According to Josh Rogin over at Foreign Policy, there's a "growing realization on Capitol Hill that Senate ratification of the START follow-on treaty with Russia will probably not happen this year."
That's bad news. The Nuclear Posture Review is scheduled to be released in four short days. The NPR will act as a roadmap for the strategic reduction of U.S. nuclear forces -- meaning, by the time we reapproach the Russians in 2011 with a treaty that actually can pass the sniff test in the Senate, the Obama administration won't have much to bargain with. The White House either has to sacrifice plans for conventional prompt global strike systems or get far more aggressive with missile defense cuts in order to appease the Russians, who were at least smart enough to wait for a reduction treaty before announcing significant cuts to their nuclear stockpile.
There's been arguments that the NPR should reduce U.S. strategic forces to a "core deterrence" paradigm, with warheads numbering in the "hundreds." That's a huge gamble and is fundamentally unwise, unsound, and unsustainable when you factor in our deeply complex deterrence mandates -- such as protecting our allies in order to preserve non-proliferation, and deterring against regional threats when non-proliferation does fail (which it has, frequently, despite a multitude of reduction treaties between the U.S. and Russia over the past 30 years).
Obama is operating on the assumption that a United States with a mighty nuclear force is somehow a threat to world peace. No one seems to have challenged the veracity of this fundamentally flawed tenet, which is guiding the White House's reckless pursuit of a utopian, nuclear free world. The United States has a flawless record of nuclear custody and restraint. Our strategic power deters aggression and fosters non-proliferation. Indeed, it was powerful military units like Strategic Air Command --poised for peace, as their slogan went-- that served as the very backbone of global security during the Cold War. And it was nuclear weapons, used to end a war started by Japan, that ushered in the long epoch of mutually assured stability between the United States and Soviet Union. The reality of this is constantly ignored by nuclear disarmament advocates, who treat any suggestion that nukes do indeed serve an important purpose as bullheaded warmongering.
Strength, in responsible and prudent hands, is something that should be protected, not discarded. The START debate is in bad need of a rapid infusion of reality and cold headed pragmatism.