The Democrats seem determined to ratify this bad treaty. Can the Republicans stop them?


Rich Lowry

At the upper reaches of the Republican party there’s a consensus on the New START treaty: It’s a mistake. In exclusive statements to NRO, top Republicans nationally — and potential 2012 presidential candidates — lambaste the treaty as a deeply flawed document that should be revised or scrapped altogether.

Newt Gingrich says the Obama administration “must make ironclad commitments” that the U.S. will modernize its nuclear forces and move forward with comprehensive missile defenses, “and the Russians must know of these commitments and agree that they will not affect their own obligations under the treaty.

“Unless this happens,” he concludes, “the treaty should not be ratified.”

“The New START treaty, touted by proponents as proof that the ‘reset button’ is working,” says Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, “favors Russia more than it favors us. Moscow almost certainly views this lopsided treaty as a sign of American weakness, which will only encourage Russia to seek additional gains in the bilateral relationship.”

Mitt Romney, who has been a prominent critic of the treaty, says it should be “a non-starter.” He argues that it “could be [President Obama’s] worst foreign-policy mistake yet.”

“As it stands now,” says Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, “the treaty is deeply flawed.”

If all goes according to plan, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry (D., Mass.) will force a committee vote on the treaty tomorrow, sending it to the Senate floor for debate by the full Senate.

The treaty — signed by President Obama and Russian president Dmitri Medvedev in Prague on April 8 — would limit the intercontinental-ballistic-missile (ICBM), submarine-launched-ballistic-missile (SLBM), and heavy-bomber nuclear armaments of the United States and the Russian Federation to 1,550 deployed warheads for each side, a 30 percent reduction from the limits imposed by the 2002 Moscow Treaty.

The treaty enjoys broad Democratic support in the Senate, and it has the backing of key Senate Republicans like Richard Lugar of Indiana, Senator Kerry’s counterpart on the Foreign Relations Committee. But a group of Senate Republicans led by Jon Kyl of Arizona has expressed deep concerns with the terms as they stand, arguing that the treaty will hinder the United States’ ability to defend itself from nuclear attack while leaving Russia with a massive warhead advantage.

Senator Kerry has signaled that the final consideration of the treaty will be pushed into the lame-duck session after the midterm elections, so that it might be debated “without any politics [or] election atmospherics.” But with 67 votes needed for ratification, and the expectation of significant Republican pickups in the Senate in November, Democrats are eager to ratify it before the 112th Congress is seated in January, making the next few months crunch time for supporters and opponents alike.

Senate Republicans who go along with Kerry’s rush to ratification will do it against the tide of opinion in their own party, whose leaders believe President Obama has been out-negotiated on a treaty that harms the interests of the United States.