The Obama Administration traded 25 percent of the U.S. operationally deployed strategic nuclear missiles for a Russian nuclear buildup in New START, a bilateral arms control treaty with the Russian Federation, writes Mark Schneider in his latest op-ed.

This became clear after the U.S. State Department released a factsheet making the disparity in destruction of accountable systems—delivery vehicles, nuclear warheads, deployed and non-deployed launchers of intercontinental-range ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and deployed and non-deployed heavy bombers—official.

According to the factsheet, Russia can deploy 179 more ICBMs, SLBMs, and bombers (the U.S. has to remove 182 total) and add 27 accountable nuclear warheads to its operational arsenal (the U.S. has to remove 250 accountable nuclear warheads). In concurrence with New START—President Obama’s alleged step to a world free of nuclear weapons—Russian officials announced the largest nuclear buildup since the end of the Cold War. So much for leading by example.

If the Russians follow through on their modernization plan and the United States sticks to the “no new nuclear warheads, no new military missions, no new military capabilities” policy stated in President Obama’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, the country’s forces will be vulnerable to a Russian first strike. Second-class nuclear forces are likely going to make the U.S. deterrent less effective and could eventually contribute to adversaries more aggressively pursuing their national goals, which are likely to be contrary to U.S. interests.

Currently, the average age of U.S. delivery platforms is 41 years for the Minuteman III, 21 years for the Trident II D-5 SLBM, 50 years for the B-52H bomber, 14 years for the B-2 bomber, and 28 years for the Ohio-class submarine. Russia, unlike the United States, is planning on buying 36 strategic ballistic missiles, two strategic missile submarines, and 20 strategic cruise missiles in 2011 alone. Starting in 2018, fifth-generation ICBMs will make up at least 80 percent of the Russian strategic arsenal. The Minuteman III replacement missile will be deployed, if ever, in 2030 at earliest.

Despite President Obama’s nuclear modernization promises, increases in funding for the U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise will allow only sustainment rather than real modernization of the U.S. nuclear capabilities. In the view of the Russian modernization and the deterioration of the U.S. nuclear weapons knowledge and skill base, it seems only prudent that Congress establish a link between New START implementation and modernization of U.S. strategic nuclear weapons.