Ken Blackwell: Stop START


ACRU Staff


June 10, 2010

ACRU Senior Fellow Ken Blackwell wrote this column appearing on the website on June 5, 2010.

President Obama believes he has developed a closer relationship with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev than was enjoyed by his predecessor, George W. Bush. I am doubtful about that, but even if it is so, of what consequence is it? Although the Russian constitution makes the president of the republic the number one figure at the apex of Russia’s governing elite, the reality is that the Russian constitution is what Vladimir Putin says it is. Putin is only No. 2 on paper. He is the premier. But the reality is that Putin dominates Russia today. Just as he dominated Russia when he served—briefly—under the drunken President Boris Yeltsin as his Premier.

So it should give us some concern when President Obama goes out of his way to tout a new strategic arms reduction treaty (START) signed with the every compliant Medvedev. In fact, the pact as initialed recently in Prague is called the Obama-Medvedev treaty.

U.S. Senators should stop START. As a treaty, it requires a vote of two-thirds of the U.S. Senate. Republicans and defense-minded Democrats—are there any left?—must hold up ratification until many, many questions are answered.

John Bolton calls the START agreement “a treaty for Utopia” in carefully detailed analysis in National Review. Our former ambassador to the UN lays out many specific and pressing concerns and raises questions that deserve to be answered before any senator gives this document his okay.

I would like to address the overall atmospherics of the treaty. Ronald Reagan made sure we did not sign any arms agreements with the Soviets until he had re-built our hollowed-out military—a military demoralized and de-mobilized under the studied neglect of the Carter administration. Jimmy Carter publicly said we had to “get over our inordinate fear of Communism.” The Kremlin bosses took him at his word and ran rampant through Southeast Asia, Southern Africa and Central America.

“Let us never negotiate out of fear,” President Kennedy had said, “but let us never fear to negotiate.” Reagan never feared to negotiate—provided America’s military was second to none.

This treaty will disarm the U.S. without making similar demands on Russia. Russia will retain its current substantial advantage over this country in the numbers of tactical nuclear weapons. If both sides reduced their strategic nuclear stockpiles, then tactical nukes become all the more important.

The U.S. has global commitments. Russia has none (although they perilously are playing games with Cuba, Venezuela, and even Iran).

Do we want Japan, Germany, or even Australia to feel compelled to go nuclear? This could be the unintended result if the U.S. disarms too quickly. START disarms the U.S. too quickly.

Why should Obama choose this moment to ink a new arms reduction agreement with the Russians? He seems to have forgotten the classic formulation: There is not mistrust in the world because there are arms; there are arms in the world because there is mistrust.

Liberals have always believed that it is the weapons themselves which constitute the greatest danger to world peace. If that were true, then we should have shuddered at the approach of the HMS Trafalgar, a nuclear submarine capable of launching nuclear-tipped Tomahawk missiles against the U.S. We didn’t tremble. That’s because Trafalgar was a British submarine, our tried and true allies.

Put very simply, the Russians have done nothing recently to merit our trust. Signing an arms reduction agreement with them now makes no sense. They may not want war, but they want the fruits of war. We should remember what Churchill said in 1946.

I do not believe that Soviet Russia desires war. What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power…Our difficulties and dangers will not be removed by closing our eyes to them. They will not be removed by mere waiting to see what happens; nor will they be removed by a policy of appeasement…From what I have seen of our Russian friends and Allies during the war, I am convinced that there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness, especially military weakness.

Unless and until the U.S. is securely in the lead—with a due regard to our alliances and obligations—we should not be ratifying any arms reduction agreements with the Russians. Now is not the time to START. It’s the time to STOP.



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