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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 12/20/2010

Is START stuck?

By Jennifer Rubin

As of this writing, it is not clear if there are 67 votes in the Senate to ratify START. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced he would file for cloture on Tuesday, but aides and advocates on both sides of the issue are hesitant to predict how the final vote, which would take place on December 23, will go. This exchange between Chris Wallace and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) illustrates why the administration is having a tough time getting Republicans on board:

WALLACE: Senator Kyl, President Obama sent a letter to the Senate yesterday saying that he pledges that he is -- you smile, but he says that he pledges that he will construct a full missile defense in Europe and will continue on missile defense as long as he's president. Is that enough for you?

KYL: Oh, absolutely. Look, tell it to the Russians. Send a letter to the Russians. In fact, change the preamble to the treaty, which would eliminate any doubt about this issue. The problem here is that the United States in the past has kept missile defense off the table when talking about reducing strategic offensive weapons. That was the big issue at Reykjavik, Iceland when Gorbachev made what was a very enticing offer to President Reagan. President Reagan said, "No, I'm not going to give up U.S. missile defense for that." And we've kept it off the table in the meantime.

In the last arms control treaty with Russia in 2002 we absolutely separated the two issues. Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state who actually would otherwise support the treaty, said that we have to fix this problem in the ratification process. She calls it a worrisome issue, the reconnection of missile defense and strategic offense. That's in the preamble.

And the McCain amendment yesterday to just remove those words was defeated, Senator Kerry leading the effort on the Democratic side. "We will not permit an amendment to the treaty," he said.

In sum, the Republicans -- who have been denied access to the negotiating history -- suspect (correctly, I think) that the Russians don't share the administration's understanding of the treaty. For, if President Putin would readily agree that the preamble is not binding and there is no linkage between offensive and defensive weapons, then why wouldn't the Obama administration simply ask for that confirmation?

The administration's "no changes, no clarification" stance has fueled Republicans' concerns that on this, as with so many of our dealings with the Russians, the administration is far too willing to accommodate the Russians and far too hesitant to defend American interests.

On CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argued:

The McCain amendment yesterday, regarding missile defense was defeated. And I know the administration actually sent a letter up yesterday, indicating they're committed to missile defense.

But an equally important question is how do the Russians view missile defense? And how do our European allies view missile defense? And I'm concerned about it. I think if they'd taken more time with this -- rushing it right before Christmas, it strikes me as trying to jam us.

I think if they'd taken more time -- and I know that the members of the Foreign Relations Committee spent a lot of time on this, but the rest of us haven't. And so all of the sudden we're once again trying to rush things right here before Christmas Eve. I think that was not the best way to get the support of people like me.

Perhaps the administration will pull this out, but Obama officials have done themselves no favors by stiff-arming the Senate. And in this case, the intransigence may be a byproduct of poor negotiating with the Russians. Unless Republicans can satisfy themselves that the deal means what Obama say it does, and not what the treaty preamble says, it's going to be tough to get to 67 votes.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 20, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Senate GOP, foreign policy  
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Comments

4 Comments for 5 entries,you'd better get more directly involved with those that comment here,or WAPO is going to give up on you. Remember at Contentions,we'd have up to 500 comments on one issue.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 20, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Jennifer.sorry to go off topic here,but this is important. I know for a fact that you admire the Economist Hayek;you have expressed your admiration for him at Contentions. Well this article,is written by the winner of the 2010 Winner of the Hayek Prize for Economic Contribution.You can get John Steele Gordon,who admires you, to help you with this,in fact,a Debate between JSG,and Mr. Hinds would be awesome. Jennifer,this is the essence of Conservative Economics,I think you owe it to yourself and your readers to get involved with these issues.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703493504576007962677071424.html?mod=WSJ_hps_sections_opinion

Posted by: rcaruth | December 20, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Obama is looking for a cheap political win.

Congress better do their homework on this one, as Obama has proven that he is NOT a good negotiator.

