Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) went on the radio show of right-wing extremist Frank Gaffney to lay out his problems with the New START treaty. Bond’s chief complaint is that he thinks the verification framework in the new treaty is weak and cited classified intelligence that gave him concerns about Russia’s trustworthiness. As Josh Rogin reported, Bond is using this as justification to call for a delay in holding a treaty vote. He stated:
Obviously the classified details are available to my colleagues in the secure reading room, but I can certainly share with you my conclusions. And I think by pushing the New START treaty, the administration is taking us down a very dangerous path… I think the treaty is very weak on verification, especially compared to previous treaties like START and the INF treaty.
What makes this absurd is not just that Bond is wrong about the strength of New START’s verification measures, it is also that by calling for the delay and rejection of New START on the grounds of weak verification, Bond is ensuring that there will be absolutely no monitoring of Russia’s nuclear arsenal – ever.
First things first though, Bond is wrong. The verification measures in New START are just as, if not more, vigorous than the previous START treaty. Proportionally, under the New START treaty there will be more inspections per facility than there were under the previous START treaty. Senator Richard Lugar has also noted that New START “will provide more transparency than START I, rather than less. The numbering system for warheads and delivery systems is much more transparent than before.”
The claims made by Bond and Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) about classified intelligence showing Russia can’t be trusted, were debunked not just by the Administration and Senate Democrats, but by Republican Senators Johnny Iskason (R-GA) and Bob Corker (R-TN) who saw the same intelligence just before they voted for the treaty in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
But even if New START was weaker on verification than old START the fact is that it is still better the current system of verification – which is zilch. There is no verification regime currently in place, because the old START treaty expired last December. It has been 311 days since the US has had inspectors on the ground monitoring Russia’s nuclear weapons. Bond claims to want a very strict verification and monitoring regime. Yet his approach of delaying and obstructing the New START treaty results in a situation where there is no verification regime.
If a Senator is truly concerned about Russia’s nuclear arsenal they would support New START, because without the treaty Russia is no longer constrained and could do whatever it likes with its nuclear arsenal and the US would have absolutely no idea what they were up to because of the absence of any verification measures. In other words, Kit Bond is a massive hypocrite.