The post-Cold War world is a complex place, with the emergence of new threats from a widening cast of irrational characters.
Wars are no longer waged only by nations, but also by groups of ideological extremists of all sizes. Conflicts occur not only on the battlefield, but in cyberspace. An Internet hacker can do just as much damage from his laptop as any army.
But one thing has stayed the same: In order to protect America’s national security, we must keep nuclear weapons away from those who may want to harm us.
Nuclear nonproliferation is America’s most effective safeguard against the threat of nuclear attacks. Nonproliferation is the country’s first line of defense and must remain a top priority.
While reaching nonproliferation agreements can be extremely difficult, once an agreement is in effect, we should do everything we can to keep it intact.
Unfortunately, House Republicans just signed a bill that could unravel one of the most important nonproliferation tools we have at the moment: the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START.
The New START is a nuclear reduction agreement between the United States and Russia that was entered into force on Feb. 5, 2011. The treaty will cut the American and Russian nuclear arsenals to their lowest point in 50 years, requiring both countries to reduce the number of nuclear warheads to 1,550 by 2018.
America’s relationship with Russia has historically been a complicated one, and this treaty was a huge step in the right direction. But it was no easy task.
The New START required the full attention of a number of top US government officials, including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is largely credited with the treaty’s ratification, working to push it through the Senate and securing more than the necessary two-thirds majority. Clinton entered the treaty into force in Munich with her Russian counterpart.
Two weeks ago, House Republicans voted for an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would cut funding to implement the treaty for fiscal 2015. The Republicans tried this same tactic last year, so my colleagues and I led an effort to restore the funding in order to avoid any unnecessary disruptions to the reduction schedule, but they refused to compromise.
Despite my continued opposition to funding cuts this year, House Republicans passed the amendment and have voted once again to ignore the importance and urgency of nonproliferation programs with Russia.
The Republicans believe freezing funding for New START is an effective reaction to Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine. Their logic is misguided.
While the United States and the rest of the international community cannot sit back and allow Russia to abuse its power at the expense of innocent Ukrainians, we also must be sure to address the problem with a fitting solution.
Risking our national security is not a fitting solution.
Nonproliferation efforts remain especially important during times of tension. That is why the United States and Russia are among the many countries engaged in the nuclear-freeze discussions with Iran.
These efforts are not about making best friends. They are about working together, when possible, on items of mutual interest in order to advance America’s interests.
Continuing our nuclear nonproliferation efforts with Russia is imperative considering the country’s recent unpredictable, confrontational behavior.
As one State Department official stated, “we shouldn’t shoot ourselves in the foot” by thwarting the progress we have made toward reducing Russia’s nuclear weapons arsenal. ■
Sanchez is a ranking member of the US House Armed Services Committee’s Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee.