The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), signed by President Obama and Russian President Medvedev in April, needs to be ratified by the U.S. Senate this year.
I participated in a White House conference call for religious leaders on the START treaty in May. Here are some of the things I learned:
Reducing nuclear weapons is a personal mission for Obama -- his goals are to prevent nuclear terrorism, stop the acquisition of nuclear weapons by any new states, and secure the nuclear weapons that already exist.
The new START treaty
- limits the number of launchers (delivery vehicles – land, sea, & air triad) to 700 total
- limits the number of warheads to 1550 deployed, and 100 in reserve
- includes a verification regime using “national technical means” i.e. satellites, onsite inspections, exchange of data every 6 months.
The benefits of the new treaty are
- Better relationship with Russia – getting their help with Iran, Afghanistan, etc.
- Non-proliferation – showing the world we are reducing our weapons
- Overall security – the defense department can plan better if they know what the Russians are doing.
The current START treaty expired in December 2009, so it is important to get the new treaty ratified soon.
The Senate has started hearings, and former Secretaries of State and Defense from both parties are supporting the new treaty. But some Senators are questioning whether this treaty will limit the U.S. ability to defend ourselves. It will take 67 votes in the Senate to ratify the treaty.