Conservative complaints concerning the START treaty’s verification measures are very similar to those on Afghanistan — after ignoring the issue for the last decade, conservatives are suddenly gung ho.
At a Heritage conference this Tuesday on START, panelist after panelist warned of the dangers of what will happen when the treaty expires on December 5th. Of key concern to the panelists is the facility at Votkinsk, which according to a Washington Times story, will be vacated by US monitors this Saturday, leaving a key nuclear facility unobserved. Timothy Morrison, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) foreign policy aide, sounded the alarms in his presentation at Heritage: “We are heading to December 5th, with no real idea what the world will look like on December 6th.”
Yet Jeffrey Lewis at Arms Control Wonk assesses the same Washington Times piece and notes that the story actually contains a nugget that implicates the Bush administration for the closing of the Votkinsk facility. Paula A. DeSutter, Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance and Implementation in the Bush administration was quoted in the story saying, “We didn’t need the entire verification regime from START.” Lewis notes that the story confirms a rumor that the Bush administration ended monitoring:
The key grafs confirm that rumor that the Bush Administration made the concession to Russia on ending monitoring at Votkinsk in November 2008.
According to Lewis, in trying to place blame on the Obama administration, “DeSutter suggests the [Obama] Administration could have just ‘added’ monitoring back in if it wanted.” Lewis noting how ridiculous this is, merely added this “just floors me.” International negotiations take place between countries. The START talks are not between Bush and Russia, or Obama and Russia, but between the United States and Russia. Once Bush agreed to bind the US to a position, the Obama administration couldn’t simply undue what was agreed to.
In other words, the Washington Times story confirms that the reason monitoring is ending at Votkinsk is because the Bush administration locked the Obama administration in by giving into Russian demands — not because the Obama administration didn’t care about verification or bungled the negotiations, as conservatives are suggesting. The Obama administration — like on almost every issue — inherited a bum hand from the Bush administration on START.