My latest article is up at FrontPage.com and in it, I agree with John Kyl and other Republican senators that there simply isn’t enough time in the lame duck session of Congress to address the numerous questions that need clarifying before senators from both parties can make an informed judgment to advise and consent to the New START treaty.
The problem isn’t so much with the treaty itself, but with the politics being played by Democrats and the Obama administration. The president wants to ram the treaty through the Senate before the new congress is seated in January, fearing the influx of 10 new GOP senators will make ratification more difficult. He is willing to do this while questions regarding the president’s commitment to modernizing our nuclear force, pursuing a robust missile defense program, and ensuring the Russians don’t renege are being raised even by the treaty’s GOP supporters.
On top of all this, the administration has made the strategic blunder of overselling the importance of the treaty, speaking in apocalyptic terms about the failure to ratify the document in the lame duck session. Vice President Biden, not known for his rhetorical restraint, said on Wednesday, “Failure to pass the New Start treaty this year would endanger our national security,” adding that failure to ratify the treaty would mean there would be, “no verification regime to track Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal,” and that it might affect our relations with Russia on other, strategically vital matters such as imposing sanctions on Iran and the war in Afghanistan.
There are questions about the treaty’s verification standards, which the Obama administration has so far failed to address to the satisfaction of Kyl and other Republican senators. Some of the more robust verification procedures in the old START treaty have been scrapped while others have been altered. According to the Heritage Foundation’s Baker Spring, F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy, there are major flaws in the treaty’s verification regime:
* A narrowing of the requirements for exchanging telemetry on missile tests,
* A reduction in the effectiveness of the inspections,
* Weaknesses in the ability to verify the number of deployed warheads on ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs),
* Abolition of the START verification regime governing mobile ICBMs, and
* A weakening of the verification standards governing the elimination of delivery vehicles.
The treaty is supported by our entire military establishment. Indeed, the main sections of the treaty are fine - as far as arms control treaties go. But the devil is in the details and clarifying verification issues, asking questions about our ability to continue a missile defense program, and the administration’s failure to adequately address force modernization means that there just isn’t sufficient time in the lame duck session to get it all done.
Obama’s unseemly haste in this regard has more to do with politics, his own miserable standing in the polls, and his desire to make history rather than satisfying even those GOP senators who would be inclined to vote for New START. I sincerely hope that all of these questions can be answered in the 112th Congress so that all senators can weigh the merits of the treaty in its totality, rather than submit to White House pressure to get this done quickly.