With Tea Party darlings such as Rand Paul among the incoming Republican Senators, many observers are wondering how the growing GOP Senate caucus will respond to the pending nuclear disarmament treaty between the U.S. and Russia. New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), which President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev signed in April, would reduce the number of, restrict the deployment of, and modernize the protection of nuclear warheads possessed by both nations. But, months later, the Senate has still not ratified the treaty, and it's unclear whether that will happen in either the lame duck session or once the new Senators take their seats in early 2011. Here's what foreign policy wonks, as well as conservative pundits on both sides of the argument, have to say.
- Tea Party Likely to Oppose Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin writes, "If the Senate vote on the New START nuclear reduction treaty with Russia is postponed until next year, the new Tea Party-affiliated senators are likely to vote no." Kentucky Senator-elect Rand Paul is among them. "Yes votes are equally unlikely from other Tea Party-affiliated freshman senators, such as Florida Republican Senator-elect Marco Rubio. ... But the Tea Party senators will only get to weigh in on New START if the administration's plan to vote on the treaty during this year's lame duck session of Congress falls apart."
- Republican Leaders Urge 'Delay' Politico's Laura Rozen reports, "a Nov. 5 memo from the Republican Policy Committee to Senate GOP staffers asserts that 'it’s not time for the Senate to vote' on the U.S.-Russian strategic arms control treaty. ... Some observers interpreted the memo as more about tactical positioning than signaling an absolute GOP intention to block a Senate ratification vote by the end of the year. 'I read it as a tactical move to extract more concessions,' from the administration, the Center for American Progress’ Russia expert Samuel Charap told POLITICO."
- Dem Leaders Seeking Swift Passage Senate Foreign Relations committee chair John Kerry wants Democrats to move for passage during the lame-duck session and before new Republicans take their seats, reports Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin. Mainly Republicans oppose this. Rogin also reports "the package of incentives [Vice President Joe] Biden is putting together for [GOP Senator Jon] Kyl in addition to the $80 billion the administration already pledged for nuclear modernization and nuclear stockpile maintenance. Biden has been working the phones with GOP senators and spoke with Kyl very recently."
- GOP Should Pass START The Washington Post's Robert Kagan, whose work with David Petraeus formed the basis of the much-heralded "surge" in Iraq, urges passage. "I fear Republicans are missing the bigger strategic picture. New START, whatever its flaws, is not a threat to U.S. security. The three previous arms-control treaties, all negotiated by Republican presidents, cut deployed nuclear weapons from near 12,000 to around 2,000. New START reduces the totals to 1,550. Passing it will neither produce a nuclear-free utopia nor disarm the United States. But blocking the treaty will produce three unfortunate results: It will strengthen Vladimir Putin, let the Obama administration off the hook when Russia misbehaves and set up Republicans as the fall guy if and when U.S.-Russian relations go south."
- GOP Shouldn't Pass START In the New York Times, senior Bush administration officials John Bolton and John Yoo warn that New START is "a Trojan horse. Any senators who fall for this ploy will not only imperil our safety, they will also undermine the Senate’s formidable powers in the treaty-making process. New Start’s faults are legion. The low limits it would place on nuclear warheads ignore the enormous disparities between American and Russian global responsibilities and the importance of America’s 'nuclear umbrella' in maintaining international security. The treaty’s constraints on launching platforms would impede Washington’s ability to use conventional warheads even in conflicts far from any Russian interest or responsibility. There are plenty of other deficiencies, from inadequate verification provisions to leaving Moscow’s extensive tactical nuclear weapons capabilities unlimited."