The New START Treaty is an idea that may harm American national security. The agreement between the United States and Russia purports to reduce nuclear weapons between two superpowers, yet, in an effort to get the Russians to sign the Treaty, President Obama may accede to a side agreement that will end missile defense. Missile defense is a means to protect the United States from a rogue nuclear missile and a deterrent to a missile attack from Russia. Any agreement to dismantle missile defense would a mistake.
The Treaty is officially referred to as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. On April 8, 2010, President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the treaty. The New START Treaty, 111-5, was signed in Prague on April 8, 2010 then submitted to the Senate on May 13, 2010. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has had numerous hearings on the treaty and intends on a vote before the August recess. For this treaty to pass, 67 Senators need to vote in favor of ratification. The Democrat Caucus only has 59 members, therefore they need 8 Republicans to support the treaty for it to pass. Republicans have the power to block this treaty or to stop consideration until the next Congress.
The White House has been very aggressive in efforts to get this treaty passed by the end of the year. On Friday, Peter Baker of the New York Times reported that “with time running out for major votes before the November election, the White House is trying to reach an understanding with Senate Republicans to approve its new arms control treaty with Russia by committing to modernizing the nuclear arsenal and making additional guarantees about missile defense.” The only way for this Treaty to pass in the Senate in a manner that would truly protect missile defense would be to add a reservation during Senate consideration of the treaty. A reservation, offered during the consideration of the treaty much like an amendment to legislation, specifically stating that a diminution or reduction in missile defense is not on the table and not part of any side agreement would have the desired outcome of protecting missile defense.
The core of the treaty is not what is raising the concerns of conservatives in the Senate. According to the New York Times, a central element of the treaty is that it “bars the United States and Russia from deploying more than 1,550 strategic warheads and 700 launchers.” The problem is the side agreement. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC)wrote on his blog in May that “the U.S. should not sign a treaty that weakens our ability to protect Americans and our allies from nuclear weapons. While our missile defense systems are currently engineered to deter threats from rogue nations like Iran and Syria, our goal should be to continue to improve and expand those defenses to protect our people from any nuclear threats.” DeMint is right on the money.
Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) has been a hero on this issue and pledged that “until I’m satisfied about some of these things, I will not be willing to allow the treaty to come up.” That is great news, yet Kyl also told the New York Times that he could support if the Administration agrees to “modernize the nuclear force, and the administration has proposed spending more than $100 billion over 10 years to sustain and modernize some strategic systems.” This may not be enough and a mistake. Conservative Senators have yet to be given access to the negotiating record containing the side agreement on missile defense. Also, a promise from President Obama does not hold much weight after his string of broken promises on the Stimulus (Administration promised unemployment to stay below 8%), on the health care individual mandate, and on closing GITMO.
Senator John Kerry said on Bloomberg TV that Republicans may not be given access to the negotiating agreement, but may be tossed a promise for modernization. Kerry said of the negotiating record “on the negotiating record. And they want assurances with respect to the modernization program on nuclear weapons. They ought to have that and we are willing – you know, I am going to try and get two out of three of those and the third is really up to the administration. The question on the negotiating record is the administration’s decision.” This seems to indicate that Senate Republicans will not be given the negotiating record. This is circumstantial evidence that they have something to hide and that President Obama may have negotiated away missile defense in an effort to buy better relations with Russia and to get them to sign the Treaty.
The bottom line is that there is a long way to go before conservatives should give an inch on the Treaty. A reservation to the effect that missile defense should not be shut down and access to the negotiation record are two simple requests that conservatives may need before allowing any further action on the New START Treaty this year.