Nuclear Weapons

The Reports of the START Treaty’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

There has been some overblown reporting this week that Senator Kyl (R-AZ) opposes a vote on the New START Treaty in the lame duck session and this will kill consideration of the treaty this year. This is a drastic misinterpretation. The statement actually released directly from Sen. Kyl said the following:

When Majority Leader Harry Reid asked me if I thought the treaty could be considered in the lame duck session, I replied I did not think so given the combination of other work Congress must do and the complex and unresolved issues related to START and modernization. I appreciate the recent effort by the Administration to address some of the issues that we have raised and I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Kerry, DOD, and DOE officials.

While it is not the most encouraging statement, it is important to note that he did not say no. The consensus among experts is that this is more posturing and stall tactics from Kyl and that plans are moving forward for a lame duck vote.

In fact, a senator from his own party—Senator Lugar (R-IN)—hit back on Kyl pretty hard today. He urges the Democratic Leadership to cut off negotiations and force an up or down vote immediately, to make Republican Senators get off the fence and stop the political games.

I’m advising that the treaty should come on the floor so people will have to vote aye or nay [even if there’s no deal]. I think when it finally comes down to it, we have a sufficient number of senators who do have a sense of our national security. This is the time, this is the priority. Do it.

You can watch Senator Lugar get all riled up yourself after the jump:

There is no doubt, however, that with only a few weeks of legislative business left in the lame duck session, the work to ratify New START this year is heating up. One of the major obstacles to holding a vote has been Senator Jon Kyl’s (R-AZ) insistence that the administration needs to make even larger investments in “modernizing” the nuclear arsenal above and beyond the exorbitant increases they have already promised. Last weekend, the Washington Post reported that the Obama administration is offering an additional $4.1 billion for the nuclear weapons complex over the next 5 years, but only if New START is ratified by the end of the year.

We are opposed to any kind of deal giving away nuclear pork in exchange for the New START Treaty. Our support has always been for the core treaty, which is necessary to move us forward toward eliminating nuclear weapons and does not itself contain any promises of future funding. While the proposed budget increase is a disappointing setback, the funding isn’t set in stone and we will continue push back in Congress through the yearly appropriations process and work with allies to cut unnecessary funding every step of the way.

Meanwhile, it has been proven yet again that majority public opinion is solidly in favor of this treaty: in a new CNN poll, 73% of Americans say that the Senate should ratify. And the support crosses party lines, even 6 out of 10 Republicans are in favor of ratification!

All of this back and forth just reinforces how incredibly important it is that we and other groups in the community (as well as the Obama administration) are turning it up to eleven! Treaty experts are hitting the airwaves and op-ed pages in target states, and Peace Action West is spear-heading a national campaign to flood Senate offices with phone calls. Every Senator needs to get the message that they need to vote Yes on the New START Treaty, and they need to hear it now.

4 replies »

  1. There is no hurry to ratify this treaty.

    Treaties are just pieces of paper anyway.

    No piece of paper has ever stopped a bullet–or a missile.

    • At Peace Action West, we believe that the path to a more peaceful world necessitates the US working together, cooperatively, with other nations. Treaties are an important step in that work, as it turns agreements and concepts into binding international law, as well as US law. We will continue to encourage our government to sit down and work out agreements with many nations, including Russia, to make all the citizens of the world safer.

      For a more concrete example: in the mid-80s, the US and Russian nuclear weapons arsenals together amounted to something upwards of 65,000 weapons. Through a series of arms control treaties, our combined arsenals are now around 21,000. We think that the world can eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons by continuing this trend with stronger and more specific treaties and international structures.

    • In Europe there is a ban on handguns (only registered hunters may acquire weapons), the death penalty is illegal and their homicide rate is negligible compared to the U.S. All of the above were written on paper and stopped bullets.