Americns deserve a real debate on the new nuclear arms treaty with Russia. Yet, proponents of the treaty insist on engaging in ad hominem attacks against anyone who dares to raise concerns about the treaty. On a debate of this magnitude, proponents and opponents alike should stick to the policy, not the politics.
A relic of the Cold War, the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) fails to address Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal and the growing nuclear threats posed by Iran and North Korea. Instead, it limits America’s defensive and offensive systems while providing minimal restrictions on Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
One of the most egregious arguments peddled by New START proponents is that no reasonable arms control expert is opposed to New START. That is blatantly false. Americans deserve honesty in this debate. The truth is the modern-day GOP arms control establishment is against New START.
The list of experts is large: Eric Edelman, former undersecretary of defense for Policy; Robert Joseph, former undersecretary of state for arms control and international security; former UN Ambassador John Bolten; Paula A. DeSutter, former assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance; Kim Holmes, former assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs; and former Sen. Jim Talent (R.-Mo).
This group represents the new era of GOP arms control experts. They are not rooted in the Cold War; instead, they understand today’s threat is diverse, asymmetric and growing. Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), James Schlesinger, Henry Kissinger, and Stephen Hadley are not representative of the GOP arms control establishment—they represent the past.
Despite claims to the contrary, the debate is not over. It is just beginning. Edelman and Joseph point out that even the aforementioned self-anointed GOP foreign policy kings have expressed concerns over limitations on missile defense, conventional arms, etc.
In the interest of advancing that debate, Edelman and Joseph identified a path toward addressing the treaty’s liabilities: 1) allow senators to view the negotiating records; 2) issue a joint US-Russian statement on the rail loophole; and, 3) reject future limitations on missile defense or conventional arms.
Absent those modifications, the Senate should reject the treaty.
Although additional concerns remain, Edelman and Joseph provide an analysis worthy of this debate. Senators must also consider whether Russia’s massive tactical nuclear arsenal and proven record of non-compliance further undermine an already weak treaty.
Now, compare their approach to that of Senators Lugar and John Kerry (D.-Mass.), who have characterized similar critiques as hyperbolic and partisan. A debate on America’s national security should not be plagued by their dismissive rhetoric. We deserve a genuine debate on the serious security issues raised by treaty opponents.
Unfortunately, Sen. Lugar, the ranking member of the foreign relations committee, is doing little to facilitate the genuine and thorough debate Americans deserve. He has refused to stand with his GOP colleagues on the committee and demand access to the treaty negotiating records, answers to official Questions for the Record or even-handed hearings.
We have seen this before. Americans are now intimately familiar with how Congress can ram unwanted policies down the collective throat of the American people—Obamacare, TARP and the stimulus immediately come to mind.
Despite their desire to rush the debate and force a vote out of committee, Sen. Kerry and the administration relented. In a letter to the committee, Kerry advised “senators should be prepared to mark up a resolution of advice and consent on September 15 or 16.”
Clearly, the inside-Washington, liberal, foreign-policy elites remains committed to ratifying the treaty this fall. Between now and then, the American people need to make their voices heard.
There is no need to rush consideration of the treaty. The Senate needs to slow down, engage in a legitimate dialogue with the American people and demonstrate, definitively, the treaty does not undermine America’s national security. If it fails to do that, the treaty must be rejected.