Romney Slams Obama over START Treaty with Russia

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gestures while addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
AP Photo/Cliff Owen

In an op-ed in the Washington Post today, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney blasted President Obama on the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia, calling it his "worst foreign policy mistake."

The treaty, signed by the United States and Russia in April, would limit the number of strategic warheads each side would have to 1,550. The treaty is still awaiting Senate ratification, though it has been expected to pass eventually since it has not faced much vocal Republican opposition thus far.

But Romney, who ran for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination and is expected to run again in 2012, called the treaty a "non-starter" and said that a number of its provisions would impede missile defense and give Russia "a massive nuclear weapon advantage over the United States."

Much of Romney's blistering critique centered on how it would affect missile defense programs that many Republicans support. In case you forgot, Mr. Obama scrapped former President Bush's missile defense plan last year, replacing it with a different missile defense framework that would focus on intercepting small and medium range missile.

"New START does something the American public would never countenance and the Senate should never permit: It jeopardizes our missile defense system," Romney wrote.

Among his concerns was the clause that would allow Russia to withdraw from the treaty in the event the U.S. expands its missile defense systems.

"Russia has expressly reserved the right to walk away from the treaty if it believes that the United States has significantly increased its missile defense capability," Romney wrote. "Hence, to preserve the treaty's restrictions on Russia, America must effectively get Russia's permission for any missile defense expansion."

However, as the New York Times reports, the same privilege is granted to the United States, and such stipulations are common in most treaty agreements.

Romney also blasted the treaty for what he called "loopholes and lapses" that would "provide a path [for Russia] to entirely avoid the advertised warhead-reduction targets."

"For example, rail-based ICBMs and launchers are not mentioned. Similarly, multiple nuclear warheads that are mounted on bombers are effectively not counted. This means that Russia is free to mount a nearly unlimited number of ICBMs on bombers -- including MIRVs (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles) or multiple warheads -- without tripping the treaty's limits."

He added: "It explicitly forbids the United States from converting intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos into missile defense sites."

Romney's spirited criticism of the new treaty is perhaps further indication that he plans to seek the presidential nomination in 2012 as he could be using this piece to further pad his foreign policy credentials. He wrote a similar piece in USA Today last month attacking Mr. Obama on his response to the BP oil spill.