It looks quite clear that US-Russian negotiations over a new START treaty are proceeding smoothly. Yet while the START treaty reaches the finish line, conservative commentators have adopted the bizarre and hypocritical attack that not reaching an agreement before December 5th – the date at which the existing treaty expires – would represent a failure.
This line has been pushed by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and was reiterated by Fred Barnes in the Weekly Standard this weekend. Kyl in a floor speech last week claimed that the Administration “spent the first half of the year negotiating a joint understanding that would allow it to show progress toward the president’s goal of a world without nuclear weapons” and have “only now have negotiators begun looking at the question of verification.” Barnes added in an oped titled “another Obama diplomatic failure,” that the Administration “is desperate to avoid the humiliation of having failed to finalize” the treaty.
Conservative complaints reek of hypocrisy. Not only did conservatives not lift a finger to advance START over the last eight years, but they have also shown almost no concern for verification measures in the past. But what is most galling about this attack is that the Administration has had effectively only 5 months to negotiate an incredibly complex treaty – not a full year.
The reason for this is that conservatives in the Senate put a number of holds and stalled numerous appointments crucial to the START negotiations. For instance, Senator Kyl quite openly put a hold on Ellen Tauscher’s appointment as Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security. So if conservatives were so concerned about getting a new treaty in place before December 5th, why then did Kyl hold up someone of critical importance to the START talks?
Laura Rozen, then at The Cable, reported that Kyl was putting a hold on Tauscher because of START.
A Congressional source says that Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) put a hold on all State Department nominees earlier this week because he is not satisfied with the information he has been receiving from the administration on the progress of arms control negotiations with Russia. “Kyl’s beef and the general Republican argument now emerging against the Obama administration’s nuclear weapons policy is that they are rushing to conclude a new agreement with Russia on strategic arms levels before their Nuclear Posture Review is complete.”
But Kyl knew that the Nuclear Posture Review was not scheduled to be completed until next year – so demanding that the NPR be completed prior to conducting negotiations over a new START treaty, was simply an effort to torpedo the Administration’s ability to negotiate a treaty before the December 5th deadline. But instead of just being upfront about his opposition to controlling the Russian nuclear arsenal, Kyl is now trying to attack the administration from a pro-arms control position by proclaiming his support for verification measures – something he has consistently discounted in the past. This is all just bizarre and by trying to disguise his own position, Kyl is just demonstrating how weak and out of the mainstream his actual position on arms control really is. Instead of wanting a world without nuclear weapons, Kyl wants one with many more.