Posted by: Benson | December 20, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Obama wanted this treaty so badly that I suspect his negotiators made secret concessions to the Russians on missile defense. Unless the Senate gets access to the diplomatic record or a letter from the Russians acknowledging that there is no linkage, then this otherwise modest treaty should be rejected.

Posted by: eoniii | December 20, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer, you're definitely entitled to have your opinion on the issue, however I suspect (correctly, I think) that you're writing about a topic you aren't well familiar with. But at least can you memorize that Dmitry Medvedev, not Vladimir Putin, is the president of Russia?

Posted by: eugene_ivanov | December 20, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Obama wanted this treaty so badly that I suspect his negotiators made secret concessions to the Russians on missile defense. Unless the Senate gets access to the diplomatic record or a letter from the Russians acknowledging that there is no linkage, then this otherwise modest treaty should be rejected.

It's good that you made your suspicions public,let's put in an emergency call to WikiLeaks.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 20, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer, you're definitely entitled to have your opinion on the issue, however I suspect (correctly, I think) that you're writing about a topic you aren't well familiar with. But at least can you memorize that Dmitry Medvedev, not Vladimir Putin, is the president of Russia?

Posted by: eugene_ivanov
---------------------------
Who do you think controls the puppet President Medvedev's strings? Prime Minister Putin. Jennifer is just suggesting going to the capo himself instead of the underling.

Posted by: eoniii | December 20, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Eoniii, going to the capo instead of the underling is a valid approach. The question is: does Ms. Rubin know the difference between the two? As her writings show, she doesn't. Another questions: what are the sources of your info? By the very thoughtfulness of your comment, it appears to me that it's primarily Ms. Rubin's blog.

Posted by: eugene_ivanov | December 20, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I am sort of curious if in the new congress, Republicans on the House Foreign Relations Committee simply can subpoena these records. If the answer is yes, Obama better hurry with the treaty.

Posted by: Mhym | December 20, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I am sort of curious if in the new congress, Republicans on the House Foreign Relations Committee simply can subpoena these records. If the answer is yes, Obama better hurry with the treaty.

Posted by: Mhym | December 20, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

From Steven Groves of the Heritage Foundation:

"Nor is the Senate bound by the fact that it was not provided access to the negotiating records for all treaties or for other arms control agreements, such as the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) treaties."

So, it's pretty much just a petty hurdle erected by Senate Republicans who want to deny Obama a victory. Any victory. They'd harm the strategic defense of the United States simply to score a few points. What patriots.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 20, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Senator Kerry, years ago when America was at war in southeast Asia, went to Hanoi for all the wrong reasons...

If Kerry is for it and Obama is for it and the Russians are for it.....it is a bad deal for America.

Start over....stop START during the lamest of ducks

Posted by: georgedixon1 | December 20, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Exact words from the Preamble: Good for the Republicans to tell Obama his pledge for missile defense will only be accepted if the treaty words are changed....don't trust Obama.

"...Recognizing the existence of the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms, that this interrelationship will become more important as strategic nuclear arms are reduced, and that current strategic defensive arms do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the Parties…"

The right of Russian withdrawal from the Treaty based on U.S. missile defense deployment beyond “current strategic” capabilities is implicit in this Treaty language. The Chief of the International Treaty Directorate in Russia’s Defense Ministry during the negotiation of New START, General Yevgeniy Buzinskiy, provides precisely this interpretation: “The sides agreed that the present strategic defensive arms are not undermining the viability and effectiveness of their strategic offensives forces. This makes it possible for us, in case the Americans increase their strategic ABM system, to claim that they are not observing [the terms] of the treaty.”

Posted by: powerange | December 20, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Re #1 rcaruth --yes, a crowded coop it was, a third of them from the 2 lonesome braverlibs, a third pummeling replies, lots of high-quality entertaining debate/commentary from yourself and other higher types (which kept us lower learners glued to the site, easy w/ fewer ad distractions) ... sigh great days ah yes we remember it well...

But Ms. Rubin, just keep doing what you're doing, *it is to be hoped* they'll come around again -- don't distract yourself with needless replies, interaction, -- you're our first stop after contentions! Great work, keep it up!

