Richard Perle, of legendary reputation during the Bush administration, takes to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to slam Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Russia. I think Perle misses the point on the purpose of a nuclear treaty with Moscow (I wouldn’t worry so much about Washington being “constrained”), but this is precisely where the divide lies insofar as partisan debate over Russia policy. It appears to be a contest to see who can blame each other of being more stuck in the Cold War than the other.
But no one believes the threat we face today comes from Russia’s arsenal. It simply does not matter how many weapons Russia has.
What does matter, as we face increasing danger from nuclear powers like North Korea now, and Iran all too soon, is whether we have the right forces for our defense. This includes defensive as well as offensive weapons.
To the degree that an otherwise unimportant Cold War relic like the new START treaty limits our freedom to optimize our defenses, it will diminish rather than increase our safety. In this regard, Vladimir Putin’s threat to abandon the treaty if he doesn’t like our defensive forces is troubling. Militarily, it wouldn’t matter if Russia withdrew from the treaty. But Mr. Putin could gain powerful leverage by threatening to do so since Mr. Obama has hyped the treaty’s importance, claiming, without a shred of evidence, that it will restrain the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries.