When the klaxon blares in the middle of the night, it seems as if your heart actually stops for a few seconds. Then the lights come on bright, crews jump into their flight suits and combat boots, rush to the flight line, flash the appropriate security code, climb up the crew ladder, jump into their seats, decode the message and wait.
Is it an exercise? Or could it be the real thing, to launch a nuclear attack against the USSR? These are my memories of serving as a KC-135 copilot in 1983.
Many people today vaguely remember those days of the Cold War, when we had thousands of nuclear warheads aimed at the Soviet Union, and they had thousands aimed at us. Now, when I hear that we have reached yet another step toward nuclear disarmament and accountability, I am relieved.
The 10-year Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) moves us toward our goal of reducing the threat of nuclear war and strengthens our hand when facing the increasing threat of nuclear terrorism from rogue countries.
According to the Washington Post, here’s how these complex discussions have progressed:
On the American side, negotiators were aware that any significant limits on verification or the U.S. missile shield would be unacceptable to Senate Republicans and the Pentagon. The U.S. side appears to have largely won the battle over missile defense, with a mention of it in the treaty's preamble but no new limits imposed on the American system, officials said.
American officials said President Obama and Medvedev talked 10 times on the phone and five times in person throughout the past year, often at times when the negotiations in Geneva had bogged down.
The White House official said the turning point came in a testy conversation between President Obama and Medvedev in late February.
"The Russians were pushing for constraints on missile defense to be incorporated into the treaty. The president said that was simply unacceptable," the official said.
President Obama indicated he was willing to walk away from the treaty, the official said, "That was the breaking point."
He and Medvedev finally agreed on most of the major issues: They would cut deployed warheads to 1,550 per side, down from the current limit of 2,200. They would cut deployed heavy bombers and missiles to 700 each. They would conduct 18 inspections a year, up from 10 originally proposed by Moscow.
This START agreement builds on START I that was passed in the Senate on October 1, 1992, with a huge bipartisan agreement of 93-6.
However, there are already rumors that some members of our U.S. Senate will make this agreement a partisan battle over the national security issue that it is and should be viewed as.
There is way too much partisanship in Washington, but when it comes to national security, we must all work together to ensure the safety of all Americans.
Not only does this treaty continue the combined effort of the United States and Russia to reduce and account for current nuclear weapon arsenals, it sets the world stage for accountability for nuclear weapons development.
We all know the threat that Iran continues to proclaim as far as nuclear weapons development. We must be on strong ground when we demand the ability to inspect and verify their program. Our best option is to live by what we expect others to adhere to. America should always lead by example in the challenging world of nuclear accountability.
A solid front by both the United States and Russia when approaching Iran on these issues will increase our authority. With the ever-increasing threats of nuclear terrorism, we need to increase our allies and isolate those that may want to harm us.
I proudly served as a copilot on the KC-135 that was instrumental in providing the needed fuel reserves for the nuclear-laden B-52s so that they could reach their targets. I remember the morning briefings on how few precious minutes we had to launch before the Soviet submarine missiles hit our base. This is why I demand that on this issue, we put our country ahead of our politics and support this new START treaty.