Posted by: aardunza | December 20, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Re #1 rcaruth --yes, a crowded coop it was, a third of them from the 2 lonesome braverlibs, a third pummeling replies, lots of high-quality entertaining debate/commentary from yourself and other higher types (which kept us lower learners glued to the site, easy w/ fewer ad distractions) ... sigh great days ah yes we remember it well...

But Ms. Rubin, just keep doing what you're doing, *it is to be hoped* they'll come around again -- don't distract yourself with needless replies, interaction, -- you're our first stop after contentions! Great work, keep it up!

Posted by: aardunza | December 20, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Just more Repub BS to try to deny The Prez another legislative victory. This is Repubs trying for payback after losing on DADT. Won't work, or at least it shouldn't. "Missile defense" is a joke. We're no nearer to an effective missile defense system than we were 20-30 yrs ago. Even if we were, we can't afford it.

If & when we ever come up with a viable system, one that actually destroys the missiles that are targeted (hasn't happened yet), then maybe it would be time to visit this issue, but not now & no time soon. This is not "stiff arming" Repub; any changes mean that the whole treaty has to be renegotiated. But it's nice to see that Rubin is still taking her talking points from the Republican Party leadership.

Posted by: nyskinsdiehard | December 20, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Here's a partial list of who endorses the ratification of the New START treaty:

* Current Sec. of Defense Gates, a Republican mind you, and all former Defense Secretaries who have expressed an opinion on the matter: James Schlesinger, William Cohen, William Perry, Frank Carlucci, and Harold Brown

* The entire uniformed leadership of the US military, including the heads of the Strategic Command and the Missile Defense Agency

* All the former commanders of the U.S. Strategic Command, seven of eight signing a joint letter to the Senate urging rapid approval

* Lt. Gen. Frank Klonz, head of Air Force Global Strike Command

* All living former Secretaries of State: George Shultz, James Baker, Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, Warren Christopher, Condoleezza Rice, and Lawrence Eagleburger.

* All living former National Security Advisors: Brent Scowcroft, Stephen Hadley, and Sandy Berger.

* NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and our NATO allies

* The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which voted 14-4 in favor of the treaty in September.

* Former President George H. W. Bush

Could all of these people, with all of their relevant expertise and experience in such matters, be wrong and only some demonstrably hyper-partisan Republican Senators be right?

Who else endorses the position of these Senate Republicans...well, aside from Iran, North Korea, and a few Heritage Foundation "scholars"?

Posted by: wireknob | December 20, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

The Preamble to the treaty states the interrelatedness of ABM to offensive weapons as more and more reductions in offensive weapons occurs. Period. That Russia could interpret US development of ABM's as an abrogation of the treaty is irrelevant. Russia could abbrogate the treaty anytime they wish, for whatever reasons they wish.

Clearly the fear is that Russia will threaten to interpret AMB development and deplyment as an abrogation of the treaty and we won't deploy ABM's under that threat. But the existance of the wording of the preamble is irrelevant to that threat. They could make such a threat with or without such wording in the preamble.

If irrelevant feel good wording is Russia's price, pay it. We get substantial and tangible good from this treaty. Let's not make a mountain out of a mole hill.

P.S. If Russia thinks differently about this treaty them we do it won't be the first, nor the last such treaty. However it behooves the administration to simply provide the history of the negotiations. If Russian diplomats have a totally different understanding of this treaty then we do then it's a pointless treaty. I seriously doubt that would be the case or no agreement could have been reached in the first place. I suspect there are those in the Senate who will interpret such a result should they find any potential differences in intepretation but that's happening anyway.

Posted by: kchses1 | December 20, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Can we not screw around and play politics with this please??? Look at the list of who's for it, then shut up Jennifer.

Posted by: danw1 | December 20, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

What's the hurry? Worried about national security or job security for an Obama administration? Just because they support it now doesn't mean they won't support a better-negotiated one later on. Hang tough, Senators. Is this an Argument from Authority?

