For his entire presidency, Donald Trump has been a disappointment on matters of nuclear arms control.
And at the end of the first Trump term we are still pursuing a strategy that is leading us into a black hole - a path where we will lose the only arms-control treaty still existing between our country and Russia - the 2010 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. If President Trump is not turned out of office in November, we could be living in a more dangerous world where we spend more on our nuclear arsenal at the expense of domestic needs - climate-change adaption and carbon sequestration and reduction, healthcare, and infrastructure. As of the writing of this story, the Trump administration is rejecting Russia's call for a five-year extension of the treaty.
Trump's arms-control envoy, Marshall Billingslea, has demanded that Russia accept changes to the treaty and that China be brought into the treaty to create a three-country security umbrella. This is a wonderful concept, but it's unlikely to occur because China has said it will not enter such an agreement. It must be added that China does not have anywhere near the number of nuclear weapons as the United States and Russia at this time.
Billingslea said our country would redeploy the weapons prohibited under New Start if the treaty should collapse. New Start sets a 1,550 limit on nuclear warheads. Billingslea also said we can spend our adversary into the ground should the treaty go by the wayside. An arms race would cost our country billions, as we would spend several hundred billion dollars building additional missile-delivery systems to increase the arsenal above New Start levels. No one wins an arms race! Each side deploys more than is needed to deter an attack.
If Joe Biden should win in November, then our country would have 16 days to extend the New Start Treaty. The fiscally responsible path is to extend the New Start Treaty and have other discussions on nuclear warheads, non-nuclear weapons that impact strategic stability, and the inclusion of other countries in the nuclear arms-control process. The Trump administration, which has made leaving nuclear arms-control agreements a key policy, wants the public to believe their offer to Russia is that best we could ever hope for. However, it's a losing strategy for all those who care about securing our country through fewer weapons.
Jason Sibert is the executive director of the Peace Economy Project in St Louis.
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