Senate Republicans Getting Played on the Russian-friendly Strategic Arms Treaty

The conservative movement has had to battle a lot over the last few years, for the number of terrible policies, pushed aggressively and relentlessly by Barak Obama, is truly staggering. It has caused us to triage out of necessity. Unfortunately, one national security issue that has received short shrift is the treaty the President negotiated with the Russians—his new START (“Strategic Arms Treaty”)—and if we’re not careful, it could very well slip through the Senate in the fall. The treaty needs more far more attention devoted to it, because it is so one-sided in favor of Russia (details below) that it strains one’s comprehension as to how the U.S. Senate could ratify it.

The treaty can be stopped, since 67 votes are needed, but it’s going to require Senate Republicans to declare their opposition now. Unfortunately, only two Senators—Jim DeMint and Jim Inhofe—are outright opposed to date. The rest of the Republicans are “keeping their powder dry,” either completely radio silent or merely willing to voice muffled concerns in order to buy some time. No doubt it did not help that Senator Richard Lugar, the head Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, caved even before the treaty was submitted to the Senate (how is that for due diligence?).

Defeating START is going to require a loud, full-throated opposition from the Republican leadership—namely Senators McConnell, Kyl (who has been spending far too much time negotiating for short-term nuclear modernization funds), and Thune (doesn’t he want to be president?)—need to come out in strong opposition, and they need to do it soon.

The conventional wisdom of Senate Republicans is that it’s better to be coy and get something in return if their votes are seen “gettable.” But this isn’t very smart. START is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition for the Administration. Obama is not going to be willing to make real changes if he knows that Republicans will never walk away from the table and just say no. My guess is that the Administration already assumes they have many Senate Republicans votes, and now they just need to haggle over the price. By dithering, Republicans are losing precious time needed to rally the public against the treaty and to educate them on the following problems.

START restricts the U.S.’s ability to build up its missile defense capabilities, which is anathema to the Russians. It explicitly prohibits the U.S. from converting current silos and submarine tubes used to launch ballistic missiles into those used to launch missile defense interceptors. It “recognizes the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms…and [the importance of ensuring] that current strategic defensive arms do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the Parties.” This is the sort of screwed-up logic that argues that it is somehow a problem that our missile defenses might limit the potential effect of Russia’s nuclear weapons. The entire point of a missile defense is to limit the effectiveness of offensive capabilities of other countries, whatever their source. START also allows the Russians to opt out of the treaty if they decide that any “extraordinary event related to the subject matter of this Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests.” Moscow has stated that it would consider a U.S. increase in its missile defense capabilities as just such an event, and given the Obama Administration’s commitment to this treaty and their poor record on missile defense, it seems unlikely that they would ever call the Russians’ bluff.

START’s problems are certainly not limited to missile defense. The U.S. has more deployed strategic warheads, and START sets a 1,500 cap, a level that Russia would have little difficulty meeting already yet one that would require the U.S. to absorb major reductions. START also caps the number of missile launchers at a level that Russia is already below, while the U.S. will have to make major reductions in its number of launchers. The treaty weakens the verification measures, which of course is what you want to avoid, when you have a country like Russia that is a serial violator of its treaty obligations. Again, more one-sidedness, and these are just the “high” points of the treaty. For more information, see here.

START projects untold weakness to our enemies around the world, especially with countries such as Iran and North Korea. It should be dead on arrival in the Senate.

By refusing to declare their opposition to START, Senate Republicans are getting played, just like the President got played by the Russians. If you agree, go here and sign a petition to oppose the treaty and help put pressure on the Senate.