The President used his weekly remarks to talk about the stalled “START” treaty with Russia. The President, despite being rebuffed by chief Republican negotiator John Kyl, is pressing for a vote by the lame duck Senate, where he will need 67 votes for passage. The President has decided to fight, and his enlisted the foreign policy establishment, including a heavy dose of Republican elder statesmen, to make the case for passage.
“It is a national security imperative that the United States ratify the New Start treaty this year,” said Mr. Obama, flanked by Henry A. Kissinger, James A. Baker III and Brent Scowcroft, all of whom served Republican presidents. “There is no higher national security priority for the lame-duck session of Congress.”
Republican opposition seems to be coming from the neo-con wing of the party, with such stalwarts as John Bolton, Rush Limbaugh and others seeing an opportunity to wound the President politically and revive big spending on a missile shield and an expansion of nuclear arms. Flying in the face of bipartisan support and of strong support from our military, these Republicans also appear to not want a resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue without a military confrontation.
The President cited Ronald Reagan in his remarks, pointing to the “trust but verify” comment made by Reagan with regards to arms control agreements. Mutual inspections of nuclear stockpiles between the U.S. and Russia have been suspended pending the ratification of this agreement. The split between Republicans and the military on this issue is intriguing, and should be a signal that there really is not going to be a lot of bipartisan agreement coming down the pike. From the Washington Post:
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has called the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) “essential to our future security.” Retired generals have been so concerned about getting it ratified that some have traveled around the country promoting it.
Seven of eight former commanders of U.S. nuclear forces have urged the Senate to approve the treaty.
What does the military know about this? Not much if you listen to the neocons.
John Bolton, a conservative at the American Enterprise Institute, said that rather than drawing down on its stockpile, the United States should expand it, especially because China is modernizing its own nuclear forces, and Iran and North Korea are developing nuclear programs. He said it was wrong to see the treaty simply through a military prism.
John Bolton is one of the most dangerous cranks in the country, espousing policies that would plunge us into war in several different global hotspots (like Korea and Iran). He apparently now represents mainstream Republican thinking on arms control. Good luck to the President on getting this treaty ratified. He is an underdog in the lame duck session.
Read the Washington Post story here
Read the New York Times story here. .