For what appeared to be a routine confirmation hearings in the Senate Armed Service Committee, the testimony of General James Cartwright (he is being nominated for the position of Vice Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff), created a small stir in Russia. Cartwright's comments (apparently taken from his prepared answers) were interpreted as a call to the Bush administration to pull out of the START Treaty. This is, however, not what Cartwright said (or, rather, wrote). Here is the exchange that mentions START:
Q: Does the Administration's decision not to extend the START Treaty have any impact on development of a prompt global strike capability?
A: It will provide greater flexibility to pursue prompt global strike solutions, while simultaneously seeking to preserve appropriate confidence building measures. In the end, we seek new systems that contribute to national security and reduce our reliance upon nuclear weapons.
This is hardly a call for withdrawal from the START Treaty. Besides, the Bush administration does need General Cartwright to do that - the decision not to extend START has been made already.
Cartwright also had a few more words about his favorite program - Prompt Global Strike:
Q: How would you ensure that the capability developed is not mistaken for a nuclear system?
A: We take the risks of misinterpretation seriously and are actively engaged with others to develop transparency and confidence building measures, drawing on our years of experience with other multi-role systems such as the air launched cruise missile or tactical land attack missile. As we pursue prompt global strike capabilities, we will fully explore delivery system attributes such as basing and other unambiguous signatures to further reduce these risks.
I'm wondering what that "experience with cruise missiles" is - fire and hope Russia won't see them? I'm not sure that experience would be particularly useful with ICBMs. In short, Cartwright said nothing new or encouraging on the risks related to the Prompt Global Strike. And now that he is getting promoted, I'm afraid the program will get a boost.