Tim Pawlenty, a prominent voice in conservative domestic-policy debates but comparatively quiet on foreign policy, has “serious concerns” with the very premise of the treaty and what he calls the “dangerous and naïve belief that cuts in our nuclear weapons will somehow discourage proliferation by other regimes, when the exact opposite result is more likely.”
Governor Pawlenty, a likely contender for the GOP presidential nomination, calls New START a “distraction” from more pressing nuclear threats emerging in Iran and North Korea.
Gingrich, who is openly pondering a presidential run, also cited Iran as a priority. “Iran is doggedly pursuing nuclear weapons and the missiles to launch them,” Gingrich says. “This would give that regime, whose leaders ascribe to the ideology of radical Islamism, the ability to carry out the unthinkable. Now is not
the time to ratify an arms-control treaty without ironclad assurances that the U.S. can deploy a comprehensive missile-defense system to protect America and our allies.”
Mitt Romney, a candidate in 2008 and likely to be one again in 2012, cites the treaty’s explicit ban on the conversion of American ICBM silos into missile-defense sites, and Russia’s threat to vacate the treaty should it think the U.S. has moved to bolster its missile-interception capabilities. He also points to a glaring lacuna in New START that would leave the vast majority of Russia’s nuclear warheads untouched. “Obama heralds a reduction in strategic weapons from approximately 2,200 to 1,550,” Romney says, “but fails to mention that Russia will retain more than 10,000 nuclear warheads” categorized as “tactical” because they are mounted on missiles that cannot reach the United States. “But surely they can reach our allies, nations that depend on us for a nuclear umbrella.”
Senator Thune, a member of the Armed Services Committee who is also frequently mentioned as a potential 2012 candidate, calls New START “a missed opportunity” by President Obama. “Instead of providing clarity,” he explains, “New START creates troubling ambiguities about vital U.S. national-security interests such as missile defense and maintaining an effective nuclear triad of bombers, submarines, and ICBMs.”
You can read Pawlenty’s entire statement here, Gingrich’s here, Thune’s here, and Romney’s here.
Rising conservative star Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina has hammered the treaty on NRO and in U.S. News, maintaining that it “dampens the U.S. ability to defend against missile attacks and makes America and her allies vulnerable to rogue nations while receiving nothing for our concessions.”
Then there’s our favorite dark-horse candidate in 2012, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton. He has criticized New START at length in the pages of National Review and the Wall Street Journal. “This treaty is harmful to American interests in many, many ways,” Bolton tells NRO. “I can’t imagine that any serious candidate for the Republican nomination could be anything other than strongly opposed.”
– Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. Daniel Foster is news editor of National Review Online.