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Uh, Who’s Being Disingenuous About New START and Missile Defense?

There’s preambular language in the New START nuclear arms accord with the Russians that touches on Russia’s unease with America’s planned system for European missile defense. It’s non-binding and it’s extremely opaque. (“Recognizing the existence of the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms, that this interrelationship will become more important as strategic nuclear arms are reduced…”) A raft of Obama administration officials, up to and including the president, have personally vouched for the treaty’s lack of constraint on the missile defense system. Earlier this week, Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, the head of the Missile Defense Agency, testified that the treaty, once ratified, will not restrict his missile-defense development. At all.

You would think that the verifiable absence of an actual objection to the treaty would remove political obstacles to it and win over converts. If you think that, you’re probably not Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who gave a breakfast crowd at the National Defense University Foundation a whole bunch of — irony of ironies — unverifiable objections to New START. They culminated in this:

“More important to me, the Obama administration negotiators were disingenuous at best in the way they described the wording on missile defense, and some would go further than disingenuous to describe what they did,” Kyl said. “And what did we get out of the Russians in return? They will go down to levels [of nuclear arms] they were heading toward anyway. They tied one hand behind our back on missile defense, and we did nothing to address the Russian advantage in tactical nuclear weapons. So we’re going to have a very robust debate on whether or not the United States is better off with this treaty. Personally, I’m not sure the treaty is worth what we give up.”

On the Russian advantage stuff, the Obama administration plans to negotiate another treaty after New START gets ratified, to cut the arsenals even further. So be charitable to Kyl and give him that. On missile defense, the briefest of inspections of the treaty refutes Kyl’s substantive point. This is what the treaty actually says about missile defense:

For the purposes of this Treaty… a missile of a type developed and tested solely to intercept and counter objects not located on the surface of the Earth shall not be considered to be a ballistic missile to which the provisions of this Treaty apply.

Right there! In black and white! The treaty doesn’t restrict missile defense! *Explicitly! *There’s even more:

Each Party shall not convert and shall not use ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] launchers and SLBM [submarine-launched ballistic missile] launchers for placement of missile defense interceptors therein. Each Party further shall not convert and shall not use launchers of missile defense interceptors for placement of ICBMs and SLBMs therein. This provision shall not apply to ICBM launchers that were converted prior to signature of this Treaty for placement of missile defense interceptors therein.

Who’s the disingenuous one here?

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