John McLaughlin urges the Trump administration to renew New START:
Given the administration’s instinctive dislike of anything President Obama did, the strong temptation will be to try renegotiating the 2011 agreement. It would be smarter, though, to just renew the agreement rather than adding this to the overflowing plate of problems with North Korea and Iran. Besides, as one arms control specialist has warned, failure to extend New START would leave the “world’s two largest nuclear arsenals with no legally binding limits for the first time since 1972.” It’s hard to think of a worse example for North Korea, Iran and other aspiring nuclear powers.
Renewing New START is the obvious and responsible thing to do, so it is no surprise that the administration is having such a hard time going through with it. Russia is prepared to renew the treaty, but it isn’t going to do anything if the U.S. shows no interest in keeping the current limits on both nuclear arsenals in place. The treaty is a modest continuation of the original Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, but keeping it in force is very important for the interests of both the U.S. and Russia. It has further reduced the arsenals of the two largest nuclear weapons states in the world, it provides for the verification inspections that make sure that both parties are in compliance (and they are), it stabilizes the relationship between the U.S. and Russia, and it prevents the start of a new arms race that neither country wants or needs. Like ratification of the treaty, renewing it is a no-brainer, but that won’t stop die-hard opponents of all arms control agreements from opposing it.
Trump and Bolton have stated their opposition to the treaty in the past. Bolton has called the treaty “execrable,” but then he automatically hates all arms control and nonproliferation agreements. Trump seems to dislike it out of his reflexive hostility to any agreement negotiated before he came into office, especially if the agreement was completed during Obama’s presidency. If Bolton gets his way, the treaty is in real danger of expiring without a replacement. Letting the treaty expire would make both countries and the entire world less secure, and it would further damage relations with Russia that are already in serious need of repair. Renewing the treaty would be an easy win for Trump, and everyone except some Republican hard-liners would applaud the decision. It remains to be seen whether the president is capable of letting go of the ridiculous idea that every agreement that predates him was a terrible one.