New START toward real security

NewSTART

Senate hearings on the New START treaty to cut U.S. and Russian long-range nuclear weapons arsenals have resumed, with a vote possible in coming weeks. Ratification requires a two-thirds majority of senators.

Support for the agreement, signed in April by President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, ranges from longstanding advocates of complete nuclear disarmament to such "top national security leaders" as former Secretary of Defense William Perry and former Secretary of State George Shultz. But, like all positive Obama administration initiatives, it is also subject to a barrage of far-right attacks. Republicans known for their efforts to block other important legislation, such as Senators Jon Kyl, James Inhofe and Jim DeMint, contend the agreement would weaken U.S. security.

They claim New START would hinder U.S. development of missile defenses (something that's not succeeding now and would be incredibly destabilizing if it ever did). Compliance supposedly can't be verified (though the treaty includes extensive verification procedures). The pact allegedly restrains the U.S. more than the Russians (though both countries must cut their deployed strategic nuclear weapons to 1,550 and delivery vehicles to 700). And so on.

At the same time, the right wing is also holding the pact hostage to demands for greater U.S. spending on nuclear weapons. Those demands appear to be bearing fruit, with the administration projecting nuclear weapons spending rising from the present $6.4 billion to some $9 billion in 2018, and plans afoot to "modernize" both the weapons and the weapons complex.

At their root, views of the treaty hinge on views of national security. If one believes, as we do, that complete, worldwide nuclear disarmament is ultimately essential for our national security, New START is a small but vital step on the road toward that goal - a goal President Obama has endorsed.

We also believe spending on U.S. nukes and the facilities to maintain them must be drastically reduced, both to make those resources available for human needs and to make sure nuclear weapons are truly on their way out.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors got it right last month when it unanimously called for ratification of New START and the Comprehensive Test Ban treaty "without conditions and without delay" and urged Congress to end funding to modernize nuclear weapons systems and the nuclear weapons complex, drastically cut funds for all nuclear weapons programs, and "redirect funds to meet the urgent needs of cities."

We urge readers to contact their senators and tell them to ratify New Start.

Photo: President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev shake hands at a press conference after signing the newly completed "New START" treaty reducing long-range nuclear weapons, in Prague, Czech Republic, April 8, 2010. (AP/Mikhail Metzel)