In a powerful and hard-hitting address at the Center for American Progress this morning on the New START treaty, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle took treaty opponents to task for playing politics with America’s nuclear security.
The New START treaty — which needs 67 votes to be ratified — is entering a critical phase as a vote is expected soon with hearings having concluded in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Daschle noted that Republicans in the Senate face a stark choice in their upcoming votes between politics and governing, between Mitt Romney or “the entire U.S. military establishment“:
There is no clearer example of plain and simple short-term politics at play than on New START, and we can’t afford to let that rule the day, especially when it comes to nuclear weapons. … But New START is so widely acknowledged to be the right move that it presents conservatives in Congress with a clear choice: They can choose politics, or they can choose governing. They can choose Mitt Romney, or they can choose the entire U.S. military establishment. They can choose a world with a greater risk of nuclear disorder, or one with less. On this issue, there is simply no in between. Some have already decided that denying the President a victory is more important than America’s national security interests. But I know there are many who don’t share that view, and to them, I say that the consequences of choosing politics over governing are real.
In his 25-minute address, Daschle also called out by name the seven Republican Senators who voted for the original START treaty, which passed 93-6. He noted that “common sense says they should be consistent,” since the reasons for continuing with the START treaty framework have only grown. He also pointed out that any Republicans that are suspicious of Russian intentions should vote for the treaty, because the New START treaty allows the US to put boots on the ground to monitor and inspect Russia’s nuclear weapons arsenal. Therefore, every day that goes by without New START our military is losing valuable intelligence. This is why the senior leadership of the US military unanimously endorsed the treaty.
Daschle also explained why the failure to ratify new START could have huge consequences. He noted that there is an asymmetry in the treaties impact. While New START is modest and largely maintains the nuclear status quo, its failure in the Senate could have tremendously dire implications for our national security – potentially leading to an international state of “nuclear anarchy.” He explained:
What international unity currently exists to stop nuclear proliferation, to counter nuclear terrorism, and to confront Iran would fray and possibly even collapse. Should New START fail… American credibility on nuclear issues would evaporate. Countries belonging to the NPT would then ask a very simple question: If the U.S. is unwilling to live up to its commitments, why should we live up to ours? And if the U.S. is unwilling to ratify even a modest arms-control treaty, what obligation do we have to maintain the status quo and not pursue nuclear weapons ourselves?
That is how we fall past the nuclear tipping point – the point at which the nuclear dam breaks and countries large and small, from Latin America to Southeast Asia, from the Middle East to Africa, decide that their national security interests would be enhanced by possessing the bomb… Rejecting New START has real potential to push the world into a state of nuclear anarchy.