What did the Republicans get on START?
There has been much teeth-gnashing on the right over ratification of START. But conservatives should keep in mind several points.
First, thanks to Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) the Republicans secured amendment 4904 to the New START Resolution of Ratification. That requires the president, as a Republican guru on Capitol Hill explained, to "certify prior to entry into force of the treaty that it is the policy of the United States to qualitatively and quantitatively improve the U.S. missile defense system." For a president who came into office pledging to cut U.S. missile defense capabilities, this is progress.
The amendment also reiterates the U.S.position that "deployment of these systems does not constitute a basis for questioning the effectiveness and viability of the treaty, and therefore would not give rise to circumstances justifying Russian withdrawal from the Treaty." Would it have been better for the Russians to agree to this? Of course, but it's something, at least. The point is for the U.S. to go forward with missile defense. If the Russians pull out, so what?
That's not all. There is also amendment 4864, which requires the president to pledge to modernize or replace the triad of strategic nuclear delivery systems. Amendment 4892 requires that the president accelerate "the design and engineering phase of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) building and the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF); and request full funding, including on a multi-year basis as appropriate, for these facilities upon completion of the design and engineering phase for such facilities."
All of that, along with reporting requirements concerning efforts to modernize our nuclear weapons, is quite a reversal for a president who pledge to "rid the world" of nuclear weapons.
It took a poorly negotiated treaty, a tenacious Jon Kyl and the efforts of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to coax Obama into a reasonable position on nuclear weapons and defense. And if the Russians cheat or withdraw, we will still, if Congress holds the president's feet to the fire, have a modern nuclear weapons system and a robust missile defense. That's not nothing.
| December 24, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
Categories: National Security
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