In the run-up to the expiration of the START treaty on December 5th, conservatives were hitting the fear mongering button as hard as they could, claiming that we have “no real idea what the world will look like on December 6th.”
Because the signing of a new follow-on agreement between Obama and Medvedev would still have to be ratified by the Senate, conservatives asserted that there was “virtually no talk” about what would happen between the date START expired and a new treaty could be ratified. This “gap,” it was claimed, would suddenly allow the Russians to run wild, allowing them to “deploy fancy new missiles.” Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) even exclaimed: “Mr. President, I don’t say this lightly, but, this borders on malpractice.”
It was clear at the time that in attacking the Administration for not hitting the deadline, conservatives like Kyl were completely contradicting themselves. But we now also know that the assertions that the Administration put no thought into dealing with the day after December 5th were flatly untrue.
The Kremlin released a statement today saying that, despite the official expiration of the treaty, the US and Russia will work to follow the “spirit” of the original START agreement until any new treaty can be ratified. The AP also reported that most START procedures will remain in place despite the treaty’s expiration:
A Cold War-era nuclear arms control agreement between the United States and Russia expires Friday, but its key provisions are likely to remain in effect while negotiators work out the final details of a replacement treaty. Neither the U.S. nor Russia anticipates security problems after expiration of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. … The legal basis for the procedures, including inspections of nuclear facilities, also will expire Friday. Both sides are expected to allow each other to continue them until a new deal is in place. The State Department said this week that it believes the two sides can keep some of the verification procedures in place through an informal political agreement that is not legally binding.
This proves what we have really known all along – at the same time the Obama administration was finalizing a new START agreement, they were also working on a bridging agreement that would ensure the continuation of most of START’s provisions. While conservatives may claim that upholding the “spirit” of the treaty has no real teeth to it, the basic fact is that it is sort of pointless for Russia – or for the United States for that matter – to violate the “spirit” of a treaty when in just a few months both countries will be bound to uphold a newly-ratified treaty that requires deeper reductions in nuclear weapons.