This article will be short, but hopefully to the point: New START must be ratified because right now, and as of December 6 of last year, we can no longer see inside the Russian nuclear complex, and we don't know what's going on there.
In order to succeed, arms control -- unlike any other international issue -- requires the type of verification of compliance, commitment and mutual cooperation that can only be assured through the formal institution of a legally-binding treaty. Climate change, trade, human rights, even maritime issues -- commitment to any and all of these can be monitored and measured in so many ways, whether one brings a treaty into force or not.
But the very nature of arms control -- which entails reducing one's nuclear warheads and delivery systems, which are intended to defend a nation and its territory -- means that the ability, and more importantly the incentive, to cheat are significantly higher.
START I, which entered into force on December 5, 1994, allowed the United States to put into place verification mechanisms, including the presence of on-the-ground inspectors, to ensure there would be no cheating within the post-Cold War Russian system. Combined with the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, this effort had tremendous success over the past 15 years -- not only in reducing the global danger posed by nuclear weapons, but also in building confidence between Russia and the United States through enhanced transparency.
START I expired on December 5 of last year, and as of next Sunday, it will have been a full 365 days since we have had that on-the-ground presence in Russia to continue the verification work that is absolutely critical to bilateral nonproliferation efforts.
We need New START because it would allow us to restore our monitoring and verification mechanisms in Russia. It's pretty simple. No other issue is more critical to national and global security in the immediate term than this.