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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Political posturing hurting U.S. security

Telegraph Editorial

The Obama administration’s efforts to scale back dangerous vestiges of the old Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union were undermined this week by the new partisan Cold War boiling up on Capitol Hill.

Enter Nevada Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, who essentially pounded his shoe in defiance of the New Start arms control treaty the administration negotiated with Russia earlier this year. It modestly reduces the number of nuclear warheads stockpiled by both nations and restores on-site inspections. It is also an important threshold in efforts to further improve direct bi-lateral relations as well as joint cooperation on several other issues, including organizing international opposition to Iran’s nuclear arms program.

Moscow has recently responded to the president’s efforts to “reset” relations by supporting the latest U.N. sanctions against Iran and backing off a 2007 contract to supply Iran with sophisticated Russian defense missile systems. Russia has also embraced NATO operations in Afghanistan by allowing vital military supplies to be transported across its territory. The Kremlin has made its position clear that the New START treaty is an essential component of renewed reciprocity.

After stringing along the president and congressional Democrats for several months, demanding and getting more money for modernizing the nation’s nuclear weapons facilities, Kyl copped out Tuesday issuing a sanctimoniously vague press release citing undefined “complex and unresolved” issues as reasons for his determination there is not enough time to act during the lame-duck congressional session.

The time to act would have been weeks ago, still well after the more than 20 Senate hearings and countless congressional briefings regarding the treaty clarified its provisions and permutations.

Kyl may still be confused, but six former secretaries of state, five former secretaries of defense and seven former nuclear weapons commanders aren’t. They believe the treaty is in the nation’s best interests. So does the current Secretary of State Robert Gates as well as arguably the most respected nuclear arms expert in Congress, Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar.

These highly knowledgeable authorities grasp the reality that the world is no longer bi-polar. If the United States and Russia can’t agree to reduce their arsenals they lose substantial credibility in any subsequent efforts to limit nuclear proliferation. The result will likely be multi-polar nuclear chaos.

This is why the president is right when on Thursday, flanked by Henry A. Kissinger, James Baker and Brent Scowcroft, he warned, “It is a national security imperative that the United States ratify the New Start treaty this year. There is no higher national security priority for the lame-duck session of Congress.”

With so many overpowering arguments supporting the agreement, it doesn’t take a cynic to conclude Kyl’s opposition is motivated by more than concerns over the treaty itself. Giddy over their mid-term election triumphs that will bolster their ranks by six seats, Senate Republicans are drooling over the opportunity to embarrass and undermine President Obama, regardless of what is best for the country.

As the GOP’s treaty point man, Kyl has 14 Republican disciples waiting for their orders. A recent query of the group found none willing to support the treaty with 10 saying they had the same concerns as Kyl. Since the election, Kyl has stiffened his opposition and shows no indication he’s in the mood to compromise.

If the Senate votes this year, the treaty needs the support of nine Republicans and all 58 Democrats to achieve the required two-thirds majority. When the new Congress meets beginning in January, the president will need 14 Republican votes, the likelihood of which prompted a White House official to conclude the treaty “could be delayed indefinitely.”

It will be a sad day for America if Republican political greed trumps common sense and national security.