Lugar rips Romney over nuclear weapons

As you may have heard by now, Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post this week about the New START treaty rivaling only Sarah Palin for sheer incompetence. Fred Kaplan, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the US-Soviet arms race, called it “shabby, misleading and—let's not mince words—thoroughly ignorant.” I highly recommend Kaplan’s article at Slate, which points out the factual flaws in nearly every single line of the piece.

What’s particularly remarkable, however, is that it’s not just experts like Kaplan taking on Romney – it’s his own party. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, wrote an equally devastating critique not as an op-ed or blog post but as an unsolicited 782-word statement from his own office. "Governor Mitt Romney's hyperbolic attack on the New START Treaty in the July 6 edition of The Washington Post repeats discredited objections and appears unaware of arms control history and context." The full statement is below the jump.

Lugar and Kaplan both point out many of the same errors in Romney’s screed. Romney is deeply offended by a non-binding preamble that will have no affect on policy whatsoever, claims that Russia will control our arms while ignoring that the provisions in question cut both ways, screams bloody murder that we are now unable to harm our own national security by converting ICBM silos to defense against our military’s wishes, claims Russia will harm us by exploiting a loophole with weapons they don’t actually have, and says another loophole will allow Russia to hide missiles on bombers even though a) we have more bombers and b) as Kaplan points out, they’re “bombers,” not “missilers.”

I would also point out that Ronald Reagan said on multiple occasions that we need to reduce our nuclear stockpile with the ultimate goal of its elimination. The man who conservatives like to pretend single-handedly won the Cold War. This is one time when they should actually listen to him on national security.

Lugar's statement. Emphasis added:

Governor Mitt Romney's hyperbolic attack on the New START Treaty in the July 6 edition of The Washington Post repeats discredited objections and appears unaware of arms control history and context.  In advancing these arguments, he rejects the Treaty's unequivocal endorsement by the Defense Department led by Secretary Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also distances himself from prominent Republican national security leaders, including Jim Schlesinger, Henry Kissinger, James Baker, and Brent Scowcroft, who have backed the Treaty after thoughtful analysis.

Much of Governor Romney's opposition is based on the supposed harm the Treaty could do to U.S. missile defense plans. But his own list of U.S. "concessions" underscores just how unsuccessful the Russians were in including provisions that constrain U.S. missile defense. He cites non-binding preambular language that requires no restriction on missile defense and cannot be used to enforce an obligation under the Treaty. He also complains about a prohibition on converting ICBM silos to missile defense purposes, but fails to acknowledge that such a conversion is not part of our plans. Lt. General Patrick O'Reilly, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, testified that converting silos would be "a major setback to the development of our missile defenses" given the high cost of redesigning existing interceptors and associated systems.

Governor Romney worries that the Russian ability to withdraw from the New START Treaty (we have the same right) will cause some future administration to abandon missile defense.  But nothing in the Treaty changes the bottom line that we control our own missile defense destiny, not Russia.  Clearly the Russians don't like U.S. missile defense, but it is wrong to suggest that our defense establishment is unprepared for Russian opposition. As Secretary Gates bluntly testified: "The Russians have hated missile defense ever since the strategic arms talks began, in 1969....because we can afford it and they can't. And we're going to be able to build a good one....and they probably aren't. And they don't want to devote the resources to it, so they try and stop us from doing it... This treaty doesn't accomplish that for them.  There are no limits on us."

Governor Romney offers additional treaty misreadings and myths that have been refuted explicitly in Congressional hearings. The Bilateral Consultative Commission has no power to "amend the treaty with specific reference to missile defense," as he contends. In fact, the Commission cannot change anything in treaty text or make changes that "affect substantive rights or obligations under this Treaty." He asserts that missiles on rail cars constitute a loophole in the Treaty.  But the last Russian rail-based missiles were deactivated in 2008.  If Russia decided to build new ones, they would count under the overall limits on ICBM's and their launchers.  He also bemoans that New START does not "apply the MIRV limits that were part of the prior START treaty." But there were no MIRV limits in START I, and START II never entered into force.  He objects to New START's counting of bombers as just a single weapon, even though they can carry multiple warheads. But this provision favors the U.S, given our bomber advantage, and reflects the position of Ronald Reagan, who originally proposed not counting bombers at all in START I.  

Governor Romney also cites Russia's stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons as a reason to oppose New START. Russia does have more tactical weapons than we do, but he distorts their value by implying that they constitute a serious missile threat to Europe. In fact, most of Russia's tactical nuclear weapons either have very short ranges, are used for homeland air defense, are devoted to the Chinese border, or are in storage. He also ignores that our NATO allies have endorsed the New START Treaty. A Russian attack on NATO countries is effectively deterred by NATO conventional superiority, our own tactical nuclear forces, French and British nuclear arsenals, and U.S. strategic forces. An agreement with Russia that reduced, accounted for, and improved security around tactical nuclear arsenals is in the interest of both nations. But these weapons do not compromise our strategic deterrent.

Rejecting the Treaty would guarantee that no agreement on tactical nukes would occur. It also would mean giving up our human verification presence in Russia that has contributed greatly to strategic stability under the expired START I Treaty. Having inspectors on the ground in Russia has meant that we have not had to wonder about the make-up of Russian strategic forces. New START would strengthen our non-proliferation diplomacy worldwide, limit potential arms competition, and help us focus our defense resources effectively. It offers concrete national security benefits that will make the American people safer, and it should be ratified.

Tags: Mitt Romney, Richard Lugar, nuclear weapons, New START Treaty, National Security (all tags)


1 Comment


Is there a more pathetic creature in politics than Mitt Romney?

I don't think so. 

by Charles Lemos 2010-07-10 05:30PM | 0 recs


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