Appearing on MSNBC with Andrea Mitchell today, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) attempted to justify the threatened Republican obstruction of the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia. But in doing so, he wrongly called Russia the Soviet Union — not once, but twice. Watch it:
While Barrasso may say this was a slip of the tongue and that he knows that the Soviet Union collapsed nearly twenty years ago in 1991, this is not the first time far-right senators have made this mistake when talking about START. Barrasso also tellingly concluded his remarks by asserting that he disagrees “with the component [of START] that weakens our own missile defense against all enemies, not just the Soviet Union.”
Grouping the Soviet Union (meaning Russia) with other “enemies” of the U.S., is reflective of an outdated Cold War mindset that can only lead to renewed tensions with Russia.
Should Republicans kill the New START treaty, the “reset” of U.S.-Russian relations may collapse. This could endanger U.S. troops in Afghanistan, who depend on supply routes through Russia, and could derail Russian cooperation on Iran sanctions. Perhaps most worrying is that without New START, the U.S. will be unable to monitor Russia’s nuclear arsenal as it has since the end of the Cold War, potentially creating significant nuclear instability. As Andrea Mitchell explained to Barrasso:
With all due respect senator…if you believe in trust and verify this enables us to put people back on the ground there and verify what the Russians are doing where as right now we can’t.
Barrasso’s claim that the treaty undercuts missile defense is also just flatly untrue. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly the head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency — who was appointed under President Bush — said that New START would “reduce the constraints on the development of the missile defense program.” This is why the U.S. military stands in unanimous support of the treaty and is calling on Senate Republicans to support it as well.