Critical Verification Tools in Question as START Expiration Looms

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Stories we're following today:

U.S. to Stop Counting New Missiles in Russia - The Washington Times [link]

  • The United States is about to lose a key arms-control tool from the closing days of the Cold War -- the right to station American observers in Russia to count the long-range missiles leaving its assembly line… The monitoring facility's present mandate ends with START's expiration Saturday.
  • U.S. officials are trying to complete a "bridging" agreement in Geneva this week, so some verification measures can remain in effect until a START replacement is finalized.
  • "For the first time in 15 years, an extensive set of verification, notification, elimination and other confidence-building measures will expire" on Saturday, Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, said on the Senate floor late last month, suggesting that START should have been extended.
  • Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association said, "Senator Kyl was not on the floor of Senate railing against the Bush administration's decision not to continue essential START monitoring and verification provisions back in 2008, but now he's complaining that the Obama administration is not doing enough to maintain effective monitoring of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons… He was against it before he was for it."

After Stalling The START Treaty Negotiations, Conservatives Now Blame Obama - Max Bermann in the Wonk Room [link]

  • It looks quite clear that US-Russian negotiations over a new START treaty are proceeding smoothly. Yet while the START treaty reaches the finish line, conservative commentators have adopted the bizarre and hypocritical attack that not reaching an agreement before December 5th – the date at which the existing treaty expires – would represent a failure.

Iran’s Nuclear Announcement Seen as Chest-Puffing Bluster - The National [link]

  • Iran’s announcement of plans to build 10 new uranium enrichment facilities is chest-puffing bluster and a show of resolve by the president for a domestic and international audience, analysts said yesterday.
  • For Iran to build 10 industrial-scale enrichment plants would mean overcoming huge technical and economic hurdles: some experts say that no new sites could reasonably be expected to come on line for 20 to 30 years.
  • Even if Iran’s plans to expand its uranium enrichment are more symbolic than realistic, its escalation of the nuclear standoff makes it increasingly difficult for Moscow and Beijing to help stave off further sanctions. The Iranian move also gives fuel to hawks in Israel and in Washington, where opponents [of Obama's Iran policy] have criticized his outreach to the Islamic republic.

Nuclear Wings Set to Join Global Strike Command - Air Force Times [link]

  • Three nuclear missile wings will transfer from Air Force Space Command to Global Strike Command on Tuesday while the service again addresses more inspection failures and firings in its nuclear operations.
  • It will mark the first time nuclear units will fall under Global Strike Command since it stood up in September to help solve the problems the Air Force has had handling nuclear weapons the past two years.

Nuclear Weapons Spending Deserves Greater Scrutiny - Chris Preble in CATO Institute's Nuclear Proliferation Update [link]

  • Nuclear weapons–related spending might be warranted if the money was likely to advance American security, and do so at a reasonable cost. Programmatic reforms, beginning with a full and public accounting of all spending, are essential to making this a reality. The public should demand greater transparency, consistent with the obvious need to maintain operational security at our nuclear weapons facilities, and should hold government officials accountable for poor performance within their respective agencies.

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