Nuclear treaty should be above political maneuvering

By Sydell Shayer

Nuclear arms control is too serious an issue to be held hostage for political reasons. That is exactly what the newly elected Senate leadership is doing in this lame duck session. 

President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty dubbed the New Start Treaty on April 8, 2010. It requires ratification by two-thirds of the U.S. Senate to come into force. This treaty reduces deployed strategic warheads to 1,550, a 30 percent center reduction of the existing ceiling, and limits the United States and Russia to no more than 700 delivery vehicles and provides for verification of its provisions.

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The New Start Treaty is not a new concept. Start I was signed by the USSR and the United States in 1991 and has been in force since 1994. It expired in 2009 and with its expiration went the Treaty’s verification mechanism. In the interim, the two countries agreed to keep its provisions in effect. This is not the best way to limit nuclear arms.

The Senate has already held 20 hearings on the New Start Treaty. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has voted it out of committee with a recommendation for passage. Prominent statesmen are publicly supporting its ratification, including the two President Bushes and President Clinton. Secretary of State Clinton, Secretary of Defense Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen advocate ratification.

President Obama and President Medvedev have expressed their mutual goal of a nuclear free world. This view is widely held by most countries in the world. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), in effect since 1970, has been ratified by 198 nations, including the U.S., Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China, Its precepts are non-proliferation, disarmament and the right to peacefully use nuclear technology. Although the NPT was designed to last 25 years, it has been extended indefinitely.

It is interesting that both the United States and the Soviet Union, despite their many disagreements, chose to reduce the risk of war through a series of mutually agreed upon arms control treaties which have served both countries well.

There is no rational justification for delaying ratification of the New Start Treaty. It lays no new ground. It is a natural progression of the previous nuclear arms reduction treaty.

The reasons voiced by anti-Start Treaty ratification senators has little to do with substance and much to do with obstruction of President Obama’s legislative agenda.

It is time for the Senate to put the safety of the United States and the world first by ratifying the New Start Treaty now.

Sydell Shayer lives in Creve Coeur.