Pundits Rally Behind New START

There is rising, if not quite bipartisan, support for the Russian nuclear treaty

This article is from the archive of our partner .

The Obama administration is pushing back publicly against Senate Republicans, many of whom are attempting to defeat or at least delay the U.S.-Russia nuclear disarmament treaty, New START. As it looks increasingly likely that Republicans could succeed in blocking ratification of the treaty, a number of journalists and pundits are calling, in some cases loudly, for the Republicans to resist the temptation for partisan opposition and vote yes. To be clear, some conservatives remain vocally skeptical about the treaty's merit and importance, but the majority of recent commentary, even from conservative hawks, has advocated passage. Here's what they're saying.

  • U.S. Allies Call for Ratification  Foreign Policy's Daniel Drezner notes that some Republicans initially opposed the treaty because they saw U.S.-Russia disarmament as a betrayal to Eastern European allies, who they say depend on strong U.S. support against Russia. Except that now those Eastern European allies, such as Bulgaria and Poland, are saying what they really want is New START to pass. "Sure, pissing off France or South Korea comes with few downsides for U.S. Senators, but Poland and other former Warsaw Pact countries are another kettle of fish. If neoconservatives Jews Eastern Europeans powerful interest groups within the GOP have bigger fish to fry than relations with Russia, then they will make life somewhat more difficult to Republican Senators."
  • Military Pushes for New START  The Washington Post's Mary Beth Sheridan reports that the treaty has split the military and their traditional political guardians. "An unusual split has opened between conservative Republicans and the American military leadership over the U.S.-Russia nuclear treaty, with current and former generals urging swift passage but politicians expressing far more skepticism."
  • Be Like Reagan: Pass START  President of the Union of Concerned Scientists Kevin Knobloch urges, "The full Senate should take up and approve the treaty during the end-of-year session, now that the midterm elections have happened. That would ensure that the "lame duck" session is not lame at all, but in fact historic, patriotic and smart - and a timely demonstration of how a divided government can still address real threats." Knobloch cites his experience working on Reagan's similar treaty, saying today's GOP can share in Reagan's glory.
  • Blocking Would Be Bad for National Security  The Daily Beast's Leslie Gelb warns, "There seems to be nothing Republicans won’t do to deny President Obama a political success at home—even if it means jeopardizing U.S. national security. Namely, future relations with Russia. ... the treaty does not do a great deal to curb nuclear arms on either side. But it is the essential element in efforts by Obama to 'reset,' or firm up and increase the benefits of, relations with Russia. To put it simply, Russia can still do us significant harm or good on issues like Iran. And if the White House can’t deliver a treaty ratified by at least 67 Senate votes, Moscow will write off the United States."
  • The GOP's Lone Dissenter  The American Conservative's Daniel Larison cheers Senator Richard Lugar, who is pushing fellow Republicans to ratify. "For some reason, Senate Republicans find it surprising that their leading expert on arms control would want to try to keep arms control alive rather than see it die a slow, agonizing death on account of his colleagues’ preposterous opposition. ... As out of step with the public and the military as treaty opponents are, Lugar is equally out of step with most of the elected officials and activists in his party. It is generally bad news for the quality of Republican thinking on foreign policy and national security that Lugar is increasingly the odd man out in the GOP."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.