Press Release

RELEASE: Briefing Memo: Ratify New START

Senseless Opposition and Delay Carries Real National Security Risks

Max Bergmann | September 15, 2010

Washington, D.C.–This week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on whether to send the New START treaty to the full Senate for a vote on ratification. After more than 20 Senate hearings and endless discussion and debate over the specifics of New START, no concerns are legitimate enough to justify a vote in opposition to the treaty. And every day that goes by without a new treaty, the United States loses valuable intelligence on Russia’s nuclear forces due to the lack of any verification and monitoring measures. This harms U.S. security and creates an incredibly uncertain and dangerous nuclear environment.

The case for New START is strong and critics’ arguments during the committee process have been thoroughly addressed. Only the most ideologically extreme are opposing the treaty on its actual merits. The facts are out, and the entire U.S. military brass along with almost every sensible foreign policy thinker supports the treaty. As a result, conservative objections or concerns are largely about process or issues unrelated to the treaty’s specifics.

Some Republican senators, keen to avoid anything that could be seen as a victory for President Barack Obama, have sought to stall the treaty or tied its ratification to issues with no direct relevance. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has accommodated their objections, concerns, and complaints to a fault. It’s increasingly clear that their stance was merely to delay or obstruct ratification.

These Republican senators are now linking their support for New START with astronomical increases in funding for the nuclear weapons complex. These issues have little to do with each other, and these senators’ newfound concerns seem entirely disingenuous. The Obama administration has already proposed—and begun to receive—massive funding increases for nuclear weapons that are considerably higher than the levels appropriated during the Bush administration. Furthermore, funding demands by certain Republican senators are both entirely vague and are demands more appropriately made of the Congress rather than the executive branch since the Congress, not the president, appropriates funds.

The Senate Foreign Relations committee will almost certainly approve the treaty. But the stance of some Senate Republicans makes the treaty’s future less certain in the full Senate where it will need 67 votes for ratification. Further complicating START’s future are doubts of whether the full Senate will find the time to vote on the treaty with a packed legislative agenda and in the throes of election season.

Some point to a possible lame-duck session after the November election as a potential period for the Senate to take up the treaty. But it’s still not clear whether Senate Republicans would allow such a session to take place and whether much could be accomplished.

The New START Treaty, therefore, may stall in the Senate and a failure to ratify the treaty in this Congress would mean restarting the treaty ratification process from the beginning in the 112th Congress.

This is incredibly dangerous. The speedy ratification of the New START treaty is an urgent national security priority.

To look more in depth at how delaying ratification hurts our security and why the concerns conservatives are voicing carry no water, click here and see key reasons below.

  • U.S. national security is harmed every day that goes by without New START’s ratification.
  • Sen. Kerry and the Obama administration have accommodated even obvious obstruction.
  • Senate conservatives are tying the treaty to nuclear weapons funding that has nothing to do with New START.
  • Conservatives’ substantive treaty concerns have all been exhaustively answered.
  • START enhances U.S. missile defense.
  • The bomber-counting rule doesn’t favor Russia.
  • The treaty covers rail-mobile missiles.
  • Verification is just as strong if not stronger under New START.
  • START must be ratified to address tactical weapons.

To speak to Max Bergmann, Nuclear Non-Proliferation Policy Analyst for American Progress, please contact Anna Soellner at [email protected] or call 202.478.5322.