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Obama puts START on fast track after Republican surge

Obama puts START on fast track after Republican surge
Following a big midterm win for the Republican Party, US President Barack Obama will try to get the US-Russian arms control treaty ratified - before it’s too late.

Just seven months ago in Prague, the US-Russian reset looked like it had wings; it seemed all but certain that New Start (Strategic Arms reduction Treaty) would sail through the US Senate. But following the Democrats dismal performance in last week’s congressional elections, which saw them lose control of the House of Representatives and give up six seats in the Senate, the treaty may be in jeopardy.

New START was signed on April 8, 2010 in Prague by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama. The treaty, if ratified, will limit the number of strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 – down nearly two-thirds from the original START treaty. It will also limit the number of deployed and non-deployed inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) launchers, submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers, and bombers developed for nuclear weapons, to 800.

The Obama White House is now working overtime, trying to get enough Senate Republican support to ratify the treaty before the Democrats' majority drops by six in January. The Republicans, however, with their eyes on the big prize in 2012, are loathe to do anything that will give Barack Obama bragging rights in the run-up to the next presidential campaign season.

Meanwhile, a fear-mongering, full-court press among the Republicans is already in full swing.

On Tuesday, John Bolton, Fox News commentator and former adviser in the gung-ho Bush administration, described the weapon-slashing treaty almost as if it were a declaration of war against the United States, saying it would “weaken our national defense,” “imperil our safety,” “impede Washington’s ability to use conventional warheads,” while “gravely impairing America’s nuclear capacity.”

Of course, this is nothing but shock and awe tactics designed to intimidate the undecided Senate Republicans into throwing their weight behind the historic treaty.

Bolton opened his fist-clenched fear-fest with a tribute to the Founding Fathers, of course, saying the voters “want government brought closer to the vision the framers outlined in the Constitution.”

Is Bolton speaking about reducing taxes when he talks about the “vision of the framers.” After all, slashing taxes for the wealthy seems to be the only political card up the GOP’s sleeve these days, even after a global financial blowout that the US middle class was forced to bail out.

And let’s not forget that the original colonial framers, which Bolton seems to understand so well, could not have envisioned a weapon as terrifying and deadly as a nuclear bomb.

Yet Bolton is not speaking about reducing taxes, which, incidentally, would be the exact effect if the United States would be able to free itself from building and disposing of thousands of extra nuclear weapons every year. Instead, Bolton’s argument is that New START will “weaken our national defenses.”

That's right, the ability to blow up the planet 1,500 times is just not enough for the Republicans and their paymasters, the military industrial complex, an out-of-control Frankenstein monster that is hoovering over $1 trillion dollars annually out of taxpayer pockets

“The treaty’s constraints on launching platforms would impede Washington’s ability to use conventional warheads even in conflicts far from any Russian interest or responsibility,” Bolton barked in the New York Times. “New START also reflects the Obama administration’s lack of seriousness about national missile defense.”

Bolton, arguing on behalf of “national security,” is actually endangering national security in the name of politics. After all, removing the threat of nuclear proliferation around the world would be the greatest contribution to national defense possible.

Yet Bolton can think no further down the road than the next election cycle.

Senator John Kerry already addressed these Republican criticisms in the summer, following an uninformed rant by former republican governor Mitt Romney.

“Even in these polarized times… the security of the United States is too important to be treated as fodder for political posturing,” Kerry wrote in The Washington Post (“How New-START will improve our nation’s security,” July 7, 2010). “No threat to our national security is greater than the danger from nuclear weapons. Responsible political figures across the spectrum need to support every step possible to control the spread of nuclear weapons. New START is one of those steps. This view is shared by most who have taken the time to understand the treaty and the international context in which it was negotiated. Rather than pander to politics, we need to ratify this agreement quickly.”

Kerry then proceeded to destroy the political opposition’s ill-founded argument that New START would “impair our security.”

Concerning the Republican argument that New START impedes America’s ability to build missile defenses against attack from rogue countries, Kerry calls this “a myth.”

“The treaty will have no impact on our ability to build ballistic missile defenses against Iran, North Korea or other threats from other regions,” Kerry writes. “The Obama administration is free to proceed with missile defense plans it announced last year.”

Although this freedom to build missile defenses on Russia’s doorstep may cause many reservations in Russia over the treaty; there is reason for the Republicans to launch into paranoid mode.

Kerry then addresses the very same argument that Bolton brings up in his article: Russia will use the treaty’s preamble as a means of backing out of New START if it believes that any US missile defense system threatens its national security.

“In a word, baloney,” Kerry argues. “Every arms control treaty since the Kennedy administration has allowed either party to withdraw if it felt its national interests were jeopardized. Surely [we] would not want to give up that right.”

Kerry concludes that “New START will not constrain our ability to defend ourselves. On the contrary, it will improve our national security by reducing the number of nuclear weapons held by the United States and Russia, and by improving relations with our old adversary. Ratification will also show the international community that we are honoring our commitments on nonproliferation.”

Finally, fear-mongering politicians like John Bolton need to remember that some of the loudest voices for ratification of New START are Republican, including Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, as well as Henry Kissinger, national security adviser and secretary of state to presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, who testified in May that the Senate has a duty to ratify the treaty.

He also warned on injecting politics into such a momentous decision, saying, "It is, by definition, not a bipartisan, but a nonpartisan, challenge."

More Republicans would do well to put aside their 24/7 campaigning for one minute and ratify a document that is truly in the best interest of America’s national defense.

Robert Bridge, RT