With Secretary of State Clinton in Moscow today pushing to wrap up a new START treaty, three Senators – Robert Casey, Al Franken, and Ted Kaufman – took to the floor of the Senate last night to lend support to the treaty effort. The Senators sent a clear signal that, despite some reported chatter about START being DOA, taking up the START treaty will be a major legislative priority.
But since the final text of the treaty has not been finalized, these three Senators also explained what the treaty had to include for them to support ratification. Senator Kaufman laid out his four “red lines” for supporting a new treaty, saying a treaty must include “an intrusive verification system” and allow for “modernization of our existing nuclear capabilities,” while not including “any other weapons systems, including antiballistic missile systems provide no limits on missile defense.”
What is interesting about these red lines is that they are virtually identical to the red lines offered by arms-control skeptic Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), as well as Senators McCain (R-AZ) and Lieberman (I-CT). This means that Senate Democrats and Republicans are on the same page when it comes to whether they will or will not support a new START treaty.
Therefore, assuming the treaty meets these clearly defined standards – which by all accounts it will – there should be overwhelming bipartisan support for the treaty. Senator Casey said forcefully that past treaties of kind received overwhelming bipartisan support, “There is no reason–no reason at all–why this START agreement should be different…I am confident that at the end of the process, we will have a strong agreement that in the proud tradition of the Senate will garner bipartisan support.” Watch Casey and Kaufman:
Nevertheless, while a new START treaty will have met all of the stated red lines of Kyl, McCain, Lieberman, and others, the crucial question is whether they squirm out of their original positions and find some new argument to oppose the treaty. In other words, will Kyl and others betray the Senate’s bipartisan arms-control tradition, as there is overwhelming bipartisan support for a new START treaty and Obama’s nuclear agenda from high ranking national security officials.
However, thus far bipartisanship in the Senate has been a mirage on almost every issue, as an obstructionist GOP has sought to oppose the President and Senate Democrats at every step of the turn. In order to ratify this treaty, bipartisanship is required, since 67 votes are needed to ratify all treaties. We will therefore soon find out if the Senate GOP is capable of putting the security of the country ahead of their crass obstructionist political strategy.
International agreements to limit nuclear weapons draw upon a deep well of bipartisan support over the years. There is no reason–no reason at all–why this START agreement should be different. We may have our differences on elements of the treaty when it is presented before the Senate for ratification, but I hope–and I believe this will happen–we will be able to come together in common cause in recognition that these agreements are in our national security interests because they ultimately decrease the likelihood–decrease the likelihood–of accidental launch and decrease the likelihood of terrorist access to nuclear materials. There will be deliberation and there will be debate, but I am confident that at the end of the process, we will have a strong agreement that in the proud tradition of the Senate will garner bipartisan support.
At the same time, there are some important red lines which must be reflected in the final treaty from the perspective of the United States: First, it must have an intrusive verification system in order to maintain confidence and avoid catastrophic misunderstandings between the two sides. Second, it must reduce ready-to-go strategic arsenals in a meaningful way, which means addressing upload capability. Third, it must allow modernization of our existing nuclear capabilities to enhance national and international security. Fourth, it must remain a strategic offensive treaty with an intentionally narrow scope. We should not include any other weapons systems, including antiballistic missile systems, under its regulatory umbrella.