Feature

Nuclear treaty: Why the GOP is balking

After 21 Senate hearings and months of negotiations, GOP leaders are now balking at supporting the administration’s New START treaty with Russia.

To undermine President Obama, Republicans will even endanger national security, said The New York Times in an editorial. After 21 Senate hearings and months of negotiations between Republican Sen. Jon Kyl and the White House, Kyl and GOP leaders are now balking at supporting the administration’s New START treaty with Russia. The treaty would replace the expired START 1, reducing Russian and U.S. deployed nuclear warheads from 2,200 to 1,550 and restarting inspections so we can make sure that none of Russia’s nukes go missing and wind up in the hands of terrorists. The Pentagon and “Republican foreign policy experts from Henry Kissinger to Condoleezza Rice” all support the treaty, which needs 67 Senate votes for ratification, said Jay Bookman in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Online. Sen. Richard Lugar, the Senate’s arms-control expert, says his fellow Republicans have a “duty” to support it, for the good of the country. But will they?

What’s the rush? said Clifford D. May in National Review Online. The 2010 election “changed the political landscape,” and a new group of Republican senators is about to be seated. Let’s give the new members a chance to figure out if New START is yet another Obama administration attempt to weaken our standing with the Russians and the world. The GOP’s new review should start with missile defense, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. The Russians insist that the treaty’s language prohibits the U.S. from developing an anti-ballistic missile-defense system “without Russian consent.” The White House disputes that, but since “Obama campaigned against missile defense,” he may well have bargained it away. “Republicans should take their time and follow Ronald Reagan’s advice to trust but verify—not so much Russian promises as Mr. Obama’s.”

More than New START is at stake here, said David McKean in The Boston Globe. Obama’s efforts to defrost our relationship with Russia have “borne fruit in areas such as sanctions on Iran.” But if the president can’t win ratification of New START, the Russians will conclude he lacks “the political muscle to bring an agreement into force,” and Obama “will lose credibility on the world stage.” When John F. Kennedy staked his presidency on a nuclear test ban accord with the Soviets, Republican Senate leader Everett Dirksen helped win its ratification. Politics used to stop “at the water’s edge. Hopefully, those days don’t belong to history.”

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