Jump to search Jump to main navigation Jump to main content Jump to footer navigation

Global Security Newswire

Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues

Produced by
NationalJournal logo

Obama Could Veto Defense Bill Over New START Restrictions

(May. 25) -President Obama, shown delivering a speech to the British Parliament on Wednesday. The White House on Tuesday warned Obama was prepared to veto the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill over language that could limit his administration's capacity to comply with a new U.S.-Russian  strategic nuclear arms control treaty (Jewel Samad/Getty Images). (May. 25) -President Obama, shown delivering a speech to the British Parliament on Wednesday. The White House on Tuesday warned Obama was prepared to veto the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill over language that could limit his administration's capacity to comply with a new U.S.-Russian strategic nuclear arms control treaty (Jewel Samad/Getty Images).

President Obama could veto fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill if it retains amendments that would restrict his administration's ability to implement a new Russian-U.S. nuclear arms control treaty, the White House said in a statement released on Tuesday (see GSN, May 19).

Though the administration agrees with many of the bill's components, it "has serious concerns with several provisions that constrain the ability of the armed forces to carry out their missions (and) impede the secretary of Defense's ability to make and implement management decisions that eliminate unnecessary overhead or programs to ensure scarce resources are directed to the highest priorities for the warfighter," the Associated Press quoted the statement as saying.

The bill, which authorizes up to $553 billion in Defense Department funding for the next budget cycle and up to $118 billion more for the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, would prevent the White House from spending funds between 2011 and 2017 to retire any nuclear warhead covered by the New START treaty unless the Defense and Energy secretaries provide joint certification that the remaining arsenal is being modernized, according to a previous report (see GSN, May 12).

The legislation would also require the president to notify Congress before adopting any new nuclear targeting strategy or transferring armaments out of Europe.

The White House voiced disagreement with the restrictions, adding that the legislation "raises constitutional concerns as it appears to encroach on the president's authority as commander in chief to set nuclear employment policy -- a right exercised by every president in the nuclear age from both parties" (Donna Cassata, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, May 25).

The bill would make the administration's ability to comply with the treaty contingent on the preparation of new U.S. nuclear weapons complex components "not expected until the mid-2020s," Reuters quoted the released remarks as saying. "The effect of this section would be to preclude dismantlement of weapons in excess of military needs."

Deliberations on the bill are slated for this week in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. The legislation would also require approval by the Senate, where Democrats hold more seats. Congressional approval of the bill might take months, according to Reuters.

The New START pact entered into force on February 5. It requires the United States and Russia to each reduce deployment of strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550, down from a cap of 2,200 mandated by next year under an older treaty. It also limits the number of fielded warhead delivery platforms to 700, with an additional 100 systems permitted in reserve (Cornwell/Wolf, Reuters, May 25).

Meanwhile, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's office on Wednesday disputed suggestions that the treaty's implementation has stalled, ITAR-Tass reported.

“To those who are telling scare stories about a new spiral of confrontation I would advise to display greater patience,” said Sergei Prikhodko, Medvedev's senior foreign policy adviser.

"I do not agree that the implementation of the agreement is stalled," Prikhodko said. "We have no evidence pointing to the American side’s noncompliance with the treaty. Nor have there been any statements to this effect from our counterparts in the United States in relation to Russia."

"With regard to the missile defense issue I can say the work on it is in progress, there is time and there is a political and negotiating resource at the disposal of experts," he said, demanding "greater patience."

The Kremlin remains wary of U.S. and NATO missile defense plans for Europe. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev indicated last week his government would pursue a nuclear arms buildup if the sides cannot reach an agreement on antimissile collaboration (see GSN, May 18). Moscow has pressed for assurance that it would not be targeted by the NATO system and for a cooperative program in which Europe would be divided into two sectors of missile defense responsibility, with NATO managing one and Russia the other.

"When it comes to antimissile defense topics, we should focus on finding an algorithm of interaction that would not contradict the interests of the parties, accommodate their concerns, and work for strengthening international security," Prikhodko said.

"Accordingly, there is the need to safeguard the guarantees the missile capabilities of the United States and Russia should not be targeted against each other, including the development of military-technological and geographical criteria," he explained. "The solution of this problem will require the conclusion of a legally binding agreement between our countries," the official said (ITAR-Tass, May 25).

NTI Analysis

  • Ukraine Must Not Become a New Berlin Wall

    March 13, 2014

    On Friday, March 14, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. Five statesmen from Germany, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States call for the urgent formation of a Contact Group of Foreign Ministers to address the crisis and more broadly, create a new approach to building mutual security in the Euro-Atlantic region.

  • U.S. Nuclear Weapons Budget: An Overview

    Sept. 27, 2013

    A fact sheet on current and projected costs of maintaining the U.S. nuclear deterrent, produced by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies.