In a meeting with top diplomats and military chiefs in Washington on Thursday, President Obama sought to convince Republicans in the Senate to ratify a new strategic arms reduction treaty (START) with Russia. Many Republicans within the Senate currently stand in disagreement with the president over the treaty.
The treaty, signed back in April by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, still requires ratification by the U.S. Senate in order to become law. Obama’s primary motivation behind the new START treaty was his fear that Russia’s nuclear weapons arsenal is perilously unchecked and ill protected. Such a reality would be a security risk for the United States.
According to the treaty, a new limitation on the number of strategic nuclear warheads would be implemented. Furthermore, a system for inspecting and verifying the American and Russian nuclear arsenals would be put in place.
The Republican opposition has its share of concerns. There exists doubt that the verification procedures will actually be effective. Many Republicans also fear that agreeing to such a treaty would critically limit the U.S. military’s missile defense options. A joint Republican statement proclaimed that the treaty “would dramatically reduce the U.S. nuclear deterrent.”
There are growing suspicions by many that the Republican arguments are merely a cover and that their true goal is simply to deny Obama a foreign policy triumph.
Still, the president is optimistic that the treaty will be ratified stating, “I’m confident that we should be able to get the votes.”
President Obama’s concerns regarding the need to ratify the treaty are diplomatic as well as military oriented. The president wishes to demonstrate to Russia that cooperation with the United States is possible. He also desires continued Russian support over such issues as Afghanistan, Iran, and future arms deals.
Many others are afraid that should the Senate refuse ratification it would undermine international trust in the United States as a whole.
Both Obama’s and the Republican’s arguments have validity. Considering the destructive power of nuclear weapons, however, it is difficult to side with anyone refusing to limit the number of warheads. Though questions regarding the verification process are extremely reasonable, the idea that U.S. nuclear deterrence would somehow be compromised is lunacy. Regardless of whether or not this treaty becomes law, the United States will still retain enough nuclear weapons to easily annihilate the entire planet.
One can only hope that Republicans are challenging the treaty based on purely constructive arguments. If it is indeed true that they are disputing it as a vendetta against the president, then this time they are going much too far.
Politics may be a game, but nuclear weapons certainly are not.
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