Between them, Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft have over 130 years of public and foreign policy experience. When they speak, even if you don't agree with them, they are worth reading. Most recently, they weigh in on the opinion pages of The Washington Post with advice for the Obama Administration as it considers making much needed reductions to our still all too large arsenal of nuclear weapons. As he prepares to unveil his foreign policy approach for the general campaign season, Governor Romney and his surrogates would do well to take note and see what responsible loyal opposition representatives sound like.
Today, America has over 5,000 active nuclear weapons and a few thousand more awaiting dismantlement. While down from the dizzying Cold War heights of 35,000 weapons -- each many times more powerful than the ones dropped in Japan in 1945, this number remains more than what is needed today to protect America and its allies from a deliberate nuclear attack from a major adversary, according to the Department of Defense.
In laying out their principles, the two former Republican National Security Advisors hit on points that the current Administration has already taken into account. They urge any decisions ensure that: the strategy drives the number of weapons America retains: that numbers be only part of the equation and not to neglect how weapons are deployed and maintained; that we not assume a potential adversary thinks like us as we consider what deters; that our considerable verification skills be part of any significant reductions; that beyond a certain level the U.S. expand reduction efforts beyond just itself and Russia; and that we keep the protection our weapons offer our friends and allies in mind as we go lower.
These were key parts of the Obama Administration's approach to the New START Treaty completed between the United States and Russia (that Kissinger and Scowcroft supported by Governor Romney famously opposed. That treaty is now providing America with the verification and confidence to understand how many weapons Russia has and where they are. Before it was in place, we had no inspectors on the ground and were prevented from inspecting Russian facilities, weapons and overall numbers.
In the months ahead, we are likely to hear more rhetoric from the Republican president nominee on nuclear security issues. He has already tried to channel an early version of Ronald Reagan by casting Russia as America's great enemy. Will he continue to maintain that Russia is America's "number one geopolitical foe" (they are not)? And will he continue to maintain, even now as its benefits are confirmed that the New START treaty "gives Russia a massive nuclear weapon advantage over the United States" (it did and does not)?
Thirteen Republican Senators voted for New START and Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), no strong supporter of the president, has been trying to gain broader Republican support in the House and Senate for the president's robust funding for the nuclear weapons complex. Senior responsible voices in the Republican Party are prepared to consider the possibility that President Obama is pursuing constructive policy that are keeping America and its allies safe from the threat posed by proliferation and nuclear weapons. Perhaps Governor Romney will consider the same possibility.