Tuesday, June 19, 2007

There's Nothing Like Being There

Jonathan S. Landay of McClatchy Newspapers reported on Tuesday that the U.S. intelligence community is concerned about the Bush Administration’s intention to allow the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) to expire.

“The intelligence agencies have outlined their concerns in classified reports that were delivered to Congress last week, said an expert who asked to remain anonymous because the matter is classified.”

Bush Administration officials have argued that arms control verification is a relic of the Cold War, but this is no more true of the intrusive on-site inspection procedures imbedded in START than it is of arsenals of thousands of nuclear weapons themselves.

Soviet negotiators stonewalled inclusion of on-site inspection provisions in nuclear arms control until the waning days of the Cold War when Mikhail Gorbachev came to office and the late President Reagan insisted that we should “trust, but verify.” The 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was the first arms control treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union to include on-site inspection provisions.

While START is in force and being observed, the United States has significant rights under the Treaty to engage in on-site inspection of Russian strategic nuclear forces. As long as the United States and Russia retain Cold War size nuclear arsenals, the legal obligations to transparency negotiated under START are a tremendous national security bargain.

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