This morning President Obama and Russian President Medvedev signed a historic new START treaty that will cut nuclear weapons and maintain nuclear stability by extending and updating the verification and monitoring measures in Ronald Reagan’s original START treaty. This agreement is an affirmation of the effort to reset US-Russian relations after they descended to new post-Cold War lows under the Bush administration. But this treaty is also just a first step, as it importantly lays the groundwork for a new more far-reaching treaty that deals with the thousands of tactical and non-deployed nuclear weapons that both sides continue to possess.
But with the signing of the treaty, attention now turns to Republicans in the Senate. For a treaty to be ratified it requires two-thirds of the Senate – 67 Senators – that means the fate of the US-Russian nuclear relationship and global nuclear stability rests with Senate Republicans. Even though some GOP Senators sending strong signals throughout the treaty negotiations that they would not support the treaty, as of yet no Senator has come out in opposition to the treaty. Senate Republicans may be calculating that launching an all-out fight against extending and updating a treaty that Ronald Reagan original initiated is not the right place to draw the line in the sand against Obama’s nuclear agenda.
Karl Rove, of all people, has given some more reason to think bipartisanship is possible. He appeared on Fox yesterday where he called the New START treaty “helpful” and then went on to make the case that the START treaty is just not that big of a deal.
ROVE: The other thing is this so-called New START Treaty that is going to be signed with the Russian. Now that’s helpful but let’s not it make into a big deal.
Now Rove is wrong – this is an historic treaty and the implications of his point about the bomber rule have been thoroughly debunked. But what is important about Rove’s statement is not its policy content, but its political meaning. Saying the treaty is “helpful” and not that big of a deal, is hardly rallying the troops to go to war against ratifying the treaty.