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Jay Bookman: GOP playing crass politics with nuclear treaty

GOP playing crass politics with nuclear treaty

7:55 am November 22, 2010, by Jay

According to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ratification of the New START treaty with Russia is “essential to our future security.” Every single member of the joint chiefs backs him in that conclusion.

Republican foreign policy experts from Henry Kissinger to Condoleezza Rice also urge the treaty’s approval by the U.S. Senate, noting that without the treaty, the United States will be unable to inspect Russia’s nuclear arsenal, unable to carry out Ronald Reagan’s dictum of “trust but verify.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has challenged his fellow party members to have the guts to step forward and do their duty to their country.

“Every senator has an obligation in the national security interest to take a stand, to do his or her duty,” Lugar said last week. “Maybe people would prefer not to do his or her duty right now. Sometimes when you prefer not to vote, you attempt to find reasons not to vote.”

“If we don’t get the treaty, [the Russians] are not constrained in their development of force structure and… we have no insight into what they’re doing,” according to Gen. Kevin Chilton, head of the U.S. Strategic Command. “So it’s the worst of both possible worlds.”

But Senate Republicans refuse to step up to approve the arms control pact, which requires a two-thirds majority. None of their professed “reasons” make sense. For example, they complain that not enough is being spent on modernizing the nation’s existing nuclear arsenal, which will retain 1,550 warheads. Yet the Obama administration has committed $84 billion over 10 years to the task, which many experts say is unnecessary and which is considerably more than the Bush administration had spent.

Yet it is allegedly not enough. Not as long as President Barack Obama occupies the White House. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has publicly and repeatedly announced that his No. 1 goal over the next two years is to defeat Obama, and this demonstrates the ludricrous, dangerous lengths that he is willing to take to achieve that goal.

It is telling that in 2002, when President Bush brought an arms reduction treaty before the Senate, it passed by a vote of 100-0.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, Republican of Georgia. voted in favor of the treaty in committee, but has not promised to supporting it in a floor vote. He can be contacted at his Senate office. His seatmate, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, is also noncommittal. He too can be contacted at his Senate office.

There is no excuse for this, no rationalization that explains it in any way other than a crass political ploy on an issue of unchallenged national security importance.

It is shameful.


UPDATE: Here’s Sam Nunn explaining why it’s important to ratify the treaty.

Take action now! Click here to learn what you can do to help ratify New START.

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