Max Bergmann on New START

What is New START, and why do we need it?

The New START treaty extends Ronald Reagan's original treaty which was negotiated during the 1980s and agreed to in the early 1990s. This treaty enables nuclear stability between the United States and Russia that gives both sides a good understanding of each other's nuclear arsenals, of each other's nuclear weapons, and it also puts in place new reductions in the amount of warheads that are allowed and also reductions in the launchers or delivery vehicles, the things that actually deliver nuclear warheads to their targets. So the New START treaty will help extend some of the past verification measures as well as help bring us into the 21st century.

What would the treaty accomplish?

The new treaty accomplishes I think a few fundamental things. First, it extends the verification system that Ronald Reagan helped negotiate during the 1980s. It makes sure that we still have an understanding of what the Russians are doing. And so it extends that and maintains nuclear stability into the future. The second thing it does, it will cut nuclear weapons that are pointed at American cities. It will reduce the number of warheads allowed by each side from 2,200 to 1,550. It will cut the number of nuclear launchers or delivery vehicles, the things that deliver nuclear weapons, from 1,600 to 800. And finally, one of the more important things that it does, it affirms the reset of U.S.-Russia relations, which had sort of been in the dumps before President Obama came and this sort of affirms that the United States and Russia can work cooperatively together and lays the groundwork for perhaps a new, more far-reaching treaty that will cut more nuclear weapons in the future.

Why do some conservatives object to the treaty?

Well I think some conservatives are frankly just opposed to the idea of cutting nuclear weapons, that they still live in this Cold War world where they view Russia as an enemy, as a country that is about to attack the United States. So they want to actually build more nuclear weapons to try to outdo the Russians. I think that approach is essentially one of a bygone area that doesn't reflect the realities of the 21st century. And it's one that's extremely dangerous. We have missiles that are on hair-trigger launch just because the Russians have missiles on hair-trigger launch. There's no reason for this Cold War construct to be in place and continuing it will only make Americans less safe and leave open the possibility of accidental launch or nuclear war.