Nuclear Weapons

Jon Kyl: hypocrite holding our security hostage

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) gazes adoringly at a nuclear weapon

While the media was obsessed with its favorite kidnapping story, they have failed to notice that Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) has been holding our security hostage by using partisan tactics to delay ratification of New START in exchange for $10 billion in ransom money for the nuclear weapons complex.

From the beginning, we knew that false claims about the need to “modernize” our nuclear arsenal (read: build new nuclear weapons) would enter into the debate around New START and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Despite scientific evidence that current programs in place can safely maintain our arsenal as we reduce its size, Jon Kyl and other members of Congress are trying to argue that the exorbitant amount of money the Obama administration is allocating to the nuclear weapons complex is insufficient.

In an example of what I would consider an unwise negotiating strategy, the Obama administration anticipated these arguments and increased the budget for the nuclear weapons complex by 10% (while declaring a spending freeze on critical domestic funding no less) prior to any debate on New START.  While the Obama administration’s Nuclear Posture Review states that they have no intention of building new nuclear weapons, they are setting the stage for future weapons development by increasing the US’s capacity to build weapons.  New weapons production could quickly and easily be ramped up by a president who does not share President Obama’s commitment to nuclear nonproliferation (or as one of my colleagues puts it when arguing against this increase, President Palin. Shudder).  While many viewed this investment in the nuclear weapons complex, along with a ten year modernization plan promising $180 billion for the complex and delivery vehicles, as a way to isolate Kyl in the debate around nuclear weapons treaties, quite the opposite has happened.  While only two senators have stated their intention to vote against New START, many are waiting to hear that Kyl is satisfied before they are willing to throw in their support.  Kyl is slowing down the entire process, and has far more power than he should in this debate, not less.

New START is a modest but important treaty.  Similar arms agreements have passed by large bipartisan margins.  As of today, it has been 252 days since the previous START agreement expired, meaning 252 days without on-site monitoring and verification of Russia’s arsenal.  Reinstating that verification and demonstrating a US commitment to reducing nuclear weapons are critical to US national security, but Sen. Kyl is hijacking the process for $10 billion in unneeded nuclear weapons pork.

Given Kyl’s obstinacy on this key national security issue, I was struck by the irony of his position regarding President Obama’s immigration policy:

Last month, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona accused the administration of holding the Southwest border “hostage” by using border security as an immigration-reform bargaining chip.

Apparently using security as a bargaining chip is only OK when Jon Kyl does it. Kyl and other Republican senators who are delaying consideration of New START need to stop playing politics with nuclear security and accept the scientific evidence that the nuclear weapons stockpile is safe and reliable.  If they don’t, the Obama administration and their fellow senators need to call them on their obstruction, and force them to choose in a floor vote on New START if they are really going to oppose a treaty that every reasonable foreign policy expert supports.

3 replies »