The Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, has decided to do what the U.S. Senate should have done, and take its time ratifying the START nuclear arms treaty. A Russian official said ratification “could only happen next month at the earliest,” according to a Fox News report.
This isn’t terribly embarrassing for President Obama, whose diplomatic ineptitude is already a known quantity. We’ll have another month or so to learn all of the ways Russia ate his lunch when the START treaty was put together, but we already knew his “solid B-plus” presidency was a D-minus in foreign policy, and that’s grading on a curve Jimmy Carter already bent out of shape.
It’s more of a humiliation for the chummy Republicans he was able to roll in the Senate. They fell all over themselves to hand the President an unearned political victory, ignoring the serious concerns of those were actually reading this treaty and thinking about its ramifications. The Republican senators who fell for the notion they needed to pass START right this instant will get to squirm for a few weeks while the Duma folds it into origami bears.
Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Duma foreign affairs committee, said “We don’t have the right to leave [the U.S. Senate’s] interpretations unanswered. Otherwise, it may give additional advantages to our American partners – or possibly opponents. We need to balance those advantages.” I hope Dick Lugar is taking notes! Once he finishes studying them, perhaps he could ring up the members of his caucus who had the wisdom to oppose hasty ratification of this treaty and apologize to them.
One of the discussion points that will keep the Federation Council busy during January is the linkage between offensive and defensive weapons, which START shills like John Kerry assured us was meaningless fluff in the treaty preamble with “no legal and binding impact whatsoever.” At pretty much the exact moment he was saying this, the Russian news agency ITAR-Tass was reporting “the treaty will have a legally binding provision on the link between strategic offensive and defensive weapons and will affirm the increasing importance of this link amid the reduction of strategic offensive weapons.” The clear-headed Republicans who tried to address this with an amendment were told to stop worrying and chill out.
This is important, because START concedes a permanent advantage in tactical weapons to the Russians, which is supposed to be no big deal because we’ve got the upper hand in strategic weapons and missile defense technology. Obama promised Republicans he wouldn’t give away missile defense, but the Duma is thinking of passing a resolution asserting that’s exactly what he just did. It’s highly unlikely Obama would pull out of the treaty if they do, in order to appease a Republican caucus that was holding him hostage just a few short weeks ago, and keep spending money that could be pumped into black-hole social programs on something silly like a nuclear missile shield.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedv gave Obama a condescending pat on the head this morning, telling a Russian TV audience “He did a great job, succeeding in his push for the ratification of this very important document, the New START, in quite difficult conditions. I told him: Barack, you have a rest now.” You deserve that rest too, Johnny Isakson and Lisa Murkowski! Your Russian counterparts will take it from here. I’m sure they’ll be gracious enough to refrain from laughing at you on camera. Maybe they’ll even take pity on you and squeeze it through while American voters are still woozy enough from New Years’ Eve to believe it’s a “foreign policy triumph.”