A Republican memo being circulated on Capitol Hill looks at the bright side of the New START agreement:

This is intended to be the final email on New START, and hopefully the final email from this desk for the year.

There will be great gnashing of teeth and rending of garments as the legacy of the Senate’s New START consideration is debated, but it appears that one particular storyline deserves more attention. President Obama entered office promising to rid the world of nuclear weapons and drastically cut US missile defense capabilities, as evidenced by his Prague speech and first budget submission to the Congress cutting the missile defense program by $1.4 billion. Now, at the end of his first Congress, in the course of completing his signature foreign policy achievement, President Obama has committed his Administration to a wholesale modernization of the US nuclear complex, including improvements to warheads, facility infrastructure, and all delivery vehicles of the triad. He has also committed to deploying an extensive missile defense capability, including the placement of a missile defense system in Europe with a capability directed against ICBMs, as well as the placement of missile defense interceptors in the former Soviet client states of Poland and Romania.

With the adoption of amendment 4904 to the New START Resolution of Ratification, the President must certify prior to entry into force of the treaty that it is the policy of the United States to qualitatively and quantitatively improve the US missile defense system. This includes deployment of all four phases of his own Phased Adaptive Approach, with the last phase having a capability against ICBMs that could hold at risk the US homeland, as well as the continued development of the two-stage ground-based interceptors as a technological and strategic hedge to the PAA. The amendment further expressed the position of the United States that the deployment of these systems does not constitute a basis for questioning the effectiveness and viability of the treaty, and therefore would not give rise to circumstances justifying Russian withdrawal from the Treaty. This much more directly confronts the Russian position on the matter, when compared to the feckless unilateral statement issued by the United States at the signing of the treaty. The amendment requires the President to communicate all of this to Russia at the time of the exchange of the instruments of ratification. The amendment also provided an Understanding that the treaty preamble does not impose a legal obligation on the parties, which will be included in the instrument of ratification.

Amendment 4864 was adopted by consent to the Resolution of Ratification, which requires the President to certify prior to entry into force of the treaty that he intends to modernize or replace the triad of strategic nuclear delivery systems, namely a heavy bomber and air-launched cruise missile, an ICBM, and an SSBN and SLBM.

Amendment 4892 was adopted by consent to the Resolution of Ratification, which requires the President to certify prior to entry into force of the treaty that he intends to accelerate to the extent possible the design and engineering phase of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) building and the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF); and request full funding, including on a multi-year basis as appropriate, for these facilities upon completion of the design and engineering phase for such facilities.

When those two amendments are combined with the President’s commitment to provide annual updates to the 1251 report concerning the budget plan to modernize the US nuclear complex, the Congress will have a substantial basis to provide the resources necessary for the President’s own plan to modernize the entire US nuclear complex. Secretary Gates has made clear that this modernization is a prerequisite to any nuclear reductions.

After jamming New START through the Senate in a lame duck session where the Senate was concomitantly attending to a variety of other duties, and consequently achieving the lowest vote count ever for a ratified major arms control treaty, the Obama Administration is probably looking around wondering what is next for its nonproliferation agenda, now that CTBT is effectively off the table. It would appear incumbent upon Republicans to provide the Administration with that agenda, beginning with a focus on the true nonproliferation threats of Iran and North Korea. ...

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