Some of the nation's most respected national security advisers from both parties support ratifying a new arms control treaty with Russia. Yet one Senate Republican appears ready to put partisan politics over national security to deny President Barack Obama a victory. Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl's pledge to block a vote on the New START during the current lame-duck session of Congress is a self-serving, eleventh-hour stall to score political points — exactly what Republicans promised not to do in the November elections.
Both Washington and Moscow have compelling security and financial reasons for adopting the deal. The treaty limits each side to 1,550 deployable strategic warheads, down from the current 2,200. It restores inspections between the two (which expired last year) and a regimen of information sharing that should ease tensions and the chance of an accidental strike. The deal also could produce a more constructive relationship with Russia on issues from containing nuclear proliferation and terrorism to resolving conflicts in the Middle East, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Notably, the treaty does not interfere with U.S. plans for a missile-defense system, and the administration has said it would commit $180 billion over 10 years to maintain and upgrade the nation's nuclear stockpile and delivery systems.
Kyl is the leading Republican voice on the treaty, and without his support the administration is unlikely to win the eight Republican votes it needs to ratify the accord. Kyl said that there is not enough time in the lame-duck session to resolve all the outstanding issues. Delaying a vote until next year, when an expanded Republican minority is sworn into office, makes ratification prospects worse. The administration would need 14 Republicans to reach the two-thirds required for passage.
Partisan politics should not trump national security. Denying Obama a victory comes at the expense of the country's ability to bring Russia and the other major powers together. What moral authority would the United States have in bringing Iran's nuclear ambitions to a halt when the Senate refuses to even limit America's nuclear appetite? The biggest names in the nation's national security establishment over the past four decades — from James Baker and Henry Kissinger to Sam Nunn and Colin Powell — support ratification. After 18 hearings and dozens of briefings, it is time for the Senate to act.