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START: A Treaty in Trouble


Chairman John Kerry wrote his colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today advising them that he was postponing for at least six weeks the panel’s “mark-up” of the resolution of ratification of the so-called New START Treaty. This is a symptom of a treaty in trouble. START is not dead just yet, of course, but Kerry’s action is an implicit acknowledgement that enough Senators are not prepared to rubber-stamp an accord that is becoming more controversial – and more of a political liability – by the day.

A key reason for the delay is that, despite the lengths to which Senator Kerry has gone to stack the deck (for example, he only afforded two witnesses critical of the treaty the chance to testify, compared to some ten times that number who supported it) and force an early ratification vote, his colleagues are insisting on a proper review of the treaty.

For example, Senators understandably want written replies to the hundreds of unanswered questions they have posed for the record. Some have formally requested that both the Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees provide an opportunity for more opponents to be heard. Forty-one legislators (including every Republican and Independent Joseph Lieberman) have formally signaled that they would not be able to support the treaty without an as-yet-undelivered, detailed plan for modernizing the U.S. nuclear deterrent. Presumably, by “modernization” these Senators mean the introduction of new weapons to replace those in the current stockpile (which are on average 30 years old, 15 years beyond their design life and untested since 1992), as well as their supporting industrial complex.

Particularly problematic for Team Obama is the entirely reasonable demand of a bipartisan group of Senators – including such leaders as the chairman of the Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees, Sens. Carl Levin and Joe Lieberman, respectively, and the Republican Whip, Sen. Jon Kyl – for the negotiating record for the New START Treaty.

The Obama administration has, to date, steadfastly refused to provide these documents. That is curious since they would, presumably, confirm the proponents’ insistent representations that no commitments were given to the Russians constricting U.S. missile defenses. Senators are rightly skeptical of these assurances and seem certain to deny ratification of the accord unless and until the negotiating record is made available in a sufficiently timely way as to permit a thorough review before they are asked to vote.

In short, it seems increasingly likely that President Obama’s only hope for Senate approval of his defective arms control agreement – and, thereby, legitimization of his dangerous bid to “rid the world of nuclear weapons” by disarming the one country he can: ours – lies with trying to ram the treaty through during the post-election lame-duck session.

Unfortunately for Mr. Obama, there will likely be more Republicans in the Senate then, and more still come January. And in the interval, all of them – and a lot of Democrats, too – will be hearing more about why they should oppose, not support, this flawed accord, and the truly lunatic, unilateral disarmament agenda it is meant to advance.

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