Jim Talent: At Last, the Debate has STARTed

The weaknesses of President Obama’s New START treaty with Russia are finally starting to surface in Washington. On Monday, Mitt Romney weighed in against the treaty in a Washington Post column. The former Massachusetts governor raised concerns previously aired by Amb. John Bolton (in National Review), by the Heritage Foundation’s Dr. Kim Holmes, and — in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — by former undersecretaries of state and defense Bob Joseph and Eric Edelman.

Yesterday, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), reacted with a column that, after attacking Romney personally, merely ignored or dismissed (rather than disproved) Romney’s objections.

First and foremost, Romney objected to START on the grounds that it would impede America’s ability to complete a global ballistic-missile-defense system. The evidence supporting this concern is overwhelming. Article Five of the treaty explicitly prohibits the conversion of former ICBM silos to the purpose of missile defense; the Russians have publicly stated that the treaty limits America’s discretion to complete ballistic-missile defense, and the preamble of the treaty explicitly links reductions in offensive capability to reductions in defensive systems.

Those who think the preamble unimportant should consider the words of Russian general Yevgeniy Buzinsky, chief of the International Treaty Directorate in the Russian Defense Ministry: “This [treaty language on missile defense in the preamble] makes it possible for us, in case the Americans increase their strategic ABM system, to claim that they are not observing the [terms] of the treaty.”

Senator Kerry’s response not only fails to answer these concerns, it actually lends credibility to them.

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