Posted by: aardunza | December 20, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

aardunza, the hurry is because we haven't had nuclear arms inspectors in Russia for a year already, and a delay until the next session of Congress starts the process all over again (i.e., back to committee, etc.) and another long, drawn out process.

The Senate has already had this since April and it would it would have been dealt with earlier if Republicans didn't keep asking for delays, like Sen. Kyl who in early August asked to postpone until after the elections (in the lame-duck session).

I don't think the last three nuke treaties combined took up so much time in debate. Senate Republicans are just playing partisan politics. They don't have a compelling substantive argument against the treaty, so they argue about non-binding language and the process.

So why delay?

Posted by: wireknob | December 20, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

So, Rubin, I guess that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, and all the other military men & Secretaries of State have been hoodwinked over this treaty? But not Mitch McConnell.
And not you, right?
Man, you are sharp. What would the country do without you?

Posted by: nyskinsdiehard | December 20, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

The Republican opposition has nothing to do with the contents of the treaty document. It has everything to do with the Republican tactic of opposing anything Mr. Obama supports. This is a childish game, which in this case, might actually get somone killed.

Posted by: BBear1 | December 20, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Even chairman of joint chiefs Mullen supports this treaty. The post must not need my subscrition money. They seem to have no budget limitations for hiring repub shills,

Posted by: jimbobkalina1 | December 21, 2010 3:04 AM | Report abuse

Ratifying the treaty would be a small step in a positive direction toward reducing the likelihood of a nuclear war set off by a lunatic like, say, the military equivalent of a McCain or Kyl. The Just Say No gang is squirming some over having cooperated for the common good a little bit recently, and is looking for something safer to Just Say No about. Treaty probably won't go through. Probably won't matter much. Who was it who noted, "Nothing matters very much. In the long run, nothing matters at all." A British Prime Minister, I think, quoted in one of the Inspector Morse mysteries.

Posted by: frodot | December 21, 2010 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Ratifying the treaty would be a small step in a positive direction toward reducing the likelihood of a nuclear war set off by a lunatic like, say, the military equivalent of a McCain or Kyl. The Just Say No gang is squirming some over having cooperated for the common good a little bit recently, and is looking for something safer to Just Say No about. Treaty probably won't go through. Probably won't matter much. Who was it who noted, "Nothing matters very much. In the long run, nothing matters at all." A British Prime Minister, I think, quoted in one of the Inspector Morse mysteries.

Posted by: frodot | December 21, 2010 8:28 AM | Report abuse

NOT ratifying the treaty will make other countries think that President Obama is a weak leader and that is the Republican goal. Period, plain and simple. Republican could care less about our national security if it means that President Obama will be viewed in a positive light. Republicans and Mitch McConnell have made that perfectly clear.

Posted by: catmomtx | December 21, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: eoniii "Obama wanted this treaty so badly that I suspect his negotiators made secret concessions to the Russians on missile defense. Unless the Senate gets access to the diplomatic record or a letter from the Russians acknowledging that there is no linkage, then this otherwise modest treaty should be rejected."
---------------------
Apparently you are unaware of how international treaties work. If it not actually written in the document congress is voting on, it doesn't get ratified as part of the treaty and is non-enforceable. It wounldn't matter if Obama promised to wash Medvedev's car once a month, if its not specifically in there it doesn't have any weight nor is it enforceable.


Posted by: schnauzer21 | December 21, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

it's all Harry Reid's fault !!!!


Posted by: TheBabeNemo | December 21, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Stiff-arms the Senate? You're joking right, they've been as obstrutive as possibe for no good reason. The Treat was signed over six months ago and would have been brought up several times for cloture if it hadn't been for Kyl and his ilk. Stiff-arming? Hardly. He should be cracking some heads.

Posted by: wd1214 | December 21, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

The TRUTH:
McCain and Kye, and their GOP friends consider blocking anything Obama tries to be MORE important for Their Political Future than OUR NATION's Needs and Security.

That is a HORRIBLE Fact.

Traitors? In my opinion Yes (I am a retired Naval Aviator)

Posted by: lufrank1 | December 21, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

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