost the ability to conduct on-site inspections, monitoring and verification of Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

Every day that we delay is another day we aren’t on the ground keeping tabs on Russian nuclear weapons and facilities.

All the dust kicked up by treaty critics can’t hide the fact that they are asking senators to take their word over the word of the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the men in charge of our nuclear weapons and missile defense, as well as security experts from both parties, all of whom stand squarely behind the treaty.

The Senate has done its due diligence, and as our former STRATCOM commanders urge, when the Senate reconvenes after the elections, it is time to ratify the treaty.

Lt. General Dirk Jameson served as Deputy Commander in Chief and Chief of Staff of U.S. Strategic Command before retiring from the U.S. Air Force in 1996 after more than three decades of active service. Prior to his STRATCOM assignment, Gen. Jameson commanded the 14,500 men and women of the U.S. 20th Air Force, and was responsible for all U.S. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, seven major subordinate units, operational training, testing, security and readiness. He is a member of the Consensus for American Security <> .